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IDX Providers for Geek Build 2012 Participants

No great real estate website is complete without an integrated IDX solution for visitors to search for homes. The 6 Geek Build 2012 sites we are building here are no different. IDX is vital to generating a significant amount of leads and keeping visitors on your site for as long as possible making it THE most important aspect of your real estate website. Sure you can have loads of information on communities and events, but if you do not allow your visitors to search for homes, you are missing a large amount of leads you may have been able to get otherwise.

IDX simply pulls listing data from your local MLS and displays this information on your own website. Home buyers have always wanted this information and now they can find it on your website, with your branding, and your contact information. It is like gold..

With this important task comes a myriad of options for the real estate professional. IDX providers can be found everywhere and all have their own unique value propositions on why their product is better than the rest. I currently use REW to sell Park City homes but there are many other options.

We’re looking to find the absolute best IDX provider on the market to integrate with the Geek Build sites.

What are the important factors to think about when choosing an IDX provider?

  • Ease of Use– The search functions must be very easy for anyone to use. Make it simple for home buyers to navigate and you can keep them on your site for a much longer period of time. Make it difficult to find what the consumer wants, and they will leave to find someone else to answer what they are looking for.
  • Indexable Listing Content– Ask any agent who looks at their analytic’s of their site and they will tell you a significant amount of traffic comes from the long-tail keywords. Address searches happen frequently and having your site and the top can get you very qualified traffic.
  • Lead Capture/Calls To Action– One of the most important aspects of the IDX solution is it’s ability to capture leads! Leaders in the space know this well and put a significant amount of time into designing CTA’s.
  • Search Engine Optimization– Look for either the ability to change your title tags and meta descriptions or have them be optimized properly out of the box.

IDX Providers To Choose From:

  1. Displet– A newer company based out of Austin and run by Eric Bramlett. This is an affordable solution and a great product from guys who really know what they are doing. See Displet in action here: http://coloradospringshomesource.com/
  2. Real Geeks– Run by Jeff Mansen out of Hawaii who puts out some killer sites. Known for great conversion rates and a very clean design. Also, very affordable for the great system that you get. See RealGeeks in action here: http://www.homesalessandiego.com/
  3. IDX Broker– A very popular choice is IDX Broker who has a large coverage area and easy integration. Offers the ability to customize as much as you want and converts well. I use them on a secondary site of mine and it works very nicely with little work done to it. See IDX Broker in action here: http://www.realfx.com/
  4. Diverse Solutions– One of the most popular choices and a very large user base. DS is a Zillow owned company and has all of the features you could ask for in an IDX. See DS in action here: http://www.phoenixrealestateguy.com/
  5. iHomeFinder– I have not looked into this company personally but they have a large user base and cover a large amount of regions. See iHomeFinder in action here: http://www.anyhomesrealty.com/

If you have experiences with these companies, please leave your feedback below as well as a link to your site. PLEASE vote below on which provider we should use on the Geek Build 2012 sites.

Note from the Editor: Not sure what Geek Build 2012 is? It’s building a few real estate websites from scratch publicly with the help of the Geek Estate Community and overseen by an experienced steering committeeRead more about Geek Build 2012 here, or view all posts related to Geek Build 2012 here.

**Geek Build logo designed by Dominic Morrocco at M Squared Real Estate.

About BenFisher

Ben is a luxury real estate agent at Summit Sothebys International Realty in Park City, Utah. Serving Deer Valley and Park City areas.

This entry was posted in Featured, Geek Build 2012 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • I’m rocking the Diverse Solutions goodies on my site and I love it. The WP Plugin IDXpress indexes a bunch of properties which is awesome for search results. The way it displays individual properties looks incredible, example:
    http://fischer-realestate.com/idx/mls-11735740-2007_hillcrest_street_fort_worth_tx_76107_3961  I love the way these pages look and I have had several contacts from people using this product to look at properties. The indexed addresses and MLS #’s are a driving force of traffic to my site.

    I like the integration with Google Maps for the DSsearch, but have to say this is where my love for the product ends. I really don’t like the way the properties are displayed once it gets narrowed down, and I do not like how the Iframe loads within your page (and other peoples who I’ve looked at). It is kind of choppy and doesn’t integrate the way that I want my featured search to work in my website. http://fischer-realestate.com/search/ . It is often referenced (proved, maybe not) that the ‘conversion’ is lower than competitors.

    The customer service is A+ in my book. Techs get back to you quickly and there is a forum where you can post suggestions for improvements to the product. Ricardo pushes out a ton of great content on his personal blog and the DS blog and has included a bunch of “how-to” videos as well as access to webinars, etc. I’m curious to see how other providers compare in this category, as Diverse Solutions has incredible customer support that would be hard to beat. -Note, I am curious to see what the future holds under Zillow ownership.

    So, in summary – Diverse Solutions is an awesome company and the WordPress plugin is extraordinary (there are a lot of ways to customize searches, landing pages, communities, and blog posts by utilizing both IDXpress and DSsearch with the shortcodes – which I love). I’m very happy with the customer service and ongoing training. I wish the map search was less “graphic-y” and more like (but better than)  a combination of Real Estate Webmasters (who is not mentioned in this post) and IDX Broker. If they really really improved the map search – I would get a DS tattoo.

    • Just decided Im going to build out a microlocal site for a zip code and experiment with IDX on either my brokerage site or the local site.

  • Great news! I wote for iHomeFinder!)

  • Thanks for the mention Ben!  I chose IDXBroker for RealFX.com mainly due to the design possibilities and CSS control – I also like the more “traditional” approach to searching for homes. I “personally” prefer map searches, but I found through analytics and experimenting with other solutions for months, that the robust map searching tools were ironically not holding the user’s attention as I would have expected.

  • John Stegner

    For each of the options, I would love to know:
    1)      Does the IDX come with a mobility application for iPhones & Droids        
    2)      How configurable are the options for forcing login for lead capture….some methods work better than others
    3)      Is there url tracking with registrations. This is important if more than one agent is using the IDX (such as offering access on each agents profile page if there are a few in the company).
    4)      What is the quality of the back end lead management system.  Can it assign leads to different people by price point, by area?  Can you categorize leads by agent, but quality and make notes in the sytem about each?
    5)      Does it integrate with any CRM products like Top Producer
    6)      Can you set the map default view or default search by page (let’s say you have a page about several cities and want the default map view to be specific to that city on each of those pages)

    • Ill answer a few of your ?’s for Diverse Solutions and see if we can fill the rest in:
      1. Yes. And great google map mobile integration. (However I can never get the “nearby” tab to work. I think its a very good product. – I need to experiment with others to compare
      2. Very configurable. You can set to number of views before requiring registration. You can also require registration to see specific property details as well.
      6. Yes you can customize what the map shows for your default search as well as any custom links that you create in the back-end.

      • “Nearby” tab works great, assuming your settings are correct on your device. On Android you have to have your browser setup to let that URL use your location. On my old Android, sometimes that option would somehow get turned off. In that case you get no warning, it just churns because it can’t find your location. It’s much more intuitive on iPhone, because it pops up and asks you if it’s OK to let the app use your location. You tap “OK” and off you go.

    • Robert Larson

      Thanks for helping out here, Greg.

      To expand on and answer the rest of your questions re: Diverse Solutions, specifically our main mapping IDX solution…

      1. Yes.  Our mobile IDX is actually a mobile-optimized site — it is not an app that users need to download.  It’s optimized for use with iOS (iPhones, iPads, iPods), Android, and the latest BlackBerry smart phones.  Users who register on the mobile version can log in on the desktop version and vice versa and access saved searches, favorite listings, and their profiles.  You can add code to your site that will automatically prompt mobile users to go to the mobile IDX.

      2. You can force users to register:
      – after performing X number of searches(this includes both clicking the “SEARCH” button or viewing a pre-filtered search page)
      – after viewing X number of properties- before viewing certain data points on a listing(such as: price history or full description)
      – before using certain search criteria(such as: reo or open house filtering)
      …you set the number of searches, number of listings, and which fields can be viewed and filtered with prior to registration.  
      In addition, registration is always forced if users want to:
      – get listing updates via RSS
      – get listing updates via email
      – save listings
      – save searches

      3. Yes, however the IDX tracks the last visited URL, which may or not be the original source.  We do include free integration with a Google Analytics account (also free to create), which provides more tracking data.

      4. Our included contact management allows you to organize leads and contacts using tags and/or groups.  You can filter users based on their search criteria, then manually sort them into groups or tags.  You can also set a lead “status” to help organize or track leads.  If you want to have separate user name and password for each agent/member of your team, we offer an upgrade that adds additional functionality, including the ability to sort leads between users vs. just the tags and groups of a single user.

      5. Yes.  You can integrate with Top Producer very easily, you just need to provide us a funny looking user string that’s located in your Top Producer account.  With this setting, we will automatically export every new lead to your Top Producer account.  Additionally, we offer an API that allows developers to use custom programs to access your contacts/users at will.

      6.  Yes.  We offer a “custom link builder” that allows you to generate search pages with custom starting map location (including map type and zoom level) and search criteria.  You can create a page that is zoomed into a satellite view of downtown Chicago that shows only condos, and a second that shows a map view of greater Chicago that shows all homes over $1m.  You specify the map location, type, and criteria of homes for each search page; as well as whether viewers see the search RESULTS right away, or if they are presented with the search form that’s simply partially-completed.

      I hope this helps!

  • John Stegner

    I have been researching IDX providers for some time and I have used several of the above.  I just got off the phone with 1ParkPlace (http://www.1parkplace.com/)  I am very impressed by their Cirrus Homesearch solution.  I think it may be the most user friendly map based IDX solution out there.  I am strongly considering using their IDX for my Geek Build 2012 site, http://www.tophomesforsaleco.com/ …..Drew, any thoughts?

    • John Stegner

      The Good Life Team uses 1ParkPlace if you would like to try out the IDX and give me some feedback: http://www.goodlifeteam.com/

      • seems like a decent idx from the few minutes i just spent on it

        what do you like about it specifically?

        • Map is slow IMO.

          • John Stegner

            I did not have a slow map issue…..but I’ll try it in some other browsers and see if I can see that happen.  Thanks for the feedback. Drew, I like that all the search options are on the page with the map without any scrolling around.   There are a couple of fast options for zooming in and out on the map.  The pop up for inputting criteria is also very clean and fast.  You get to looking at properties quickly and thus it is sticky. You are not overwhelmed by search options, but the most important options are their.  1ParkPlace will also bring in additional data if available in the market to use for search criteria (such as school test scores I believe).  This can set one persons brokerage apart from others who only have the data from the mls system.  One company I know did some screen video capture of users interacting with the tool and the figured it out extremely quickly.  Finally, they have flexibility as to how to prompt login.  I have tested how to force login and I think I have the best way to do it.  Some of the other providers don’t have the flexibility to do what I believe is optimal on this front.  .  

      • Suzanne Stephens

        I don’t know whether you were involved with the graphic design of the GoodLifeTeam.com site, John, but I see some major problems with the design. The home page layout is so large that only around 50% of the site visitors will be able to see the full width of the page (where the blog link graphic is positioned) or will be able to the Quick Search area. It looks like it was designed by someone with a very high resolution monitor. Check it out in http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/ to see what I’m referring to.

      • Suzanne Stephens

        Following up to say that I had my browser set incorrectly; the width is OK, but the home search is still too far down on the home page.

  • The most important thing is having a solution that is fast & VERY user friendly that has a high conversion rate with a low bounce rate. Those all go hand and hand. Websites & Idx solutions loaded with bells and whistles usually do not convert well and are not as user friendly therefore have a higher bounce rate 🙁 Plus having a good back-end lead manager as well!

    These things should be based on analyzing stats from analytics not a warm fuzzy feeling you get inside like many agents do 😉

    • Jeff, What are your stats for conversion and bounce rates? Are you satisfied with your current solution (Real Geeks)? What are your previous experiences like with other companies?

      I like the interface on your site. Is the default, out-of-the-box for Real Geeks or have you spent a lot of time customizing? Did Real Geeks design your whole site?

      • Ben Fisher

        I should have put some contact names within the post. Jeff started Real geeks and has an awesome product. One of my favorites actually burning wanted to keep my opinions out of the post. Based on a conversation I had with him a while back his stats are pretty impressive but ill let him go into that. Ill most likely be using his product when I expand my secondary site.

        • Ben Fisher

          Sorry for the typos. Responding by phone.

          •  I did reply to his questions.. maybe somebody didn’t like my answers 😉 or maybe they went into the spam filter or maybe they still need to be approved. I wouldn’t think anyone would censor them, would they?

          • Jeff, just realized you are Real Geeks. Also, if you hyperlinked in comments, it sometimes needs approval

          •  Yes there were 2 hyperlinks of examples. Once someone approves that you can see my answers 🙂

          • Jeff – give me a call. -Greg (It’s not because I want to buy a Hawaiian mansion unfortunately)

      •  Hi Greg: as it mentions above I am one of the founders of Real Geeks.. Just want to disclose that so when I answer your questions people don’t get all upset 😉

        So, yes I am satisfied with the solution. I had some pretty bad experiences with other solutions.. When it was time to re do my site I looked around and researched what was available and there was not anything on the market that met my standards..

        1. The solution had to be search engine friendly. Did not want to lose current rankings
        2. Had to be very user friendly with a high conversion rate.
        3. Had to be fast and clean.
        4. Had to have index-able listings.
        5. Had to have a great lead manager with round robin lead assignment and agent tracking features.
        6. Had to have an easy to use CMS.. with a lot of flexibility for good SEO linking strategies
        7. Built in analytics with goals to track conversions from different traffic sources…Just to list a few.

        The sites have a clean easy to use inter face out of the box with everything integrated so agents don’t have to worry about plug-ins and playing webmaster so they can focus on whats important like following up on the leads and converting them into sales 😉

        The best way to analyze analytics is by source and keywords if it is a search engine: With that said most my main real estate related keywords from google have an average bounce rate of 15% which I think is pretty good!! That could be worked on 😉 Conversion rate is usually about 24% from sign up form displayed to Sign up form submitted, but that can obviously vary from the type of traffic that it is.

        Most people that have converted over from other solutions saw a 3 to 10 times increase in sign ups with the same amount of traffic…

        Agents & brokers that are using WordPress sites can use our IDX & Lead management system and we can match the design.. Here are a couple examples of Virtual Results customers we have helped:

        http://www.gellens.com
        http://www.sergioandbanks.com

        I hope that was what you were looking for 🙂

    • John Stegner

      Jeff, I agree….many IDX solutions offer way too many options for searching.  The  best map based solutions offer only a sub set of search options and are very responsive. What I really dislike is when you can go to a map based idx, enter a bunch of search criteria and then hit “search” and get 0 results.  When I tested Wolfnet head to head with Diverse Solutions, Wolfnet converted at a much higher rate.  It had only about 1/3 as many search options, but the strength was the immediate feedback each time you adjusted something.  So, you change the price, the map updates and the property count changes before you can adjust anything else.  This way the user can see how each change they make, changes the available properties.  They gain an understanding of the market quickly.  With Diverse Solutions, they would become frustrated and not trust the tool because it did not provide feedback (property count) until they hit “search”……at least this was what I believed to be the reason for the difference in conversion between the two. 

      • rlarsonds

        Hey John, thanks for the feedback.  

        I’m not sure when you last tried Diverse Solutions (sorry if I missed that part somewhere in this chain), but our mapping search shows a live result count as you perform a search, and we have made major improvements to this in the past year.  With the latest version:When a user first loads the map search, it shows a live count of listings based on whatever search criteria the agent pre-selected.  As the user makes changes (such as price, beds, etc), the map will update the listing count and the property markers in real time.  If your criteria is too limiting to return results, you’ll know right away – before you hit “search”.  Additionally, as soon as you type in a city (or community, tract, neighborhood, or zip code), the map automatically zooms into the area(s) selected and the live count updates likewise.

        Sorry we can’t offer IDX for Metrolist-CO right now… hopefully that will change soon and we’ll warrant a revisiting by you and other Metrolist users.

  • “IDX is vital to generating a significant amount of leads and keeping
    visitors on your site for as long as possible making it THE most
    important aspect of your real estate website.”

    IDX plays an important role in most real estate website and is very friendly user. Realtors will greatly benefit to this. Thanks!

  • The site looks great. I know its new, but do you have any stats or insights to your traffic and conversion?

    • Greg… I’ve got an appointment – will reply with some info later.  🙂

  • Your “download free report” button is broken. And confusing…as a user, I have no idea what to expect on the other side of that click.

    • Hi Drew… that button isn’t functional yet on purpose. Need to integrate the reports form – I’m exhausted from all the other work. But, a site is always a work in progress. And I’ll be changing the text as well – I’d be afraid to click on it – don’t want to “initiate a download” onto my computer without more information.

      • Did you do this site yourself?

        • No… “AE” did the layout, but I supplied the logo, the pages/content, and all the custom CSS work with the IDXBroker integration. Have a lot more to do – just the beginning.

  • Knowledgeable post indeed! Awesome.

  • Josh Brinson

    I agree about how great Diverse Solutions is but a big part is who and what template you use to implement it. I use woothemes who I love for other sites I build but I have a lot of qualms with my real estate site. It gets regular traffic and I really could spend some time to clean it up but the search is overly complicated (you have to choose a city, the default is just to search your own listings {I have 5}, etc) and so I added another dynamic search from our MLS but that is just getting overly complicated. 
    One search to drive leads and another for ease of use…doesn’t make sense. Honestly if WooThemes would just update for better integration I would be back in the game. I like the leads but I tell my clients to use any search site they like and that is embarrassing.

    • Josh, why not get Genesis or another solution that is proven to work with Diverse Solutions if this is what you truly want to use (rather than struggle with Woo)?

  • John Stegner

    I
    wanted feedback from all the agents in my brokerage regarding what they thought
    of each of these IDX Solutions.  So, I
    sent out the links to each of the web sites above and asked for feedback on the
    map based home search tools.  This was
    one of the first reply’s I received back:

    http://coloradospringshomesource.com/ confusing and dull to look at – not engaging

    http://www.homesalessandiego.com/ did
    not lead with map and when I found it, the response was slow. Again, this was
    dull and uninviting

    http://www.goodlifeteam.com/ cleanest
    look, liked how the search criteria was on the same page as map and easy to
    follow. This is the leader.

    http://www.realfx.com/
    almost too simple looking and cheesy

    http://www.anyhomesrealty.com/
    cool map but a little confusing,
    controls not intuitive

     

    You
    will note that the site using Diverse Solutions is not listed above.   I have
    to disqualify Diverse Solutions as an option for my Geek Build 2012
    site as they have been shut down in the Denver market following their acquisition
    by Zillow: http://www.geekestateblog.com/two-mls-metrolist-and-santa-barbara-boot-diverse-solutionszillow/
    (plus I tested Diverse Solutions vs. Wolfnet and Wolfnet generated more leads).
    In place of Diverse Solutions, I have added 1ParkPlace’s solution to the mix
    because it is a company I worked with previously and they have great customer
    service.  Their solution is as robust as the others being considered and I
    believe the usability is better and that it will thus, convert at a higher
    rate.  They are also working on some
    really good mobility options that are important.  So far, 7 of 9 of my agents have indicated
    that they like the search tool at http://www.goodlifeteam.com
    the best.  This is the 1ParkPlace option….I
    expect some more feedback by Monday from the rest of my agents. 

    • John Stegner

      Drew, sorry for the formatting issue above…..no more cut and paste just because I can’t spell.  

    • John, thanks for doing this experiment. Interesting results. You know – an interesting stat to get from the IDX providers would be % of people who use which search tools (Quick search vs. advanced search vs. map search.) I’d like to know out of curiousity if not strategy.

      • John Stegner

        This is a good question.  However, what I have found in speaking with 100’s of potential buyers following registrations is that the map is what gets them to input their contact information.  Sometimes it is that specific property that they inquire about, but the map search is where they see enough value to actually give their information online to a company.  Case in point, I was on the phone with my aunt last night as I’m selecting an agent to refer her to in a city she is moving to.  I had two agents selected as options and presented them to her.  She said, “have to spoken with any good agents at X company?”  I asked her why that company and she said that they had the best web site to look at homes on and that she had tried them all in the area.  I took a look at the site and sure enough they had a pretty good map search IDX.  In my mind, the map is everything.  For a long while, I generated leads with just a ppc campaign that landed people on a Wolfnet map based IDX.  I got a good amount of leads with nothing else other than this landing page.  

        • I prefer the map myself and your added insights are valuable (sounds like you’ve done a ton of research). You know, I didn’t even think about out-of-town referrals. This is an added benefit for everyone provided they build their site and IDX well.

          Funny I remember talking about hiring @LoCoHeather:twitter  when we moved my mom to Leesburg, VA. We didn’t end up using her (we found a private rental listing on Craigslist), but my brother and I were impressed with the content on her website and the ease of use her search offered (at the time and still is DS). She even live chatted a few Q&A sessions with us about the area. Good points to consider.

          • Suzanne Stephens

            Think about this, Greg (and forgive me for going a bit off-topic): 

            My best repeat web site design client (I’ve done four sites for her) ONLY wants out-of-town relocating buyers. As she describes them, “They come to town for a few days with a short list of homes they want to see. They sign a contract before they leave. They don’t spend weeks in my car being chauffeured around, only to buy through their Cousin Susie.” Another advantage is that she doesn’t have to do any local SOI development. She’s fortunate to live in an area with a good rate of corporate relocation.

          • There is some similarity in Fort Worth. Lots of relocation clients in the suburbs who we love dealing with, the central Fort Worth market is a little different (organic).

        • That is just false. We have tested and landing the user on a list view converts at a higher rate.. The bounce rates are much higher on the map searches.

          goodlifeteam.com is the one site that is set up to have the lowest conversion rate too. All the others are a lot cleaner and have the search where for the most part above the fold.

          I too have spoken to 100’s of users and they prefer a clean easy to use search.. The more simple the higher conversion rates..

          Agents do not know for the most part what actually converts. They go by what they might think looks cool which in reality is not what converts better.

          • Hmm, at this point we have 2 differing opinions on what converts. Anyone else want to offer insights on this so we can compare experiences? Or any hard data? – Or an infographic (since they’re everywhere now)?

            I mentioned in my opening post below that I see more contacts (not necessarily registrations) from property pages and lists, and not as many registrants or contacts form my ‘search’ or ‘map’ page. Obviously a variable in this is the actual IDX solution, but this is my most recent experience.

          • danbeer

            Yes I will weigh in with some input.  I can 100% certify as somebody that just left DS, which uses a map view to convert leads, and went to a system with just a nice easy to read list view that I get WAY more leads now.  Listen to Jeff.  He is right and that is why he has built his product that way.

          • Thanks for the insight about your site Dan. You touch on the important goal of what this build is all about (taken from parent post)

            Maximize lead generation
            Maximize lead conversion
            Maximize time on site
            Minimize bounce rate

          • John Stegner

            I think that this is a great string and it really has me thinking.  Now the question is quantity over quality.  I have multiple web sites and use different strategies to generate leads.  I find that not all leads are created equal.  The most obvious example is a craig’s list ad about bank owned homes that goes to a lead capture form on my site.  The leads are generally junk, but I can get a lot of them.  By contrast, my blog about lofts and condos generates e-mails from people who read the content, recognize the experties and simply ask that a member of my company help them buy or sell.  One blog leads is worth about 40 craig’s list leads as far as closed business. So, how does this relate to simple idx searches that get people looking at properties, vs. map based searches that get people engaged with a search tool?  What I have found is that if you are converting a lead, the last thing you want to do is talk about a property.  You want to talk about anything but a specific property and try to learn about the person and their needs. Once you know that then you can convert them into a clients.  Those leads that come through the map based IDX are the people that like the tool and they remember your site over others they tried. You can’t underestimate your site being memorable and people liking the uniqueness of the functionality as an edge when trying to win them over as a customer. 

          • Completely agree. My map search is used far less than the typical standard list view. Interviewing agents on what they think is very different than feedback from actual homebuyers. It also comes down to personal preference which I try to stay away from when making decisions on my own site. Just my opinion….

          • Suzanne Stephens

            I’m seeing similar patterns, Ben. Though most of my clients ask for a noticeable “map search” link, I find that the map search page typically only gets about 1/10 the number of hits that the regular search page gets.

          • Thanks for replying Suzanne. Your information is helpful in this build. It’s good to have 3rd party input. (You should link your site in your name profile so we can see your work)

          • Thanks Greg. I usually do full custom IDX sites instead of WP sites, but there are a lot of issues in common. My site is the typical shoemaker’s daughter’s site, I’m always behind with updating it.

          • That’s weird, I thought I put my web site address in my last reply, but now I can’t find it. It’s SuzStephens.com

          • John Stegner

            Jeff, I have followed you work for a long time.  I greatly respect your opinion and I know you test more than anyone.  The goodlifeteam.com is actually not trying to do lead capture from their site as it is not primary to their very successful business model. My perspective is based upon the buyer’s I have spoken with that have registered on my Wolfnet map based IDX over the last 6 years.  Now, the people I’m speaking with were the ones that did value the map based IDX enough to provide their contact info.  Maybe getting them to look at properties quickly and inquire about those with as simple IDX plays to a different crowd of visitors?

          • What exactly is Good Life trying to do from their site if not lead capture?

          • My guess is they are focused on brand — and getting clients to call/email them when they are ready rather than early on in the process and nursing them along until they are ready to actually buy/sell. @jackmiller:twitter can tell us for certain though

          • John Stegner

            The Good Life Team is all about the customer experience.  They have a culture that is exciting to be a part of as an agent and they are extremely selective as to who can be part of their company.  They are getting national attention for their business practices, such as this article on  Apple.com; http://www.apple.com/ipad/business/profiles/goodlife-team/   The are developing a huge brand in the market buy leaving behind one raving fan after another.  The web site is designed to support their brand and their lead generation is about people picking up the phone and requesting to use one of their agents.  The map based IDX is part of that. They want the best home search tool available for their clients and they want it on a mobility platform for use in the field. Thus, the use of 1ParkPlace as their solution.  I actually spoke with the CTO and he has very little interest in raw internet leads….they just don’t need them. 

  • Wonder if we could get any @displet:twitter users to comment on their experiences?

  • Jeff, can you provide any other examples of Real Geek sites built on WordPress that we can check out (That Virtual Results did not design)?

    • Sure 🙂
      Wordpress using our IDX:

      shannonr.com

      cotevasu.com

      denverrelocationbroker.com

  • Just a comment here. I’ve looked at a ton of IDX Broker sites the past couple of days. The best ones seem to have customized the CSS from the IDX a lot (an advantage – maybe, but absolutely time consuming). Would need a whole separate project on how to do this well, or at least consult with a designer who has the specific experience (ie: customizing the IDX Broker solution on a WordPress theme designed for maximum conversion).

    • This is my main concern with IDX Broker as well as I do not do any CSS myself and it seems you need it to make it look decent. This has also kept me from expanding a secondary site due to how time consuming it is to actually set it up how I like it. Some of the others are much better our of the box. 

  • Mobile is going to change rapidly obviously, and there are some companies better positioned to advance this market on their own products (Zillow, Sawbuck, Trulia, etc). This is not a criteria we identified to explore in the project – in regards to the IDX. IDX Broker offers an app with the option to input an agent code for branding. Diverse Solutions and IHomefinder have mobile optimized searches that link directly from your main site to the mobile site. Displet and Real Geeks (to my knowledge) don’t run mobile optimized solutions, but still work well on mobile.

    What is interesting to consider is that a variety of sites on different IDX use Mobile Real Estate ID to optimize their site and search for mobile. Perhaps this is an option, especially for the IDX that don’t currently integrate directly with mobile versions? I’m burnout for now on researching, so if someone wants to help explore this question and solution – I’m all ears…

    For instance, once clients are registered on our searches and we start meeting them in the field, it should be easy for either of us to load phones or Ipad’s with our website and their ‘saved’ criteria. Seems important, maybe not…

  • John Stegner

    With as much input as we have had on this topic, maybe the steering committee should get it down to the “top 2” and have a more detailed conversation about just the top two solutions.  With 5 (or 6 if you include my 1ParkPlace suggestion) there are so many things to consider….if we were looking very closely at just two, we could really dig in as far as specific pros & cons for each. Thoughts? 

    • Think this is a good idea and would allow us to compare more advanced and detailed criteria.

    • Regarding Cirrus Home Search from 1 Park Place: John I just don’t think it matches up to any of the other 5. Your opinion and ultimate choice may not sway at this point. I’ve looked a lot of their sites. It’s not very intuitive. It’s a little confusing (I’ve looked at all 10 companies that use Cirrus as indicated by the footer on the product home page). I’ve kept an open mind and was waiting to find a brokerage whose design and customization better highlighted the product – I didn’t.

      How good is the lead capture? (We’d have to ask a current user to be fair). The SEO? No clue either, would need the company to chime in I guess.

      • John Stegner

        Greg, I sent a note with a link to this discussion to the CEO of 1ParkPlace….will be interesting to see if he jumps in. 

        • Thanks John, that was a good idea. I did the same with a DS guy.

    • We’re aiming to put something together early this week to dig into the details with each of the finalists. @sdhomefinder:twitter  will be leading the charge..

      • Granted, it is Sunday now. BUT – Real Geeks is the only one who even showed up to this FREE party. Says a lot to me about how his business is run…

        • danbeer

           Yes stay tuned and we will have a great post for you.  I think you will love what we have in the works for you and we will really figure out what one IDX offers over the other.

  • Great Tool Suzanne!! That is further proof that having the search box up high and to the left will help with conversion 🙂 Also another great reason why not to waste real estate have a huge ass header.. Agents think it looks cool to have a big fancy header that self promotes, but users could care less. They want to search… so why make it hard for them?

    • Suzanne Stephens

      What Jeff said about huge ass headers. 🙂

      The site below is still on a development server. You wouldn’t believe how much time I spent persuading the client to let me leave the ‘quick search’ where it is. I did agree to make her name slightly more prominent than on the original design, but that was a minor compromise compared to moving the quick search.

      http://ldunlap.myrsoldev.com/

    • John Stegner

      Suzanne & Jeff. You are 100% right about The Good Life Team’s site. I just admire their company and culture.  The IDX tool is also very good, but the design/informaiton architecture of the site is not about capturing leads.  My design work is very different and I do try to keep everything important above the fold.    

  • @ericbramlett:twitter Should hop in here and @Ribeezie:twitter I’d want to comment on a public build of RE websites w IDX. Just saying…@geekestate:twitter 

  • John Stegner

    My challenge with this solution is that when you are interacting with the map, you have to go back and forth between the “search criteria” tab and the “interactive map” tab.  This makes the map not so interactive.   

    •  John… Whats the challenge? Are you a challenged person? You do a search based on your search criteria and if you want to see them on the map you click that tab and start interacting with your results on the map.. The properties ajax where the map is so the user doesn’t get lost…they can click back to map at any time… they can drag map and it will then pull in properties in that screen that match criteria in that location..

      Map searches don’t even convert as well as landing them on a list view.. The map search is a tool for more advanced users .

      I think you should use 1Park Place since you think their stuff rocks.

      BTW: My San Diego site use to use them and when we flipped it over the conversion rate went up like 7 times… Good luck with that 😉

      • John Stegner

        Jeff, I’ll listen and learn.  So, realgeeks will convert at a 7 times higher rate than 1Park Place with everything else being equal?  Or is the key to feature the more simple list view search tool on the primary landing page (the home page, on the designs above) and then have the map search for only those who dig in further.  With the list type search, what typically prompts registration?  A inquiry about a specific property, or some form of forced registration?  I think I have a lot to learn from you.  I have been successful doing things my way but that does not mean it is the right way.  Maybe I am challenged.  🙂

        • Hi John, I too have a lot to learn 🙂 and probably could learn a lot from you as well!! We should talk some time 😉

          The conversion rate went up 7 times with the same amount of traffic when the site switched from the old solution to its current one.

          Yes, our testing shows you get a higher conversion rate having the search land on a more traditional list view and having the map search for those who want to dig deeper. The simpler you can make things for all users the higher the conversion rate.

          Glad to see you doing sop much research!!

          Have a great evening and a productive week!!

          • John_Stegner

            Jeff, I will ring you one of these days.  I greatly appreciate the invitation to do so.  

        • John Stegner

          Jeff, BTW, how do you edit your comments?  That was a nifty trick. 

          •  need to be logged in the commenting system. not as a guest

  • John Stegner

    I read everything start to finish this evening.  My two cents is that the solution should have a fast simple list based search.  I am listening to people who have tested this and have had great success. This is a big take away for me and it will change my site designs going forward. However, technically this simple type of search should be very standard in most products and I doubt that one list based search will have a high level of difference in usability than another…maybe I’m wrong?  Thus, the most important factor for me is that the solution should have a map based search that is sticky, very easy to use and better than the competition. This is technically more challenging to do from a usability perspective.  A bad map based search is worse than none at all and will drive people away. Here is my argument for the quality of the map based search being of critical importance.  Today I took a client out for the first time who contact me 2 weeks ago.  We went and looked at 8 places and at the end he had 2 he liked.  He asked me how many trips out people typically take to pick a property.  I said I average less than two trips out with a client because they use my map base search tool.  I pointed out that he knew where he wanted to live, that he had seen everything that was for sale in the area online and that we had looked at the best ones.  He agreed 100% because he had interacted with the map tool and knew there were not any other better properties out there. We wrote an offer tonight.  I train my clients to use the map search and am able to close them extremely quickly because they don’t have any lingering doubts as to if their are other homes out there that would be better.  I had a walk in come through the front door of my office last week….I showed her how to use my map based IDX and scheduled an appointment to show her home 3 days later.  Same conversation, same result, she wrote after one trip out and having seen only 5 homes. The map based IDX let’s people become critical home shoppers online.  They can see if a home is on a busy street, if it is close to a school, if it has good access to the highway, etc.  With just a list, they will always wonder if they missed something and you will be taking them out in the car over and over.  The quality of the map based portion of the IDX dramatically impacts the site from not only a competitive standpoint, but also it allows the agent to work together with his/her clients in a collaborative manner that saves time and effort.  

  • Daniel Bacon

    I have used Diverse Solutions’ products for over two years now, both their dsIDXSearch and dsIDXPress Wordpress plugin. IDXSearch is their primary product and is a map-based search tool. IDXPress is an indexable list-based product designed for embedding property in Wordpress pages and posts.
    I changed the way I use both products several times and am now using two strategies. For my city/area pages I use a a combination of of both products – the map search displays first, and below that I embed properties with IDXPress. The idea is to give users both the map and list choices, and take advantage of the embedding for SEO. I think this solution (which is of my own design and not documented) is clunky and inelegant. Here is an example (and I do realize I have a major “above the fold” problem which will be addressed in an upcoming redesign): http://www.baconrealtygroup.com/st-petersburg-real-estate/

    For the fifteen luxury condo buildings we feature I use just IDXPress to embed a list, examples here:  http://www.baconrealtygroup.com/condos/ . The smaller amount of properties available means I don’t need a map search, so this works well. Combining the indexable listings with a history/background has allowed us to rank in the top ten in Google for 12 of the 15 developments (for the most-searched term, which we display at the top of each page).

    Here is a partial list of pros and cons of the products:

    Pros:
    – Simple to use, setting up searches and maps is easy
    – Can limit display of properties to just about anything you want
    – Can limit criteria-controls to the left of the map simply by dragging and dropping in the control panel
    – As Steve said, single display of properties is excellent
    – Great technical support
    – Simple control of signup options
    – IDXPress is great for condos, smaller developments and embedding posts

    Cons:
    – Expensive, about $110/month for both products
    – Initial map load (iframe) is slow and clunky
    – Property display on maps can be slow
    – Documentation on usage of the products is very limited, and you are pretty much on your own to figure out how to use them effectively
    – The “modules” which are “customizeable drop-ins” have limited usefulness, and I quit using them altogether after a time. I learned by accident that after using “Featured Maps” on many of my city pages that they were only displaying 25 properties, and this was undocumented. Also, I don’t have a quick-search because I couldn’t come up with anything I thought looked good, even customizing with CSS
    – Limited custom options for advanced users/coders
    – No option to prompt for signup with IDXPress
    Perhaps most importantly is that I feel our conversion it terrible for the number of visitors we have. This may be partially because people skirt the signup by just viewing the indexed properties. All of these reasons, and the fact that the primary search is purely a map-based solution, would lead me to use a different product, both for my new Clearwater site and for the eventual redesign of baconrealtygroup.com.

  • Not sure where to reply on this thread, so I’ll put it here.

    We’ll take the arrows for the site design, since that’s something we designed in house – and we were well aware that we were “going our own way” with regards to the “the property search box must ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be above the fold” crowd.  As with many things we do, we’re a bit rebellious and sometimes we have to pay the price for our rebelliousness.

     I do think the design as expressed is too “big”, and I have a 2nd revision to the CSS & layout that will hopefully address that.  Read the fine print on the google visualization tool – it isn’t actually how designs that are “centered” render, including ours.

    Regarding the 1PP search – in our research we found a lot of searches that were lacking, and my assessment was that we would have to be involved with the development of search to get what we want.  Part of our criteria was finding a partner that was willing to make substantial changes to the functionality of their tools to fit the vision that we have for search – something that we are continuing our work on.  We’re a long way from being “done”.  

    It is my belief that there is no “one search for all real estate practitioners” – and that there are 3 emerging themes in search that will become competitive domains that are beyond the UX/UI issues that most of these searches currently have (including ours).  

    I’m glad to see serious discussion about these tools, since the search experience is one important part of the consumer’s interaction with a practitioner or firm; let’s keep the conversation going!

    Jack M.
    GoodLife Team

    • Jack, thanks for commenting on the thread. I agree, search is only one aspect of the consumer’s interaction with a firm. I am carefully considering how I want to portray our new brokerage to the public aside from the part of our website that offers search. I just think that a robust search experience designed for maximum conversion should be a primary goal of any real estate website product. This is what drives new (online) clients to your brokerage. (Also, this is an early stage in this project as we will absolutely be addressing other aspects of real estate website content, just so happens that we tackled IDX in the beginning)

      Your unique company culture can spread infectiously with new clients found from the web, who will in turn become happy regular clients who will contribute to the growth of your firm by recommending your services to their spheres of influence and by coming back to you for multiple transactions (much in the way your current clients probably do). Consider for a moment that there are likely thousands of potential clients in Austin or who are moving to Austin – who are not seeking your company out by name, but would likely engage with your online brand, given that your site induces them to interact with you. Does your site offer what they were looking for? It sounds like you have given a lot of thought about how you want to portray your brand and what kind of online experience you want to offer, so kudos to you for having an open mind, experimenting, weighing your options – and moving forward in what you believed was right.Through this data and research we are doing here, it is becoming clear that bogged-down search products along with extra widgets, graphics, and distractions – do not convert. I applaud you and Cirrus for working together to improve the product, this is a good position for you to be in.I wonder if “conversion” just has the wrong connotation in these discussions. The consumer desires “conversion” just as much as the marketer does – it means you successfully provided them with the tools and experience they were seeking. The ultimate win/win situation.

      • Hi Greg-

        Yeah, I think conversion to registration is less interesting to me than it might be to others.  What we’ve learned is that there is a cost to conversion to client, and what we really want is more clients, not more “leads”.  This is obviously a balance between what is good for the consumer and good for the firm, and the sorts of clients that end up being a good “fit” for us, and us a good “fit” for them.

        We based our decisions on site content and material on over 2200 customer inquiries and surveys of customers about what they were looking for and could not find – and we’re not complete with our vision yet, so stay tuned.  The web is always a work in progress.

        Jack

        • Jack, great insight and good points to consider moving forward in the design. I really like where your are coming from and am impressed with the research you did. I ask you this though – do you think that the IDX solution that produces the most leads is not also the same IDX that produces the most/best clients?

          At heart, this post was created to specifically consider the best IDX providers, but it’s almost impossible to ignore other areas of web design and content in relation to the IDX. Are you proposing that we consider that the IDX that produces the most leads and is the most user intuitive – does not necessarily produce the most clients?

          I think you guys have great content on your site by the way. The videos are well thought-out and informative. I appreciate your comments.

          • John_Stegner

            Thanks Jack for jumping in on this.  Greg, I think this goes back to the not all leads generated online are created equal. I love when I get an email from a visitor to my loft and condo blog and it says: “I need to buy a 2 bed, 2 bath condo, can you represent me?”.  That is a lead!  Can one IDX generate higher quality leads than another?  

          • Yea, I mean I agree. My question is the same – I don’t think any IDX is or is not creating higher quality leads than the next one is (at least not yet anyway – but who knows what the future holds). Isn’t the quality lead (client) – specifically originating from IDX, the one who contacts the company and closes a deal? Either way, isn’t the point of offering the search to have the best, easy-to-navigate, user-friendly search?

            I think we are mixing company values and branding and what it means to relate to your clients and how you want to portray your company with the simple question of “what is the best IDX solution?” Clearly most real estate brokerages and agents want to work with great clients, we all have specific company values and ways that we want to market ourselves – but this post is about the best IDX solution. Perhaps I’m missing something..

          • Constitute “best”?

          • Great question. I am glad you decided to comment in this thread. I can’t help but think the “best” IDX, the one that provides the best user experience – is the one that also produces the most leads too. Why are users bouncing off other IDX’s if they provide the best user experience? What is keeping the high quality lead on a lower converting/lead producing IDX and how is it specifically tailored to this real estate client? We’re getting pretty scientific here. I’m willing to listen

          • John_Stegner

            I think we could take this over the top and consider that user experience is highly dependent upon the individual.  Does one type of IDX appeal to engineers and another to artists?  Does one appeal more to women than men.  If women do in fact play a larger role in decision making in real estate, would using an IDX that appealed more to women generate higher quality leads and thus more closed business or “customers”. It would seem that a more flexible solution (great map & great quick list search) will appeal to a broader audience. Then you have to design the navigation such that both options are easily available and obvious. Letting the user control their own experience and see the homes the way they want to.  Now if you have an amazing brand and fantastic messaging to wrap around it all….then maybe that is the secret sauce to getting users to not just provide their information, but also welcome a call from a member of your company.  

          • Agree – the blog automatically tells us when we’ve over analyzed a point too much by getting really skinny. (It’s skinny now)

          • I like to see a fast, easy, intuitive search. A few months ago, Mike May (MikeMay.com) forwarded me an email he received from a buyer on a Saturday, the gist of which was, “I’ve been searching real estate sites for several months and I keep coming back to yours because it’s the easiest to search. I have 3 houses I want to see….” and by the next Friday he had a signed deal. OK, that’s about as good a lead as you can get, right?

            180 degrees away from Mike’s client’s experience is a prospective client’s site that I looked at today. It’s a brokerage that isn’t getting any leads from its WordPress site that has, instead of a plug-in, a fully integrated search that opens in separate window & URL. As soon as I clicked the search link, it asked me to register. Then I had to fill out an long, extremely detailed form that felt something like a proctological exam. Believe me, I NEVER would have filled out that form if I hadn’t really needed to see the search function on the site. So, after email confirmation, I finally got to the search form, and found that it was nearly as complicated as the registration form. I selected a few parameters, clicked the search button, and nothing happened. After trying a few more times and staring in confusion at the page, I finally figured out that I had to type in a city name. I finally got my search results, but if I hadn’t had a serious need to be there, I would have left the site 10-15 minutes earlier.

            One thing that really annoys me is a city selection form field that assumes I already know the names of the cities in the agent’s market area.

            Based on my experience today, speed, simplicity, intuitiveness and a non-intrusive, streamlined registration process would be imperative.

          • Answer to my own question: it’s likely forced registration causing the bounces. Hmmmmm

          • Agreed, this discussion is about the best IDX solution. To me this means it should have the highest potential to help us increase buyer requests for showings, whether through signups or contact forms. To do this it must be flexible, so that we can integrate it seamlessly into our sites, fast, so that the user stays interested, and indexable, so that the IDX actually helps bring people to our site.

          • That’s really the question, right?

            I’ve learned I can do lots of things with our website that produce “leads” – forcing registration is plenty “user intuitive”, but is that the “best experience”?  Does it produce good clients?

            I think conflating “this site produces lots of leads” with “this is the best idx” is problematic.  We’ve had more leads than we could handle – and I don’t want that.  I want more clients, clients that value what we do, our knowledge, our brand promise, and that will use us to help them buy or sell their home – and will then tell their friends and family based on the superior experience they had with us.

            Half our business comes from the web – if I can do it with 20% of the leads somebody else needs, isn’t that better?  

            thank you for the compliment – we have so much more to do, and I appreciate it when people notice the little that I think we may have done right.

            Jack

          • Jack it’s my experience that most IDX’s allow customization of the amount and the ability to not force registration on the user. Are you claiming that by using Cirrus specifically that you are getting less overall leads than other comparable brokerages probably are, but that the ones you are dealing with are of “higher-quality”? Just because of the IDX you use? Sign me up.

          • It’s a matter of putting less of a focus on registration. The higher quality comes from the buyers/sellers doing more research on their own prior to contacting GoodLife Team.

          • Agree Jack. Kris Berg is the example I used to mention to agents/brokers who asked me about forced registration recommendations to drive more leads. Kris doesn’t want leads. She wants clients. She doesn’t want to spend hours, days, and months nurturing a “lead” into an actual client. Rather, give the buyer/seller ALL the info for free and they will self identify to her when they are ready.

  • Daniel, I share your concerns with DS (see my comments at very bottom of post). IDXpress displays properties beautifully, but of course – users have no option to sign up, which I don’t like. I’m ok with the cost of an IDX solution ranging from 100-200, so I’m ok with the cost for both products. The DSsearch Iframe map does not do it for me or consumers I’ve talked to, and it differs so much from IDXpress, also something I don’t like. The modules are not very useful unless you have a designer customize the output of the information. I also agree that conversion is not that great based on our site traffic (should have more signups and contacts), but I know I have a lot of work to do on my site as a whole to help encourage this too. I really love the ability to set up a variety of custom links to properties in our market too.

    I agree with most of your analysis, the only point I’d explore further is that their documentation on the products is limited. There is quite a bit of static content, as well as regular posts from the DS blog, and Ricardos blog about how to use and customize the product. The customer service and tech support is pretty good by chat, email, or phone too. 

    • John_Stegner

      Per my earlier post, I can’t use DS in the Denver market (Metrolist has shut them down), so it would be great if it did not make the final two options. I have also tested it vs. Wolfnet and it did not lead to as many registrations with an identical landing page.  I think there should be two better options for lead generation. 

    • rlarsonds

      Thanks everyone for the feedback.  We are definitely looking to put together more documentation on our products, and are open to suggestions.  

      So far we’ve focused mostly on posts and videos on our blog to supplement our existing wiki, forum, and knowledge base.  What other formats/materials would be most helpful to you?  I’m thinking of anything from a single page quick start guide to massive “product manuals” to interactive help sections…  Any input will be appreciated!

      Robert Larson
      Diverse Solutions

  • I.B.

    Hi,

    I am looking for an IDX solution and was wondering if you could give me some advice. I am looking for a solution with these requirements:

    1- No frames.
    2- In my domain (if possible not even in a subdomain) I am using idxbroker but it shows properties in a subdomain
    3- Offers multiple languages (I am in an area with a large Spanish speaking population)
    4- Ability to add more domains for a reduced price (For example if I want to have my main site in English and a secondary in Spanish)

     I see some of my competitors’ websites and the top ones have IDX systems installed with these characteristics.

    I would appreciate any recommendations.

    • If your competition has all those features, just look to see which provider they are using and use that one?

  • I’m a classified geek, so please remember that I can kill your computer from anywhere in the world. So please have respect for me.

  • Thanks for the rundown on IDX providers — I just integrated iHomefinder (Optima Express) on http://www.thecoronadorealestateteam.com/ and have been really happy with my experience. I was going to go with Diverse Solutions but I thought a lot of the CSS looked funky & I didn’t love their customer service when I did call. iHomeFinder has been great at getting me set up and answering any questions I have.

    • Annie Maloney

      I also use ihomefinder and love it. I have used them since 2005 in an iframe application on a template site. It was ok. Last month I switched over to a WP site using agentpress on Genesis and used their Optima Express and love it. The widgets, search functions and results pages are great and seo friendly. I can’t speak for the others and am sure they offer a good product but I have no complaints with ihomefinder.

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