Zillow “Stealing” Real Estate Leads?

Well, this will be a quick post, mostly because the article I read when I saw this news is behind a paywall, and if you’re not a real estate agent or broker, you are not likely to be a subscriber to Inman Select.

If you are, then click here to read their article about Zillow, Adwords and broker real estate leads. 

UPDATE  — Here’s another copy of the story that I found elsewhere online, so if you’re not paying for Inman, then you can still read. 

Someone at Zillow must be smoking something funny.
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Bottom line is simple.

There’s absolutely no other reason I can think of for ANYONE to believe this idea was not going to be met with absolute and utter shock, disdain and contempt by those manning the front lines on the other side of the real estate war.

You know, the one between the big syndication sites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and the everyday, Main Street, brokers and agents who actually deal with the live bodies who are looking to sell or buy property.

The ones who actually use the real estate leads to put food on their table and clothes on their kids; not the ones who seem to delight in cooking up new ways to serve the bitter taste of betrayal and distrust.

Here’s how it goes…

Zillow bids on a ton (must be a ton, there is simply no other way to implement this) of keywords at Google that cause Adwords to insert a Zillow ad ABOVE THE BROKERS OWN LISTING in the search results.  Oh, wait, all the paid ads do that.  And while the numbers about how 90% of searchers will click organic instead of paid results, it would seem that Zillow has a different set of metrics.

Zillow claims that they’ve had the agents request this as a feature, in order to boost their agent profiles on Zillow.  OK, I can buy that.  Except for the fact that the only logical way I can see that Zillow got the information they used to do the mass keyword bidding was from the profiles of their users.  Meaning that users who did not request it are still going to see it happen to them. 

Oh, did I mention already that you can’t delete a Zillow profile once you create it?

Can I delete my profile?
Sorry, you cannot delete your profile.

So, really, wow.  Just an amazing, incredible wow.

After all, real estate leads are the keys to the castle in the property world. 
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It also seems that a number of agents and brokers questioned the legality of this strategy, and sadly, they found out that it’s not illegal, though it is certainly in poor taste.  A Zillow representative is quoted in the Inman article, explaining the law, and there are references to Google’s policies on trademark infringement and the required proof needed to stop someone else from using a particular keyword or set of keywords.

At the moment, Zillow has decided to suspend this advertising strategy, mainly due to the outcry from brokers and agents.  I’ll post any updates I come across.  I try to scan Inman at least once a day, they have some fabulous real estate content on their site.

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