Checklist: 8 Things to Consider When Building a Commercial Property Search Engine

Marketing Best Practices

Checklist: 8 Things to Consider When Building a Commercial Property Search Engine

Whether you have a property search engine that isn’t delivering the features you need, you’re paying a website designer every time you need to make changes, or you don’t have a search engine set up at all, this is a part of your commercial real estate (CRE) marketing that deserves your attention. In the digital age, all CRE companies need a single place to display their entire property portfolio. 

They need a high-performing commercial property search engine (PSE).

Does it have to be a search engine, specifically? Can’t you just have your properties laid out in a static portfolio or some other format? Sure, you can. But you risk losing your audience. 

Studies show that the most common task performed with a smartphone is search. Think about that. With all the apps and functionalities on our phones, our number-one go-to is filtering through information to find what we need.

Your tenants and investors want that on your website, too. And that means you need the right commercial property search engine. To help you pinpoint the best PSE, there are a handful of core areas to consider.

#1: Implementation time

Since time is money, you need a way to get listings to market fast. That all starts with the time it takes to implement your commercial property search engine initially. With a design agency, this usually takes several months. Even some tech tools take a while to get up and running. Plus, when you need to get new listings online fast, having to involve a web designer or a slow-moving, hard-to-use software pretty much guarantees that won’t happen. 

Don’t be fooled: you can deploy new listings on your search engine quickly enough to match the speed you need. There are absolutely marketing tools that can make it speedy and easy to deploy and update your PSE. 

#2: Branding and design 

You need a way to stand out from the crowd. A cookie-cutter property search engine that doesn’t feature your company’s logo or colors isn’t going to deliver that. 

Some commercial real estate search engines promise easy setup and cost-effectiveness, but they offer the same look and feel to all of the different CRE companies that use them. That means your property search engine could look a lot like your competitor’s, making it hard to stand out in your potential client’s mind. 

#3: Customization capabilities 

In a similar vein, some companies that offer PSE functionality have a narrow scope. Yes, you can use their tool to create a property search engine. But what can you do with the individual listings within the PSE? 

You want (and may even need) a high level of customization. Some properties may benefit from including rich maps or downloadable assets, for example. You want to be able to tailor the content within your PSE to your needs. If you can’t, again, your site might end up looking just like all of your competitors’. 

(You can learn more about property listing customization in our guide.) 

#4: Type of technology

Assuming you choose a tech tool to create your PSE, you need to consider which type is best for your CRE company. The main choices here are:

  • Application programming interface (API). This type of tool gives you the highest level of control and customization over the way your search engine displays, but it takes technical expertise to set up. Ideally, your commercial real estate search engine should come from a company that can build the API for you. 
  • Widget. Widgets are generally much simpler to set up because the API is already built in. But this limits your customization options and can create issues if the developer who made the widget pushes updates you don’t want through. 
  • Inline frame (iframe). Essentially, with this option, you put a box on your website, then place the content you want in the iframe there. You could use it to embed a PDF of your property listings, for example. With that option, though, you need to continually update what’s in the iframe and it won’t be searchable. 

#5: Cost 

Far too many CRE companies pay website design agencies far too much because they think it’s the only way to maintain an updated property portfolio. 

Actually, though, if you choose the right marketing technology, it can automatically create your branded commercial property search engine — and make automatic updates whenever you add a new listing or take one down. 

#6: Domain names

Pay attention to the URLs that would come with any PSE you’re considering. It might seem like a minor thing — until a prospect goes to save it or share it. If the URL isn’t one you own (e.g., rather than your, you run a risk. If the prospect only copies down part of the address, they could end up just looking at your marketing software or, worse yet, getting redirected to a competitor’s listing. 

#7: Data migration 

How does the info about your listings get into the PSE? This should be easy. Today, there are integrations that can make it simple to push data from your CRM or data warehouse to your PSE. This saves you from having to manually re-enter data you’ve already captured in another location. Plus, it can push property updates you make in your CMS straight to the PSE. 

#8: Keeping leads to yourself

Far too many PSEs operate through a third-party marketplace. But this means you’re sending prospects out into the internet at large rather than keeping them on web domains you own. 

Don’t send visitors to a marketplace where they might see someone else’s listing and choose them instead. You want to retain and convert visitors on your own website by choosing a search engine that keeps prospects on webpages you exclusively own. 

There’s a lot to consider when you’re searching for a commercial property search engine. To discuss what’s best for your CRE company with an expert, get in touch.

What is SharpLaunch?

SharpLaunch is an all-in-one CRE marketing platform to help you streamline your marketing efforts and modernize your digital presence.

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