Forced Registration Vs. Free Home Search – Why Not Do Both?


I read an article on RISmedia (that was a total product plug) about Internet Prospecting that’s 16 times more effective… It got me thinking about forced site registration vs. free home searches and the debate that inevitably ensues.  That article pointed out some amazingly ridiculous facts.

  • 65% of real estate agents have websites
  • 90% of those don’t bring a single buyer to the door
  • thus, 90% of agents (the ones that have them) are not happy with their website

I’ll touch on one more thing from the article that bears mentioning then get on with it…

The goal of Internet marketing is to convert “unique visitors” (e.g., new people finding your site) into registrations and leads. That concept has largely been forgotten in most real estate sites that bombard a visitor with all sorts of information they neither need nor seek. The end result of all this unnecessary information is that even a well designed and optimized website only converts about one half of one percent of its unique visitors to sign-ins.

Very few Realtors actually take the time to blog and therefore “bombard a visitor with all sorts of information they neither need nor seek.” Also, most visitors to successful blogs visit the site because of the information (the posts).  Not because they are immediately searching for homes.  That’s what organic SEO is all about.  But I digress.

The article is about the new wave (not new actually) of major website vendors that create client sites with forced site registration.  Which begs the question… if forced registration gets you 16 times the lead conversion, why would you do it any other way?

So here’s the dealio.  Forced registration works… in certain circumstances.  Unlimited Free Home Searching works… also in certain circumstances.  I’m going to show you why and tell you why you should actually do… wait for it… both.

Why forced registration works…

These companies doing forced registration (and you can do it with your traditional 3rd party IDX provider too) have a plan.  Spend as little time and effort as possible to get as many leads as possible.  Seriously, that’s their plan.  You only need two ingredients:

  • A kick-ass home search that looks nice and is usable to the general populace
  • A PPC campaign that is razor focused and optimized to get only interested buyers to the site

That’s all you need.  Now, RealtyGenerator uses a built in CRM application *insert shrug here* that’s neither awesome or super usable.  I have a thing against most CRM’s out there.  PROleads is similar… so’s Tiger Leads.

It works because the people coming to the site are looking for homes to buy.  They aren’t searching for miscellaneous real estate information like how to properly purchase foreclosures or what to look for in a home inspector.  They want to search for homes.  Period.  These sites send you to an already populated (usually) home search.  When you click on a detail page you have to register to see it.  That’s how they convert about 10% of the sites unique visitors…. oh yeah…

That also means you piss off 90% of the people that visited your site because they don’t want to register! That’s bad publicity.

Why free home searches works…

A free home search works on a blog for a very good reason.  Not everyone that visits is really looking for homes.  Or if they are, they aren’t serious enough about it to register.  On a good blog with lots of good local content, a visitor generally ‘backs in’ to the site.  Meaning, they click on a search result that sends them to one of your blog posts.  They don’t visit the main page of your site first.  These people may click on home search after they have read and like the article they came for.  If they are forced to register at this point, they basically say forget it, and leave.  Now, you can entice people to register by offering them property updates, an organizer, or advanced search functionality, but you will generally receive a much lower conversion rate on a free home search.

Bundle and Convert!

Here’s your idea to mull over… use both!!!

1.  Have a site (separate from your blog) that is simply a lead generating IDX Squeeze page.  Bam!  Leads galore.  It doesn’t matter if you use one of these lead behemoth companies or if you do it yourself.  Just don’t forget to contact them quickly and stay in touch to maximize your conversion rate.

2.  Have a great blog, updated regulary, make it local, make it interesting.  Oh, and let people search for homes.

Here’s the big deal or whatever you wanna call it.  On your forced site… for those 90% of people that are about to be pissed off… give them a link to your free home search.  You can do that with a pop-up before they leave if you really want to get their attention or you could just put an inconspicuous link in the sign-up form.  Either way, you’ll get some additional traffic to your blog.  What’s the next think I’m going to say?  Put a link within or next to your free home search on your blog and call it a ‘full featured’ property search or whatever strikes you as right.  That link goes to your forced registration site.  Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down now?

Leverage both sites to maximize your leads.  What do you think?

About Author

Ben's an 'out of the box' Realtor and Internet Marketing guy. He's recently started a brand spanking new Training, Coaching, and Marketing company for Realtors called The Exit Pro. He likes all things blogging and teaches Realtors to be more professional through training. He spends most of his time getting the word out about his cool new real estate company and writing guest posts for great sites like BiggerPockets.


  1. Great suggestions Ben. I am doing something similiar to what you suggested and am receiving many buyer leads as a result. My blog site is fairly new (6 months old) and is starting to pick up steam regarding visitors. I use google analytics to track the number of visitors and where they are connecting from. One challenge is that I am spending far more time blogging and responding than I ever have but it is well worth the effort.
    .-= Bob´s last blog ..Will walking away from a mortgage go mainstream? =-.

  2. Hi Ben ~ I like this idea a lot. I actually planned to do something similar when I first started my blog since I figured I needed a traditional website as well. Over time my blog site fleshed out and I sort of lost interest in getting another website. But as traffic builds on my blogsite the vast chasm between site visitors and actual contacts or IDX registrants gives me pause. Not enough to require registration on the blog site though so this sounds like the perfect solution.

    Thanks for getting me thinking!

    .-= Elizabeth Bolton´s last blog ..Cambridge Home Sales in 2009 and 2008 =-.

  3. Love the tip about specifically focusing on LOCAL traffic. As a realtor, why would you spend your time and effort trying to get someone halfway across the country to your site, when they aren’t even looking to buy in your city? We are really trying to focus on local website traffic growth and it’s working for us.

  4. Tom Brintzenhofe on

    Great advice, I will alter my blog aproach but will have to find help for the whole link mohajogh stuff I dont really understand. Making progress though! lol
    thanks for the help!

  5. Out of everything I’ve read, I think allowing people to create an account and save their searches is probably the best way to make people want to continue to use your site and when they are ready to buy, they’ll buy. Plus, you can send the list of homes they like to their email. I think it’s about giving home buyers what they want. If you make them number one, you and your clients will all be satisfied with how well your website works.

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