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Traffic Does Not Equal Leads and Clients

Redfin’s CEO, Glenn Kelman, penned a post today, titled “Real Estate Brokers Can Coexist With National Portals by Changing the Way We Share Data

I wanted to call attention to this paragraph:

Brokerage sites, including Redfin, should drive more traffic to listing brokers

In the Internet Data Exchange (IDX) feeds shared with other brokerage websites, MLSs should include Google-friendly links to source listings. Requiring every MLS subscriber to link to the source listing will ensure that brokers with more listings get much more traffic, from other brokerage sites like Redfin, and from Google.

You see, that is exactly what Zillow did when we (I worked there at the time, but not anymore) first added listings from feeds to the site back in 2007.

We sent a crap load of traffic to brokerage sites.

Everything was great. Brokers had all this traffic they didn’t have before.

They were happy.

Until they realized their websites sucked, and had no idea how to convert traffic to leads…and eventually clients. They were getting buyers left and right, but they were bouncing.

Many of those brokers came back, and told us “We just want leads. Not traffic.”

We, of course, knew a thing or two about getting web visitors to go down a specific funnel. So we did exactly what they asked and built systems to convert buyers to email addresses and phone numbers — which ended up being the very early stages of the Zillow Premiere Agent program.

Obviously, that is the short version and someone at Zillow is more than welcome to fill in the blanks or clarify anything I am not remembering correctly.

In short, I’m not sure Glenn’s plea for better coexistence terms with the portals will help brokers. It will cost the industry plenty of money to ensure their websites (& mobile efforts) actually convert traffic at a decent percentage — and, still not do it as well as the portals do (more volume = more learnings).

What am I missing?

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • that’s the biggest pain points for agents. Getting traffic isn’t that difficult. Converting that traffic in two leagues in the greatest challenge.

    • Getting traffic is the hardest part, IMHO. It is either super costly, or time consuming…there is no way to get traffic without investing a lot of one or the other (or both)

      • I don’t know… what do you consider traffic? Over 10 uniques a day? 100 uniques? 500? 1000? It is certainly not difficult to get 10. Not that difficult to get 100. And I’m talking just an agent site. Even with 10 uniques you ideally will get one NEP (Name, Email, Phone). Whether they are an immediate client or not, the importance of converting an anonymous visitor into an opportunity to create a relationship is the goal for any site.

        I read a great bit on sites that went something like this: Imagine you hire a salesman to go out and work doggedly for you. You invest your money and your time making sure that salesman is equipped and ready. At the end of the year you ask this salesman how they did and they replied they had no sales and no dollars earned. You’d fire them, right?

        My point is, even with sporadic and little traffic it is paramount to convert the anonymous to a known friend. And that is THE big challenge. =)

        • both are big challenges. one without the other is useless.

  • I’m not sure where that conversation turned to “let’s turn off the links to the listing source.” Not sending the outbound traffic to brokers was a strategic move–a good one for Zillow, but not some benevolent move for the sucker that said “I don’t want traffic, I just want leads.”

    You’re right that most brokers don’t know how to convert. I’d still prefer to make policy based on those of us who do know what we’re doing as opposed to the short-sighted brokers who’re just scrambling for this week’s leads. Since they seem to be the majority, however, it’s fairly obvious why Zillow is making the decisions they are, and why only a few folks like Glenn are pointing out what brokers’ strategy should be.

    • You are in the minority I’m afraid 🙁

  • It’s easy to convert traffic into leads and leads into sales if you have a good website and have great lead follow up. There are plenty of good solutions out there for agents. They just don’t follow through!!!

    • Most brokerages are run by “old school” types who aren’t schooled in how to turn traffic into leads.

  • mattdollinger

    I think that there’s a couple of different conversations going on here….

    1) Glenn talks about the “follow links” and proper broker attribution on listings. This is something that i think most brokers would rejoice in – and help them in their rankings – if not their lead generation. I’m pretty sure (i know that one doesn’t) that none of the major 3 provide any kind of follow links back to broker sites.

    2) Conversion. Do you really think that conversion of leads on TZR is better than that of leads on a brokerage website? I dunno about that… Most brokers charge money (or fees) for the leads (most of the time), which actually puts some value on them. Some have IS teams that incubate them. Some have minimum standards for online leads. All you need to get TZR leads is a checkbook.

    3) My thoughts? If TZR REALLY wanted to do something to help out the brokerage community (this is a pipe dream cuz i tried)… They should sell or trade white-labeled versions of their sites to the brokerage community so that (as Drew points out) their sites don’t “suck” and provide the consumer with an awesome experience.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • I’d be curious to know what % of leads are coming from the portals’ mobile apps. If a big percentage (and my hunch is it is), then the follow/no-follow is kind of a moot point. Though of course brokers and agents would love follow links regardless, I’m not really sure it would help them that much in the grand scheme of things.

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