On the night of April 14, 2009, two fierce comeptitors entered the ring. A cage match of sorts via Twitter.
In the left corner, Mr. David Gibbons, Community Director of Zillow.
In the right corner, Mr. Rudy Bachraty, Social Media Guru (that’s the title on his business card!) of Trulia.
O.K. if an agent could only use one, which should they use? Zillow or Trulia?
— Teresa Boardman (@TBoard) April 15, 2009
Up until this point their interactions had been very tame, but on this night a very lively debate was in order. (Before I go through my dissertation and dissection, I will say that both were very civil and you could tell both were very passionate about their product. They should each be comended really, because it brought to light some good features of each. It also helped point out some items that might need some work. This whole conversation was a great way to move forward so that each offers a better product.)
(According to Hitwise)
MarketShare of Online Real Estate Websites
Zillow: 3.25% which ranks #3 of all websites
Trulia: 1.57% which ranks #10 of all websites
“Zillow”: 0.56% of all search traffic
“Zillow.com” 0.46% of all search traffic
“Trulia”: 0.19% of all search traffic
“Zillow.com search”: 0.12% of all search traffic
So obviously on the face of it Zillow wins hands down in every capacity as far as traffic goes.
With absolutely NO specific data to support this. I believe the big victory for Zillow in this capcacity comes from their press and marketing machine. Their primary product, the “Zestimate,” continues to receive much coverage in the media. When real estate was booming, everyone wanted to know what their home was worth now. It worked the same as checking your stocks in your portfolio, everything was going up, up, up! Now that values are down, people still want to check their values. “How much has it dropped?” is the new question on people’s minds. Zillow’s specialized product in this field becomes the top of mind search for individuals regardless if they are thinking about selling or buying a home right now. (Although Zillow does point out that 90% of it’s users are looking to buy within 24 months.) Becuase they are the main player in the immediate estimation of value market, they have what in the market field we call a top of mind brand. It’s the first thing people think of when they consider a product. Much in the same way that when someone thinks of a facial tissue they think of Kleenex or a photo copier in Xerox. David Gibbons pointed out to me that “”it’s a starting point” … actually, our users’ awareness of listings has massively grown & now almost equals Zestimates.” However, again with no data to back up my point, from anecdotal evidence, most people go to Zillow for the valuation and get the listings as a bonus. It is very possible this will change, however, Zestimate is their killer-app and will always be their main traffic driver, in my humble opinion. Now, Zillow is very smart to have listings on their site. It does potentially bring in some traffic. But a HUGE benefit to listings on Zillow is that they can get systematically better Zestimates by comparing what they thought the home was worth to what it lists for (and then what it sells for). And as mentioned in the last blog post, Zillow becomes the site that answers the three questions anyone visiting any real estate site cares about. Let me end by saying HUGE props to the originators behind the idea of the Zestimate. You answered the demand of the users, and your traffic proves it was a big win. (As a side note I’d like to point out that their mortgage information is excellent as well, but that’s saved for a different conversation.)
Now, Trulia. Trulia doesn’t have the functionality of the Zestimate. But it does what it does, and it does it well. Again from no scientific source, people I talk to like the interaction of listings on Trulia much better than Zillow. They like being able to go to Trulia and getting great quality real estate search. They like that the listings provide them all sorts of ancillary data. The interface is just pretty. But what I’ll really commend Trulia for is their search engine optimization of listings. Without getting uber technical, Trulia creates a page for every single listing. This page is then cached by Google and makes it often times the number one search result when you search an address. Trulia also does something amazing for their site, they create a page for every city that has listings in it. If you search terms like “Homes in St Peters” it comes up first again. Therefore (with only the results I tested it with) trulia time and again beats zillow on placement of the listing (I will say Zillow was still on the 1st page, but if understand click rankings it’s the top 3 that matter). As an agent, this should be a primary item of concern to you when list a home.
So why does Zillow beat Trulia hands down in terms of traffic? Simple. People know to go to Zillow. Trulia has a hard battle to fight in terms of getting in the minds of users. A very informal poll I conducted a number of months ago showed few people know about Trulia. Their first encounter with the site is when they search for real estate and then see it. Zillow has been put in front of us for years. The truth however is I don’t really see these two companies as competitors. I really see Zillow’s focus being the Zestimate, and Trulia’s being listings. (I think Zillow’s staff would disagree with me on this. However, I hold firm in terms of what public sentiment is at the current time.) I also see as an agent advertising on each site as a good spend of your ad dollars. Having your listings featured and offering this as a service to your clients shows you are a forward thinking agent. Please don’t take anything I’ve said here as a push of one over the other. Again I really think you need to make sure your listings are on all sites. (Our listing syndicator does this automatically for you.)
The data for the uber-SEO geeks out there:
A Zillow pro membership offers you unlimited follow links in an agent profile. (Follow links give your site Google rank support) Zillow also follow links your site from your listings.
Trulia does no-follow links on your listings and offers 5 follow links in an agent’s profile. Trulia does no-follow links from your listing page. However, Rudy Bachraty makes a good argument that as the listing sells the link would go anyway. However, David Gibbons’ point is well taken that any follow link is a good link even if for a short period of time.
(For a more in depth Uber SEO Geek post see Jim Marks link here)
Trulia and Zillow Listen Up
There is one thing that these sites need to come up with a solution for though immediately. At the present time there is no way for these sites to guarantee the agent listing the home on their site is the real listing agent. Citing a specific example of our St. Louis affiliate, a few of their listings were hijacked by another area broker. This broker advertised the listings as his own claiming that he felt this followed the rules of IDX. As listing syndication becomes more popular I forsee this becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Agents are either uneducated on the process or they feel that this is ok! When you take in an XML feed why can’t you match their MLS ID to their MLS ID they could put in a field on your sites. This way guaranteeing the listing agent is the one on the site. Or at least the brokerage company? Also why is it so hard to get this fixed? It took 3 days to get the brokers listings fixed….