A Real Estate Discussion Blog


A Look At The Top (and bottom) Performing Ads On Zillow

Zillow makes money by selling ads on the site.  To be a successful media company, you need to make sure your customers are making money from their ads.  To help our customers do this, it is important to look at what the best performing ads look like, and the lowest performing, because ad content is crucial to performance. Actually, these findings can apply broadly to any advertising campaign, not just those on Zillow.

If you take one thing away from this, here it is - LISTING ADS PERFORM A LOT BETTER (in terms of click thrus) THAN AGENT HEADSHOT ADS. 

Observations from the Top 50:

  • 100% of the ads were of listings
  • 45 of 50 of ads were an exterior home shot, 3 were interior, 2 were aerials
  • 42 of the ad mentioned a specific area (neighborhood, city or addres)
  • 8 central messages revolved around Short Sale, Foreclosure or price reduction
  • 2 were Open Houses ads
  • 0 photos were renderings, all were actual photos
  • 0 ads promoted a specific person, business or brand
  • 22 of the ads have a specific price in them
  • 7 had a phone number on the ad
  • 50 of the photos were taken on a sunny day

Observations from the Bottom 20

  • 18 Of the ads were promoting an agent/broker/brand
  • 1 had no photos (and no clicks)
  • 1 had some type of call to action on the ad
  • To protect the innocent, I'll just type the more popular tag lines from these ads:
    • Buying or Selling?
    • Let's Make It Happen!
    • Greater [City] Expert
    • [State] Specialist (you specialize in the whole state?)
    • Call For Results
    • Buyer Rebate
    • Luxury Living
    • I'll Get Your Moving
    • Need Perspective?
    • Local [Large City] Expert (would be more effective if neighborhood name was used)
    • 31 Yrs Selling Experience
    • Certified Mtg Planner  (does JoePublic know what Mtg is?)
    • ..and the most common  No tag line - Just company name

The Top 50 ads on the site this week:

In case you aren't familar with Zillow Showcase Ads, they are zip code targeted ads that can be updated at any time.  Here is a page on Zillow to read more about Showcase Ads and get started.  If you want to get an idea of cost, you can call 1-866-324-4005 and one of our marketing consultants will be glad to give you a local quote, as prices vary depending on much traffic your area recieves. The marketing consultants would also be happy to consult with you on creative, whether you are a new or existing client. 

If you are a visual person, please watch this video with more information about how the ads work:




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Comment balloon 26 commentsSara Bonert • August 06 2009 12:15PM


Interesting that the listing ads do better than the branding ads -
Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC (Keller Williams Capital Properties) almost 11 years ago

Thought on this from our VP of Sales:

"An additional point is that  GREAT advertising always has a "hook" - something that differentiates the product or service. Examples:

BMW doesn't market themselves as the car with four wheels and a windshield, its "The Ultimate Driving Machine"  (trying to emphasize speed)

McDonalds isn't, a kinda cheap burger and fries its "I'm lovin' it!" (try to emphasize the personalized nature of the food) 

To many agents market homes and themselves without differentiation. "5 bed, 4 bath, call 212-777-777" is not a promotional position ("large home, incredible views"). "



Posted by Sara Bonert, Real Estate Internet Marketing (Zillow) almost 11 years ago

Thanks for the information.

Posted by Cindy Cranston (Fulmer Realty- Floresville, LaVernia, San Antonio) almost 11 years ago
In my listing presentation, I've always told my sellers "Every company has a certain amount of money to spend on marketing. Our company believes that sellers would rather see that money spent promoting THEIR house in an ad than MY face." Looks like it works better for attracting buyers too.
Posted by Kate Wheeler, CCIM - Murphy NC Real Estate for Sale (Country Homes and Land Murphy NC Realtor ) almost 11 years ago

Sara- I'm bookmarking this post. I did an ad sometime last year on Zillow and was in that stack of bottom 50....reading your post I see why.

Posted by Mike Hogan, MBA (The Hogan Group at Keller Williams Realty) almost 11 years ago

Morning Sara,  Thanks for an excellent review of ad performance.  Makes a lot of sense !

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) almost 11 years ago

I have often thought about advertising on Zillow, however, I only want to spend my advertising dollars on sites that allow me to post blogs about our niche which is mobilehome and manufactured home foundation inspections, installations, retrofitting and repairing and providing the required engineered certification, affidavit of affixture, 433a documentation that is required to get a manufactured home financed on private or resident owned land.

I have contributed to several of your discussions on the topic but they only allow a very scant amount f information. Active Rain allows, accepts and encourages very comprehensive  posts which allow us to get our message across in detail. This topic is a very confusing topic to most RE and Mortgage agents and brokers so the more information you can provide the better. Is there a way that we can post comprehensive blogs with photo's and video? If so let's talk advertising because we offer our services nationwide and we certainly have the advertising dollars to spend.


John DL Arendsen

CEO: ON THE LEVEL Contractors


800 909-1110

Cell: 760 419-3635


Posted by John DL Arendsen, Crest Backyard Homes "ADU" dealer & Contractor (CREST BACKYARD HOMES, ON THE LEVEL GENERAL & FACTORY BUILT HOME CONTRACTOR, TAG REAL ESTATE SALES & INVESTMENTS) almost 11 years ago
John- It is tough to compare ActiveRain to Zillow, because we aren't a blogging platform. We do have Zillow Answers. So I think your best bet is to find questions people have asked about your area of expertise and answer them. You can sign up to be alerted when there is a question on the site that matches your topical internet. Here is a video on how to best use Zillow Advice- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tbf3QnfEGk. Any advice you leave will link to your profile page, so make sure that is completely filled out. You can include all kinds of information and links (that are followed) in the marketing text. Finally, you could use the ads as a teaser with this information and link it over to where people can find more information. That may be your best bet.
Posted by Sara Bonert, Real Estate Internet Marketing (Zillow) almost 11 years ago
Hello Sara, I have a profile on Zillow and sometimes use the "start a discussion" feature. Unfortunately, I had very bad experiences. I find a lot of people commenting on Zillow (real estate pro and non-pro) to be very negative or plain insulting. It is my unfortunate experience and it is being shared by other colleagues at the office. Very low comments quality overall versus other sites such as Trulia. It reminds me of a free for all anonymous forums. Sorry about providing this feedback... Cathy Chaudemanche
Posted by Catherine Chaudemanche - Edison & Central NJ, Full Time, Informed and Involved- Results Driven (Metuchen Keller Williams Elite Realty / Middlesex County, NJ) almost 11 years ago

Admittedly I'm a blog and social-networking newbie let alone a computor guru. So many of the nuances and buzz words you folks toss about everyday is way over my head i.e. "teaser" "link over" "link back", etc. I will watch the Youtube link. Is that the proper way to refer to it? Not being facicious I really need a "neophite course" in all the nomenclature to be brought up to speed. I'm 64 years old today and all 5 of my grown children and even some of my grand children are way beyond me.

Posted by John DL Arendsen, Crest Backyard Homes "ADU" dealer & Contractor (CREST BACKYARD HOMES, ON THE LEVEL GENERAL & FACTORY BUILT HOME CONTRACTOR, TAG REAL ESTATE SALES & INVESTMENTS) almost 11 years ago

Catherine- When professionals get spammy, you're right the community can turn on the poster.  When professionals answer questions in a helpful way, the community can be very thankful. 

ActiveRain and Trulia both have blogging platforms, which is essentially a way to broadcast any information you choose.  The Zillow Advice is a question and forum platform where people ask questions in hopes of getting helpful answers.  When they are helped, they are likely to take the relationship offline, at least that is what we hope happens.

I took a look at what you are doing in Zillow Advice.  It seems most of your contributions are broadcasts of information.  For example, asking the question "how to get the best price in NJ" and then answering your own question.  Basically cutting and pasting a blog post isn't how a forum is typically used, and users can backlash against this. 

I would encourage you to find questions that people are asking in your area, and answer those with same type of information that you are broadcasting.  Because the information you are sharing is really good, it just can be percieved as a bit spammy since you are basically answering your own questions. 


Posted by Sara Bonert, Real Estate Internet Marketing (Zillow) almost 11 years ago

John and Janis- Well, if you want to learn, you've come to the right place.  Active Rain will help you out tremedously!  My advise is to just take is slow.  Don't try to learn everything about every social media site at once.  Pick one a week, get your head around it, and then move on to another one the next week. 

Really, the idea around social media and internet isn't too different from concepts you have used in your every day life and with tranditional media.  You should still treat people the same as you would in person.  Just the technology has evolved with how you do this.  Good luck!

Posted by Sara Bonert, Real Estate Internet Marketing (Zillow) almost 11 years ago

It is interesting to see how well the simple straightforward ads do, particularly compared to sel-promotion ads.


Posted by Brian Madigan, LL.B., Broker (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto)) almost 11 years ago
Sara you gave me some great suggestions that will help me when I upgrade my Zillow profile. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend. Great post.
Posted by Lanre-"THE REAL ESTATE FARMER" Folayan, I don't make promises.I deliver results.SOLD HOMES (Keller Williams Select Realtors-Buy a home in Washington DC. Sell a home in Washington DC) almost 11 years ago

Now there's news I can use! I love data. Most of it's pretty logical, Marketing 101 stuff, but we somehow seem to forget those lessons. ;-p

Your comment responses are pretty enlightening too . . . thanks.

Posted by Trent Cluley almost 11 years ago

50 of the photos were taken on a sunny day

Thanks Sara,

Fascinating information!

P.S.  With your sunny day observation, I must ask you one question.  Were any of your Top 50 ads from Seattle?  :)

Posted by Bruce Brockmeier, Coached By Crouch (Internet Marketing Consultant to REALTORS®) almost 11 years ago

Great info.  I always wondered what would work best here.  Thanks

Posted by David Henke, Realtor, Homes Just West of Philadelphia PA (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc) almost 11 years ago
This is an excellent break down. Thank you. So, how about that Sunshine in Seattle question?
Posted by Robert T. Boyer, San Diego Real Estate & Mortgage Loans, Ph.D. | VA Home Loan (FHA Loan, VA Loan, Jumbo Loan,FHA Loans,VA Loans,Jumbo Loans) almost 11 years ago

Sarah: This is pretty interesting.. I bookmarked this for further review.

Posted by Roland Woodworth, Q Realty - Power In Real Estate (Q Realty) almost 11 years ago

good information and thanks for all of the ideas and information! and the nice smile Sara! PattyLuther 

Posted by Patty Luther, Lewiston ID Real Estate, Idaho-Washington (RE/MAX Rock-n-Roll Realty) almost 11 years ago

I hear over and over again that consumers are searching houses not agents, so the numbers make sense.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) almost 11 years ago

With regard to the sunshine... not sure of the geographic location of these?  Maybe I should look into that... 

I heard Seattle hasn't had a shortage of sunshine lately and in fact many are longing for some rainy days right now!

Posted by Sara Bonert, Real Estate Internet Marketing (Zillow) almost 11 years ago
Hi, could it be possible to get a break of states clicking? Thank you. Benito.
Posted by Benito over 10 years ago

I mean States, such as california, arizona, etc, etc, etc.

Posted by Benito over 10 years ago
Benito- The content of the ad will determine click thru rate more than the location. But it is important to know the click potential, when is dependant on how much traffic the area is getting. Click on this link to visit the self serve advertising section of Zillow- http://www.zillow.com/advertising/Agent.htm . When you go thru the ad buying process, we are clear about the traffic in the area, because this determines how much the ad costs.
Posted by Sara Bonert, Real Estate Internet Marketing (Zillow) over 10 years ago
I'm going to try a listing add in 2010. Gotta know how well, or not so well, it works!
Posted by Todd & Devona Garrigus, Broker / REALTORS® (Garrigus Real Estate) over 10 years ago