This is a controversial topic, with real estate conversion professionals and agents often on opposite sides of the “gate.” I'll explore both arguments briefly…
CON: IDX (MLS Reciprocity) listings should be public
Most real estate agents I've spoken with believe that since IDX listings appear on almost every agent website, they should be public. Their feelings are that requiring registration will reduce engagement, and the visitors will find what they need on another site.
They have a valid point; most sites display the very same IDX data. I was doing some competitive marketing research yesterday for a client, and came across the very same IDX (MLS Reciprocity in B.C.) results on a few sites in a row. For the neighbourhood I was searching, the same 56 results were showing up, with the identical home displayed at the top of the list. That piqued my curiosity and I eventually discovered 27 sites with identical IDX results, and only 2 with unique curated results and layouts.
PRO: Registration should be required before IDX listings are displayed
1. People want to have access to insider information. It makes them feel privileged. Presented well, engagement can actually increase significantly with a registration requirement.
If you decide to require registration, and login for subsequent visits, use a landing page to sell the visitor on the merits of signing up, with a form for doing so. Hire a conversion copywriter that specializes in landing pages, if needed.
Then follow up with substantially better information than the average real estate site in your area is offering. We work with third party IDX providers that curate the data from various real estate boards, and it is indeed possible to build a better user experience that makes the member happy they exchanged their name and email address for the the upgrade. Ethical bribes are good marketing.
And, it goes without saying, once you have their details, keep the valuable content coming.
2. It addresses “search, scribble and drive” visitors. If you are already doing everything right…
- Creating ridiculously valuable content on a very consistent basis
- promoting it in social channels,
- building your list of subscribers,
- actively engaging with prospects online,
- sending out valuable content by email,
- optimizing your website and marketing funnel every month…
you should have a flood of quality traffic and subscribers.
If your IDX provider delivers analytics data, you should see evidence of considerable interaction with your IDX search bar widget or MLS pages.
So where are the #$&^%#!! leads?
- With so many sites offering the same MLS information, if the searchers decide to actually pull the trigger and contact an agent online, which one they decide on tends to be a crap shoot.
- Many visitors “search, scribble and drive.” They search the MLS, scribble down a few addresses and go for a drive. If they decide to call an agent for a showing, guess which number they dial? The one in front of them. It's either on the sign on the lawn or the sheet they picked up.
Bottom line: if your visitors are scrolling through your IDX listings, but they aren't contacting you, you've got nothing! If that's currently happening to you, giving gated access a try can't hurt. It's all about leveraging your traffic, their need for feeling valued and special, and desire for the very best local listing data at their finger tips.
If you got a name and email address from them, you can check your IDX analytics to see what they were looking at, based upon time stamps, and offer to show one of those properties to them. Worst case, they're on your list, so you are able to influence them with your helpful email updates.
If you decide to give it a go, conduct an accurate A/B test. Make sure you have all of the data you need for the last complete month, then get systems in place for registered IDX access, with a proper landing page for signups and a better user experience.
I welcome your questions and comments below. Have you tried gated access to IDX results? How did it affect visitor engagement? Do you have some reservations?
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