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Lead Capture and the IDX Interface

IDXphoto

It all starts with a registration.

Driving lots of traffic to your web site is the minimum requirement for successful lead generation. You could accomplish this with AdWords, or if you’re really good, patient and lucky, you could accomplish this organically with SEO.

Regardless of how people find your site, visitors can’t turn into customers unless they eventually decide to either contact you or fill in one of your forms. Here are some hooks I regularily see out there:

  • send me a some kind of report or a CMA
  • send me a boiler plate article about real estate (“10 tips for ….” )
  • please allow me to search homes on your IDX

Notwithstanding the very lame boiler plate articles and usually weak “reports,” it’s really going to come down to your IDX to capture that lead. This is where the rubber meets the road for your website, and unfortunatley you have limited control.

You get what you get with your IDX provider.

Like it or not, this is what many IDX providers typically offer you:

  • a standard look, or choice of a few similar looks
  • something that typically gets framed into a page (complete with old timey scrollbars)
  • a few different clever ways to require registration (take ’em or leave ’em)
  • either NO control or some control over the initial outgoing email (I have none)

Given this, chances are that your IDX is exactly like a hundred other agents’ IDX in your area. There are only so many IDX providers and for a given MLS, even a smaller subset.

Check out these two uninteresting looking IDX interfaces. I rate them as POOR, which I can do because they are mine:

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Atlanta Real Estate Search – the standard from my provider, yeah…this is IT!
Atlanta Real Estate Search
– one I custom designed to try and have something easier and different.

I’m really surprised I get ANY registrations at all from these two and over the coming weeks, they will be evolving.

Ok, so what can we do about it?

Good question. For starters, I think you really have to do your homework and choose the best IDX you can find. Or at least try to go unique for your area. Then, integrate this into your site in a very easy to find, pleasing and simple fashion to your visitors.

I think to hit all level of users, there needs to be a super simple search, a more complex search, and a map search.  Yes, all three, there are fans of each.

I’ve also seen a couple of decent attempts to include a video or two on the site explaining how to use the search interface. Great idea – This is definitely something I will be doing in the future.

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Also, try to come up with some other high quality methods to lure your visitors into engaging. My guess is the “10 Tips to Selling Your Home Quickly” articles are not going to cut it.

Let’s see what we can learn from a discussion of the following:

  • What IDX features do you like or dislike?
  • What registration requirements do you employ?
  • What other non-IDX methods do you use to capture lead registrations?

Written By

Rob is the founder of The Georgia Realty Group, a real estate company focusing on the five large counties north of the 285 perimeter in Atlanta. Out of USF in 1991 as an Electrical Engineer, he then quickly shifted into software sales. For 12 years, he sold enterprise level Engineering Design Automation (EDA) software to Fortune 500 companies. His current focus is web site design, SEO and lead management activities and he also takes on the occasional excellent client. Find him at AtlantaRealEstateInfo.com

41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. bficker

    October 16, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I like the article. I was really interested in DiverseSolutions because of the great mapping as well as the rss feeds to add listings on your sight. I’ve had them for about 9 months now, and the issue I am finding is the different ways to capture information. I would like more control over how the registration form looks and what is required.

  2. Norm Fisher

    October 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    We’ve moved completely away from requiring registration for using our IDX tool. Those who do register get the standard benefits offered by most providers including the ability to save searches and favorites, but that’s really the only difference.

    I could probably do a far better job of drawing consumers towards some type of a contact form but for the most part we find that tons of good info makes enough of our visitors call or email.

    That said, I am very much in love with the “myrealpage” IDX listings widget which is easily embedded in a wordpress blog with no scroll bars. There are also lots of great customization opportunities with the product. Their Technical Director seems to have trained himself to survive without sleep and turns out upgrades nearly every week.

  3. Keith Lutz

    October 16, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    What I do is allow free registration for 2 visits to the “details”, after that you need to register. I like to give them a sample of all I have to offer… Microsoft birds eye view, Google street view, Walk score, plus just a better layout, info and pics than my competition. Of course I paid for it and use RealEstateWebMasters as my host.

  4. Bob Wilson

    October 16, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Measuring the data across 3 highly traffic sites, required registration from the outset took the conversion rate rate up 5%, from single digits to double digits.

    Keith,
    How many view then register? How many view then leave?

  5. Joe Loomer

    October 17, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Rob, those of us out here in the sticks are kinda stuck with the one IDX provider available that actually knows and indexes our area. You can’t take walking tours or do much of anything (crime report sites, etc.), so it’s on to other things.

    I require registration to get details, and typically get one-to-three registered leads per day, converting one in about fifteen/twenty into actual clients. SEO has been my focus since February, and that is why our traffic is up (my measley 1-to-3 may not be on par with some of you on here, but I was getting one or two a week pre-February).

    Actually, SEO is why I found AG in the first place, come to think of it!

    Barring inventing the “next great website widget,” it’s a numbers game to me, and SEO makes that happen for us.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  6. Rob McCance

    October 17, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Joe:

    I understand. I’m not sure even how many IDX providers I have to choose from here for FMLS data, but I know of at least three right off hand.

    Three a day is pretty decent. Nobody can compete with the guys on page one of Google for the high volume KWs.

    1 per day would be 30 a month, so if you average 30-90 a month, I would think that’s pretty darn good for Augusta.

    It’s possible to get 30 a day in Atlanta but not unless you are page one for a seriuos KW, or paying like $100 a day for AdWords.

  7. Bob Wilson

    October 17, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    The info like walking tours, school reports, crime stats etc, is secondary to the typical potential buyer’s main goal – looking at inventory. The availability of that info won’t have much impact on the number of leads you gets.

  8. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 17, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Bob:

    Couldn’t agree more. I do have one idea I have that I would like to try, but it’s a LOT of work and the list is long here already.

  9. Missy Caulk

    October 18, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Bob, I agree, your IDX must stand out. It must be easy to use so the consumer likes it best of all. Fortunately I can frame my home search site into my blogs. It is a Tiger site and even though I share the PPC campaign with 3 other agents in my office…I get triple the leads because of blogging and viral marketing.

    It is not easy to find one and the ones the MLS’s provide are horrible.

  10. bficker

    October 18, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Since I don’t work with a lot of buyers, what have you guys found that is working for collecting seller leads?

  11. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 18, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Missy – your site and IDX looks great. I poked around there and discovered it was a TigerLead IDX. Does TigerLead provide your entire site? I’m not familiar with that provider. I do like their search interface.

    Ficker – In two years, I’ve only taken 3 listings! Due to the state of the market, I’ve found it easier to find motivated qualified relocation clients. More work, but at least there’s a transaction at the end of it all.

    ALl this web based IDX lead capture is all about buyers. Sellers typically are not searching for homes in their same area. At least this is what I’ve seen.

  12. bficker

    October 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    @Atlanta Real Estate
    I understand that. My issue is that I really enjoy working with sellers more then buyers. When the only buyers in our market are looking under $80k, its tough to do all the driving around, multiple offer stuff that happens in that price range for only a grand or two at the end of the transaction.

    I can leverage my time much better with sellers, just not sure how to best utilize lead capture for them. I am hoping that someone reading this has dealt with the same problem.

  13. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 18, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Ficker – yeah, OUCH, $80k is not worth the effort to be on the buy side for sure.

    My average is around $500k here in North Atlanta.

    Listings are ultimately where it’s at and I understand that, but in my particular market, if I can land a few $500k deals and $1M deals as the buy-side Realtor, I’ll take it in this environment.

    • bficker

      October 18, 2009 at 9:38 pm

      I’d take a few $500k deals too 🙂 I’m the odd one of the bunch that actually loves working short sales, which comes in handy in Phoenix. The only stuff selling in the upper price ranges are short sales, and the buyer side of a short sale is a gigantic waste of time (since you don’t have control and most agents don’t know how to get them done).

  14. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 18, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Ben,

    Just checked out your site. I like that DiverseSolutions IDX a lot. Every time I see it, I like it more.

    I’m currently investigating all IDX alternatives for my site. Thus me writing this post.

    The problem is, my current IDX is only $390 per year and it actually works. But I have a goal to double my IDX registration rate and not sure I can get there with my current provider.

    Any comments on DS?

    • bficker

      October 18, 2009 at 10:13 pm

      What I LOVE about DS:
      Rss Links
      – This allows you to place any number of searches on your site so that the results show up on a page on your website. For example, you could have a page that has only has homes between 500k and 750k. Then that page will be automatically updated when there are new listings with that criteria. Because of this you will begin to rank really well for addresses. About half of my traffic comes from someone who drove by a home, put the address into google, and my website pops up.

      Registration requirements
      – You can customize this however you want. Right up front, based on number of searches, number of results viewed, etc. You can definitely test the registration theories pretty easily.

      User Interface
      – When I was up in Portland, I was one of 2 people that was using it. It was great, looked better then anybody else. Here in Phoenix EVERYBODY has it, so it doesn’t stand out as much, but it still looks like it was designed in the last few years (good) as opposed to 1998 (wolfnet, anyone?).

      Integration
      – I use Top Producer 8i for my database, and the leads are populated directly into my DB.

      Forms
      – You can create web forms for your site fairly easily

      What I hate about it:
      Lead Follow Up
      – Seriously, using “cards” instead of just regular emails is stupid. And the only lead follow up is using these cards. I understand they are not a crm, but still it’s stupid.

      Forms (I know, its a love hate thing)
      – Creating the forms is easy enough, but every time I try to customize the lay out, they get screwed up. Not when I create my own forms, but only with their forms. Not sure why.

      Registration requirements
      – When the screen pops up for someone to register, they layout looks a little weird. If I want to add phone numbers as a requirement for a lead, I don’t want the layout of the form to look weird.

      I know that the benefits out weigh the negatives, that’s why I’m still using it. But what I’ve noticed is people falling off fairly quickly after they register. I do the regular follow up with calls, emails, etc but there seems to be an initial excitement when they sign up but then they don’t come back.

      But, for the rss feeds alone it is almost worth it.

  15. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 18, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Great review, much appreciated.

    What the heck is a “card?”

    Currently when someone registers on my IDX, I get two emails at the same time: one from the IDX to me, and another that I got cc’d on to the lead.

    On my blackberry it goes “pop-pop” since I have my email notification set to a little pop sound.

    Kinda cool, even my wife knows the pop-pop sound and will say something like “wondering whose poking around on your site.”

    From that point on, I’m full manual mode: I hand enter it into ACT and it’s into the whole lead management scheme.

    I like the auto entry you described but I suspect you spend as much time adjusting the data on the real ones and going in and deleting the bad ones, as I do manually entering only the good ones.

    Just a hunch.

    • bficker

      October 18, 2009 at 10:29 pm

      I guess it’s like sending a postcard instead of a letter, if that makes sense. It is there method for the automatic follow up. You can create campaigns using their cards, but I just get them into TP and do my own system from there. You are probably right about the DB maintenance. I’m literally working on cleaning it up right now. Pain in the ass, lol.

      I also get an email when I get a new registration, I used to get cc’d but kind of forgot what the point of getting the cc was. I know what it says and I know it got sent, so I just get the one now.

  16. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 18, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    It is a pain, ain’t it?

    Sometimes I’ll blow it all off for a entire weekend and I’ll have like 30 leads to enter into the database and send the first contact to. I know it’s ironic to say, but I dread doing it.

    So this “card” is a email post card?

    • bficker

      October 18, 2009 at 10:41 pm

      Kind of. Its basically an html version of an email, but with less control over it. Why do they call it cards? I have no idea. Send me an email (bficker@thephoenixrealestateguide.com) with your contact info and I’ll end you one.

  17. Adam Weart

    October 19, 2009 at 10:23 am

    I like the idea about having a video instructing users on how to use the search, but I also believe in intuitive interface design (I guess that is the graphic designer in me) so that the video would not be necessary. I guess it depends on how good your property search is.

    I think it is vital that the interface design for the property search be extremely simple but also powerful. You really want your property search to keep your website visitors coming back again and again. That is where features like Street View and being able to show pictures, videos, traffic, and even Wikipedia entries directly on your search map are critical. This allows your website visitors to really get a feel for the area they are looking in.

    Other great features for a property search on your website:

    -Easy to use photo display (people love pictures and videos)
    -Ability to save properties as well as searches
    -Terrain/Satellite map
    -Mortgage calculator
    -Easy to print brochures (with your marketing info built in)

    As far as lead capture, I am fully against forced registration and feel that there is the need for a paradigm shift in that argument. Such a polarizing topic obviously deserves a different approach.

  18. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 19, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Adam:

    Having the IDX interface be so simple that instructions are not required is the goal, I think.

    But people love videos. I for one can tell you when I hit web sites, if there’s a video there I will take a look at it, at least the first few seconds.

    As far as “paradigm shifting” arguments, I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. It’s a very black and white issue. You either require registration or you don’t.

    I really don’t care what anyone else does, why would I?

  19. Adam Weart

    October 21, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Rob,

    Full disclosure here – I am the creative director for an IDX software company

    I would love to get your opinion of a product we have that actually doesn’t fit in that black and white model of typical lead capture.

    Here are 2 videos I have created that better describe what I am talking about:
    https://www.softrealty.com/Video/LeadCaptureRedefined/

    One video is broad while the other shows specific process details.

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, if you have the time.

  20. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 21, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Adam

    The top video worked, the bottom one didn’t. But I think I got the idea from the top one.

    Very interesting concept and definitely a first. So that’s a cookie-based anonymous login, I assume.

    Please don’t forget to code in a way to select ALL anonymous and delete them all at once from the database.

    Perhaps we should take the conversation off line, or to Starbux. You guys are in Atlanta, right?

  21. Keith Lutz

    October 22, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Adam,

    I like what I see, so far. Second video, was well defined and clear. Top video, while good sometimes it was hard to see details.

    How do you get the anonomous, IP address?

    Keith

  22. Keith Lutz

    October 22, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    bficker

    For sellers, you may want to try and capture the FSBO market. Although I did start this on my website, I never had the time required to follow thru, but in therory I thought it was a great idea. https://www.lovingcharlotte.com/fsbo/

  23. Keith Lutz

    October 22, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    On every page, I have a little Flash “video” of the benefits of searching with us. (note to self: update with google Street View too!) It would be a good idea to offer a video link, to doing some real searhes and saves, etc… Good idea!

  24. Adam Weart

    October 22, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Keith,

    To really add to the consumer experience… check out this link and play with the map features – videos, pics, wikipedia, etc…

    https://demo04.publishpath.com/property-search/?Page=Search;PageIndex=1;PageSize=10;PostalCodes=30096;PropertyTypes=1

    As far as the IP address question, it’s more involved than just IP addresses or cookies, but that’s our “Coca-cola formula” – if you will.. 🙂

  25. Adam Weart

    October 22, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Keith,

    Use this link to test out our map features which include vids, photos, traffic, even wikipedia

    https://bit.ly/2KxoSa

    It is more involved than just IP address or cookies, but that is our “Coca-cola secret formula” if you will – 🙂

    Let me know your thoughts on the map.

  26. Keith Lutz

    October 22, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    I love the homes and map, side by side. I feel you need more map, and less space on the homes. (seems like some dead space on the homes) Maybe make the pics smaller, and they blow up bigger if you hover. Love the walk score. (I have that too!) One thing I will be adding to my site is “similar homes in area” to save people time. I think you have a nice product. If I ever start a second website, I will be sure to hook up with you!

  27. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 23, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I’m doing an extensive research and test out of all IDX offerings capable of working with FMLS data, which is the MLS in my area.

    So far I think the nicest one is DiverseSolutions. Here’s an example (thanks Fick):

    https://thephoenixrealestateguide.com/phoenix-homes-for-sale/

    Some shortcomings:

    –a tick complicated
    –no way to search in a county
    –no way to search on a given street
    –if you adjust the search criteria, the map does not update automatically

    But other than that, it’s very nice, fast, well done, “pretty” and fairly addictive – which is what you definitely WANT!

  28. Adam Weart

    October 23, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Keith,

    Thanks for the comments. One of the features of viewing the maps next to homes is that you can choose to view just the map, just the homes, or both (default). We will definitely consider your advice on showing more map as the default.

    Feel free to reach out to us in the future as we offer websites as well as free IDX.

  29. Terry@Charlotte Homes

    October 23, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Spoke DS a few months back and they wanted an additonal $2500 to come to our market since we’d be the first- and only give us 6 mo head start before selling to everyone. That’s win/win NOT.
    We are not blessed with a MLS that plays well with others- Keith, what are your top choices?
    tm

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