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If MLS is Your Only Method of Capture Then You Might as Well Give it Away or Not Have it at All

viewfromgoogleRequired (aka forced) registration?

It’s the wrong question whether or not to require registration and my reasons for saying so are endless, but my number one response to this question is very often a question in return- what is your capture strategy? If your capture strategy is only IDX search capture, then you might as well let consumers have it for nothing. In fact, you might as well not have MLS search at all when you consider your website as a spec in the image of this article- tantamount to a font choice being hyper critical to the demise of your business.

I say this because no matter how fancy the search component on your website is, if consumers simply wanted to search homes, there are bigger and better solutions out there that do not require consumers to register. You cannot compete, you simply are not big enough to play the big media players’ game- why not stop now while you’re ahead if you haven’t yet figured out that what the local searcher is looking for really isn’t a home at this stage- they’re looking for something unique.

Trulia, Zillow, et al.

Now that you have a bare bones assessment of where you stand in comparison to big media players and the real choice consumers have, surely you have a bigger picture image of just how ridiculous the conversation is if you’re not responding to the real reasons consumers are on your piddly little local website in the first place. In the eyes of consumers, if you’re responding to them directly, you’re not so piddly after all- in fact, having offered them the local value they’re desperate for you’ve finally given them something big media sites can’t and they’ll give you more than an email address and fake phone number to get it, in fact they’ll pay you a commission and referrals for an opportunity to get more of it, in fact, nearly $100 million dollars between just two media companies has been spent just to exploit “IT.”

Untimately the answer to the wrong question of IDX registration is yes, you should require registration after a search or two, but again, this matters not if you haven’t framed your IDX with value. They’ll simply click away in search of anything that feels valuable and unique to them, and you already know your consumer, so you know better than I what matters most in your hometown.

Building a robust capture strategy

You most likely have a self-hosted blog by now, and if you don’t you soon will because the type of value building I’m talking about is through local content. Writing content that is recognizable to locals is important as it instantly illuminates your vicinity to their immediate needs in comparison to large media sites. Also, you’re less likely competing with local agents when on your local domain in comparison to the Realtor orgy Active Rain and others have become. Whether you like it or not, you are in competition with your beloved network.

The folks you want commenting on your material is not other agents, in fact, you’re better off having no comments at all when you consider that other agents are commenting to link bait your consumers to their own sites– what, you thought the value they’re attempting to add is for you?

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Building your own conversation with locals is important because you’ll want to address your valuable news letter to them, not to your competition. Your commenter (subscriber) base on your blog is your audience, and you’ve captured their attention, and should absolutely follow up with them not only with a newsletter, but also a thank you…

Thank Me Later WordPress Plugin: this plugin will send a one time only custom email to your commenters, thanking them for their participation, will allow you to input a few kick ass reasons they should return to your website, as well as provide them essential contact information. It might also be a great place to drop a nice incentive to select your service if you’re paying for inspections or appraisals, or even advertising lower commissions.

MeeNews WordPress Newsletter Plugin: If you’re looking for a robust newsletter management solution this is about as great and simple as they come.

Again, you will need the ability to upload plugins to your wordpress blog.

Making your website multi-deminsional

Surely you’re pimping listings on Craigslist, you have listings, and you share them everywhere. You also utilize flyers and other products that do little to inspire action or set your listing apart from their next click or view.

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I recommend implementing texting features such as Drivebuy into your flyers, Craigslist ads, and even the last image of your virtual tours that prompt an action.  Make it a valuable action. In fact, rather than just offer your contact information, why not respond with special buyer or even seller incentives in each text ad- for example, text AG1 to 88000 (this really works, try it) for special offers on homes purchased through our brokerage or text AG1 to 88000 for special listing incentives on our services.

Text ads could be used throughout your website for multiple reasons around content consumers are looking at, and can be a real value added component as well as create an opportunity for you to get in front of your consumer whether a listing consumer or a buyer. Don’t forget to add text features to listing flyers, Craigslist, and anywhere else you can think to use it including featured listing posts on your blog- for about $8 bucks per text number you can expand your opportunity for conversions right now.

Give ’em a shopping cart

Recently we tipped you off to a wicked new tool called Smarter Agent which gives you a mobile web application that works with just about any phone your consumer is using.  Branded for your company, this application gives your consumer a mobile search they can use on the street while actually searching for homes and returns your contact information with each result they view- this is a great asset in your capture arsenal when you consider you just provided your consumer with a tangible product from your website to take with them to better their search experience with you at the checkout stand.

Whitepaper for different levels of buyers and sellers

Why not take some of your most compelling content around market conditions and other practical tips for buyers and sellers and create whitepaper?  Value added content in your sidebar designed to entice information addicts that capture registration:

WP-Download Manager WordPress Plugin: Simply upload your pdf whitepaper and set it to capture registration. From this, you can learn what they’re downloading and follow up with an email response targeted exactly to this content, offering incentives and other reasons to return to your website or notify them of updates in the future.  Add to your email the text feature mentioned above to get even closer to them.

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Round robin customer service

I’ve written about this in the past and firmly believe that in this day and age that sales calls are frowned upon, BUT customer service calls are not. Round robin is basically a system of call routing that continues to ring as many numbers as you assign until someone picks up to make sure the call is answered regardless of the time of day.

As we all know, conversion rates increase when calls and text messages are returned and especially when a phone call from a consumer is answered, which is why if you’re not using a round robin mechanism for your incoming calls, you’re missing huge opportunities to convert.

Social Media

If you’re on Twitter and attempting to look really important by only following 200 while 2000 are following you, you had better make sure those 200 are absolutely local to you.  Why?  Because if a buyer or seller is connected to you on Twitter and wants to privately message you to discuss their needs, they cannot.  You must follow back your locals, and in fact you should use tools like Tweetdeck to manage these contacts under a category like “Locals.”  This will help you continue to manage these warm opportunities and cultivate relationships in your local market. (click here to read more about connecting locally on twitter)

Facebook can be utilized in much the same way by creating lists of locals under your contact manager.  This allows you to reach out specifically to your locals while excluding the hundreds of Realtors you’re probably networked with.  So, when attending a meetup of some kind, or even hosting an open home, you can extend a local invitation to your local contacts especially for them.

Those extra seasoned domains you own

Surely if you’re like me you have a few domains you’ve picked up over the years and have little use for them other than pointing them to your main site.  Why not utilize a free service like softRealty that provides free IDX search along with a built-in CRM to float organically in Google?  It stands to reason if the domain ranks you should stick something of value on it that might generate opportunities.

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In summary

These are just a few tips to get you looking at a larger opportunity for capture.  If you’re working from a larger picture, you can see that driving consumers to MLS search is great and all, but it really isn’t enough to compete.  What you need is a more robust plan of action- calls to value action that bring the consumer closer to you.  If you’re implementing these simple methods, you eliminate the concern for do or die decisions such as registered or non-registered searches by creating warm reasons to touch the consumer… they are interested or they wouldn’t have taken an action.

The biggest misconception about Web2.0 as we heard it several years ago was that it wasn’t meant to disrupt your way of thinking or doing business.  In many cases, none of the passive pull theories were yet proven good or bad, and still today we debate the merits, but one thing is certain- by framing your MLS search with value in the first place makes it irrelevant whether you force registration or not.

No companies paid for consideration in this article including current advertisers on Agent Genius.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Erion Shehaj

    August 28, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Looks like I got some plugins to install 🙂

  2. Ben Goheen

    August 28, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    @bennrosales EXCELLENT article! Nobody will register with my IDX if I don’t provide some other local resources & valuable information. After taking a vacation and refreshing my brain, I realized my blog offers very little of this and I really have to step things up if anyone is going to take me seriously. The info you provided is the kick in the pants I need.

    Thanks for the list of WP plugins. I’ve added and removed more than I can remember over the years, but these look like they’ll actually come in handy.

  3. Chris Fyvie

    August 28, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Great stuff… but what do you do for commercial / office real estate listings?

  4. Benn Rosales

    August 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Hey Chris, As a former locator for residential and commercial real estate, I used those 1800 capture numbers with an extension, why not replace that old idea with big fat text for more information call to action on those big corner billboards you’re probably using? Also, why not have a text notification in every email, and beside every listing on your website TEXT FOR MORE INFO!

    Blogging about impacts created by development is a hot button subject in almost every corner of the country, blog about smart developing or some other niche subject that will grab your locals.

    There’s no reason Chris that you can’t recondition any of this for commercial- get creative.

  5. Matthew Hardy

    August 28, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Damn. I’d register for this content.

  6. Missy Caulk

    August 28, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Benn, I am beta testing for a company now that uses txt and 800 to capture the numbers. Just got it up and running and still getting the signs installed.

    I’ll let you know how it goes, but one thing I liked is they pulled all the data from my MLS so I didn’t have to do anything like write scrips or talk into the phone.

    At first I told them no, I’ve been there, done that and bought the tee shirt. Then they offered it free to me to beta test as it had the txt messages.

    Wow, thanks for the plugins !!

  7. Doug Buenz

    August 29, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Couldn’t agree with you more Benn. If your site is good enough, people will actually contact you. I do require registration, but only after the visitor sees 10 listings. That way I know they are (somewhat) engaged and like what they see. Thanks for the tip on the mobile app.

  8. Ken Brand

    August 29, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Good stuff, new things to think about, new tools to build better business.

  9. Bob

    August 29, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    “Nobody will register with my IDX if I don’t provide some other local resources & valuable information”

    Someone forgot to tell the dozens registering every day on the site my name links to above.

  10. Gainesville Realtors

    August 29, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    We just started forced registration last week and page views dropped dramatically. Our simple method verifies both the e-mail and phone number before allowing full search access to properties.

    We’ll see what happens – I don’t have enough data yet to determine whether or not forcing reg helps.

  11. Benn Rosales

    August 29, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Bob, you also fit the criteria of an agent with something people want, and I know it to be true because we’ve discussed it, and having just visited your site, you exemplify exactly what Erion is talking about, so actually, no need to say anything to those dozens other than what you’re already saying so eloquently on your site already.

  12. Atlanta Real Estate

    August 31, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Maybe my site already adds value bacaule like the San Diego realtor, I’m getting lots of registrations, Forced.

  13. Adam Weart

    August 31, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    There are some really good ideas in here that I had not heard of before. Benn, what are your thoughts on agents specializing in target markets? Do you see value in an agent taking the time to create a market specific website ie Dog Lovers in the Atlanta Area Looking for Real Estate…. or something of that nature? Obviously they would also maintain their other websites but have you heard any success stories for agents using this idea?

  14. Benn Rosales

    August 31, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Adam, niche sites although limiting in audience scope, can be extremely high impact if the right niche is isolated. Because specialization is most notable to Google and the reader, conversion is often found to be the highest- as I said in the post, you have the ‘IT’ factor the niche is seeking.

    If your website is specific to foreclosures or at least speaks frequently about foreclosure issues with tips and guidance, obviously those threatened or seeking to capitalize on the foreclosure market will find identifiable commonalities- you present the solution to their problems.

    The only warning I have with niche sites is overdoing it with to many different sites as one can often suffer while another thrives just due to over extending the content producers trying to keep up with every day business, I’m guilty of this problem as are many. The trick is finding the threshold and a willingness to accept limitations.

  15. Atlanta Real Estate

    August 31, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I know agents who make an entire business out of what we would call niche here in Atlanta.

    For example, golf communities.

    This may not apply everywhere but in a metro area with over 6 million people, it definitely works.

    Ranking on page one for “Atlanta Golf Homes” for example, would give you maybe 10+ leads per day here. Even with a crummy site.

    The holy grail is “Atlanta Real Estate” around here and I’m still working on cracking into that.

    Until then, I keep making Google rich!


  16. AustinAaron

    September 1, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Atlanta Real Estate – F google. Don’t pay those yoyo’s a dollar. No need to be a sponsored link. Just need to make the first 4-5. And that can be done organically. Sure it will take 8 months. But at little cost?! It’s no secret sponsored links can be forced out of their position, anyhow. Grow it organically, and the produce will literally fall off the tree when ripe!

    And you say “Atlanta Real Estate” is the holy grail. Those keywords were searched 246k times in July. Compare that to “Atlanta Homes”, though. Searched 450k times in the same month. Nearly double the action with the same advertiser competition. But take “Atlanta homes for sale”. Also searched 246k times in July, but has less adv. comp. i.e. – Better value for your advertising dollar. Same goes for the combination of “Atlanta properties” and “Atlanta house”. Both searched a combined total of 246k, and both with less adv. comp.

    Liking some of those paid keywords you currently have. Running some good #’s with those, from what I can see. You’ve got an average in that 3-5 placement, leaving competitors averaging out 6+.

  17. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 1, 2009 at 2:05 pm


    Great reply, thanks!

    I fully agree with you on the KWs and just this past week I reprinted the whole list with traffic numbes from Google. It’s sitting here on the desk and the ones you mentioned, along with a few others, are highlighted.

    I have always avoided those main terms from an Adwords standpoint, due to the ridiculous CPC.

    Instead I have approx 5,000 long tail neighborhood specific keywords that land directy onto their respective neighborhood landing pages, of which there are 50 something. (big list down the right side)

    Last 30 days here’s the stats:

    Avg CPC $0.20
    Impressions 83,377
    Clicks 541
    CTR 0.65%
    Total cost $110

    I have the rest of my campaigns in another Adword account that does about 80% of this one, totalling about $200.

    My CTR needs to be better and I’ve got some ideas on that.

    Also, I would like to attract more out of towners. Currently this is about 20% because of the neighborhood strategy.

    All this is well worth it. My yearly ad budget is being returned at about a 100x multiplier. LOL!

    I know we all want the traffic for free, but until this happens, I pay and keep working on SEO.

    Until recently,I have not done a lot of work obtaining backlinks, where it’s all at.

    Thanks again,


  18. AustinAaron

    September 1, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Backlinks ARE worth it! Hahaha. Best kind of traffic = Free.

    Yeah, I could tell your #’s were strong. Agree that CTR should increase. Maybe change up the structure of the value in certain places? Get you over that 1% would be a nice increase! Those indy neighborhood posts are where it’s at, IMO. Brings a much more targeted demo. More willing to click-through to obtain what they’re after. Noticed most of your neighborhood sections are static, though. Not many keyword repeats. And details are a bit short. <—– Personal opinion. Not an attack! Have you considered something along the lines of *Got to westcampusliving dot com, click on "Learn", click "Neighborhoods"?? Note to ADMIN: Not a backlink attempt, obviously. Just sharing conceptual approach.

    Those juicy details present great opportunity. See you already have the platform for it. Couple those neighborhood keywords against your campaign and targeted traffic increases. And targeted traffic = increased CTR. If your neighborhood strategy is already showing solid return, I'd consider beefing up the neighborhood content.

  19. Aria Kilpatrick - Austin Real Estate

    September 2, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Great ideas, Benn! Thanks for posting. It seems like every agent with a computer has a blog these days, setting your apart is definitely where the edge is. As a buyer, I would never put my *real* information to register for a home search site. I’m just not sure that it’s the way to capture people. Instead, I prefer to have RSS & Newsletter links visible, along with easy access to the valuable information on my website. I’m astonished at what agents pay for IDX solutions that are just okay or Top Producer type CMA & other lead capturing options when so many agents have the exact same thing.

    I think that no matter what you have on our website (search, blog, etc), that it had better be both different and more valuable than the next agent’s.

  20. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 2, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Good ideas. The biggest increase I can make with my current structure will come through getting CTR up to 1% which would represent nearly a double. Using the last 30 days data, this would send 1000 to my site vs 500. (all approx)(don’t feel like doing actual math right now)

    The next area of improvement is in conversion. Like you indicated, these 50+ Nhood Landing pages are static and fairly boring.

    One idea I’ve had for a long time now but not acted on due to the amount of time involved is to have a “register for detailed nhood report” on each of the 50 pages.

    Something simple like enter your name and email address and a PDF report gets emailed automatically. This gives me a live email address for the database.

    Easy to implement on the site, but I then have to author 50+ Neighborhood Reports.

    This would get my conversions up some % (how much… TBD).

    Currently, I’m converting at about 10% which is probably good, but here’s another MULTIPLIER like CTR.

    Improve both significantly and suddenly you are swamped!


  21. Jacob Clayton

    September 20, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Sorry for the late comment, Benn – but wanted to say thanks for another very interesting post. I think about this topic a lot and love the discussion it lays the groundwork for.

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