Why Every REALTOR® Needs Zillow and Trulia: A Peer Review

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Since the birth of the real estate industry, the role of an agent begins with gaining the ATTENTION of the prospective client audience. And in the 21st century, while the industry has amassed over 100,000 licensed real estate sales professional, standing out from the crowd as a REALTOR® is actually easier today than ever before.

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The internet has created immediate accessibility to prospective clients searching for homes in any state with the click of a button. With websites, such as Zillow and Trulia, listing agents are able to get their listing in front of millions of people looking purchase homes from all over the world.

There are many real estate professionals who see these big lead-gen companies as the enemy to local business traffic, such as Jeff Knox,  Dallas Broker of Knox & Associates Real Estate, who’s been killing the real estate game with massive online presence. Jeff is an advocate for REALTORS® and brings awareness in his blogs to issues that real estate professionals and prospective clients face every day. In recent article, Jeff objects that lead generation platforms, such as Zillow and Trulia, two of the top-ranking real estate websites on Google, are intentionally backstabbing agents by:

1. Using listing information, syndicating it and selling the ad space back to REALTORS® for profit.

2. Using SEO to outrank local real estate sites on search engines

3. Not giving real estate agent’s the ability to add a customized backlink when contributing to Trulia’s blog


I propose to offer a different perspective of big lead generation sites “scamming”, and provide proof that every player in the real estate game benefits with Trulia and Zillow’s practices.



Objection 1. Listing Syndication to a worldwide audience

Quote: "In the real estate world, Zillow and Trulia have taken over the villain role by using listing information, syndicating it and then selling the ad space back to REALTORS® for obscene profits. These companies are not REALTORS®, they do not belong to our board(s) and they aren't even an actual person.”  (quote cited by Jeff Knox  Read full article here)

Rebuttal: Let’s define what listing syndication is first. IDX - internet data exchange - is a non-branded real estate property search system which connects many different MLS systems to one another, making it seamless to search properties in any area. Trulia takes advantage of the IDX system by providing information  to any listing regardless of the brokerage and state -aka- listing syndication. The objection to this is that Trulia takes advantage of an agent’s listing because they’re giving homes for sale a worldwide audience?

With free advertising from Zillow and Trulia, marketing has never been easier for not only the listing agent and their brand, but the most important party: the seller. Buyers have never had more accessible, accurate information for recent listings on the market. Many people moving to another state rely heavily on the constant updated information from Zillow and Trulia.  And the agents who take advantage of getting in the front of these buyers by paying for zipcode impressions have a HUGE advantage over agents that do not. Their doors are literally open for business 24/7 and have an opportunity to put their face in front of MILLIONS of people every day.  Even big franchise companies don’t fully utilize ranking for agents, so it would be up to you to spend the money and time do this this either way.


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Objection 2: Using SEO to outrank local real estate sites on search engines

Quote: “Let me start by asking - who do you see at the top of almost all search engine rankings?  Zillow, Trulia, Realtor dot com and other big websites.  If you have a real estate website, it directly competes with these national sites for rankings and traffic.

"Do you think it is smart to add to Zillow's $5 billion worth by helping them take potential sales away from you as local REALTOR®?” (quote by Jeff Knox  Read full article here)
Rebuttal: What would happen to the front page of Google if Zillow and Trulia suddenly disappeared for certain keywords? I did a search query for my area “Orlando Real Estate” and “Orlando homes for sale”. local agents are competing against much more than Zillow and Trulia. Your website would still be competing with Realtor.com, Homes.com, REMAX.com, Coldwellbanker.com, Redfin.com….. You get the idea. The websites who are ranking on the first page are still big names that intentionally drive traffic to their sites see the SERP here

The Google Front Page Race also still means competing with fellow REALTOR colleagues. After all, online ranking is just a popularity contest. A popularity contest you can pay for via PCC, or massive amount of quality content with SEO. Either way, you’re either competing with other REALTORS and big chains, or you’re DOMINATING the game with massive action. Fear of being outranked by big name sites creates a shortage mentality that many real estate agents suffer from. If the focus is here, you’ve got bigger problems. No matter the industry, consumers want information, and Google simply places Zillow.com and Trulia.com at the front because they have information that clients want. They offer value on a massive scale, for buyers, sellers, listing agents, and buyer’s agents.

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Objection 3. No mutual reciprocity to backlink on Trulia’s blog.

Quote: “...Trulia is anything but interested in how this can, or will, benefit me as a local REALTOR®.  What they do know, however, is that my website has some decent authority for a local real estate website and by me publishing their article, the article would give a backlink to Trulia from my website. Backlinks make websites stronger.  Backlinks are SEO gold and Trulia knows this.  By me publishing Trulia's article, Trulia would be using me and my website to make their website stronger.” (quote by Jeff Knox. Read full article here)

Rebuttal: The entire idea behind a top-ranking site wanting to publish an article with a local real estate website is exactly as it states above: provide valuable content for the reader/consumer, to make their SEO game stronger, thereby ranking highest in the search results. Real estate agents come and go, and depending on business, one’s desire to stay in the industry changes as often as the market does. Moreover, online presence can mean something entirely different for one REALTOR® vs another. A REALTOR® who doesn’t understand the logistics of online presence won’t have a website optimized with super useful content. Their rbt txt could be all off, and words like PPC or meta data is a foreign language.

So how would it look for a major lead generation to allow real estate agent to back-link to their blog, then next month, said REALTOR® decided to join the salaried position workforce and let their website expire?

Google tracks the validity of blog content and its backlinks with robot crawlers that scan for invalid information and outdated links hourly. Zillow and Trulia’s ranking thrives on its ranking because they constantly provide useful content to prospective clients and  agents alike, looking for information on local markets throughout the US. So what happens when a REALTOR contributor lets their personal website go to cyber heaven? Trulia’s backlinking credibility would plummet from a lack of useful content with dead sites, making their value, in a search engine’s eyes, diminish fast!

How would this affect you, the agent? Well, your listings that are distributed worldwide on Trulia.com and Zillow.com free of charge would see an immediate decline in impressions. Prospective clients wouldn’t have nearly as much access to any real estate market without syndicated sites that pay TONS of money to be ranked #1.

Quote: “I took my time to write for Trulia, offered my expert opinions for your readers and was rewarded with absolutely nothing in return from Trulia for my efforts. 

 I completely understand, give credit where credit is due. Real estate agents who spend long hours ranking online and create a solid reputation for themselves absolutely deserve their spot on the first page of Google, even among bigger chains. But playing devil’s advocate, the article Jeff has cited above gives him full credit as a REALTOR/broker. The geniously backlink his Trulia profile to the aforementioned article. Viola! Credit given, and zero risk of outdated sites killing Trulia’s credibility.

So how can you keep your credit with a Trulia or Zillow profile being cited instead of your personal site? Simple! be sure that your Trulia profile is TOP NOTCH. Make sure it has your website, your brand, your information written all over it and backlink the hell out of it! Did you know that Zillow actually allows backlinking within your REALTOR profile now? This is another fantastic opportunity to boost yourself and show you are the local authority in your niche.

Simply put: The bigger Zillow and Trulia’s audience becomes,  the more we all benefit from it.

Let me say this. These are simply my own opinions and I am speaking from my personal experience with and observations of lead generation. Jeff Knox has a fantastic reputation in Dallas and I admire his willingness to share information with all REALTORS. That being said, the only way we will change the industry in positive ways is to be willing to change with evolving technology and practices. Otherwise, we will be left behind with others taking our place as the new face of Real Estate. It’s ridiculously easy to make Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and the likes work for us and our current and prospective clients.


Blog written by D'Andrea Pelletier, of Follow Me Realty

Blog Cited: Zillow & Trulia Intentionally Continue Backstabbing REALTORS® - Do NOT Miss! by Jeff Knox

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