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The website makes money by selling priority property placements to companies that wish to showcase their listings at the top of the site’s search results.

After seeing the popularity of ApartmentGuide.com’s mobile site take off, RentPath, the media company that owns and operates the ApartmentGuide brand, wanted to find a way to grow revenue generated from mobile users.RentPath logo

Scott Ehly, an optimization and usability analyst for RentPath thought that testing functionality on the priority search listings—called Spotlight Properties—would help mobile become a steady revenue source for the brand.

In the past, ApartmentGuide displayed Spotlight Property placements exclusively on the desktop site. Scott wondered if he could apply the same paid placements to the company’s mobile site, where, by default, search results were sorted based on the searcher’s location only.

“Spotlight Properties were something we’d always been doing on the main site, but hadn’t tried yet on mobile,” Ehly said. They wanted to measure whether or not adding paid search properties would have a detrimental effect on leads—in this case apartment seekers who click on a listing.

If including paid search listings decreased leads to the extent that it counterbalanced the revenue generated from the featured placements, then including paid listings would not be worth it.

Ehly hypothesized that adding Spotlight Properties to the search results on ApartmentGuide.com’s mobile site would increase revenue overall. He believed this change in search functionality would ultimately cause a slight drop-off in total leads generated, but would make up for that cost with the revenue brought in by property management companies buying featured placements.

Before making any permanent changes, however, he opted to run a mobile ab test to validate his hypothesis.

“A lot of things don’t necessarily translate from desktop to mobile,” Ehly said. “One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to just assume that the functionality on the big screen will work on the little one.”

Original and variation shown on a mobile device

Rentpath used Optimizely to test search results pages on the current mobile site against variation pages that featured the Spotlight Properties at the top of all search results.

Using the mobile website  view in Optimizely he set up the test: the original search results pages against variation pages that featured the Spotlight Properties at the top of all search results. He targeted the experiment to only users visiting ApartmentGuide.com from a mobile browser.

To track leads generated on each variation, he set a pageview goal on a “Thank you” page that visitors saw after submitting their information on the site.

After running the test for just one week, the test produced very surprising results. The variation actually increased the number of leads generated by 1.6%. This seemingly small number had a huge impact – both verifying that the new search functionality was cost effective for mobile and that users were actually more engaged on the site as a whole. This is a major win for ApartmentGuide since most of their traffic comes from Google or Yahoo! search. Any change that impacts conversion rates on search traffic is significant.