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Don't Waste Money on Zillow, Trulia and

Leslie did a great job sharing her thoughts and some interesting bullet points on how she does NOT want to waste money with her online marketing and advertizing efforts. Kudos to Leslie who shared her successes and experience, but also for reaching out to others in the industry to help them not waste their time or money either with online marketing and advertising.

Every now and again the question of ROI from advertising on Zillow, Trulia, and makes the rounds. Yesterday my friend Jimmy Mackin posted the question in his FB group in preparation for last night's WaterCooler show with Chris Smith. The answers were what I usually see, which is about 75% "No" with a few quiet "Yes" entries. I get the sense that too many agents buy subscriptions and advertising as raw lead generation and then are disappointed when the results don't pan out. 

I buy advertising and subscriptions on all 3 sites and it's a successful component of our overall marketing communication program. I hate to see agents waste money so I put together a list of do's and don'ts for advertising on Zillow, Trulia and

1) Know the site: Use it, play with it, understand how it's laid out. Each site offers a dizzying array of products and services to consumers and agents. Some of the new products are incredibly cool, like Zillow Digs and Trulia's Add Sold Homes.

2) Know the apps: 50% of real estate site traffic comes from a mobile device. Most consumers have 3 or 4 apps on their smart phone or tablet. You need to understand what your client experiences when he uses the app.'s Mobile App lets you brand yourself, a feature that all agents should take advantage of. 

3) Have a strategy: Mine is, first and foremost, support for our listing business. Consumers use these sites and we want our listings there, period. Make sure your listings have all the fields filled out and that all the photos are there. Add a video link, fill out the neighborhood information, enhance the descriptions.

4) Understand the programs: The ability to enhance and manage listings is provided through the subscriptions: Zillow Premier Agent, Trulia Pro and Showcase Listing Enhancement. While some leads may be generated off your listings, don't expect a lot of leads unless you also advertise. Do not chat with the ad sales guy while you're driving around town. Sit and take notes, look at the products he's describing, really understand what you're buying and what the results should be. 

5) Understand the subtleties: For example, If you're thinking of buying on Trulia you need to understand the the mobile ad is a separate charge, and that while mobile device traffic is exploding, only 1% of the total number of click throughs are off the mobile ad it self. But I believe you need the mobile ad program to protect yourself on your listings when they display on the mobile device. 

6) Create a presence: My belief is that any of the programs work best when an agent carries a good number of listings. The agent who simply hopes for buyer leads is competing with the listing agent who commands more presence. You have to create what I call "Magic Circles" of Listings, Ads and Reviews. I can't overstate the importance of reviews. If a consumer is looking for an agent, credibility is naturally given to the greatest presence. The new Sold Listings on Trulia is awesome. 

7) Understand the inquiry: People are not leads, they are consumers who have questions. Buying advertising on these sites is a long term play of building your presence with that site's user base. People might have a question about the community, the house itself, or might want to schedule a showing. Do not assume all inquiries are from buyers because many inquiries are from future sellers. People are often on these sites a year or more before they need an agent. This is a chance to create a relationship by providing a service.

8) Create a personal response system: The very best response is a personal phone call, followed by a personal text or email. Brad Andersohn, former AR God and now the head of Zillow Academy, taught me one simple formula for responding to someone: Acknowledge the inquiry and ask a question: "Hi Sue, I see you have a question about 123 Main St. I have information about that house. What is the best way to get back to you, by phone call, text or email?"

9) Create an auto-response system: Unless you personally answer your phone 24 hours a day, you'll need some kind of response that lets the consumer know that you'll get back to them. Do not rely on the site's auto-response to do the job. Do something unique. I've got a crm that kicks off a bombbomb email with a video in it. It's memorable. We rotate getting back to the person personally and I have a loan officer embedded in the response system if it's a buyer. We don't create a new relationship with every consumer who asks a question, but we sure try. 

10) Provide value immediately and over time: Put those market reports or community event schedules to work. Send interesting information that relates to the original question. If they open the report, contact them ask if they would like to receive monthly updates on property values. But do not rely on a crappy drip campaign that you bought for $50 back in 2009. If you don't have time to personally interact with people, you don't deserve their business.

11) Do not insult people: I think it is a mistake to try to get someone to immediately start using your site. If the person called in while using Zillow, they have chosen Zillow before you, and they are likely to continue using Zillow. If your relationship grows, and your site provides different or interesting information, maybe they'll start to use your site, too.

12) Use the site's resources: Zillow Academy has a great set of course offerings. Trulia and need similar programs. 

1,000 words and I could write 3,000 more. I hope this gives at least a framework for not wasting your money on the 3rd party sites.  


This post was written by Leslie Ebersole of Baird & Warner Real Estate.
Use or reproduction of the material published on this site is expressly prohibited
without the express written permission of the author.




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Comment balloon 10 commentsBrad Andersohn • March 20 2013 10:11PM



Would love to have seen your comments in plain text. I did read Leslie and agree that she did a good job.

The Brad from Upland

Posted by Brad Rachielles, REALTOR, CDPE, Upland, CA (CENTURY 21 Peak, Ca BRE# 01489453) over 7 years ago

Not sure what tech-forces took over there Brad, but I got it all fixed. Thanks. :)

Posted by Brad Andersohn, ActiveBrad - 707.646.1876 (Executive Director of Education at eXp Realty) over 7 years ago

Brad ~ Thnk you for reposting this. As a fairly new real estate agent I get called by at least two of the above and I am never sure what I want so I have not gotten anything yet. 

Posted by Ray Stockwell, Director of Marketing (ZipperAgent) over 7 years ago

I'll post to Zillow directly through postlets; however, I have removed Trulia and Zillow from the automatic feed of my website because rental listings are not removed in a timely manner and rental prospects are learning not to go there and to use Craigslist which is more immediate!

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) over 7 years ago

Good morning Brad,

I missed this post and so glad you re-blogged it! Leslie did write an amazing article..thanks for sharing.

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899) over 7 years ago

Excellent share! Thank you 

Posted by Quinton Beckham, Quinton Beckham - Charlottesville (Keller Williams - Charlottesville) over 7 years ago

I am glad that there are people giving an honest opinion on these services. What works for some may not work for others.

Posted by Dinah Lee Griffey, Managing Broker Windermere Peninsula Properties (Windermere Peninsula Properties) over 7 years ago

Interesting information, good for those that are just starting in this industry or considering beginning their real estate career.

Posted by Lorraine or Loretta Kratz, Certified Negotiation Consultants (Crescent Moon Realty, Inc. & Land N Sea Auctions.) over 7 years ago

These sites are tools, and thus they are only as good as the craftsmen who use them.  Thanks for putting so much in one post.  It will be incredibly useful.

Posted by Tim Stone, Tim4Homes (Evergreen Realty) over 7 years ago

Tim - everything is a tool and a means to an end, more contacts, more appointments, and more closings is my motto! :-)

Posted by Brad Andersohn, ActiveBrad - 707.646.1876 (Executive Director of Education at eXp Realty) over 7 years ago