One of the most common things we get asked by real estate agents is whether or not they need to have an IDX listings feed on their website. The short answer, I don’t think so. Automatic listing feeds like IDX appeal to agents because it’s a quick and easy way to get most of the listings your MLS board on your website. However, although some people consider it to be standard functionality now, in many cases, IDX and other automatic listing feeds are something that are really just a “nice to have” nowadays, and nothing more.
The only reason most real estate agents want IDX listings on their website is because everyone else has it, so they think they need it too.
Building a Great Experience is Expensive
So who is using IDX listings really well? It’s all of the big players, like Zillow, Realtor.com, etc. What else do they have in common? They’re massive companies, with massive budgets, and large teams of developers, that have heavily invested in the development of something very customized that looks amazing. Do you like all of those real-time search maps and beautiful displays of listings? The bottom line is, that costs a lot of money to develop. For the majority of agents, the only way to create a better experience on an IDX feed is with big budgets and extensive work, which are often two things that you don’t want to invest in. Most agents will have to go with a less expensive, templated IDX solution, which really can’t compete with what the bigger companies are offering.
It Can Be Limiting
Technically speaking, automatic listing feeds through plugins don’t work in every area. Different cities and regions may use different feeds, which means you might not have access to certain features depending on where you operate. Additionally, if you operate in multiple real estate boards, you need to make sure that the same automatic listing feed is supported across all locations. Incorporating IDX gets tricky when you are in more than one real estate board.
It Won’t Help for SEO
Depending on how your IDX feed is built, you might not be doing yourself any favors when it comes to SEO. Most of the IDX feeds used by many agents are often templated and hosted on a subdomain (like listings.yourdomain.com), which does not positively affect your SEO in any way. Additionally, real estate giants like Zillow and Realtor.com will always be the more authoritative site and will always outrank a smaller website with a templated IDX feed. If everyone is using the same templated IDX feed (most are), it will have no impact on your SEO strategy, simply because you’ll have too much competition by bigger, more authoritative websites.
To make your IDX feed positively impact your SEO, you must look into an organic or custom IDX solution. For smaller agents, this can get expensive, and, in many cases, the cost of building an organic IDX feed would be better spent on other digital strategies, like content development, advertising, paid search, and other lead generation strategies.
So, Why Use an Automatic Listing Feed?
IDX listing feeds are nice to have for the user and not much else. The fact is unless your site is highly authoritative, very rarely will someone do a Google search, find a single agent’s IDX listing in the search results, and click it to get to their website.
Like I said earlier, it’s a nice to have. So, the only time it may make sense to use is if you have a strong content and traffic strategy in place that brings users to your website, and then they happen to do a search beacuse they’re there, but in my opinion, IDX should not be one of your primary lead generation tools as you just have too much competition there for it to be worth your time and money.
Are There Any Benefits?
For an agent who is committed to creating a great process around their IDX listing feed and search, it can be helpful to include. For example, with most out-of-the-box IDX plugins, agents can see a wealth of data when the user creates an account, like what they’ve searched, when they’ve searched, and what properties they’ve saved.
But few agents even know what to do with that information, or even know how to access it. But if you’re one of the few that have a process in place for what to do with the information, it could give you an edge with your lead follow and engagement up strategy.
The last benefit is that if you’re an agent that doesn’t have a lot of listings, it can be appealing to you to have IDX listings on your website so it gives the impression that you do have listings, even when you don’t.
The Bottom Line
IDX listing feeds are nice to have on your website for a user that shows up and decides to do a search, but in most cases, they won’t help drive users to your website as part of a Google search, and unless you have a well-defined process in place around how you’ll use the user information that an IDX plugin can give you, there isn’t a lot of point to having it.
When you consider all of these factors and add the fact that all of these services cost money, you’d be better off spending your money on something else. In many cases, the money spent on automatic listing feeds could be better spent elsewhere on your digital strategy, in places that will get a better ROI, and help improve your business in other ways.
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