Most of our clients want a property search solution on their real estate WordPress website and although there are quite a few options to choose from, a lot depends on your geo-targeted area of focus. Every locale is controlled by an MLS board and some boards will only work with specific IDX systems. These systems have paid to be the sole provider with that specific board.
Once you or a licensed broker within your office have filled out all the necessary contracts the boards in your area require, you must choose a an IDX solution or provider. You must also get your website approved to have an IDX solution.
If you add a website to your existing online presence that currently has an IDX solution, many boards require that you get your board to approve the new site. If you fail to notify your board, they can fine you or even make you take it off. Trust me, it’s no big deal, but you do need to follow the rules of your board. I am not sure of the protocol for every board in every state but for many, this protocal does seem to be the case.
Before we get into the different types of IDX solutions and how they effect your business and search engine placement, we want to explain in a nut shell the difference between MLS and IDX.
The Difference Between IDX and MLS
IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange, simply put is a flat file available to agents and their site users. MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service, which foucess on specific properties in a given area. A licensed broker can join an MLS association and have that entire area’s listings displayed on their website, usually through an IDX service.
1). Presentation MLS Data – MLS searches are standardized and give the EXACT same information to ALL agents within the same association. Agents have no control over what phone number is listed or how the contact information gets passed on to them. It truly is the ‘luck of the draw,’ as well as the look and feel of the agent’s website.
2). IDX Gives Agents a Modicum of Control. Because your IDX provider has control over what is known as a flat file, it allows agents to create featured listings and actually manipulate the data being shown. They can incorporate maps and other features such as schools, local business info and really anything the agent wants to convey to their site visitor. All that being said, GFN prefers IDX solutions for our clients.
How To Choose The Right IDX Solution For Your Real Estate WordPress Website
While there are numerous IDX solutions available, some are better than others and there are several things to consider when chooosing right one for your real estate WordPress website or whatever type of site you have. We will break them down in order of importance from both an Internet presence and a lead management standpoint.
IDX and Internet Presence
There are currently 3 solutions. We work with a lot of agents and most have settled on one of 3 types of solutions worth mentioning.
1). Cookie Cutter template sites – while these sites may get moderate search engine placement, they are often hard to administer, but worse of all, every other broker using the same system is running the same content. Another issue is they all look the same and employ the exact listings on all sites within the area. Some platforms also show listings from one broker but display them on their entire network.
2). IDX sub domains- there are quite a bit of sub-domain wrap sites that take your original site and “mirror” it in their domain, with your site linking back and forth between the 2 separate websites. While they say this is an “SEO advantage,” it is NOT.
Google with it’s latest “farmer” update is punishing sites that syndicate “duplicate content.” This might have worked last year, but not any more. Adding sitemaps to a raw IDX feed is “a roll of the dice” and while a lot of Realtors believe they get their listings as indexed pages, that is a fallacy. Not because of your work, but all all of your competitors that have the same listings. Once again we say that your site has to invite users, if you are rolling with this type of solution.
There are many IDX subdomain sites that will promise multiple listings within GOOGLE. Does that seem like a good SEO plan, to have the same listings and address areas or what google wants? Only an idiot would think that duplicate content is beneficial to it’s index. Google wants UNIQUE results and the only way to sell your best and most money making properties is to feature them on your site!
Sub-domain sites that get tons of listings may bring in more actual calls, but that doesn’t necessarily mean where the actual quality leads and sales come from.
Pushing the same pages over and over through sub-domains ONLY works if you have an old and established domain. New domains will not get that same type of placement no matter how many search pages they build and push out. Wrapping optimized content around IDX frames WORKS.
3). IFRAME – This type of IDX solution has a bad rap, but the fact remains that when a broker creates links to specific links the searcher gets what they want, but also, that gives more SEO depth than publishing duplicate content. Do you really want the same search pages indexed that every other website has also created?
That my friends is duplicate content and will not help your website rankings or search engine placement. One of the best ways to use iframe is to write up optimized content on the page or post, then embed the property search iframe below it or simply link to the appropriate property search page WITHIN your own website with iframe.
If you are using an iframe solution, but have optimized content about the AREA, you will get visitors that only want to search specific areas based upon their specific needs. Unless a user is targeting a specific address or MLS number, which is rare, they are looking for the best property that suits their price range, lifestyle and needs in a particular area.
How Google Handles iframes
There are truly no straight answers from Google about how they handle iframes. Unique geo-target content on your iframe page is the recipe for success and unique quality content is what Victoria preaches in every post she writes. Our next post is going to outline Google’s guidelines, which we hope will help everybody blog more effectively and get the best results for their efforts, including property search iframes.
We encourage our clients to go with the StudioPress/AgentPress theme running the Genesis framework, where agent listings are featured center stage on the homepage with optimized content that will get placement.
IDX Company Customer Service can be a Deal Breaker
What it really boils down to with us is customer service and without mentioning names and promoting specific IDX companies, we do have our favorites. Unfortunately, one of the most disconcerting aspects of dealing with a lot of different IDX companies is their lack of quality customer service. Many of these companies either don’t pick up the phone or take forever to get back to you unless you hound them relentlessly. We find that level of customer service unacceptable, so we only work with a select few, those that pick up the phone and take very good care of the needs of our clients.
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