There’s been a great debate (cross post) running around the web lately regarding the effectiveness of an indexable IDX solution. While the debate seems to have arose around the release of our new dsIDXpress indexable IDX solution, the concepts behind the debate are not. We’ve been diligently following these conversations across the blogosphere and decided to address the concerns here on our own blog. Before I get into the meat of it, allow me to just summarize everything you’ll read below. Our stance is that, while the MLS content itself may be the same, we believe that search result limits we set on our end and our strong suggestion to deep link to areas and listings will ensure that there’s enough room for everyone in the MLS content playground.

We’d like to come right out and say that we DO set limits on the number of listings that can be shown / spidered / paged through for any given search. We currently have the limit set at 500 results per search, but we may adjust that in the future as we do more research and as MLS rules change. We implemented this limit for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is it prevent well ranked blogs in major metro areas from simply linking to the results page for the major city for that area and gobbling up the #1 position for ALL of the addresses in that area without doing any more work. This is NOT to say that you can’t put the entire MLS on your blog. Instead, what we strongly recommend based on our own research is for those who any indexable IDX solution, including our own, to deep link to smaller result sets and even individual listings.

In other words, if you’re a broker servicing Boston and wanted to use dsIDXpress (or, again, any indexable IDX), we’d encourage you to not just link to the search results for Boston and call it a day. Not only would the results for dsIDXpress be capped at 500 for that “search,” but the older results on, say, page 20 wouldn’t be indexed very well at all. Perhaps more importantly, it wouldn’t be helpful for your visitors either; after all, who really wants to look at ALL of the Boston listings in one sitting?

Instead, with dsIDXpress specifically, we’d recommend following our getting started guide and tailor both your link destinations and your site content to you visitors’ needs rather than trying to get everything indexed by search engines with no time investment and a single link. For example, the easiest first step would be to add the dsIDXpress listings or areas widgets to your blog and simply add the most popular communities you service to the widgets. Next, we’d recommend creating content pages for all of the communities you service and then using our Live Listings(sm) shortcode technology to insert an auto-updating property list directly into the content pages themselves. If you’re a broker as in the above example, you could even farm out the creation of content to your agents; they should know and be able to write a few paragraphs about the areas they specialize in better than anyone else. In that same community, zip, or city content page, you could also strategically link to property results for, say, listings in Fenway between $500k and $600k so that the content would be helpful to both search engines AND your website visitors.

Finally, for those of your concerned about getting banned from search engines for putting an indexable IDX on your site, we’d like to point out that there’d be thousands of sites already that would be banned if that were the case. Between all of the large brokers and national websites that do it already (Movato, Sawbuck Realty, Redfin, Realtor.com, Move, Homes.com, Yahoo! Real Estate, and the list goes on and on and on and on) and the agents / brokers who have the extremely expensive websites that also do it, we’ve never been aware of a single site that has been penalized for that alone. It’s certainly true that there can only be so many results in the “Google Top 10,” but that’s why recommending our best practices and encouraging you to spend some time tailoring your website to the communities or areas you service to get to the top of search engines for those areas.

Overall, we feel that there is a compelling argument to not be too concerned about duplicate MLS content due to the indexable IDX alone. If you create good content AND link appropriately to the IDX content, we’re confident that you’ll end up engaging your visitors more and rank well in search engines in no time at all. We’re sticking to our guns on this one.

P.S. This is neat. One of our original dsIDXpress beta testers, Jim Duncan, is ranking extremely well in Google by doing exactly what I talked about above. Check out this random Google search I did for 5453 Park Rd, Crozet. The #1 result that I see right now is that property on his domain with the dsIDXpress plugin generating the content. I also see Zillow, Yahoo! Real Estate, Realtor.com, and Homes.com in that list, but they’re all ranked below him. Sweet!