Top 10 Must Have’s in your next IDX system

Realtors: Top Ten Must Have's in your next IDX System

Top Ten must Have’s in your next IDX system!

1.    Point & Click Ease of use

Regardless of who your target audience is, it’s safe to assume that fast and easy access to the listings they want to see (likely not to be yours) is the primary reason why they went to your site in the first place.  Bombarding your website visitors with a laundry list of search options & criteria with multiple drop downs, checkbox’s and input fields is a bad idea – period. And those of you who are saying to yourself “well it’s working for me just fine” I say to you “consider yourself warned” because when your visitors find another local agent offering a fast and easy search option they’ll bounce and likely not return. Invest in the most user-friendly, intuitive experience for your visitors that you can for the best results possible. Graphical representation of search options (as opposed to just small text) is proven to be significantly more effective. Maps, either graphical or the use of Google Maps which is now pretty common with many IDX providers is also very effective. It’s not always easy to strike the right balance of technological wizardry, ease, intuitiveness, speed and empowerment when it comes to a property search experience and I know it varies a bit depending on your goals and target audience but it should be at the forefront of your mind in assessing your next IDX system.  

2.    Custom Search Creation (Cities, Communities, Neighborhoods, Address, Foreclosures, Price point)

This is huge for a few reasons. First off, nichefying (and if that’s not a word it should be!) your site is extremely important for finding your “voice” as the “authority” for whatever is your marketing. It’s also key for an effective SEO strategy. So assuming you have identified your “niche” the next logical thing to do is to offer links directly to the listings in your “niche”. Eight out of every ten agent sites I review fails to have a niche and/or fails to use the IDX system effectively. Remember, ease of use and intuitiveness help create a high quality experience – that builds trust and credibility and that produces good lead generation results. 

 
3.    Customizable Registration / Lead Capture settings
Truly a philosophical question that quickly gets bottom-lined to quantity –vs- quality from a lead perspective. If you want to try and capture anything that has a pulse then require everyone to “register” before they can do anything…but be prepared for a fair share of “John Doe’s” and [email protected] email addresses and a few profanity laced comments as well. If you’re all about openness and are solely looking for high quality leads than require nothing to get search results and or to view listing details but expect fewer leads. Some IDX systems allow for hiding of certain listing details (like address, photos, etc.) and will dynamically display that information once a registration form is completed. Others will allow you to set a certain number of searches and/or listing detail views before requiring registration. I’ve yet to find one system that gives you both of those options yet. The point here is to be sure you have options and to put them to use. Try different settings and see if there’s a measurable difference in lead quality / quantity from your own site. My recommendation is to configure the registration setting in a logical way that allows for some trust and credibility to be established and that’s also competitive in your marketplace.      

4.    Search Engine Friendliness
The only reason this isn’t #1 is that there are other ways to get traffic to your site, though page 1 organic placement is always preferred (at least in my book). Historically, iFramed IDX solutions (which we all know provide ZERO seo juice) have been the standard. Luckily, things have changed and there are more and more options available on the market for search engine “indexable” IDX solutions.  It’s worth noting that being able to have “indexable” MLS listing data can be achieved through a few different methods. Understanding how the listing data is rendered into your site is important because this may require using that IDX providers website platform or CMS which often has some downsides. RSS’ing (just made that up) listing data into your blog was made popular by Marry McKnight @ RSS Pieces but again this required usage of a proprietary blogging platform which is no longer supported by its original developer. The good news is that there is at least one open source website /blog solution that accepts RSS data feeds of MLS listing data. Frankly, this topic needs more time and attention than I originally planned so just know that this is absolutely critical for a long-term sustainable organic placement strategy.  

5.    Interactive Map Search
Searching for property by clicking on an interactive map (as opposed to clicking on an image of a map) with available listings represented as pin-cushions on the map is starting to become the norm now  – and for good reason – It’s easy, empowering and informative for your site visitors. It provides a geographical perspective for “property searchers” to see other listings in the area without having to re-query the database and you can see where each listing is relative to the other as well as where other landmarks, schools or roads, etc are in proximity to the subject listing. Some IDX systems allow for multiple custom maps to be created and linked to listings in a certain community or neighborhood which is great for executing a focused internet marketing strategy.   

6.    SMS Text / Email notifications
Pretty self explanatory here but incredibly important as your probability of creating a legitimate opportunity from an internet lead goes up by 36% if you’re able to contact that lead within the first 10 minutes of them registering on your site. Internet leads are like strawberries; they go bad quickly.

7.    Contact Import, Email blasting & Drip Campaigns
Contacting and inviting the people you already know (in your center of influence) to visit your website is a must for many reasons. Your IDX system should help you execute that process easily and effectively. The ability to import a CSV file of your contacts or a more elegant option of having a bi-directional synchronization to your contact manager (ie.Top producer, Outlook, etc.) is key. Make sure this feature exists and take the time to understand how it works as some IDX systems accomplish this important task much better than others.  

8.    Listing Syndication
Listing Syndication (not to be confused with subscribers to your site/blog RSS feed), is the process of getting your listing’s information displayed on other high traffic real estate sites like Trulia, googlebase, propsmart and others in an automated manner. Remember that these sites represent a huge amount of internet traffic that you can and should capitalize on to increase your listing exposure.

9.    Lead sourcing (Capturing the referring url)
Intermediate to advanced internet marketers love this feature and not all IDX systems do it. It’s a moderately known fact that many IDX systems allow for multiple instances or usage of their system without additional licensing costs. And since “nichefying” your site is really just smart internet marketing, one can often have multiple “niche” sites. Knowing which leads came from which site is key for measuring ROI and ultimately managing your business. This could possibly be achieved through advanced implementation of Google Analytics into your IDX system (assuming its capable) but the sure-fire way is for this to be a native feature within the IDX itself.

10.    Good Analytics
Knowledge is power and knowing what’s going on throughout your entire site is key for many obvious reasons. Your next IDX system should track how many visitors have started a search, how many listings have been viewed and ultimately how many registrations (leads) have occurred within a specified timeframe. What many of them won’t tell you (without some sort of upgrade) is how many unique visitors started searching on your site or how they found your site in the first place. The better IDX systems can accommodate Google Analytics code to be pasted into it thus extending googles tracking code throughout the IDX search system all the way to a captured lead as opposed to stopping at the search page. This is important as many of the IDX systems in use today are simple iFrame solutions that aren’t connected to the CMS used to run your site so your existing Google analytics code most like isn’t tracking any of these clicks.

Summary

Obviously I think these are all important enough to be considered must haves but the reality is that most IDX systems fall short of this list in some way. Finding a good IDX system and implementing it effectively is not an easy task and it’s always best to aim high when comparing IDX systems. The good news is that many of the features listed above can be acquired in your next IDX system thus eliminating the need for potentially having to pay for custom development, additional 3rd party services or continuing duplicative and/or manual processes. Depending on your goals, current situation, budget and availability of IDX systems in your area you may find one that meets your needs even if it does fall short. If you’re looking for some help in evaluating and implementing your next IDX system and/or planning an effective internet marketing strategy, contact us, we’re happy to pitch in!