Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.
Increase Site Traffic Through Optimized IDX
Search engines are constantly crawling sites, comparing information to determine the best results to return to users searching for particular words and terms. By using a few simple strategies, you can leverage your IDX for online searches.
October 20, 2011
You probably pay a lot for your IDX service, but have you ever wondered if you’re getting as much out of it as possible?
IDX, short for Internet Data Exchange, is a feed of information from an MLS that includes listings from all participating brokers. Many REALTORS® offer IDX feeds on their Web site as a way to boost online traffic and provide a more robust property search feature for consumers.
Many agents don’t realize that proper and strategic use of IDX integration can not only make your site more engaging to the visitor but also increase your traffic and search-engine rankings as well. You just need to take following four steps:
Step 1: Ensure Your IDX Resides on Your Site
This is really the heart of the matter. Most do this now because of the high demand for it, but if you don’t start from this premise, the rest of this article will be irrelevant for you. When it does, then every individual listing in the MLS can be viewed as a page of content on your site.
To see how many pages you are being credited for, try this: In a Google search, type site:yourdomain (in the example below, site:onlinedominance.com). In light gray writing at the top of the page, you will see the words “About ______ results returned.” So Google finds 1,340 pages of unique content associated with my site, Online Dominance.
You can get “content credit” for all those listings in your MLS, provided you follow the next steps.
Step 2: Create Predefined Searches and Install Them on Your Site
Having a form for people to fill in their search preferences, while vital, is not sufficient for this purpose, because search engines are just an algorithm and are not interested in completing preference forms. So, if you want the search engine to see your content, you have to make sure the data from the MLS is being actively pulled onto your site. By creating predefined searches, such as by price, location, or even type of property, you are setting up a stream of constantly linked data of every listing that falls within those parameters.
Step 3: Create Unique Content Describing That Search
One of the more recent “gotchas” initiated by Google is an update that finds “low quality” pages, which is basically information it has determined is syndicated from one source to many different sites. So, unfortunately for you, this means you can’t have just the predefined search. But you can make an end run around this by taking the time to write a paragraph or two of custom content and add targeted title tags. Thus, when the search engine indexes the page, it may see some syndicated material, but this will be offset by the unique content.
OK, you’re almost there!
Step 4: Link Often and Well
If you want the search engine to think a page is valuable, you have to treat it as if it is valuable. So, every time you write something that relates to one of these searches — for instance, a blog post about a recent upswing in sales in a certain price range in your market — include a link to that predefined search result page.
How This Helps Get Traffic to Your Site
Right now, you may be saying “Sure, I understand how to strategically use the IDX, but what about traffic and visitor engagement?”
Well, when the search engines find more pages of relevant content that is frequently updated, it helps your page ranking. Also, having lots of related third-party sites (such as Trulia and Active Rain) link back to multiple points on your site helps both the ranking and the likelihood of people finding you. Finally, since every listing is viewed as a page on your site, searches on specific addresses (like when someone drives by and sees a yard sign) will yield your site as a result, so you don’t have to rely on overused or popular keywords.
As for customer engagement, people love the convenience and instant gratification of being able to see properties in the ranges or categories they prefer with the click of a button. Often, they aren’t sure exactly what they’re looking for until they see some results, and having to go back and adjust information in a search form can be a bother. You will get more clicks on saved searches that then allow the user to sift and sort their specifics from there.
A Few More Words of Advice
You now have a step-by-step plan to get your IDX optimized for search engines. But before you implement it, you should be aware of a few more things:
· Don’t “sock” the search engines: Google is like the referee in a game — it watches to see if you’re playing by the rules and will throw the red card at any suspected foul punch. So, if you had, say, 30 pages on your site today day and then had 20,000 tomorrow, Google would penalize you in search rankings. So, pick the top handful of search terms you think would be most effective for your business, and start incorporating content around those, going through all four steps to get them optimized. For the most effective results, don’t add them too slowly or too quickly; a few times a week is a good frequency.
· Use the language your target consumers use: People will tend to type search terms that they use in natural language. Name your predefined searches that same way to increase the match rate and hence your page position.
· Get help to execute this over time: This is the perfect kind of task — low-level and long-term — to get a virtual assistant to help you execute. Set up the process, set your priorities, and give a VA marching orders. You’ll see the results as new content is added to your site, while you’re freed up to deal with more business-critical issues.
* Special thanks to Brad Carroll of Dakno Marketing for his contributions to this article.
NOTE: Mr. Internet®, RUSSER Communications, its staff and officers receive no compensation whatsoever from any third-party vendors (unless he/they are directly involved with the creation and/or improvement of a vendor service or product), and make no recommendations as to the suitability of the products or services mentioned in this article. Always thoroughly investigate any product or service before trying or purchasing.