The recent IDXPro® 3.0 update is the product of years of careful thought and customer feedback. The update has been a huge success and is pulling in tons of buyer leads. Would you like to know how we did it? Keep reading to find out the secrets to our truimph.
Part of real estate marketing success is putting your efforts in the places that homebuyers are actually looking. You have probably heard by now that 84% of homebuyers now use the Internet to search for homes. (NAR SURVEY 2007) [Link Broken] Let’s put that differently. THE #1 THING that buyers are looking for online is listings.Therefore, most of your effort on your website should be spent on things related to showing listings. Display them everywhere you can: on your homepage, in a slideshow, on a hot sheet. If you have a lead generating IDX product, then it is important to make it easily accessible. Link to it everywhere you can. If you only have a page that features your listings, then link to that. One way that IDXPro takes this a step forward is by letting agents create custom searches. For instance, let us say that a large number of buyers in your market are looking for new Golf Properties with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. You would want to create a page that features all the listings like that in your area. This type of listing page is valuable enough to create by hand, but is so much easier when you have an IDX search tool to create and update it automatically.
Of course you would never put up a website that has lots of good information but has no way for buyers to contact you. Contact forms and registration are very important to business sites. That said, you can’t expect success from a website that has contact forms and registration, but no real incentives are attached to those forms. Buyers won’t contact you and they won’t register unless they think they are going to benefit from this exchange. They know that if they give you their email address, you are probably going to send them an email. If they give you a phone number, they know to expect a few calls. So how do you make registering feel desirable to them?
Many agents get a certain amount of success from just asking visitors to register when they try to access anything useful on their site. This can work well, but a couple problems come up. First, how can a visitor know if that page is worth giving their contact info to enter? Second, many buyers are figuring out that they have other options to search for those same listings without registering. This leaves the agent with the problem of not being able to obtain the lead. IDXPro 3.0 has an option that lets visitors do some searching and then asks for registration after they have been hooked by seeing some results. An even subtler option is to not require registration to do searches at all, but to have additional features available like saving searches for visitors that register. It is always good to provide a clear incentive for registration, and it helps to let visitors have a taste of what they will be getting. An excellent way to use this outside of IDX is with Drip Email Newsletters. It is a good idea to include a sample or excerpt of what your visitors will be receiving on the online subscription contact form.
There is a crucial step between getting a lead and turning that lead into a client that deserves special attention. One of the major upgrades in IDXPro 3.0 is the addition of a Client Activity Report that tells agents exactly what searches their buyer leads are performing, what listings they looked at, and what they saved. Looking at that sort of information can help create a good excuse to make contact with your lead. Offer suggestions of listings they might be interested in based on what they have been searching for or offer to show them a listing they have saved. You might also want to make custom searches based on patterns of what you notice your leads looking for. Another good idea is to sort the quality of your leads based on this kind of information. Did someone just finish spending a few hours searching? They are probably more interested in talking to a REALTOR® today.
So how do you steal this secret? Even if you don’t have a Client Activity Report there are other ways to get this kind of information and prequalify your leads. Adding a few optional questions to the contact forms on your website can be a great way to sort leads by priority. Or for those of you with access to some technical skills, you can start tracking which page your visitor was on when they used your contact form. If the visitor was looking at your “Waterfront Properties” page when they contacted you, they are likely interested in a waterfront property.
According to a well known study put out by the California Association of REALTORS®, Internet homebuyers take less than a third of the time while buying a home from the time they contacted a REALTOR® to finding the home they ultimately purchased. (CAR Survey 2006) That is great! Generally speaking, your commission check does not grow just because it took longer for your buyer to find the right home. The question is “why?” It comes down to self-education. Internet homebuyers spend more time educating themselves on their local market and the real estate process. A good home search tool like IDXPro 3.0 is valuable not just because buyers want to search for homes, but because you want them to do it too. The more time they spend getting to know your local housing inventory, the more helpful buyers can be about what they are really interested in and the more rational sellers will be about setting the right price for their home.
The concept of self-education doesn’t just apply to listing search. Most agents have useful articles, or a drip newsletter on their website that visitors can use for self-education. Good examples of this are tips on staging, a housing search checklist, or layman’s explanations of the offer and counter-offer process. Anything that you find yourself regularly explaining to clients is a smart thing to make easily available on your website. One caveat is that although it is great to have good educational content, it is even better to put a focus on your best content first. If there is one article on your website that you wish all of your clients would read, don’t let it get lost in your online library of real estate knowledge.
One of the most basic reasons that website visitors spend so much time searching in IDXPro is that it is an active tool that involves the visitor. It is not just reading an article or looking at a page of listings. Visitors are: doing searches, modifying searches, saving them, saving listings, playing with a map search tool and a bunch of other tasks that keeps them active and awake. Another way to create involvement is membership. When a visitor registers in IDXPro they gain access to more tools and options including the ability to tweak the controls of their account by doing things like changing the rate and the day of the week that they receive HouseTrack™email updates.
There are a lot of different low-tech ways to add involvement on your website. For articles that you write, create a task in the article that the reader can do while they read. For instance, at the beginning of this article we could have asked you to make a note for each secret on a pad of paper identifying whether you are already using it. Or you can use links to turn an article into a series of short pages that act like a “choose your own adventure” story. Consider running a contest where website visitors can submit home search stories or pictures of interesting houses, where the best ones get added to your site. Site visitors are usually more interested in content where they do something than content where they just get told something.
The beauty of HouseTrack email updates is that they bring previous visitors back to IDXPro when they see new listings that just came on the market. The ability to save searches and listings is also a strong driver of repeat visitors. One thing to remember about Internet homebuyers is that they will usually spend more than 5 weeks searching online before contacting a REALTOR®. (CAR Survey 2006) This means that most people who visit you online need to visit you more than once if they are going to become your client. One of the keys to this is making it clear that your site gets updated with great new content regularly. IDXPro 3.0 has the advantage of getting new listing data from your MLS on a daily basis, but there are definitely other ways to get visitors coming back to you.
Traditional methods include having a regularly updated newsletter or section like “My Weekly Home Picks.” Even something as simple as a daily joke or affirmation can be surprisingly effective in bringing repeat visitors. This is one of the areas where a blog can shine. Having a blog automatically implies you update your site regularly. Also, blogs have the added advantage of creating involvement by letting visitors comment on what you wrote. Blogs definitely are not for everyone, but can be a great fit for agents with something to share. If you are considering blogging or having trouble blogging, we like The Real Estate Tomato for blogging tips.
Is this still a secret? This probably falls in the category of things most REALTORS® have heard but many still haven’t taken to heart. The biggest change in the IDXPro 3.0 update is the addition of a new Google Map Search Tool. This tool lets visitors go to a map, zoom in and see the listings in the area of their choice. Is this a more efficient way to search? For many visitors it probably is. Is it a more interesting way to search? Yes! Does it make IDXPro 3.0 stand out even more from other IDX search tools? Definitely!
Another way that the 3.0 update helps agents differentiate themselves is by offering a variety of appearance and layout choices for IDXPro. If most agents in your area use the exact same link to the MLS, your visitors will start to understand that they can go to anyone to get the same tools. It is very important to remember that online homebuyers are looking at multiple real estate websites and considering contacting more than just one agent. Having special tools and information that other agents don’t offer is one very good way to stand out.
On a broader level, it is important to stand out as an agent. Every REALTOR® has something that makes them unique and focusing on that makes you more memorable. Also, you will find it is a lot easier to write content and make updates on your site when you have a theme in mind. We see a lot of real estate websites. It seems that the best ones often are where the agents have created a clear identity for themselves that comes through on their site.
So now you have all the secrets of IDXPro 3.0. (Well… most of the secrets). One more thing to take away from this article is that when you see something successful it can’t hurt to spend a moment trying to identify why it works so well. Usually there is some concept you can steal for yourself. Is there some marketing tactic out there that seems to work for other agents that you aren’t using? Is there an agent in your area who always seems to be on top? Now’s a good time to find out why!
Robert Warner started with iHOUSEWeb back in 2009 in the Customer Service Department helping over 10,000 clients with all of their Real Estate Website questions. After launching the YouTube training videos for iHOUSEWeb he moved up to the marketing department where he helps design and write marketing materials as well as managing the Social Media side of iHOUSEWeb.