Agents are told they need a website — and they do, but not all real estate websites are built the same, nor do they provide the same functionalities.
The process of getting a new website looks something like this, at least for most.
Step 1: Purchase URL
Step 2: Find an IDX broker
Step 3: Launch site
Step 4: Hope for leads
Sound familiar? If your competitors are all doing the same thing, what makes you different? Is it the IDX feed? The design? The outstanding user interface?
If you are like most agents, you didn’t put much thought into the design or the user interface, and you’re using the same old IDX feed. Although there is plenty to be said about the design and user interface, this article’s focus is on IDX.
The theory behind it was that if people could search all the properties on an agent’s site, he or she was more likely to get leads. In other words, it was cool to be an agent that could have all the listings easily searchable on his or her site, and buyers assumed that those listings belonged to the agent.
Of course, we’ve come a long way from this. Let’s fast-forward a bit to present day. The majority of agents and brokerage firms have a plug-and-play solution, which doesn’t do much if there is nothing else going on — like marketing.
There are problems with using a typical IDX solution:
You are competing with the likes of realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia just to name a few. These are powerhouses that can afford to spend many millions on improving their offerings to an agent’s potential customers.
2. Search engine optimization
Search engines see data coming from the WordPress host site, data from the IDX server and data from all the additional plug-ins. It’s a bunch of pieces put together to create a website.
This translates to a page within a page. Or in other words, zero SEO benefits. There are alternatives to the iFrame, for instance, an API. But this does not insert listings on your server, it’s just another way for information to show up on your Web page, and in plenty of cases, there are only APIs for a limited amount of information.
3. Content demand
Sites with more content rank higher, so it only makes sense that agents would want the listings stored on their server — and not on the third-party server.
Although a third-party server provides SEO benefits to the third-party company, the benefits are lost for the agent. The majority of turnkey solutions store the MLS data on their servers, not on yours, and then simply migrate the data.
Going back to the IDX iFrame solution, it’s possible to get leads. There are several providers and companies out there that specialize in generating leads outside of organic search. They provide lead generation tools and paid advertising to leads who visit an agent’s site.
This includes several forms of paid advertising and a strong follow-up system. Sometimes it can involve less reputable methods of capturing leads, so be cautious when going in any of these directions.
The best possible solution
If you aren’t looking to invest the time and money to go the organic MLS route, it’s best to create a Web presence to help foster relationships with potential clients and depend on the big companies to promote individual listings.
This doesn’t mean an agent can’t showcase their listings manually and generate some SEO. It does, however, mean giving up the search function that might be hurting more than it’s helping.
Agents who seek a more robust option that will organically generate leads should opt for a solution that places the MLS listings directly on their servers.
Due to the greater complexity of this process, it will involve the assistance of a Web programmer. For the front-end IT portion of the site development, it will also require the use of a Web designer and developer.
RealtyNA offers a more turnkey solution. They provide a plug-in for a one-time cost. This would require the use of a Web developer to implement, and if you chose to create your own template, you would also need a Web designer.
What they sell you is the translator plug-in. This takes the information from the MLS and translates it into English for visitors to the site. If you purchase this plug-in, you can fully customize your site, and enjoy the benefits of organic leads.
Other alternatives include using Real Estate Webmaster (REW). Although it’s not exactly organic MLS, the company keeps it clean and is notorious for good SEO results. So in the case of REW, I’d give it the green light.
Our best recommendation is hiring a programmer and Web designer to create a custom site. They will be able to take the information from the MLS, host it on the agent’s site and then make sense of the data.
We’ve created a custom tool to help us accomplish this efficiently because we specialize in real estate, and we saw a need for a better option to the limited ones out there.
The competition is busy using an IDX iFrame, so it’s time to start looking at websites differently.