Nearly every day I talk to agents that are looking for the answer to the same question. What’s the best lead generation site? Zillow? Trulia? At the surface this sounds like a simple question, but even though I work with hundreds of agents that get leads from over 50 sources, the answer is still unclear.

The reason it’s so hard to answer the best lead source question starts with the very nature of the websites that generate these leads. It’s important to keep in mind that the Zillows and Trulias of the world are consumer facing websites. They create traffic through marketing to get consumers to their site and that consumer information gets passed on to agents when they are interested in a particular property. So, quality and quantity of the leads depends a lot on how many and what type consumers end up on the lead provider’s site in your particular geographic area.

Because their corporate headquarters are located in Seattle, it’s probably pretty likely that consumers in that market visit Zillow over other lead sites due to increased market awareness. Likewise, if just ran an ad campaign in the Washington Post, it’s easy to guess that they will see an uptick in inquiries in DC. So the short answer is, it  depends. I know dozens of agents that find success using each of the big lead sources and dozens that hate one or more of them.

The one piece of advice I offer to every agent is to apply the same rules to digital marketing that you would to traditional  (offline) forms of marketing. Most successful agents don’t spend their entire offline marketing budget on phone book ads or mailings alone. They create a mix of multiple channels like advertising in local papers, hosting new home buyer seminars and even sponsoring local youth sports teams.

The most successful agents apply this same strategy to their online advertising spends. In my experience, creating a digital advertising presence that includes a mix of a few large national and smaller niche real estate sites often yields the best results. Potential buyers that visit multiple sites (many do) will see your ads in multiple places which will reinforce your image as a neighborhood expert while giving you a chance to attract buyers from multiple sources to compare results.

That costs too much money? Not necessarily. Instead of buying  3 or more zipcodes on one site. Spread your ad budget across a few services to maximize exposure and diversify your spend. The only way to know which lead sources will work for you is to try them out, consistently followup with all the new leads in a timely manner and analyze results after a reasonable period of time. This allows you to drop underperforming sources and try out new sites in a strategic way rather than gut feelings.

“But my _____ company rep tells me that to get the best results I have to spend more money on their site.” Of course they do, my financial advisor tells me that to see the best results he needs to manage more of my money too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to distrust your sales reps, but it’s their job to sell you more. I genuinely like all of the big lead providers, but take a few for a test drive before you make up your mind on which one is best for you.