SEO, SEM, PPC, IDX… how many acronyms must you understand to be in real estate of all industries? All of ‘em, yes all of ‘em, if you want to effectively reach consumers where they now work, play and live — the world wide web.
The world of IDX can be confusing and the process of getting IDX up and running on your real estate website is one mountain of many in getting your business seen and loved by customers. Don’t fret, though, being an informed consumer will put you in a position to make the right choice for your business. (And it will save you a whole lot of coin).
Here’s the deal: IDX is short for “Internet Data Exchange.” IDX makes it possible for you to deliver your web users access to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). There are differing opinions as to whether this will have any true SEO value, but it’s considered absolutely standard for providing a good user experience. We’re selling houses after all, right?
If you’re anything like me and spend hours browsing WordPress themes, looking through hex color combinations or bugging your “beta testers” (sister, brother, friends) every time you change a pixel on your site, choosing and IDX provider can be headache-inducing. Having thoroughly researched, harassed and prodded every major provider, I thought I’d share 6 important questions you should the IDX providers you research (actually, one goes to your MLS board). Ben’s article references 4 solid factors to remember while you shop but I’ll take it a step further and suggest (neigh, insist!) that you ask the following when you make the choice about who’s right for you:
1.) May I have a demo, please?
You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive and you shouldn’t pick a provider without a thorough demo first. Demand a demo to try out a provider’s IDX integration on your WordPress site. Most of the big providers (e.g. Diverse Solutions, iHomefinder) offer easy access to a demo so you can play around with the functionality. You can download the plugin from their site or the plugin directory & sign up with the provider to get an activation key.
2.) Where can I find examples of integration on other sites?
Your IDX provider’s site should be rife with examples of other WordPress sites who have beautiful integration using their service. Be wary of the more niche providers who don’t have a lot of stellar examples of WordPressers wheeling and dealing with their IDX integration. I was pretty scrupulous in my search of great examples and found plenty of buggy things with certain provider examples which quickly made them a no go.
3.) What are your CSS customization options like?
Speaking of seamless integration, the ability to customize the CSS for your IDX plugin is (in my opinion), essential. You want an integration that feels like it’s native to your site and the ability to tweak CSS is something you absolutely need in order to achieve this. My current provider has a section for CSS overrides (in addition to some helpful tutorials as to how to do this with Firebug). Even if the IDX solution/plugin works with your current theme, you might want a different theme or framework in the future so keep you options open with flexible customization options. Especially if you aren’t a developer — this one’s essential.
4.) Where/How will I control my set up and settings?
Your chosen IDX provider should offer a control panel or back-end area from which to further customize your integration. Look for the ability to choose from different property search templates, property feature page and lead capture forms. Look for a provider that allows you to build totally custom property searches or galleries — you might want to feature homes by MLS number, niche communities, architectural style, etc. Helpful hint: ask if your provider will offer the option for your listed properties to appear first in search results on site… it’s a nice touch!
5.) Can I, uh, get some help here?
As I mentioned earlier, I probably drove some well-intentioned customer service reps a little crazy as I made my round of calls to prospective providers. But my take? If they weren’t patient enough with me when they were trying to snag me as a client, they wouldn’t be so patient or helpful when they already have me set up & locked in. Be picky about the level of customer service: browse support documentation to make sure its thorough and clear; test out their support email or hotline; research the provider online to see if current or past clients are happy with the level of customer service. Finding a provider that will put you first will save you a lot of trouble when you have a question or concern (and you will have them) and it will also save you the frustration of having to cancel and switch providers if their customer service isn’t eventually up to snuff.
6.) For your MLS board: What providers do you recommend?
Now here’s one I didn’t quite expect when I started on my IDX journey. Getting your MLS board to sign off on your site and sign off on your IDX provider isn’t a cake walk. You’ll have to fill out a pile of paperwork and prove to your board that your site is in line with their compliance standards. Again, this is why it’s so essential to work with a provider who has great follow-through and superb customer service. At the end of the day, an above board, reputable company who has a good reputation with your MLS board is the only way to ensure the IDX integration you’ll work hard to implement will be around for good.
Due credit given to Sarah Metzger writer of this article: