Welcome Scott Davis To Our Engineering Team

Photo: Kelly Heck

Recently, we've been busy expanding our engineering team and we're very happy to announce Scott Davis as Showcase IDX’s newest in-house software engineer. He is our first Showcase IDX team member that is not located in Atlanta full time. Scott calls 200 acres of farmland in Maryland home.

Prior to Showcase IDX Scott has worked with a wide range of companies and organizations, from Tourbuzz (A management platform for real estate photographers) to NASA. Yes, that NASA. He didn't fly any of the the shuttles, but he did work on Hubble Space Telescope. Scott has over 16 years of software development under his belt, specializing in highly-scalable software architecture and team leadership.

In his free time, he enjoys wood and metal working, robotics, studying algorithms, and working with Elixir. We are really happy with the development team we're building and excited that Scott is on board!

Welcome Josh Sandlin To The Showcase IDX Team

We're excited to introduce the newest member of our team, Josh Sandlin. Josh will be joining our development team as a backend engineer. He will be working on the technology behind the scenes that makes Showcase IDX tick and working to ensure that the technology scales smoothly as we continue our growth.

Josh has a strong technical background, including stints at both startup and enterprise companies. Notably, he spent some formative years at Adult Swim which is a division of Turner/Time Warner. At Turner, Josh contributed to an impressive array projects from front-end, back-end, to DevOps assignments.

In Josh's spare time, he enjoys playing with the cats at Java Cats Cafe and is on a quest to catch all of the Pokemon in Atlanta's Piedmont Park. We can't be more excited to have Josh on this ride with us!

Google Analytics Lead Conversion Tracking

Today, Showcase IDX has released some new updates and improvements to how it handles Google Analytics and in particular how Showcase IDX works with Google Tag Manager within WordPress. To ensure that all page views and conversions are counted and sent to Google, we now have a new setting within the SEO Settings for your Google Analytics Tracking Code ID (UA Code).

Happy Customers = Pizza

Just a quick thank you to all our customers for being so awesome! In particular, Wayne Stratton, who is not only a customer but also a website developer that uses Showcase IDX on all the websites he builds! Wayne bought the Showcase IDX office lunch this week and we couldn't be more thankful!

To be clear, we don't assume that any of our customers are going to buy us pizza, but we certainly do appreciate the kind gesture. We must be doing something right to have such great customers... and pizza! 😉

Scott.

Showcase IDX Closes Private Equity Investment Round

Today, Showcase IDX, an Atlanta-based real estate technology company that provides IDX home search and consumer engagement tools for WordPress to real estate agents, teams, and brokers has successfully closed its first-ever round of investment from a private equity source. Specific terms of this investment will remain private.

For over 12 years, Showcase IDX has been self-funded and its growth bootstrapped through increases in its revenue. This investment represents a significant amount of capital that the company will use to continue to innovate and address the current and future needs of real estate agents, teams, and brokers. 

Showcase IDX's Google XML Sitemaps Updated

Showcase IDX has launched a fully updated (rebuilt from scratch) and significantly improved version of our automated IDX listing page XML Sitemaps for Google Search Console. This update is already live and there is nothing that you need to do to enable this new version. 

Showcase IDX and SEO Explained

TLDR; Showcase IDX Listing Detail Pages and Hotsheets are pre-rendered on your WordPress server and the IDX content appears to search engines as native HTML content, because it is. The plugin also lets you customize all the things you'd expect to customize, like page titles, meta descriptions, and listing page URL structures. SEO is not an afterthought.

When talking about SEO, we always like to start with our high-level approach, because these tenets are what we have built our SEO strategy around and underlie all of our SEO decisions. It’s valuable to get out of the weeds and look at what Google, in particular, is trying to achieve. Google is only valuable to users (and therefore profitable) if its users get the most relevant results using it. Everything we do in terms of SEO has to be looked at through this lens. What you show Google on your website has to be authoritative, cohesive and relevant.

Search engines like Google and Bing are constantly changing the indicators they consider and their corresponding weights in an effort to rank content and provide the best, most relevant results. You can chase these changes, but there are some generally accepted best practices that we follow to ensure that our IDX adds value to your website in terms of SEO. We built Showcase IDX around these best practices. We know that this approach is different from other IDXs out there, but once you’ve seen what we do, we think you’ll really like it — and the results it gets you. To start, we’ve deeply integrated our IDX into the WordPress platform while respecting the WordPress codebase and processes.

Before we get into the details of our SEO strategy and implementation, we should probably say up front that we don’t use iFrames because they are garbage and don’t index at all. We also don’t use subdomains or other domains/websites to host your search pages.

How Showcase IDX Renders Search Engine Optimized Pages

Our goal with embedding hotsheets on community pages is to let you feature sets of listing results that are highly relevant to your other community/landing page content, your market and your website, therefore pushing the value of these pages above your competition. Showcase IDX pre-renders hotsheet results on your WordPress server, not in the browser. This means that native HTML is loaded into the actual browser page at the server level, not the browser or indexer-level.  Here’s a quick explanation of how we work with your WordPress application server to render SEO-optimized pages:

The links to the listing pages from these hotsheet results are real HTML “A HREF” links. There is no dynamic loading whatsoever from hotsheet results, just standard links to listing detail pages that are, in turn, pre-rendered in the same manner as the hotsheets to make them accessible to search engines.

In the code of any page with a hotsheet embedded, you will see some Showcase IDX metadata inserted into the header, some of our JavaScript that our plugin uses to add additional functionality to the page (this can also include some information about the listing and/or hotsheets results), and the HTML that is used to display our content on the screen. The HTML is what search engines are looking at when they index your website.

Listing Detail Pages are generated in the same way as hotsheet content, except your WordPress server interprets the URL information instead of a shortcode to generate the correct listing detail HTML content.

XML Sitemap
An XML Sitemap URL is automatically generated for every individual website in your Showcase IDX account. It can be found in your SEO settings page. We highly recommend that you submit your XML Sitemap to Google through your Google Search Console. Your XML Sitemap contains a complete index of all the listing detail pages available on your website at any given time. This sitemap is updated continuously as we add/edit/delete listings from the MLS. So for an MLS, we have on a 10-minute update cycle, this XML Sitemap has the potential to be automatically updated up to 144 times a day. This would be rare, but it could happen based on MLS activity in a 24-hour period.

SEO Customizations
Showcase IDX lets you customize a number of elements for your listing detail page: URL template, page title, and meta description. You can add a combination of dynamic and static elements to these to create your own custom versions. We do not support custom Meta Keywords, as Google has been pretty clear that they don’t do anything anymore and they are used extensively in keyword comparison and marketing tools.

Playing Well With Yoast And Other SEO Plugins
Showcase IDX was built to work alongside popular SEO plugins, like Yoast, right out of the box.

Other Important SEO Factors
There are other factors that go into being highly indexable beyond customizing URLs, page titles, and meta tags. Page Load Time is also exceedingly important, and we’ve made every effort to reduce page payload size and the number of separate server calls to ensure that the page loads as fast as possible. This is something that we’re always optimizing.

The other big thing that a lot of people don’t really talk about is the Bounce Rate, which is the number of visitors who leave your website after only viewing one page. This goes back to Google’s main goal: providing useful results. To this end, we’ve designed our listing detail pages to load fast and be instantly engaging. We put big photos, the listing history, and saved search above the fold on many screen sizes and made everything work and look great for those viewing your site on their phones. Our goal is to show your visitors instant value and to engage people on your site as quickly as possible — decreasing the chance of bouncing and increasing the chance that your visitors will sign up.
(reference: https://www.seohermit.com/articles/what-bounce-rate-means-for-your-seo-strategy/)

Google and “Search Within Search” Results
It’s widely accepted that Google does not like to index Search Results Pages; Google does not want you to search on Google only to be presented with another page of search results. There are also some duplicate content issues that come up with a multitude of search variations producing thousands of pages of low-value, possibly duplicative contact. To this end, our default Search Results Pages are not indexable. We use dynamic (JavaScript/Ajax) content to bring up the search results pages and listing detail pages in that search flow. The listing detail pages have the same content and URLs as the pre-rendered version of the page. Basically, this approach gives a far better user experience by making everything much faster without negatively impacting your website’s SEO.
(Reference: https://varvy.com/block-unuseful-pages.html)

The Reality of Real Estate SEO
IDX is a key part of your website’s SEO profile, but it is by no means the only factor that dictates your SEO success or failure. Often, when we see sites underperforming, it’s because non-IDX factors are damaging the website’s ranking and indexability. We are not trying to pass the buck when we say this, it’s just the truth.

We understand the IDX’s key place in your long-term SEO strategy, but to get the best results, your SEO strategy cannot rely solely on IDX content in today’s congested and competitive search engine landscape. Only 12 organic results make it to the front page for most searches. The competition for these spots is unbelievably competitive. It takes some work to get to the front page.

SEO Performance and Road Map
Right now, it’s too early to say exactly how well this SEO strategy is going to perform since our IDX platform’s latest version is so new. Frankly, we need more feedback. That said, as we’ve laid out in this post, our approach and careful use of best practices gives us confidence that it will do well for our customers.  It’s also important to understand that this is just the first release with our new SEO strategy.

We built our platform’s architecture to be flexible and easy to refine, so expect more improvements as we get past the many, often-conflicting views of what makes an SEO strategy effective and can make more data-based decisions. We will continue to listen to all of our customers’ viewpoints (there are many when it comes to SEO) and ensure that we make the best decisions possible regarding SEO.

404 Errors and IDX Listing Pages Explained

In terms of real estate websites with IDX listing content, a 404 is most often seen when Google indexes a listing page and then tries to check/reindex that URL, and it is no longer in the active MLS feed. For most real estate website and IDX platforms, this means that the URL is no longer going to go to an active, valid listing page on your website. When this happens your server should respond with a 404 error code. This just means that your server is telling Google or a browser that this page no longer exists, nicely.

Introducing Streamlined Search: Powerfully Simple IDX Search

People looking for homes want a simple search experience. One that gives them what they're looking for fast and without having to think too much. Now with Streamlined Search, you can provide your website visitors with a home search experience that rivals the large portals like no other IDX solution can. With Streamlined Search, we have solved some of the biggest IDX issues facing agents on their own websites: standardized data, mobile usability, and user experience. See Streamlined Search in action on a live real estate website, here.

Standardized Data

Streamlined Search uses a new proprietary set of MLS fields within Showcase IDX that standardizes feature fields from across all of our MLS partners, and makes it so these fields can be easily and accurately searched across multiple MLS's. This data project is the foundation of our new search capabilities, allowing for complex searches to be performed quickly across MLS that until now have had different data formats that made searching across them tedious and prone to error.

Mobile Usability

Streamlined Search now puts all of the power and convenience of a desktop search, into the mobile experience. Our approach makes the entire website search experience work seamlessly with each other regardless if you're using a desktop, phone, tablet, or VR device. In designing the mobile Streamlined Search experience, we looked at ways to simplify the interactions with the search that makes sense when you're using the search in your hand.

Gone are long drop-down menus for adding a price range, replaced with a numeric keyboard to quickly add the price. We've also added the ability on other range fields to simply tap the + and - buttons to increase and decrease the values to quickly set the values without having to type in a number (but you can do that too if you like).

User Experience

Based on a year's worth of user behavior analysis, customer feedback and iteration since the launch of our 3.0 version in 2017, Streamlined Search gives agents and teams a powerful search that anyone who has searched on the large search portals (Zillow, Redfin, etc) will find familiar, along with a few new useful twists and surprises. The design of the search shows how much thought was put into having a search experience that delivers across all devices and just makes sense.

Less is More... More Search Options

Instead of our existing search's Advanced Search menu, we now have a more prominent More button. Clicking this opens up a series of options, with property, listing, and amenity feature tabs, that give the user the ability to perform detailed and very specific searches across multiple MLS's. These tabs have the search options that we found that are used over 95% of the time. For those other searches, we've added the ability to search for multiple keywords or key-phrases within a listing.

Must Haves

One way we're making it easier for consumers to find the right home for them is through our must have filters. These filters use our standardized MLS data to provide accurate results combined across all of our MLS's.

Speed

Streamlined Search is fast. Real fast... even on a mobile device.

A Choice Of Searches

Showcase IDX customers will be able to choose which search they have on the front-end of their websites. Streamlined Search is opt-in, which means customers will have to go into their Search Settings and choose which search they want their visitors to use for it to show up on their website. To upgrade to the new search, just go to the Showcase IDX Admin, select the website you want to switch to Streamlined Search and go to Settings>Search and you'll see the option at the top.

A Powerful Back End Combination

Even though there will be only one search on the front-end of the website for visitors to use, agents will be able to choose on a case-by-case basis which style of search they want to use on the back-end for creating hotsheets and recommended searches. This means that if you want to use our very detailed advanced search filters to set up a hotsheet or recommended search, you can still do this. it's entirely your choice which style of search you use. All of your current saved searches and hotsheets will not be affected by the new Streamlined Search.

Learn more about the home search you could have.

New Streamlined Sign-Up Form Design

We've been looking at it for a while... and we have made some key improvements and simplifications today to our sign-up (and sign-in) form today that should positively impact lead registrations. These changes were based on a lot of customer feedback and end-user behavioral data that we've been analyzing for a while now since launching our 3.0 version last year.

There are two things that aren't readily obvious... we've made sure that if you want to hide the google sign in or email account form, you can do this easily with CSS. We have some customers who only want the facebook button option, so this is now very easy to make happen.

Then find each of these leads instantly in our CRM Tools (included with your subscriptions) or any of our Premium CRM partners.

Please let us know how these new changes work for you... we'll be continuing to track the effectiveness of this change and overall lead conversion on our end.

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