IDX integration is one of the most commonly discussed topics between our team and our clients. If you’re new to the scene, IDX integration refers to pulling in live MLS listings and MLS search functionality into your website to allow users to be able to browse and search active real estate listings. The MLS listings and functionality is activated and provided by a third-party IDX provider.
Real estate professionals that are building a personal website (or an agency website) typically want to integrate IDX functionality for three main reasons:
- Automated listings – Without IDX integration, the owner of the website would have to manually enter listing data, information and images about properties if they desire listings to be on their website. By utilizing an IDX provider, this tedious process is eliminated, and the IDX technology handles updating listings on your website automatically.
- Search functionality – By allowing users to be able to search live listings for a potential home or property means they can likely find everything they need without leaving your website. Staying on your website and viewing you and your company as the only resource they need to achieve their real estate goals is obviously a good thing!
- Lead generation – IDX functionality typically comes with excellent lead generation capabilities. When users are browsing live listings, they frequently want more information on a particular listing. They can fill out a form to obtain more information, and as a result, you can capture their contact information turning a web visitor into an actual lead. Moreover, you can force registration and lead capture on users even while they browse listings (e.g. when a user browses five listings, they must register before viewing a 6th listing).
Integrating IDX into your website comes with additional fees. Our clients pay us for website creation, maintenance and hosting, but many of these clients also pay a third-party IDX provider a monthly fee in order to have this constant access to MLS data automatically pulled into their website.
There is a clear value that far exceeds the cost of a monthly IDX charge, but maximizing that value requires putting together a website that your clients will love. That is our goal with every client we work with: to build a website that drives value many times over the cost of the website. Thankfully, the real estate industry is such that gaining just a single new client is typically enough to cover the cost of a website and IDX integration for months, even years!
So, how can we use IDX to help build a real estate website that has wonderful usability and that clients will view as the only real estate resource they will need?
A Fully Integrated Website
You likely have several goals for your website, but one of the main ones is undoubtedly lead generation. IDX is very useful for lead generation, but in order to generate leads, you need your users to use the IDX features on your website. This might be browsing listings, searching the MLS, etc.
The best way to get users to use the IDX features built into your website is to integrate IDX features throughout all areas of your website. Some website owners make the mistake of splitting a website into two areas – the standard website area with items like an About page, a Contact page and maybe some blog posts and then the IDX part of the website where you can search the MLS. This bifurcated approach is not ideal for maximizing the IDX features and for turning users into leads.
The better strategy is to pull in IDX elements throughout the website. An easy and intuitive way to do this is with neighborhood or community information. By having pages or sub-pages on your site with helpful information on your city broken up by community or neighborhood, you can put live listings side-by-side with helpful, expert insight on various areas of your market. Your users will naturally flow into the IDX components of the website if you use this approach.
Over time, as your website builds authority in the eyes of search engines, you will start pulling in web traffic into your subpages. For example, maybe you have a page with great insight into a neighborhood named Valley Grove. If that page on Valley Grove gains authority and starts ranking well in search engines, you will get web traffic that starts a visit on your web site with the Valley Grove page. It’s important to have clear navigation in place on your website so that a user can get around to important areas of your site even if they’re not on the home page.
If you’re integrating IDX into your site, having a top level navigation element to start a fresh search of the MLS is a great idea. No matter where a user is on your site, allowing them to jump immediately into a new search is a crucial navigational element to include in your site’s design. Moreover, you can take this a step further by allowing users to start a fresh search in a slightly more specific manner. Perhaps your menu bar at the top of the website is entitled “Search Properties” and links to a fresh search page for searching the MLS. You can improve usability by including sub-menu items that drop down from the “Search Properties” menu item with specific search pages such as “Search Condos”, “Search Townhouses”, “Search Waterfront Homes”, etc.
If users can jump to key areas of your site easier – while not overwhelming them with too many options that results in confusion – you’ve built a usable website with clear navigation.
Intuitive Browsing of Listings
When integrating IDX, fewer things are more important than mapping out browsing of listings in an intuitive manner on your website. It’s important to put yourself in the mind of a user looking to browse listings. How do they go about the process? Do they start with price range? Location? Property type?
Typically we suggest letting the user take one of two courses on a website. First, they can always jump to a fresh search page as we discussed above and type in their own search criteria to pull up active real estate listings. Second, if a user wants to browse in a more passive manner, let them do it, but help them narrow down options and get closer to what they ultimately might be looking for. This can be accomplished by creating category pages of listings that also link to sub-category pages of listings.
Let’s look at an example. Perhaps we have an Atlanta real estate website and we have various neighborhood/community pages to provide information on the various areas of Atlanta. One of those pages might be a page on the Buckhead neighborhood. The Buckhead page should show some listings in Buckhead, but also provide links to help narrow down the browsing. This might be accomplished with price range links that link to pages that show Buckhead listings within specific price ranges (such as under $250k, $250k-$500k, etc.) or it might allow the user to jump to Buckhead condos, Buckhead single family homes, etc.
Many users browse the internet to look at real estate even if they’re not planning to buy or sell a home in the immediate future. Your goal should be to still cater to these users and capture these users as leads. By making it easy and intuitive to browse listings that they may have a passive interest in, you can accomplish this. Some users might browse literally hundreds of listings if you make it easy on them! And, yes, those same users are likely also the ones who will have no problem registering on your website in order to continue browsing these listings.
Capturing long-term leads on a consistent, daily basis, then nurturing and converting them into customers over time can be a very lucrative strategy if executed well.
To sum up, IDX integration is an excellent way to vastly improve the usability and quality of your real estate website. It does add to your costs, but when integrated well, the costs should be negligible to the value and business that can be derived from the website. If you have any questions on IDX integration, give us a call.