I have to admit, I am often temped to include signup forms on our client’s MLS and map search pages. After all, my job is to create real estate websites that fills my client’s inbox with lots of leads. But I always advise against doing so. Why? Well that’s exactly what this blog post is all about.
It’s not an equal playing field
Most real estate agents who require visitors to sign up to search the MLS think there is a balance of power. The agent has something the visitor wants (MLS access to thousands of homes), and the website visitor has something the real estate agent wants (their contact information). But here is the reality. It’s not equal. The site visitor is holding all the cards. The visitor doesn’t need you or your website. After all, if they do make it to your website and see that you require them to sign up to search for homes, they could give bogus information or easily hit that looming back button and move on to any of the other million or so results that Google has retrieved. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that they could search Realtor.com, Google Real Estate, Trulia, and so on.
Go After The Savvy Ones
The California Association of Realtors recently conducted a study comparing Traditional Buyers vs. Internet Savvy Buyers. The results were quite amazing. It turns out that Internet Savvy made much better clients than Traditional Buyers. They require you to show them less houses, they buy quicker, and they require less work on your part. So how does this relate to the forced registration vs. free search debate? Internet Savvy Buyers will typically find another resource if they see a website where they have to sign up to search for homes. But traditional buyers with less experience on the internet will simply follow the instructions. This means that you are actually pushing away the “easy” clients and catering to the clients that are going to make your life more difficult.
Extra Hoops for a Real Lead
Strangely enough, forcing visitors to sign up on your real estate website actually makes it less likely to receive quality leads. Why? When it comes to home searches, one of the best leads is a request for a showing. But by forcing visitors to first sign up, you are putting one more road block between them and that precious “Request a Showing” form.
Be a Leader and Not a Follower
There are a few real estate agents that require their visitors to register before searching the MLS. They seem to operate in clusters. While it may be easy to follow the crowd, the reality is that you have an excellent opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competition. While everyone else is making people mouse in handcuffs, you can shout it from the rooftops that you allow people to freely search without requiring people to register.
Search Engine Optimization
Oh yeah. Requiring visitors to sign up effects your search engine optimization also. This is because Google can’t “sign up” to search the MLS. This means that all those pages that Google would otherwise know about goes into a black hole. Ouch!
The List Goes On
There are more reasons such as having to deal with all the firstname.lastname@example.org leads clogging your inbox and database, pushing away repeat visitors and the appearance as a gatekeeper but you get the idea.
But I need More Leads!
So what’s the answer if you are not getting enough leads? The first step is to not make things worse by putting more stipulations on your site visitor. The savvy ones are too smart for that. Instead, take the opposite approach with your real estate web design. Give even more information away! Make it easier and faster for a visitor to get the information they need. Become the true resource for information in your area. It’s only then that all those savvy visitors will start flooding your inbox with their information.
|Feature||Free MLS Search||Forced MLS SignUp|
|Search Engine Optimization||Yes. Google can freely index the content.||No. Google cannot access the MLS because they can’t sign up|
|Viral Marketing||Yes. Unique and Easy to use MLS search features are shard though out the online community (including bloggers)||No. Nothing to see because it’s hidden behind a sign up form.|
|Attracts Internet Savvy Buyers||Yes. Savvy Buyers know the internet is all about information. They respect sites that are “transparent.”||No. Savvy buyers will move on to a site where they can freely search.|
|Quality Leads||Yes. Since internet savvy buyers are encouraged to use your site as a resource, and therefore know exactly what they want when they contact you.||No. Searching your site makes it more difficult. This means that they require more time and resources from the agent.|
|Positive Trust Transference||Yes. Psychology says that people use trust association and transfer that trust to other aspects. Since the MLS Search is transparent. They assume the Agent will not try to hold back any information||No. People will associate the agent as a gatekeeper.|