How EZ are Zillow’s EZ ads?

As an agent, you can’t get past your login page on Zillow without getting the pitch:  “Advertise with Zillow™ EZ Ads!”  So — have you ever actually tried it? 

As an early user of Zillow’s most basic ad product, I’ve run these ads for everything from individual listings, to corporate branding, and for our agents for their personal marketing.  I even helped my Farmer’s insurance agent upload his logo into an EZ ad which linked off to his website.  During the first month after Zillow launched this feature I told each of our 50 agents that we’d pay for their first $100 in EZ’s if they would actually take the time to create and run some ads.  Not counting those reimbursements, I’ve spent $5,551 on EZ ads since they lauched in May, 2007.  It’s simple to track the cost because on my Zillow homepage it tells me:  “Views of my EZ Ads: 551,108.”  The ads cost a penny per impression (view), $10/1000, $100/10,000, in any $10 increment.  You get the picture. 

It’s always been hard to quantify what we get for our real estate ad dollar, what’s the ROR for those Homes and Lands ads and the Sunday Seattle Times display ads?  When a phone call comes in off a listing, did they call off the sign?  The Times ad?  A magazine?  It’s never been a priority for me to find out how they got my number; rather I’m focused on what the prospect is calling about and how I can help them.  And with the internet our listings are in so many places that when we get an email or call, it could have come from almost anywhere.  And the cost for the print ads?  A typical Sunday Times ad is about $80, even with our contract discount.  That’s a small ad, maybe six lines, no color, no picture.  A display ad in the Puget Sound Business Journal is about $300 per week.  And those print ads run all over the region.  Do I really care if someone in Covington sees the ad for my rambler in Mountlake Terrace?  But we still run those ads (though less and less), as we have since the beginning of time — the seller likes it (in some cases, demands it) even if it’s proven time and again to not be a potent arrow in the quiver.  

EZ ads solve these problems for me in a few ways: 

1.  The seller sees the ad and loves it.  I can quickly email them the ad to be sure they see the copy.  If I run with high frequency (lots of impressions crammed into a short timeframe), chances are they’ll see it live when they’re looking at the site.  It’s unique way to advertise (for now), so as a bulletpoint on the marketing plan it’s effective and serves as a point of differentiation. 
2.  I can track the effectiveness of the ad — by click-throughs to the destination URL which is embedded into the ad; by emails generated from the site through my profile page; and by calls off the ad itself.
3.  I can choose the zip codes that I want to have the ad displayed.  For my Ballard townhome, I can run Ballard, north Ballard, Shoreline, Greenlake…but I can also toss in Capitol Hill and Queen Anne.  Maybe that Cap Hill buyer cringing at a $500,000 unit at 18th and Fir might love what is essentially the identical unit four miles away in Ballard for $400,000.

I’m told the measure of a good online ad is the rate at which people actually click through on the ad to the target URL.  Once there, it’s my own site’s job to capture these prospects by giving enough interesting information for them to want to make contact with us.  But if they don’t click through, I’ve still got the benefit of the impression — the equivalent of a bus or billboard ad (which is still valuable, it’s just hard to calculate a ROR on that sort of branding).  For my half million impressions, I’ve had 2827 click-throughs.  Not a great overall average CTR.  My response on general branding ads is fairly low.  But the response on specific listings is relatively high — about 1 click for every 100 impressions.  For the ad below (sorry if the image is fuzzy, it’s my first attempt to include a screen shot in a post), which had as its hook a photo of the great view from this Lake Forest Park listing, I had 76 clicks for 5036 impressions (those last 36 were Zillow’s overrun, I only paid $50 for that ad).  That’s well over my 1% “goal” rate.  On average for specific listing ads, I’m at about 1%, which is a terrific rate. 

big-lake-wa-views.jpg

But the proof is in the pudding, right?  Am I getting calls?  Prospects? Sales?  Well — part of what inspired this post is the answer — yes.  In the past month, we’ve had three deals get written off EZ ad leads. 

One was an inexpensive, $200,000 condo in Shoreline.  Our listing agent, Stefan Hadfield, took the call — showed the prospect.  Showed the prospect again.  And then..prospect disappeared for a few days.  Resurfaced with their Buyer’s agent, offer in hand.  Deal signed around, closing this week.  So we didn’t actually get paid on the buy side, but our listing got sold — which is the point of it! — and the buyer saw it first in this little $50 EZ ad.  His agent didn’t have the property on this radar at all (actually, the buyer wasn’t on the agent’s radar, but that’s another story). 

The next good tug was on a bit of a rental house we were selling for a longtime client near Greenlake.  Same story.  Ad runs, prospect pings.  But this time our agent, Wendy Morales, took the lead and put the deal together with the buyer on this $500,000 house.  

And the last was another Seattle listing — posted here:  http://www.zillow.com/HomeDetails.htm?zprop=48759687.  Call came in from the prospect in Detroit, interested in buying this with his son who lives in Seattle and is starting grad school at the UW, a few blocks away from the subject.  Our agent — Arielle Thurik — showed the son the house, dad made an offer…Seller countered…and this one didn’t come together…hasn’t yet, anyway.  But the prospect is now Arielle’s buyer, and she’s busy showing them other opportunities in the marketplace (love this market when it comes to working with buyers, actually having other opps in the marketplace). 

This product is ideal for our industry — cheap, easy (of course), simple to track ROR, sellers love it.  But it’s also got lots of potential for any neighborhood business due to that zip code based search — LC’s Kitchen, the little restaurant down the street from RPA where one of our staff can be seen nearly every noon hour, is a fantastic lunch and dinner spot…but as you go by at 35 mph on Lake City Way, you might miss it.  As an EZ ad, maybe it would catch your eye.  (or look here: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/1/2574/Seattle/Maple-Leaf/LCs-Kitchen.html)

Whew.  1171 words.  Someone needs to tell me to shut up.  Thanks to all who made it this far.  If you haven’t tried this Zillow feature — give it a shot!

And as full disclosure, although it was in my first post here  — I’m a director at Zillow, and have been involved with the company as an advisor pre-launch.  But I’d like to believe as a forward thinking broker that without that relationship I’d be beating this drum just as loudly. 

4 thoughts on “How EZ are Zillow’s EZ ads?

  1. Ever try Trulia’s advertising products? It’d be neat to see have they compare 0to their arch rival. (In any event – I’m sure both of them offer a much better ROI than print or Realtor.com). I’m sure your friends at Zillow would love to hear about your experience if you did. 🙂

    BTW, I think blogging is a great way of building a brand. Then again I am biased. Welcome to the RE blog-o-sphere.

  2. Just getting ramped with with Trulia and looking at their enhanced listings feature. (arch rival? I don’t know that Zillow has ever positioned Trulia as such…) Our listing feed to Trulia which you created HAS generated a lot of traffic to our company website — seattlehouses.com. And you’ve teed up our feed for Zillow too when they go live with that feature. Will be interesting to see how the traffic generation compares between the two sites.

  3. Maybe respected competitor is a better term? I agree that Trulia & Zillow have a warmer relationship than say Microsoft & Google do right now.

    It’ll be very interesting to see how the old guard of RE advertising (print, Realtor.com) can stand up to the competive pressure Zillow & Trulia will bring to the market. Very few people I know have had nice things to say about Realtor.com, so it’ll be interesting to see if Z & T can force some changes on that company.

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