When researching real estate websites one is bound to come across the acronym ‘RETS’. Throw in “IDX’ and ‘VOW’ and it is all to easy to get confused by the alphabet soup of real estate technologies. Today we want to offer a brief clarification.
RETS stands for Real Estate Transaction Standard, a sort of common language used for the transfer of real estate listing data. RETS is what allows your local MLS to make listing data available to your website. Typically, MLS’s contract with an outside organization such as FlexMLS or Rapattoni to manage the reams of data submitted by their realtors. These organizations, in turn, operate RETS servers which supply real estate listing data in RETS format when requested.
Both IDX and VOW sites utilize this data to generate their listings (for more information on IDX and VOW sites take a look at our recent post: VOW vs IDX Real Estate Websites). Some of these sites use an ‘IDX provider’ which is a paid middleman that handles the RETS data on your behalf while other websites include the scripts necessary to retrieve, store, and serve the data on their own. In the case of Bizidge built real estate websites we handle the RETS data for you and bundle this into a monthly fee that also covers hosting, tech support, updates, and the like.
Many realtors choose to operate multiple real estate websites but not all of them are benefiting from the added effort and expense. Today we’ll discuss when multiple sites make sense and what you need to be careful of.
For many realtors, one site is enough. To get the most out of your website requires an ongoing effort including content creation to drive search and referral traffic as well as advertising efforts both online and off. Unfortunately, there are no efficiency gains to be had by running multiple websites except with regards to hosting costs. Content and advertising efforts should be unique to each site requiring separate advertising campaigns (and expenses) as well as additional content. So with all this extra effort that’s required, why does anyone bother with more than one site? In a word: focus.
The benefit of running multiple sites is being able to focus on specific niches within your broader local real estate market. Foreclosures, condominiums, retirement communities, acreage, particular communities, and many other niches are frequently targeted areas of focus. The more specific the focus of the site the easier it is to rank well in search results and the more relevant your site will be to visitors. For example: you may find that there are few websites in your area focused on retirement communities allowing you to exploit the niche online with little competition. Visitors to such a retirement community real estate website will be from a more clearly defined demographic so your content can be sharply focused on their particular needs. Your content might, for example, include information about regional medical facilities or the benefits of downsizing while avoiding content about first time home buyer information and local school quality. This sort of focused content benefits your visitors as they are able to find the info they need without having to wade through content that isn’t applicable to them. Search engine marketing is also improved as a highly focused site is more relevant to focused searches improving the site’s rank in search results and generating more focused traffic. In our example that means people who search for retirement communities are more likely to find your site and your site is more likely to meet their needs.
At the risk of sounding repetitious: the key is focus. If any of your sites overlap they run the risk of competing against one another leading to wasted resources. Content that is similar or identical across your various sites (duplicate content in search parlance) is not returned multiple times in search results, at least not on the pages that matter. Instead, search engines choose which of the multiple instances of the content is most relevant and display that one only, knocking your other sites out of the useful search results entirely. With our retirement community niche example: if you have the same blog post or page on your main site and a retirement community niche site, you run the risk of search engines choosing your main site as more relevant and excluding or burying the more focused niche site that you really want the search user to visit. Likewise, when it comes to advertising overlap dilutes your efforts and can even cost you more money. In the case of online advertising services such as Google’s Adwords website overlap can easily result in your sites bidding against each other for the same keyword, running up your costs.
In summary: running multiple real estate websites allows agents to exploit underserved niches and can be a great way to generate leads but don’t underestimate the added effort and expense involved and be vigilant in preventing overlap. Bizidge customers interested in operating multiple sites should contact us for reduced rates and assistance in avoiding issues stemming from overlap.
You are ready to build your brand new real estate website and suddenly face a choice: do you want an IDX or VOW website? A what? Both the real estate and web development industries share an unfortunate love of acronyms that can cause more than a little confusion but don’t worry, we’re here to make it easy. IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange while VOW stands for Virtual Office Website. Both allow website visitors to search MLS listings but VOW websites require registration and the establishment of a broker-client relationship before allowing access to listings.
With a VOW site you are allowed to provide users with all the same information you can provide if they are in your physical office excepting listings that have been opted-out of internet display. IDX sites also allows the display of most MLS listings but brokers can opt-out of IDX display for all their listings in addition to opting-out on a per listing basis as with a VOW. In reality there is very little difference in the listings available to the two different types of website. Some listing data that can be displayed on VOW sites is not allowed on IDX sites but the most important information such as address, mls number, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, price, etc is still available.
|IDX Website||VOW Website|
|Display All MLS Listings||✗||✗|
|Display Most MLS LIstings||✓||✓|
|Display All Listing Data||✗||✓|
|Display Most Listing Data||✓||✓|
So which is right for you? Asking users to register as is required on a VOW site is a major barrier to website use. Many users will simply leave the site and find another that allows them to browse listings without registration. Having said that, those users that do register on a VOW site provide you with their name and contact information becoming a lead that may be cultivated into a client. On the other hand, IDX websites encourage users to voluntarily contact the agent while browsing listings.
Which one will generate more leads is dependent on your particular market and the demographic that visits your site. Leads from IDX sites are self-qualifying, that is they voluntarily contacted you and are therefore often higher quality than VOW registration generated leads which may be more interested in accessing listing data than utilizing your services. Yes, you have technically established a broker-client relationship with your VOW registered user, typically through a check-box accepting a user agreement at sign-up, but this means very little in practice. We generally recommend realtors choose IDX sites as they yield better quality leads, are better for SEO, and are easier to setup as they don’t require complex user agreements and privacy policies.
Today we’re kicking off a series of posts to help realtors dominate their markets by better understanding and implementing the online tools they need to be successful. We’ll be covering several important points along the way but lets start with why a modern real estate website is essential to a realtor’s success: The search for a new home now starts online for more than half of home buyers according to a report released in 2013 by the National Association of Realtors and Google. Not only that, more than 90% of home buyers rely on the internet (including your competitor’s websites) as a primary research source. These aren’t just big number, they are big numbers that are growing rapidly making your online presence more critical to your offline success than ever before.
So what are real estate website visitors looking for? First and foremost they want to search local MLS listings. This feature is the single most useful feature for prospective home buyers doing online research and no real estate website should be without it’s own fully integrated MLS search feature. Next is knowledge; the unique local information and home buying process information that only a Realtor can provide. Whether provided through a blog, dedicated web pages, videos or other media this info not only draws visitors to your site it also establishes your credibility as a real estate professional. Finally, all this information needs to be packaged into an easy to use and visually appealing website to prevent visitors from straying to competitor’s websites and to keep them progressing through your conversion funnel.
Another number that’s big and growing: 27 – the percentage of home-buying related searches that happen on mobile devices. If your site isn’t either responsive (adjusts itself to mobile devices) or equipped with a mobile version you may be missing out on a large percentage of prospective home buyers while they are out and actively looking at homes. Stay tuned over the coming days as we help you turn these trends to your advantage and turn clicks into clients!
Your website’s content is the single most important aspect of your site. The content, particularly the written content called copy, is the reason users visit your site, it’s the site’s reason for being. Your copy is what convinces a visitor to fill out a contact form, make a purchase, or take whatever action it is that moves them down your conversion funnel. Not only that, content is hugely important from an SEO perspective as it is what search engines use to determine your site’s relevance to a search term.
Copywriting is important, it is also intimidating. Your content has a huge impact on the success of your site and it can be difficult to figure out what constitutes good copy and how to craft content that results in conversions. You could read marketing studies, research popular methods, dig out that long forgotten marketing textbook, learn what works through trial and error or even hire a highly paid professional copywriter and hope for the best. While these methods could work we have a better one… make use of Bizidge’s research and experience by downloading a FREE copy of Copywriting for the Web, our brief guide to writing content that increases conversions and bolsters search result rankings. In just three pages our guide outlines the basics of copywriting for the web in an easy to use manner. We suggest reading through it once before writing your copy and then using it as a checklist while editing. Happy typing!