My Journey Through IDX Options and a Quick Review of Real Estate Webmasters

Posted by Andrew Fortune on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 8:58am. 52,623 Views

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My Journey Through IDX Wordpress OptionsIn February of 2014, I wrote an article titled “A Few Major Drawbacks to Using IDX Broker Platinum” after a very frustrating series of events dealing with IDX Broker. When I wrote the article, I had no idea that there were hundreds of other real estate professionals out there who were also struggling with IDX Broker, or a similar IDX service. After over a year of trial and error, and substantial expense, I have finally found a real estate website company who makes a product that works well for me, yet still has it’s limitations.

It’s overwhelmingly obvious that there is a need for technology gurus to develop better IDX services for real estate agents nationwide. Every week I receive emails and phone calls from other real estate agents who have read my last blog post about my frustrations with IDX Broker. These agents are trying desperately to find an IDX option that works well enough to present to the public with their name on it, but doesn't require them to take out a second mortgage on their house to pay for it. With Zillow and Trulia absorbing so much of the internet real estate space, the need for high level real estate agent websites is ever increasing. Unfortunately, the IDX options out there are weak and dysfunctional at best. Local real estate and technology seem to have a hard time catching up to the rest of the business world. I have since moved on from IDX Broker though, and that has been the greatest thing to happen to my business this year.

 


Adios IDX Broker

Goodbye IDX BrokerWhen I wrote the article venting my frustrations with IDX Broker, I had made up my mind at that point that I would do everything possible to find a better IDX plugin for my WordPress real estate website. I dreamed of the day when I could call them up and say "Please cancel my account!" That was my #1 motivation at the time. It's a terrible feeling to know that the potential to gain business is waiting for you on the internet, but your biggest obstacles are the 3rd party companies who are suppose to be helping you.

Shortly after writing the above mentioned article about IDX Broker, iHomeFinder came out with a new responsive plugin that seemed very appealing to me. I called them up and explained my IDX frustrations and they seemed very willing to listen and help out. I developed a test website to try out their services using the Open Floor Plan theme from Agent Evolution. I personally wish Agent Evolution would develop their own IDX service because they do such an incredible job of making WordPress real estate website themes. You can view the test site that I created here: CoSpringsHomesSales.com. I only invested about 8 hours into this website, so don't expect greatness. I had plans to invest hundreds of hours into it and make it look great, but I soon realized that I needed to go in a different direction before I wasted too much time on it.  You can get a basic idea of what the iHomeFinder plugin offers by visiting the site though (I may taking the site down soon since I'm not using it now). This test site is using the trial version of iHomeFinders IDX plugin right now, which is why the homes listed are from California, even though my site is marketing homes in Colorado. Here are the main reasons why I decided to abandon this website using iHomeFinder:

Problem #1 with iHomeFinder’s IDX Plugin: The "Gallery Slider" will dramatically slow down a WordPress real estate website's performance.

I use iHomefinder's “Gallery Slider” IDX widget on the homepage of my WordPress test site to show the newest homes for sale in the area. I planned on making hundreds of community specific pages as well, using this same feature. The Slider looks great on mobile devices and really makes the site visually appealing. It only took me about 30 minutes to alter the CSS coding to make this plugin look great. I was excited when I first started creating it. iHomeFinder allows the user to use simple short codes to embed their IDX options. It works well and is 100 times more user friendly than using IDX Broker's outdated backend system. With iHomeFinders new responsive plugin, you can perform all of your customizations from within your WordPress panel. You simply create the “Saved Search” with the criteria that you prefer, and then add the short code to the page where you want it to show up. I really like the simplicity and functionality of this setup. I can see the other IDX providers copying this model in the future.

iHomeFinders Gallery Slider IDX Widget

Here's my problem with the "Gallery Slider". It pre-loads all of the properties that will be displayed on the page. This is TERRIBLE for website performance. There is no way to properly limit the amount of properties that load in the Saved Search options. I talked to iHomeFinder about this in the very beginning and they said that they would fix it to only load the properties that show up on the page, and then as the user scrolls through the slider the next images would load. They still have not fixed this issue though. Right now, if your Saved Search has 100 properties in it, the Slider will pre-load all of them as soon as someone loads the page. Check out the example below using www.tools.pingdom.com.  Here’s what happens:


Pingdom Test of iHomeFinder IDX

Notice that the load time is 14.03 seconds and the page size is 11.1 MB. This is a terrible performance for a webpage. A page needs to load in under 3 seconds to compete for organic search rankings. My website would get some serious penalties from Google for this kind of load time. You can view the results here: http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/#!/cxU9kX/http://cospringshomesales.com/

If you look at the results on Pingdom's page and scroll down to view all of the items that loaded, you'll notice that the majority of the load time comes from all of the preloaded images of the Slider. Here's the load time without the Slider:

No Slider iHomeFinder IDX Test

Notice that the load time is 10 seconds faster after without the slider. The amount of properties that you have loading in your saved search options will define the amount of time that your page takes to load.

So, why not just skip the Gallery Slider? Well, it’s the best visual representation of a Saved Search and the #1 reason that I wanted to used the service in the first place. Without a properly functioning Gallery Slider, the iHomeFinder IDX plugin is not useful to me. As a reference, my current REW website loads in less than 2 seconds on most every page.

Update on this Slider Issue:

I received a message from iHomefinder on September 26, 2014 explaining that they have resolved the slow load time issues with their IDX Slider. They added a "lazy load" to the slider to only allow 10 properties to load at a time. They also updated the short code to allow a parameter to be added that will limit the amount of properties in the slider for even more control of the load time. I just tested it on my homepage of CoSpringsHomeSales.com and my load time dropped to 5.75 seconds. That's a HUGE improvement! 

Problem #2 with iHomeFinder’s IDX Plugin: Low Resolution Property Images

I was planning on using the iHomeFinder IDX plugin to index properties from the Denver MLS (Metrolist) and the Colorado Spring’s MLS (PPAR). For some reason, all of the images that came from the Colorado Spring’s MLS were in a low resolution format that looked awful. Colorado Springs is my main market. I told iHomeFinder that I would have to cancel the service if this wasn’t fixed. They told me that it was an MLS issue and that they were trying to fix it. All of the other IDX services used high resolution images in Colorado Springs, so I knew that it was an iHomeFinder issue, and not my local MLS. After waiting 2 months for iHomeFinder to fix it, I finally decided to cancel their services. Ironically, right after I cancelled with them, they fixed the issue. However, I’m glad that it worked out that way because it pushed me towards Real Estate Webmasters, which is a much better service.

Before I get into my experience with Real Estate Webmasters, I would like to clarify that I believe iHomeFinder is a great WordPress IDX plugin. If I would not have switched to REW, I would most likely be using their responsive IDX service right now. In my opinion, their responsive IDX plugin is the best WordPress IDX plugin that I have used to date. My hope is that iHomeFinder will take the criticism above and make their plugin even better. There's a lot of potential in their design. For a good example of what a great real estate website looks like with iHomeFinder's responsive IDX plugin, check out Garretts Realty Group's website displaying homes for sale in Oldham County, Kentucky. It looks great and works very well on mobile devices. Nathan Garrett will be the first to tell you that the iHomeFinder plugin has some speed issues, but it still looks better than most WordPress IDX sites that I have seen.

 


My Experience with Real Estate Webmasters So Far

I had entertained the idea of having REW build me a website for about a year. After learning how to code CSS and build WordPress real estate websites, it was very hard to hand over my entire website to another company. Also, their prices are very high in comparison to the other IDX options out there. While I was dealing with the frustration of iHomeFinder and IDX Broker, I received an email from my sales rep at REW saying that they were having a sale on their limited edition custom sites. I was intrigued, but never planned on using them, but eventually they won me over. Here's why I chose REW:

REW Pros #1: Real Estate Webmaster sites are great for SEO.

GreatColoradoHomes Black Forest ResultsIf you search "Homes for Sale in _your city name__", chances are high that there is an REW site on the first page. If the town is over 500,000 in population, chances are low that you will find a WordPress site showing up on the first page because of all the competition for that keyword. I am heavily invested in content marketing and social media to boost my URL. I found that I was doing 5 times the marketing of some of my competitors using custom HTML sites, but they were always beating me out in the SERP's. This proved to me that Google cares very much about how a website it coded, hosted, and presented. I realized that if my website was more Google friendly, I would probably rank much higher with all of the SEO and content market work that I am doing. This proved to be true. As soon as my REW website was launched, I started receiving exponentially more traffic from all of the content marketing that I had been doing. The most sought after real estate keyword in my city is "Homes for Sale in Colorado Springs". My WordPress site never showed up in the first 10 pages. Now it's showing up at the bottom of page 1 and steadily rising. I started showing up for many of my other city specific keywords as well. Real Estate Webmasters sites are great for SEO, if you load them with plenty of great content.

Disclaimer: Don't expect to buy a REW site and simply start to receive leads. There are plenty of REW sites in my area that never come up in the SERP's. If you do heavy content marketing and SEO work, REW sites perform great. If you are a “post and forget it” type of agent, REW sites are just another expense.

REW Pro #2: Their Stuff Works! 

It’s been nice having someone else spend time on my website. It’s very hard to find time to work on my website when I’m out showing homes and writing contracts. I have spent many late nights working on my WordPress site, and was constantly tweaking it. I do not have access to my CSS and HTML files on my REW site, which is good and bad. For the sake of gaining more time to close deals, it’s been good.

REW Pro #3: It's All Hosted on One Server

I no longer have to deal with 3rd party plugins on my website. I think that Google views WordPress real estate websites like a Frankenstein monster. Google sees data coming from the host where the WordPress site is hosted, data coming from the IDX server, and data from all the additional plugins. It’s like a clunky assortment of parts put together to make up a webpage. REW gathers the data from the MLS (rather fast) and hosts all of the data from one server. When Google sees the data, it seems to love the way it is hosted. This is why REW sites (and other completely custom real estate websites) perform so well in the SERP's. It's the difference between a new car right off of the dealership floor, or buying a hobby kit car and putting it together yourself. It’s hard to compete when you’re driving a hobby kit car. Remember, this is just my experience.

REW Cons #1: It's expensive!

cash moneyThis is most people's #1 complaint about Real Estate Webmasters. I've spent over $13,000 on my site so far and I still have a lot of custom work to do to it. The cost of my site would probably double if I didn't do all of the blog migration, 301 redirects, community page building, and content conversation myself. That cost was just for the site with a few custom visual modifications. I personally believe that the cost is justified for the product that they offer, but you have to know that they are not handing you a magic bullet that will bring leads to your pipeline. They are handing you a website that will need lots of customization on your part and a whole lot of personal time invested. This is true with any real estate website, but with REW, if it doesn’t work out then you just lost thousands of dollars, rather than hundreds of dollars on a WordPress site. I recommend building a WordPress website  first and if you can make that site perform well, step up to an REW site. It’s the best route to take in my opinion. I don't think I would have ever been able to get my REW site working like it is now without my previous WordPress experience.

REW Cons #2: Slow to Get Custom Work Done

It takes a long time to get custom work done on the website. Right now, they are booked out until about 6 to 8 weeks. So, if you have a great idea that you want to implement, you will have to wait until November to get it done. For example, my website seems to index a lot of rental properties on Google. Since the site launched almost 2 months ago, I receive numerous leads every day from people wanting to look at lease listings. In Colorado Springs, lease listings only pay around $100 to $200, depending on the lease price. It’s not worth my time to work these leads. Colorado Springs has a heavy military influence (about 10% of the city is employed by the military), so property management companies have the lock down on lease properties.

I have been inundated with lease listing inquiries that fill up my inbox. It's hard to find the good leads through the sea of lease listings that I have no interest in working. I put in a customization request to have the lease listings removed from my IDX feed. It took 6 weeks to get this work performed, so for 6 weeks I had to deal with hundreds of lease listing showing requests filling my inbox every day. This is something that I could have done on my WordPress site in 10 minutes. If you plan on having a site built by REW and implementing much custom work, just know that you are going to need some patience to make it to your final product. The programmers and designers at REW are great to work with, but they are not very fast.

REW Cons #3: The Commitment

If I ever want to leave REW, it’s would be a huge pain in the ass. I spent at least 100 hours of my own time migrating and redirecting all of my WordPress blogs and pages to my new REW site. Of course, REW will do this for you, but at a steep hourly rate. I have hundreds of more hours worth of community pages and local content to add still. If I ever wanted to migrate back to WordPress, or another custom site, I would have to spend weeks transferring all of the data. Right now, I am happy with REW, but if I ever had to leave I would be in a world of hurt. It’s just something to think about before committing to any website service.

 


How To Decide Which IDX Service Works Best For You

I chose Real Estate Webmasters because I do a lot of blogging, content marketing, social media marketing, and heavy SEO development. My goal is organic search traffic, which is a long term goal that is becoming more competitive every year. If I were more interested in gaining leads through Google AdWords and/or forced registration, I would more than likely have gone with Real Geeks, or stayed with my WordPress site using iHomeFinder. Both of these options look great and have good backend systems to manage the leads that you would receive through forced lead capture. I spent a couple of years using Market Leader as well, but I think that their system is now out of date. Market leader really needs to catch up to today’s real estate website standards and reformat their whole front end system, in my opinion.

Organic Search Versus Pay Per ClickIf you're looking for a real estate website to get you started and you need someone to build the whole thing for you, I would recommend Placester. Placester builds WordPress real estate websites at an excellent price in comparison to most other services. Their sites look great, are inexpensive, and will impress your clients. Website Box is a fairly new service that I get asked about often, but all you need to do is check online for reviews about them. They have terrible reviews. I have a friend who tried using them but soon realized it was money wasted, since their site would never operate well. Their websites are very glitchy and have lots of problems. Placester is a much better option if you are looking for a company to build you a nice WordPress site for minimal cost.

If you want a more "hands on" approach to your own real estate WordPress website and plan to learn as much as you can about customizing your site, I would recommend using any of the Agent Evolution themes and then working through the limited choices of WordPress IDX providers to add to it. Right now, I think iHomeFinder has the best IDX service with their new responsive plugin. You can try it out for free if you already have a WordPress site setup to implement it. The cool thing about building your own WordPress website is that as soon as new technology comes out you can easily implement it into your existing site, rather than having to start over from scratch. That's what I miss the most about WordPress.

If you have a decent advertising budget for online leads and you have no interest in blogging, content marketing, or long term SEO strategies, I would recommend Kunversion, Tigerleads, Commissions Inc., or Boomtown. These are pricy websites that do well in the AdWords space. If you want an out-of-the-box website that looks great and converts well, these sites are designed specifically for that purpose. You can sign up and start receiving leads right away with these services, but just be ready for the initial sticker shock (from $1,500 to $5,000+ per month). It was always hard for me to consider spending that kind of money on something that I didn't own and could not customize to my business style. If you stop paying these services, your site simply disappears and you have to start over. These sites aren't for those looking to build a long term presence online.

 


Final Thoughts

I have numerous hours researching all of my real estate website options, learning how to speed up performance, learning how servers and hosting works, learning CSS and HTML coding tricks, and trying out all of the IDX options available in my area. It's been a long journey and I still feeling as though I have a lot more to learn. Right now, I'm happy to have my REW site up and running. Only time will tell if the investment was worth it, but so far things look promising. I have had this REW website up for less than 2 months, but it's been a much better experience than I ever had with IDX Broker. I am so glad to be past that experience.

As time goes by, I will write another blog post to let everyone know how my REW site has performed over time, and whether the financial expense is justified- based on the leads that I receive and the time that I have to put into the site. If you have any questions, feel free to email me and I will gladly respond. I enjoy collaborating with other agents. I still get calls and emails every week from my previous blog about IDX Broker. As a Realtor who spends many hours trying to compete in the online real estate space, I sympathize with other agents who are fighting through the lack of good IDX options out there.

Lastly, I feel compelled to mention that I have not been paid by ANY of the above mentioned companies for this, or any other review. I just really want to share my experiences in the hopes that it will help some of you who are on the same journey for the perfect real estate website, as I am. I've used IDX Broker, Diverse Solutions, Displet, and iHomeFinder's WordPress plugins. I've also done extensive research on TigerLeads, Boomtown, Kunversion, Commissions Inc., Real Geeks, and numerous other options. Please feel free to share any of your personal experiences with these services below. Your experience could save another real estate professional some valuable time and money.


 

At the end of September, IDX Broker tried to respond to this blog post, but their comments kept getting rejected as spam. I asked them to send me their response and I would post it here. 

A Response From IDX Broker

Andrew,

We are very glad you’re happy with your current solution. 

We are pleased to announce that Agent Evolution is now part of the IDX Broker family. Adding Agent Evolution’s offerings to our existing services creates a larger opportunity for real estate agents, teams, and offices to leverage their existing websites and drive more transactions.

IDX Broker currently has over 42,000 active real estate agents using our products, making it the largest privately held IDX-specific SaaS provider in the real estate market.

We offer our 600+ web developer partners even more flexibility on sites that are using IDX and WordPress together. Agent Evolution’s new Equity WordPress Framework includes a heavy emphasis on mobile from the ground up.

Agent Evolution’s Equity WordPress framework, with industry specific features, and IDX Broker’s search optimization will allow our clients to produce superior websites in less time. 

Best of luck in all your endeavors!

Kimmy Gustafson

IDX, LLC.

Andrew FortuneHi There! I'm the founder of Great Colorado Homes and the creator of much of the content on this website. Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please feel free to leave a comment in the message box below, or to share this article on social media with someone who might benefit from it. I appreciate your time here on this site and am always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers. Feel free to contact me anytime at andrew@greatcoloradohomes.com.



 

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61 Responses to "My Journey Through IDX Options and a Quick Review of Real Estate Webmasters"

SagePress wrote: Great in-depth article Andrew!

Just a little heads up though...the P in WordPress is always capitalized. =]

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 10:44am.

Andrew Fortune wrote: Thanks for the heads up SagePress. I used the word 27 times in this article, so the correction was much needed. :)

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 10:50am.

Patrick Harfst wrote: Andrew - thanks for doing the research! And thanks for using very direct writing to communicate your experiences - it is very much appreciated!

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 3:58pm.

Andrew Fortune wrote: Patrick, I'm glad the article was useful to you. Thank you for your comments. :)

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 4:09pm.

Nathan Garrett wrote: Great follow up article Andrew!! I agree performance/speed is definetley a huge factor. I'am currently using iHomefinder IDX plugin and the speed is just not there for the listing pages. Always enjoy reading your post! Great work!!

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 8:08pm.

Andrew Fortune wrote: Thanks Nathan. I forgot that you use iHomeFinder's responsive plugin on your site. I added a link to your site in the article because I think that you have one of the best WordPress sites that I have seen utilizing iHomeFinder's responsive IDX and it's a great example for people to look to. Maybe the criticism about their speed will cause iHomeFinder to do some work and make it better. :)

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 8:58pm.

Johnny wrote: Andrew,

Do you know of any sites or other resources that teach you how to implement IDX/RETS feeds yourself? I was looking into RetsCloud.com but you need to know about MYSQL databases. Have you dealt with this before?

Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 at 4:06pm.

Andrew Fortune wrote: Johnny, I would really like to be able to implement my own database as well, but I cannot find enough info on it. I was very interested in RetsCould.com as well, but I could not find any examples of websites that use their service that I would want to use. The concept of RetsCloud seems great. The implementation of RetsCloud is not very clear though. From an IDX vendor standpoint, this seems like a great product idea that would sell very well if someone were to make the concept easy to understand.

Thanks for your comments.

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 10:19am.

Morgan wrote: Great article! Love the no BS approach and thank you for the feedback!
For those of you who don't know - I am the owner of REW and with that disclaimer, I would like to address a couple of things.

#1: LEC sites (like the one chosen) are in fact quite pricey as Andrew states, but those are very high end, market exclusive sites- we do offer site with zero setup fees for those not ready to take the plunge and they still have all the SEO advantages mentioned.

#2: Our queues ARE long! But the comment about our "developers being slow" is not why work takes a long time. The fact is, we have way more business than developers (and at the moment our aggregate staff count is over 150, so it's not like we're not trying) - we appreciate all of your orders so much, but ever more, we appreciate your patience! I don't want to cop out and say "good work is worth waiting for" instead, I will continue our pledge to develop the next generation of developers and encourage faster turn arounds and more overtime. (Andrew thanks again for your patience - we know it sucks to wait too! Working on it ;)

#3: PLEASE DONT HIRE US! If (as Andrew said) you don't have a commitment to generating significant leads for your business and are willing to put in the time / the $ or both required to make it happen. We're not a magic bullet - it takes time and effort and buying a ferrari is not enough - you need to learn to drive it and put gas in the tank. If you do want an online business card there are other options out there.

Finally - going with a lesser solution for PPC - I'd like to push back on this. Our "low cost alternative" is actually competitive with all offerings out there especially when you factor in PPC management (site, management, hosting, IDX etc is under $500 combined) - which is cheaper than pretty much all competitors out there.

Sorry for making this sound pitchy, I just didn't want it to go unchallenged that there are a few things that can be done differently at REW if you're not looking for a full blown custom or LEC solution.

Andrew, again - Bravo! I love transparency on the web - and you're doing it in style, thanks again for your very constructive feedback - we will always strive to listen and improve
Cheers

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014 at 11:10pm.

Andrew Fortune wrote: Morgan, thank you for your comments. I added a section to the blog post to let readers know that you have chimed in on the conversation here. I appreciate how you validated the conversation and added info about other REW solutions, without sounding sales pitchy. Great input Morgan.

Posted on Friday, September 12th, 2014 at 9:39am.

JD wrote: Andrew, your posts area great! My question is why did you decide to go with REW instead of building your own site from scratch? We are currently looking at building a new site and given the cost of REW and the fact you do not own the site for all the money you have to spend I question if REW is the best option or building a site would be?

Posted on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 at 11:10am.

Andrew Fortune wrote: JD, great question. I chose REW because they offer me the best chance of having my IXD property pages indexed in Google and showing up in the search results. Their IDX is completely integrated into the site, rather than using a 3rd party IDX and merging it with another Wordpress website. Google sees the data from my site as coming from one host, rather than multiple hosts when I used Wordpress. This makes a big difference in such a competitive market as real estate, where there are 1,000's of websites in each area offering property pages. It was a hard decision to pay that much money for a website that I do not have access to and do not fully own. My hope is that I find an alternative in the future that I can purchase and own, but for this moment in time, REW was my best option for organic leads.

Posted on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 at 11:46am.

Jeff Haring wrote: Andrew,
Thank you for sharing so much information on website building. It is so appreciated from guys like me who are trying to build our own sites. I have been starting and stopping for months now and my site is in the infancy stages (still). I'm with IDXBroker too but haven't run into any problems yet. My main problem is finding a decent WP site theme that has what I need. My current site doesn't do IDX on the home page design like I thought it would when I purchased. And then sites that I do like keep adding on extra fees to get you started. It can be very frustrating. Now I'm learning the ins and outs and the language but I'll get there eventually. Again, thank you for sharing! - Jeff

Posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2014 at 10:54pm.

Jon wrote: Hi Andrew,

Great post. One question: what did you do with all your leads when you made the switch from IDX Broker? I assume you must have had people receiving property updates via email? Thanks!

Posted on Saturday, September 27th, 2014 at 12:54pm.

Andrew Fortune wrote: Great question Jon. I had to manually transfer each contact who was subscribed to my Wordpress site. It took me a few days.

Posted on Saturday, September 27th, 2014 at 1:09pm.

Brandi wrote: Thank you Andrew! I am constantly struggling to find the best solution. I went full custom and got my own feed directly from my MLS. My difficulty is in getting the database to respond quickly, indexing in the SERPS. I too have an REW site that I am testing on another domain I own and the individual property pages do rank far better than what I have. I have a bid for my main site but am having a very hard time with not owning the code at a $25,000 price point. So many things to consider as I researched IDX providers, etc. and I still come up with nothing is perfect. AHHHH. Someday right? Thanks again for all your insight.-Brandi

Posted on Friday, October 17th, 2014 at 10:09pm.

Michael Perna wrote: Seriously one of the best written articles in a long time. I do have a couple quick questions. Are you using REW backend or an outside system to incubate your leads? (Followup Boss, etc)? Also I'd love to hear more about your content and posting strategies, if there's a calender or system you've seen have success, and also how it's going a few months later on traffic and conversion rates with the site since the post.

Mike

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2014 at 7:06am.

Aviva wrote: Hi- great article, thanks for sharing. I'm currently looking at number of websites solutions. I've come across real geeks several times. They seem to get very good reviews but i've noticed that for many of the people reviewing it's their only review so wondering how legit those are. Curious to hear your thoughts on them. Thanks again.

Posted on Friday, November 7th, 2014 at 6:25am.

Steve wrote: Thanks for the post. We have followed a similar path since 2005 and tried almost every idx out there. We are starting on our next one now. Every few years we look at REW and it certainly has it's advantages. Good luck to you.

Posted on Friday, November 7th, 2014 at 7:55pm.

Bianca wrote: Seriously the best article on this topic ever!!! I'm your new fan.
Question: Have you written any articles about specific problems you ran into with DS? We are considering DS because they say their solution is the only one that is truly completely integrated and not an "iframe" What don't we know about that? Is it just too hard to customize? Would love to hear from you and thanks ever so much for your great posts.

Posted on Monday, November 17th, 2014 at 12:19pm.

Andrew Fortune wrote: Hi Bianca. Thanks for your comments. I have not wrote an article about my DS issues specifically. DS is definitely not the only non iframe solution though, so don't let them sell you on that. Most all of the big IDX providers are non-iframe. I don't even know of any the use iframes anymore. That's an old sales statement. My issue with DS is that their service is the least customizable (CSS coding) IDX solution and looks terrible on mobile, in my opinion. Over 40% of my traffic is mobile, so I can't deal with an IDX service that is not mobile friendly. They have a separate mobile platform, which is very generic.

Posted on Monday, November 17th, 2014 at 5:37pm.

Bruce Held wrote: Awesome article. I am searching for the right company to created a website, has a strong IDX, and an integrated CRM with drip campaigns. I am not tech savvy so I will do what I can regarding content however I do need support. I have been talking to Virtual Results which you do not mention.....your thoughts please.
I like REW although the expensive however they may be far too expensive if I need to spend ongoing to get my site to perform / deliver leads.

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 at 6:35pm.

Bruce Hiatt wrote: Great article Andrew. As a long term user of DS we are moving away from them. Their dsSearchAgent product uses ancient iframe non-responsive technology and their dsIDXpress plugin while good doesn't let you save searches nor interactive map search for an overall area. We are redeveloping all of our brokerage websites in WordPress and have a specific set of themes and technologies we have researched to be best for us. For IDX, we are using iHomeFinder on our San Francisco website and in the process of developing the site. So far we've found iHomeFInder to be responsive to our requests and suggestions. Appreciate anyone contacting iHomeFinder to try them out to mention my name so they know the source.

Posted on Sunday, January 18th, 2015 at 12:13am.

Nathan wrote: Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the post, was very informative. I'm a software developer and am helping a family member with their new real estate venture as a side project. Right now I'm trying to get my head around IDX, and there are a few things I'm unclear on.

It seems like IDX services exist solely to provide canned queries to your MLS and then present that info in a format that works with WordPress, hopefully integrating seamlessly into your theme. This seems like a very small amount of additional value to add for a service that costs so much. Does this setup exist simply because theme designers can't rely on a consistent standard coming from MLS, or am I misinterpreting things?

Thanks!

Posted on Sunday, January 18th, 2015 at 5:16pm.

Darren wrote: Andrew, and really to anyone who has been trying these plugins for Wordpress Im curious if anyone has used or tried a plugin I stumbled across called WPL Real Estate?

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015 at 10:32pm.

michele wrote: I am trying to develop this website using the REALTY program from Envato. I had IDX Broker for the old Dakno site (BeckyGloriod.com), and bought a temporary IDX Platinum for the development of the new site. When I started using the theme, I realized that they required dsIDXpress for the site. They charge $29.99/month plus $10.00/month for the PPAR MLS. IDX Broker would not refund our $59.99, even tho we've been clients for years, and still have websites using their services. THey became very snappy about us asking for a refund, even tho we are Berkshire Hathaway, and have a lot of sites under them.

What I am asking you is: do you know if it is necessary to use dsIDXpress for the REALTY theme from Envato Themeforest? I'm having a hard time figuring it all out, but know that support from IDX Broker is kind of, well, mean!

THanks for your blogs! They're awesome!

Posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2015 at 6:17pm.

Dan Zito wrote: Hi Andrew,

Thank you for the article. I wanted to share my experience with two of the IDX companies I have used. On my site I started with diverse solutions, from a SEO perspective it worked great, we ranked fairly well for address searches (top 20 for many listings, and even some top 5) with limited content development and no off site blogging or SEO. I switched to IDX broker because it looked a lot better, gave me better tools and I could customize the look. I've liked IDX broker a lot, the search is quick, my sellers like the featured listings, but idxbroker does have major draw backs as you mentioned above. (1) it is ugly and takes a lot of customization get to look good (2) They are not the best company when it comes to suggestions for improvement they like to tell you that is the way and deal with it as you stated above (for example their square footage search allows you to put in any number and will return results only for that exact square footage it is not intuitive that you can also put in a range which is how most people would search, and even though its a bad way to set that up they won't change) (3) No matter what they say, something about having the idx results in a sub-domain is bad for SEO. After nearly a year and with more intensive content development and SEO work the we are just now starting to see our sub-domain rank for keywords the diverse solutions ranked for in 2-3 months, and ranking for some of our own listings.

Posted on Friday, February 20th, 2015 at 1:47pm.

Ron Goodman wrote: Andrew,

I agree that REW builds some great looking and performing sites, if you can afford them and have the fortitude and time to build sufficient content to gain SEO traction. I had one of the early basic REW template sites Morgan references in his feedback for a couple of years. It was a great way to get started with SEO friendly integrated IDX after I struggled for years with various basic iframed IDX products and paying up to $900 a month for PPC leads.

But as a highly experienced programmer myself before I switched careers to real estate, there were just too many things I wanted to do with my site and its IDX. REW's approach, business model, and their per hour billing rates vs. my budget, just could not get that accomplished. In REW's defense, a big part of that was an issue with our MLS policies, which didn't allow custom IDX solutions for broker associates, and only permitted custom IDX for managing brokers. Since I wasn't a managing broker at the time, REW's "canned" IDX that they had to provide to all associate brokers in our market was severely constrained by this MLS rule.

So in 2009, I started looking for other solutions, focusing on IDX products that were compatible with and fully integrated (all IDX content seen by SEs as on the site's domain, not iframed or on a subdomain). It also had to be compatible with Joomla and/or WordPress platforms since I wanted an open source platform for my site. At the time, there were very few products that met these requirements. That's when I found The UltimateIDX, which was and still is primarily focused on the WordPress platform, but was also compatible with Joomla, which was my first preference. WordPress, at that time, was just not robust enough, especially for complex large site menu management, or secure enough, to do what I needed.

Thankfully, having already built hundreds of community and property type specific pages on my REW site, I was able to get a MySQL backup of my REW site's content pages, and with some effort, was able to import that content into the Joomla MySql database. It wasn't pretty, but that saved hundreds of hours of content conversion work. While my REW site was generating good organic traffic and a decent number of leads for my carefully targeted niche market keywords, within 60 days after conversion, my new site had 30% more visitor traffic and was generating 50% more leads than the REW site did at its peak, all from organic search results.

In late 2012, I finally converted the site from Joomla to WordPress, primarily to start taking advantage of the many 3rd party plugins that were then available. Plus, I was confident I could write my own WP plugins to do some pretty advanced things that I had in mind. By that time, there were WordPress plugins that could convert a Joomla database to WP, so that part was pretty easy. Wordpress was also much more stable and secure, with much better menu management tools and plugins than had been available in 2009.

Since then, I have continued to expand my WP site's pages, structure and content, primarily with plugins of my own creation. Those plugins implement very user friendly shortcodes to utilize the capabilities of the UltimateIDX product to its maximum. They also "learn", and can automatically create new WP content pages with integrated IDX results for each subdivision it encounters in the IDX/RETS database. From a REW site with about 500 pages in 2009, my site now has over 5800 WP content pages, plus many thousands more pages that are actually integrated IDX search results summaries and property details. In all, over 58,000 pages of my site are now indexed by Google and the other SEs. As a result, it now generates significant visitor traffic and leads, all from organic SEO.

Pros of UltimateIDX on WP:
- Fully integrated with the WP website. All IDX results are pages on the site's primary domain, not on the vendor's site, and not on a subdomain.
- Inexpensive to get started, as long as they already support your MLS. They currently support Metrolist (aka REColorado), IRes and PPAR in our Colorado market, as well as several others nationwide.
- You can choose your own WP theme, customize the theme as you like, and easily switch themes since it is all on WP.
- You own and control all site content, and can use whatever other WP plugins you want and need to supplement it. For example, one broker here in Denver has various property management WP plugins and features on his site.
- Current WP menu management tools, plus a couple of 3rd party plugins, allows for very complex and multiple menus, which are key to a very large site with lots of content pages. No REW site or any other CMS that I have found can deal with menus for the thousands of content pages that may be needed for great SEO.
- Possible to extensively customize each site's IDX display content, layout and colors, if your MLS allows and you have some html and css technical skills. If you don't, they can do it (for a fee of course) or you can hire a local programmer to do it for you. No other IDX product I have found allows this kind of user customization capability.
- Fairly decent backend and lead management CRM. Better than some I have seen and used, but limited and dated compared to some others. See cons below.

Cons of UltimateIDX:
- Available in a relatively small number of markets. If your MLS and market is not yet supported, they can do it for a price, but it may take some time to get it done.
- Very small company and staff. Limited support, though my issues have been pretty minimal and are usually quickly resolved.
- Lead management backend and CRM have not kept up with the times. They really need to improve here. However, they do support automatic synchronization of all new leads to Wise Agent, immediately as they register, so no manual export/import processes are needed. Wise Agent provides many capabilities that the Ultimate IDX product does not.
- Can be difficult to customize the IDX css and content unless you are really technical, as I am, or can find someone willing and able to do it for you. This is supposed to be a lot easier with an upcoming new WP plugin and new release of the product.
- If you are not fully comfortable managing a WP website, including keeping it up to date with new WP and plugin releases and building your own content pages and complex menus, you may want a more "turn key" solution, or hire someone who is able to help.

Disclosures:
- While I am primarily an independent real estate broker in Denver and that is 95% of my income, I also have started a side business to help other brokers, locally and nationwide, build WP websites and integrate various IDX products, not only from The Ultimate IDX, but also several of those mentioned in Andrew's post.
- Before and during my REW days, I became kind of an expert in Google AdWords for real estate, and have done a lot of AdWords consulting. In fact, at the first ever REW user conference in 2009, I was the featured speaker on that topic. Morgan also hired me to set up AdWords for REW's own marketing efforts. Until I dropped my REW site, I was the "go to" guy REW referred PPC consulting work to. Of course they do that internally now for their clients.

Posted on Monday, February 23rd, 2015 at 6:58pm.

Tom K wrote: Hi - I noticed that the Denver MLS has chosen MyBuyingBuddy.com as their preferred IDX vendor, and was wondering if anybody has had any experience with their IDX/CRM boxed solution? There are not many IDX service providers out there who also provide CRM, so the service is compelling, but I can't find any reviews out there. I appreciate all of your blogging regarding the process for creating a realtor website, I know how painful it can be... BTW..i've been using IDXBroker for years and I feel your pain there too! ;-)

Thanks,

Tom

Posted on Sunday, March 1st, 2015 at 7:18pm.

Dianne Hicks wrote: Thank you so much... this was a really great content and very helpful overview of your experience and detailed feedback about experiences... and pros and cons.... also interesting helpful comments...

Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2015 at 4:50pm.

Tara wrote: Great article & thank you for going in-depth on your experience. We switched to the iHomeFinder WordPress widget last year & have been happy with it so far. Our load time was slow at first, but sped up within a few weeks. I don't know if it was due to a plugin update or because of our cache system (CloudFlare). We're looking at options for a 2nd site & may use the iHomeFinder plugin again, but I'm researching other options now, which is how I found your post. Almost 60% of our traffic comes from mobile so whatever we get HAS to look good on small screen. Thanks again for sharing!

Posted on Thursday, April 9th, 2015 at 1:46pm.

Jeffrey Hogue wrote: Hands down, I tried many of the IDX companies you mentioned and more. I finally found a small company that has the best of all...Price / SEO / Great Format and my customers love it... spotonconnect.com Tell em Jeff from Berks County sent ya.

Posted on Monday, May 4th, 2015 at 1:41am.

Jonathan Bowen wrote: IDXCentral is the provider of my beautiful WordPress real estate site and IDXCentral uses iHomeFinder as one of its IDX vendors but iHomeFinder won't directly support my iHomeFinder issues. I called iHomeFinder support today and the woman that I spoke with told me that I have to contact IDXCentral for my iHomeFinder issues. Why would iHomeFinder add a ridiculously inconvenient step in getting support for its clients? This is infuriating!

Posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 at 10:07am.

Chip Armstrong wrote: You should attend the REW Summit in Austin on December 2nd and 3rd.

Posted on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 at 3:44pm.

Carl Johnston wrote: Hi Andrew - great series so far. I have really enjoyed your analyses.

What do you think of using IDX Broker now that they have addressed many of the issues you made in the first blog post - would you still advise against it?

Have you heard of Realtyna (developer of WPL Real Estate plugin on Wordpress)? They have a solution that gives you the RETS/MLS data with full control with the ability to store the data in the cloud. The plugin is pretty pricey ($950 USD) and you would need a pretty powerful hosting solution but it looks like a good solution as well (besides the high upfront cost).

Appreciate your writing on this topic.

Cheers!
Carl

Posted on Saturday, June 13th, 2015 at 6:09pm.

Ginger Coolidge wrote: Greetings Andrew, its so nice to see someone (and a few others in the comments) that "get it" regarding the value of their web site and IDX in the real estate industry. You cannot go on the cheap and expect results. Full disclosure - I currently work with a few WordPress premium theme shops, one is a real estate theme that I'm proud to say Garrett's Realty Group is using. However, I'm not not trying to sales-pitch :-), just share my experiences.

My background is in programming, and I'll always be on the tech side, however I am a licensed broker in Texas and am working on a hyper local site for curated content. Also my #1 thing is to offer ad-free IDX searches where the registration is optional, the user will NEVER be contacted unless they ask to be, etc. I want to offer a safe search zone if you will.

Anyway, to give my two cents in the IDX comments -- I have worked with IDX Broker and specifically their basic search widget integrating it within WordPress theme's search bars. It is tough and is a LOT of CSS. No options for horizontal or vertical searches, you'd better know some advanced CSS to make the horizontal happen. They use unfriendly element names. Their site and backend dashboard has an old look and feel and many things you can tell have "just been that way" for a long time. The fact that you cannot search on a zip code is, well, nuts. When pressed a colleague of mine was told "well you can code it using the API if you really want it" That said, their stuff does work. Also, if you have the skills to style the templates it can look REALLY sharp on your own site or clients. So it's definitely an option that will stay in my/our toolbox.

Another oldie, Diverse Solutions (dsIDXPress, dsSearch) is out now. They recently released a series of updates to their plugin that broke all existing clients using it with any customizations. I mean really good and broken -- like changing widget and element names so your CSS is now random text floating around. Sadly, they are blaming theme shops and/or WordPress updates when it is very clear so many things changed. So, they are no longer supported.

The newbie (to me) was iHomeFinder I stumbled across several months ago. I am using that for my curated project and will let you know how it goes. I was really impressed with their webinars and support and the contact I've had thus far with several members of the company, and I haven't paid them a dime yet. The IDX plugin works out of the box in vertical or horizontal widgets -- no coding necessary unless you might want to reduce some padding. I hadn't planned on using the gallery or sliders because, well , I don't like sliders (https://yoast.com/opinion-on-sliders/ ) and actually for my curation project I'm using their non-plugin idx service via short codes. I love the options offered for ways you can integrate into your own site.

One more IDX service I will mention is Wolfnet. Wolfnet has a WordPress plugin that integrates nicely with your WordPress site (for SEO) Their backend dashboard isn't pretty (looks 90s) and the scripts you copy/paste into your text widgets are lengthy with markup, but by the same token you have a lot of control on what goes in them and you're not waiting on scripts to download. The search widget in the plugin we were able to style horizontal in only 3 or 4 CSS entires, very convenient. Another reason I mention them is apparently they have teamed up with Keller Williams (not sure if they are in Colorado) and the agents have that as part of their KW back-office offerings. One pro-tip here, the agents do not receive an API key unless they request it. You need the API key to use the plugin on a WordPress site. So, those are the IDX services I know about from the dev side, I haven't used them from the day-to-day brokerage side which I acknowledge is most important. One other that looked promising was ShowcaseIDX but their MLS boards supported did not include NTREIS so I cannot use them. Their support was helpful though. Thanks much for reading my ramblings!

Posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 at 10:11am.

BOB Darr wrote: Onjax. Love to hear your thoughts.

Posted on Sunday, July 12th, 2015 at 12:29pm.

Dale Stouffer wrote: We're a small IDX company in Phoenix AZ. Not too many people know about us. We're a WP based IDX company. We also build our own themes based on the StudioPress Genesis platform. Our sites are hosted on Amazon's AWS Cloud platform - an environment we had built - you could say it's a managed WP hosting platform. We're not in many MLS's but will go where demand takes us. We have a unique approach to what we offer our clients - a fast way to blog using MLS content. You want to talk about hyper local content - our system is built for just exactly that. On top of that we have a blogging subscription service that publishes a post a day - all MLS search based blog posts. We also train our clients how to use WP - which very few developers/web companies will do. We provide support, IDX subscription and hosting with one bundled fee. We're connecting to a few CRM's at the moment and will soon have our own integrated What's My Home Worth landing page built in that provides a value range while encouraging the visitor to fill out a form to get a more detailed value from the website owner (the agent). No need for multiple systems - all designed to market the agent. We're affordable, but not "cheap" and you own your site. We come from the mortgage, real estate and title industries with our experience dating back to the late 80's. So we're not just a bunch of tech wanna be's trying to sell real estate technology. Our experiences have gone into our technology and marketing solutions for our clients. Ok, nuff said - feel free to check us out. Dale

Posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 at 10:39pm.

Jake Mabus wrote: Andrew,

Thank you for the great review! I am going to move forward with REW. A few things concern me after the initial excitement of most of the features I too have been looking for in a website and are mostly avaliable at a cost I am begrudgingly going to pay. (By the way, your story and experience in growth are very similar. I appreciate finding someone out there I can relate to!)
At this point! I have had an IDX Broker account attached to my WordPress site that I just dismantled because of performance issues. What concerns me the most with this company is the reviews about the workplace on glassdoor.com! It is troubling to hear about this company's distrust amongst it's employees and all of the mismanagement that seems to plague it's image from the tech guru's point of view. As I am a wannabe techy, I value their opinions.
There product, I may love it. However my fear is a "flash in the pan" type of start up. As much as I am looking to rebrand my business I fear loosing it all with a company that will possibly die because of the owner failing to recognize that getting out of the way of his idea will actually allow it to prosper and expand more than if he continues to have a strangle hold on the management. Funny or not, "Silicone Valley" comes to mind but in a less cohesive work environment if you will. What are your thoughts about this?
I love what they done so far and I personally have been trying to create something like this for years! I recognize the fact that it has proven to be a giant undertaking and I applaud the CEO's drive but also fear it. I am optimistic but equally apprehensive. Your thoughts would be a very welcomed in my world right now. Thanks in advance.

Jake

Posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 at 6:14am.

@AgentSteph wrote: Man, this is a a great post and a great thread. Congrats! I can't image giving up my WP site. Nope. Just couldn't do it. I'd like to give a second shoutout to ShowcaseIDX out of Atlanta. They are small but spunky. The price is right too. I was a long time DS user and finally had enough. I get it.

Posted on Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 at 10:20pm.

Ace Apichard wrote: Great Post Andrew!!!
I really wished that I found this blog prior to spending 60-80 hours on my site, but after reading how much REW would be and the fact that I'm a new agent, there is no way I would spend that kind of money right now. So, I went with IDXBroker for now and I really don't like their sub domain solution as I'm sure one day I will switch over to another IDX service provider as I mature in my real estate business.

Curious to know what happen to all your organic SEO traffic when you switched away from IDX Broker's subdomain? Did you lose a lot of traffic because it that? Did your SEO rankings go down at all?

Gratitude,

Posted on Monday, November 2nd, 2015 at 6:32pm.

Byron wrote: Great post! I have been thinking about leaving IDX Broker for some time now. Thinking about using Real Geeks but not ready to go to REW yet. I believe your website was an example on IDX Broker years ago. Thanks for being straight forward in your post. Please do post if you find a custom IDX solution that can be used without a third party.

Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 at 1:41pm.

Eric Transue wrote: Excellent post. I went back and forth a lot before finally deciding on Real Geeks. I loved what I read about REW, just couldn't justify it with the budget I had at the time. Awesome to see the SEO success you've had with your site.

Posted on Friday, November 27th, 2015 at 12:40am.

cody wrote: Thanks for all the information, it was a nightmare when I learned that proper integration is basically either a $50+/monthly fee or thousands for a custom solution. At this point (brand new agent in the industry) I'll have to ride my little Wordpress page into the sunset and hope for the best. Although I did find it odd that you seemed to indicate that WP driven sites are punished by Google. I created a bunch of WP sites for a recruiting firm and all perform very well under major keywords.

Posted on Monday, November 30th, 2015 at 3:07am.

Steve Tuminello wrote: This is an amazing post! Thank you for taking the time to write it. I am glad to see another Realtor out there who is into writing code and developing their own website opposed to using third party services. I am recently in the market to develop a new website so start ranking on the Google search pages and am glad I came across your post. I am not as far into the learning curve as you are. I am currently polishing up my skills on CSS.

Posted on Monday, February 8th, 2016 at 2:47pm.

Ryan wrote: Real Estate Webmasters is way too expensive. $1900 setup for just turning on your website and then hundreds of dollars a month after that. I would be willing to pay a few hundred dollars a month, but $1900 setup is a joke. They are limiting themselves and losing money. The key here is to get webmasters into their system paying a monthly fee. Not scare them away on day one.

Posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 at 4:20pm.

Ron Goodman wrote: A lot has happened since my original post to this thread just a year ago. Google has increased its emphasis on mobile responsiveness and page load times. More and more IDX vendors have entered the Wordpress integrated marketplace, with enhanced and mobile responsive products and many with better CRM backends. The competition in this space has definitely heated up!

One of the vendors that has finally stepped up is MyBuyingBuddy, a local product here in Denver and also in Colorado Springs, and which has been expanding its national market presence significantly. It was a product that I had and loved before I went with REW in 2007. At the time, they were just not committed to full IDX integration the same way that Morgan and REW were, and I needed, and were still IFramed. Thus my search for another solution at the time.

But as many others have expressed in this thread, the ongoing cost of maintaining and enhancing a REW site to keep up with the times was why I eventually went with Joomla, then when it eventually was a more solid CMS platform, WordPress, using an IDX vendor that was thankfully compatible with both of those open source platforms. But that vendor has recently decided that keeping up with the competition was not going to happen with their product and resources, one of the points I made in my first post. Now, for several reasons, I have come full circle and have implemented the relatively recently released MyBuyingBuddy WordPress plugin on my now long established WordPress site.

Over many years, through several platforms and IDX vendors, and especially in the last 12 months, I have continually been adding to the content on my site, all on the same domain regardless of the platform. And at the same time, I have been trying to keep up with the technology changes. Fortunately for me, WordPress just keeps getting better and better. Over time, I have learned how to take advantage of its capabilities to improve SEO and greatly expand the content on my site. A big factor in that has been the ability to leverage my past programming experience and skills to develop a WP plugin that is able to use the IDX products I have had on the site to automate much of the content creation process. One of the early implementations of this kind of technology is a site very familiar to many here in the Denver market, COHomeFinder.com. As I studied that site, it became apparent that the majority of its content had to be directly and automatically generated from data in the MLS databases it used. The common layout of its pages and links structures, its dynamic and rapid growth in content, and therefore its dominance of local SERPS, was apparent.

So, with a similar concept in mind, along with an acceptance that I, like most other agents, would never dedicate the time and effort to manually create new content one page at a time, I committed myself to replicating at least part of their success, in my own small way, with my own custom programmed WordPress plugin and the IDX product I already had. That plugin has evolved over time, and is now the core of my site. I has allowed me, with a minimum of effort, to grow its content from a few hundred pages in its REW days, to over 9,000 WP pages today. Plus the search engines see many more thousands of pages produced by plugin generated IDX custom search links, plus IDX property details. It's a good thing that I designed and developed the plugin to be as IDX vendor and MLS independent as I could make it, because in December 2015, I was going to be forced to switch to a different IDX vendor myself, and that was not something I had ever anticipated having to do.

Because it was and is almost entirely parameter driven as to the WP shortcodes it generates, and I had already implemented it for agents in several other markets, not just Denver, I was able to consider several other vendors that now have WP plugin products, IHomeFinder among them. However, after experimenting for just a few days with their product, it was apparent to me that it did not have the flexibility I needed, in particular the limited number of search criteria it allowed. Like most national IDX products, it uses what I call a "least common denominator" approach. To me, that means all of the basic search criteria are covered, but not the ability to search for horse property, patio homes, age restricted homes and condos, gated communities, golf course communities, homes with pools, mountain views, waterfront homes in for markets where that is important, and all the myriad of other niche long tail keyword phrases that my site targets and excels at in the search engines. This was one of the key issues with my basic REW site and its basic IDX as well.

So, after considering and actually trying our several alternatives, I selected and came back to MyBuyingBuddy and its recently released WP plugin. Once I had the MBB plugin installed, the implementation, consisting of changing my plugin's programming to automatically generate the appropriate shortcode syntax and criteria, took less than a week. Two weeks after project start, it was up and running live on my existing WP site, with barely a hiccup. And because it was the same WP content pages, it was all the same urls as before. There was no need to do any 301 redirects except for property details pages, which I was able to do with a single .htaccess rule. My site never dropped in the SERPS in the two months since conversion, and has retained its 58,0000 to 60,000 indexed page count in Google.

My biggest challenge has been overall site appearance, because I am just not a visually acute person. Functionality has always ruled over appearance. But after some user and peer feedback on that point, I have tried to make the site more visually appealing and modern looking. The now stable WP platform, plus the very flexible, and easy to configure and mobile responsive theme I implemented 18 month ago, have allowed for significant and relatively easy improvements in that area, without the many thousands of dollars a REW site redesign would have cost. Now, the site is full width on whatever screen size the user may have, and fully mobile responsive on any device.

So, for any of you out there looking at less costly alternatives to REW, with all of the advantages of integrated IDX content and strong SEO power, plus flexible and low cost design capabilities, they are out there. The one I recently switched to may not be in your particular market yet. But I think all of the IDX vendors are finally seeing the light, and if they don't already have a fully integrated WP plugin product already, they soon will have, or they will be left in the dust. This is just my own opinion, which I shared with Morgan at REW in 2009.

Posted on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016 at 11:57pm.

Stavros Mitchelides wrote: Your links to Garretts Realty Group for an example ihomefinder website actually go to a Real Estate Webmasters site, so he too must have switched?

Posted on Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 at 6:16pm.

Johnny wrote: Hi Andrew,

Great article. i am wondering what your experiences have been since you wrote this article which I am so relieved that someone writes the proper way, straight up and no BS. I am using iHomefinder and I feel the solution works eel for the most part but has limitations. i.e. If within my MLS I can search on multi unit in a specific area, on iHomefinder they do not have the same functionality even though the data is there. There support desk says its the way they receive the data and that they put the request in a queue and when there are enough people requesting the functionality then they escalate the process. Just wondering your thoughts. Click on my website and at the top right you will see my email address. Thanks...

Posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 at 7:24am.

Mary O'Neil wrote: I looked into REW, but the price seemed so prohibitive, when there's so much you can do with Wordpress! IDX Broker and some of the other IDX providers are impossible to deal with and offer pretty mediocre products, but there are a few out there that offer solid products for under $80 a mo.

Posted on Saturday, July 23rd, 2016 at 10:20am.

Cathie Lewis wrote: Hi Andrew - I am just building my website and have a young fellow handling it for me as I am not even close to being tech savy, but I recognize the intense need for having a very good website. In addition to lacking in tech skills, I also lack financially. I will definitely need to follow the organic methods to make things work. I came across your first blog when you were finished with IDX broker, over 2 years ago, of course IDX Broker continues to have a strong market share and it has been recommended as the way to go. I see that you are using Webmasters and I am not certain I can afford it but would like your opinion now that you have been using it for a solid year. In your IDX Broker rant, you mentioned Danko, this being one of the models that I have also been looking at. I would love to read an update from you. Thanks much -

Posted on Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 at 2:45pm.

Jeffrey Williams wrote: LeadIDX has a very robust SEO friendly system. You can view a demo at http://leadidx.com, the price is good and the features are good. You can see pricing and all details at their website.

Posted on Friday, November 4th, 2016 at 4:09pm.

Andrew Mooers wrote: The delivery of the local community information and best presentation of property listings is a constant battle. We have more than one site on tap and always looking for better ways to connect and engage to save buyers time and frustration. Not all of them are black belt surfers but you need the tools to go light speed, more advanced if they have those sklils and little time.

Posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 at 6:54pm.

Joy Bender wrote: Hi thank you for sharing your comprehensive article. I am currently at a crossroads after just paying a large amount of $ for a redesign. IDXBROKER does not support HTTPS. Therefore searchers are now warned when the search redirects to the subdomain they are searching on something non secure. My bounce rate has started to climb up now near 77% in the last 30 days. I'm finding the only two idx solutions in San Diego that support HTTPS are real estate webmasters and potentially Sandior our local mls itself. The only issue I forsee with real estate webmasters is their commitment to speed. I ran a local agents community page on GTMetrix and was surprised to find there were speed optimization flaws.

Posted on Saturday, February 25th, 2017 at 11:16am.

joy bender wrote: IDX Broker is not SSL https compliant and my bounce rate has steadily increased since mid January up 15% Time to find a new solution. Biggest concern I have with real estate webmasters is lack of control. I have 3,000 pages and posts with idxbroker widgets and saved links that I'll need to switch out because we are looking at 500-700 hours of labor. Will they allow an agent access to build these and update the site?

Posted on Saturday, February 25th, 2017 at 12:29pm.

Tom McVeigh wrote: I have been using Wordpress and IDX Broker (Original) for 4 years and I will have to migrate to Platinum soon. I am intrigued about the amount of time and energy and money so may people spend on trying to find the perfect IDX solution. In my opinion if you are not appearing in the top 3 organic results of google then your web site is of little value. We generate about 50% of our leads from our web site because we appear in the top 3 organic results for approximately 50 key search phrases. Whether the IDX results are hosted or displayed on our own wed site or they are in a frame or whether they are in a cloud has nothing to do with the way we have achieved success. I hesitate to share the keys to our success but here goes ...

First ... if you are in a large metropolitan market it is extremely unlikely that you can rank in the top 3 organically for anyone searching for "Homes for Sale in XXXXX". The national web sites will almost always rank higher. The way to drive SEO results is to select NICHE markets that buyers cannot easily search for on a national web site. As an example .... "Homes for sale with first floor master bedrooms". We focus on about 8 niche markets and we appear in the top 3 organic results whether the buyer is looking for the "niche phrase" by town, school district, county, zip or metropolitan area.

Second: The landing page for each niche market must NOT contain any IDX results ... rather it should have links which obtain the IDX results. This is why the technical superiority of the IDX vendor does not matter ... as long as the user then gets a reasonable response time when they follow a link. With this strategy the SEO ranking has nothing to do with the IDX feed ... it is almost totally dependent on the content of the landing page and the response time of the Wordpress hosting site. The landing page URL is critical and must contain the "Niche" phrase and the landing page must contain content regarding the various locations that buyers may use when they search for the "niche phrase".

Between having a user experience where their search results find a web page appearing in the top 3 organic results that allows the user to retrieve IDX data with just average response time and in a format that is decent but not state of the art ... compared to ,,, a web site that has blazing fast IDX response time that looks amazing but does not produce search results in the first page of google ... the former will win out every time.

I would welcome comments to my post. Am I missing something by discounting the importance of the IDX vendor?

Posted on Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 at 7:11pm.

christiana wrote: This is a great post. I like this topic.This site has lots of advantage.I found many interesting things from this site. It helps me in many ways.Thanks for posting this.

Posted on Monday, October 30th, 2017 at 5:05am.

Chris Buckely wrote: I too found Ihomefinder to be slow. I did get good organic seo though. I liked the customization options with dsidx but it was also slow as well. I am going to look into ultimate idx, and realtyna. Love your infographs by the way! What program do you use to create?

Posted on Sunday, November 5th, 2017 at 9:02pm.

Corinne Guest wrote: Found this post today, 3 days after I committed to REW. It takes a lot to commit the funds and I have wanted to fo a while. Super pleased to have read this article. My current site does Ok but I know it could do better. IDX Broker listings now seem to be no longer indexed, my traffic has plummeted. So 2018 will see the launch of my new REW site.

Posted on Monday, November 20th, 2017 at 1:25pm.

Jeanne wrote: Thank you for the frank detailed experiences you encountered using the vast array of assorted products available for Real Estate web sites. I am a non tech new realtor in Florida and realize the importance of understanding this but what a jungle out there! I have been focused on commercial leasing and selling in 2017, my first year in the biz, and now need to ramp it up (and include residential, with scaleable systems of which a website is the foundation in my opinion. Question: On a beginners budget < $2000 (and a reasonably low monthly amount) including IDX, CRM, Blog, And plenty of pages to feature 6 to 8 market segments and utilize social media smoothly, What would you recommend as a perfect package of products? Then perhaps 2nd year upgrades that could be add on and not start overs?? Thank you

Posted on Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 at 8:26am.

Kevin Morales Realtor® wrote: I just switched to Onjax a couple months ago. Although I like it a lot over the previous IDX I used it does have some limitations I would like to have control of. The header and footer most of all. With that said it is very easy to create new pages and doesn't take long. Their support has also been very helpful during the changeover.

I also contemplated using Wolfnet which aslo seems promising for SEO, but decided at the last minute to use Onjax.

...and yes a superb article. I was looking for an answer to an Onjax question when I found it.

Posted on Monday, June 4th, 2018 at 9:45am.

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