Everything You Need to Know About IDX for Real Estate Websites

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If you’ve just recently entered the real estate arena, most likely you have been hearing this frequently used term – IDX. So what does this term mean and how it applies to real estate industry?


What Is IDX?

In real estate, acronym IDX  stands for Internet Data Exchange. Internet Data Exchange, also known as “Broker Reciprocity”, is a policy that encompasses rules, standards and software which allows exchange of a property listing data between MLS participants (agents and brokers) and enables them to import that listing data from a local MLS database into their own real estate websites to display listings publicly.

Under IDX policy, brokers grant consent to display each other’s property listing data on MLS participants’ websites.


How Does IDX Work?

There are four main technologies through which IDX can be implemented: RETS, IDX Framing, FTP, and RESO Web API. Each of those four IDX technologies work differently.

However, in general, IDX works through establishing a data transferring connection between your local MLS database and your website which allows real estate professionals to import comprehensive and up-to-date property listing data from a local MLS to their websites.



Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) is an XML-based Internet Data Exchange system brought to the real estate industry in late 1990s as an alternative to the older FTP-based data exchange method. RETS allows MLS servers and local real estate websites to speak the same language for efficient transferring and commingling of property listing data.



RESO Web API provides a standardized interface to MLS databases that allows IDX applications and websites to query listings in real time and return them in search results. Web API allows realtors to make direct calls to MLS servers and offers a streamlined access point to MLS data.


#3 IDX Framing

IDX Framing (iFrame) is a common technology for displaying MLS listings on individual realtor websites. An iFrame is an HTML element used to embed HTML documents such as MLS search windows in an agency’s website by copying and pasting code. IFrames are inexpensive and easy to use.


#4 FTP

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a means of transferring data between computers that was once standardly used to transfer real estate listings from multiple listing services (MLS) to local real estate websites. Because FTP is slow and burdensome to use, other faster, more dynamic internet data exchange technologies have come into use.


Why IDX Was Created?

As the internet user base have been exponentially growing from year to year, more and more users started expressing constantly growing demand in having an ability to freely search through available local property inventory, initially strictly available to only a limited group of local MLS members.

At the same time, as the rapidly increasing use of websites by REALTORS® was growing, real estate professionals were ready to meet the demand of those on the market for real estate. However, there was no technology allowing real estate professionals to share that local property inventory data with the public.

Constantly evolving real estate websites and applications needed a technology that could enhance their usability for the end user. Finally, National Association of Realtors (NAR) Board of Directors authorized MLS participants to display on their websites the property listing data of other participants through IDX integration.


What Are the Benefits of IDX for Real Estate Websites?

IDX integration on one’s real estate website can influence two significant factors that could lead to more closed deals for its owner. However, it is important to understand that just by simply implementing IDX feed on a website without having other necessary elements in place, will not result in a positive effect.


Factor #1

First factor that could be influenced by IDX implementation is website visitors’ experience. Integration of MLS listings on your website can potentially improve user engagement by allowing them to have a better home buying experience, which ultimately will lead to more leads and subsequently to more closed deals (you can read more about the importance of website usability here).

However, this outcome may be achieved only if the following criteria are met:

  • Website receives visitors – if a website receives zero visitors then there is no point in adding IDX because there is nobody’s experience to improve. Therefore, a website must have visitors.
  • IDX is appealing and functional – if the IDX feed looks visually unappealing and has limited functionality, this won’t improve user engagement. You need to make sure your IDX feed looks awesome and has bunch of useful features.


Factor #2

Second factor that could be influenced by IDX implementation is website’ search engine visibility. Integration of IDX feed on your website can potentially bring more visitors from search engines which ultimately will lead to more leads and subsequently to more closed deals.

However, despite the widely-spread misconception of being able to gain SEO benefits for a website by simply implementing the IDX feed, one must clearly understand that here too, certain criteria must be met.

  • Added unique content – As you’ve probably already heard, search engines don’t like duplicate content. Unfortunately, IDX feed exactly falls under that definition of duplicate content. It is a type of content that’s being syndicated to thousands of real estate websites and applications locally and nationally. There is nothing original about it. Therefore, by being aware how search engines treat duplicate content, despite what popular IDX vendors tell you (they make money by selling IDX; they are biased), it would be quite foolish to think that you could gain any SEO benefit from simply implementing IDX feed on your website. IDX feed data must be accompanied by additional, relevant and unique content to no longer be considered as a duplicate content.
  • Properly implemented content architecture – Adding relevant and unique content to an IDX feed will only make it not look duplicate. This won’t increase your website’s search engine visibility. What will, as long as the third point is taken care of, is a proper content architecture. You can read about what proper content architecture is and how to achieve it in this comprehensive real estate SEO guide.
  • Constantly promoted content – The last missing piece from the equation of being able to gain SEO benefit from IDX feed is to actually continuously promote your content. In other words, you need to either do search engine optimization on your website yourself or hire a company that will do it for you. Unless you’re targeting a very tiny city that has little to no competition, without ongoing SEO efforts directed towards your website, you won’t be able to gain higher search engine visibility. If you’re looking to hire a company to do search engine optimization for you, check out our SEO service for real estate websites.

About the Author:

Oleg Donets is a serial entrepreneur, technology and digital marketing strategist with a solid track record. Since 2013, he has been successfully helping numerous startups and established companies from a wide range of industries to launch, grow and scale their businesses by utilizing his innovative technology solutions and progressive marketing strategies. Oleg is a founder of Real Estate Bees, a cutting-edge technology & marketing platform for the real estate industry. Oleg is also a proud business mentor at SCORE, the nation’s largest nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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