IDX, Internet Data Exchange, is how most of our real estate sites provide MLS listing search functionality for site visitors. All of the participating MLS member listings are able to be displayed on any site, a great improvement over pre-IDX sites with only the listings of the brokerage on display.
Recent surveys of real estate consumers, both buyers, and sellers show that the vast majority spend a lot of time searching home listings on websites. NAR found that last year the average time for buyers to search before making a purchase was 10 weeks. It is imperative that you somehow attract site visitors and keep them returning so you will be top-of-mind when they get ready to take the plunge.
To keep them coming back, you MUST have powerful IDX functionality. If you do, they’ll bookmark your site and keep coming back for searches until they’re ready. Here are the top 10 tips to make that happen for your website.
Tip #1: Minimum IDX Search Capability
The visitor to your site, at a minimum, should be able to search the MLS listings using various criteria that they are using for home selection. At a minimum, they should be able to search by:
- Price range
- Square footage (if allowed in your area)
- MLS number
- Proximity (homes within a certain distance of a starting point, home or location)
This WebsiteBox IDX Search Gadget shows all of this basic functionality as tabs in the search area. There are other options available as well.
Tip #2: Must Have Mapping
Mapping helps the searcher to orient not only properties to each other and neighborhoods but also to area facilities, amenities, employers, shopping, schools and more.
The ability to display just the map or the listings with a map is critical to keep those visitors coming back to your site. Maps are a feature that is pretty much required these days with higher bandwidth and less expensive data plans available on smartphones.
Options for display are also a great addition. Your searchers will appreciate it, and it increases the likelihood that they will come back.
Tip #3: Display Anywhere it is Useful
This is an overlooked value-add. A successful real estate website is one with comprehensive area content, articles/pages about neighborhoods, schools, shopping, and more. There are also pages about property types, such as pages related to condominiums, single family, and even multi-family properties.
You’re not getting full value unless your IDX search module(s) can be placed around the site where they’re going to be handy for the visitor when they arrive through a search, such as a search on “your town condominiums.” In another tip, you’ll see how this can be a customized results display for condos.
Tip #4: Graphics Display Options
Back on the topic of Web speed and bandwidth, today’s smartphones and tablets have high-resolution displays, and images are very popular with home searchers.
The WebsiteBox Showcase Gadget lets you get the most value out of your listing photography and images of other agents’ listings.
Tip #5: Property Relevant Search Results
This is a Customized Links Gadget in the WebsiteBox IDX options. You can create these for property types or characteristics and display them anywhere you want on the site. While this one is bedrooms, it could be price ranges or other criteria broken out for fast one-click searches. As far as property types, this could be for single family only, condominiums or other types.
Tip #6: Customized Results Displays for Lead Generation
The ability to pre-populate searches to display results specific to popular criteria is a valuable tool for lead generation. This is especially true if you are able to add an email alert feature to the display. This allows your visitor to subscribe email alerts when new properties enter this display. You can create custom results for criteria such as:
- Price range
- Property type
There is a button to set up an email alert or save the search. To do either of these things, the visitor will need to register their name and email address. They understand that this is necessary, not a gimmick, and they’ll register if they want updates or to come back and get search results with one click. This is a valuable lead generation tool.
Tip #7: Autocomplete for Convenience
With WebsiteBox, you can provide autocomplete functionality to speed search criteria entry and help visitors to avoid spelling errors that may alter search results. When they start typing in a search criteria box, the system will complete their text based on MLS data. So, someone starting a search on “carl…” in a neighborhood box may see their typing filled in for “Carlton Subdivision” automatically.
Tip #8: Highlight Your Listings or Office Listings
Creating a page just for your own listings and another for your office listings is easy with this Listing Gadget. Simply enter the appropriate MLS numbers to pull out those and drag this gadget to wherever you want it displayed on the site.
Tip #9: Compliment with Relevant Content
We’ve mentioned this a couple of times in previous tips, but it’s worth more explanation here. Placing a custom search display gadget showing condominiums on a commercial real estate information page will have little impact because it’s not relevant to the content of the page.
Even if you have to create new pages with specific content, it’s the best way to go. However, you’re probably already set up with page content related to property types and neighborhoods. So, a custom results gadget for condominiums on a page with content about “special condominium purchase considerations,” will get more activity and serve your visitors better.
Tip #10: IDX is Better – Tell Your Visitors That
Your site visitors are also using sites like Zillow.com, Trulia.com, and Realtor.com as well. If you want to encourage repeat visits, you MUST let them know why your IDX site is superior; and it is.
Zillow.com and Trulia.com are known for their inaccurate listing data, outdated sold listings displayed as current, and other errors and inconsistencies. It’s OK to say that in text on your IDX search page. It’s fine to tell your visitor that even Realtor.com doesn’t necessarily have all listings, as some MLS systems have begun to withhold their listings. Your IDX is the one place with daily updated listings for the entire area MLS.
Even if they continue to use Zillow.com for some of the bells & whistles, they will come back to your site to check accuracy and availability if they are told these things.
If you set up your site and search functionality following these tips, you’ll see an increase in your site “stickiness,” more returning visitors, and more leads generated. It’s a fact.