How Do the Top 20 Sites Manage Digital Search Advertising?

by Victor Lund on June 11, 2018

At WAV Group, we like to look under the hood at what the top property search sites in America are doing to engage consumers and boost performance. In some cases, we work with the site owner and have access to their analytics (ie Google Analytics or other). In other cases, we use benchmarking tools like Hitwise and ComScore to get a glimpse into what these top performers may be doing. The results are interesting.

In the snapshot that we took, the nation’s leading portal – Zillow.com – is benchmarked to be the top search site with 36%, and also the top investor in paid search. Their paid click share is 35% of their search traffic and 36% of their search traffic is organic. Overall, Zillow acquires 5% of the paid click traffic. Zillow’s Click-Through Rate (CTR) on paid traffic is 5.33%.

Realtor.com has 13.25% share of search traffic. The benchmark has them investing in about 8% in paid search traffic and their organic search traffic is 13.5%. Realtor.com’s CTR on paid traffic is 3.4%.

Trulia.com – a Zillow Group asset – is the third most popular site in our snapshot, with 9% of the search traffic. It is apparent that the Zillow Group is investing less  in Trulia as the paid search percentage is only 4% – significantly lower than the 35% they have devoted to Zillow.com. Trulia continues to do well in organic search with 9% click share.

Strangely, Trulia’s CTR on paid search is about half as effective as Zillow.com coming in at 2.41%. I would assume that Zillow and Trulia PPC teams have merged or at least get together to play ping-pong. If not, they should! But really what I expect to be happening here has little to do with PPC strategy or keyword purchases, and a lot more to do with brand. I am guessing, but it seems like the Zillow brand is favored by consumers given that they are twice as likely to click digital advertising on a Zillow ad versus a Trulia ad.

Redfin is the fourth most popular site in America in our snapshot. They have about 1% of the overall search traffic in America. None of their traffic is purchased! It is 100% earned. Kudos to the Redfin team for building a great site that leads the pack of all brokerages in America, even surpassing all franchise sites.

It takes years of team building and development to pull off what Redfin has accomplished. Online brokerage firms Movoto and Estately are still in our top 20, but way down the list. Nicely done Redfin.

Despite the fanfare in the media, Compass is not registering in our benchmark in any meaningful way yet. We expect this to change as they begin to invest the treasury they have acquired from the investor community.

Homes.com has taken a bit of a hit since launching their new site. This is absolutely to be expected. For the most part, the site is running on brand power, as their beautiful new site will take months to be re-indexed by search engines and the power of their natural language search with artificial intelligence features are discovered.

In a recent meeting with Homes.com they are showing significant and immediate improvement in consumer engagement on the site. If you have not visited Homes.com lately, take some time to experience their new site. I would forecast that in a year from now, Homes.com will overtake Trulia as the third top site in America; barring any innovation by Trulia to improve their search.

RE/MAX continues their charge as the top franchise search site in America. They do not register as investing anything in paid search. Coldwell Banker is on their heels, buying their way up the ladder with 1.35% paid search.

It’s noteworthy that Coldwell Banker’s paid search team is blowing Zillow out of the water in performance with a paid CTR of 11.54% – by far the top performer in our snapshot group. Again, I would guess that this is a blend of strategy and a powerful brand. BHGRE out performs Zillow in paid search click-through rate too – at a CTR of 8%. While we are on the REALOGY bandwagon, ERA has a 4.57% click though rate on their paid search; lower than Zillow but higher than realtor.com. For some reason, Century 21 has the lowest CTR in paid search in our sample set at 1%.

Keller Williams and Berkshire Hathaway have not register any paid search volume in our sample set.

Homesnap – the joint venture partner of the Broker Public Portal – is ranked 11th in overall traffic in our snap shot. Their new website which was launched 6 months ago has the lowest performance in organic search. Like Homes.com, we would expect that this will dramatically change as the site settles down and is properly indexed by the search engines.

Most of Homesnap’s traffic is driven by real estate agents sharing the mobile app with their clients. Consumers become familiar with the brand and hit the browser site when they want a full screen experience.

I think that we can stop saying that nobody uses RPR. Even though the site is gated with a password wall, has no consumer traffic, has no search indexing, and obviously no paid search traffic, they have more traffic than KW.com. That is impressive, all Realtor® usage. Thumbs up!

Website Search Share Paid Click Share Organic Click Share Paid Click Rate
www.zillow.com 35.96% 35.16% 36.00% 5.33%
www.realtor.com 13.25% 8.28% 13.54% 3.40%
www.trulia.com 8.82% 3.89% 9.10% 2.41%
www.redfin.com 0.85% 0.00% 0.90% 0.00%
www.remax.com 1.66% 0.00% 1.75% 0.00%
www.homes.com 1.22% 0.23% 1.27% 1.03%
www.coldwellbanker.com 0.64% 1.35% 0.60% 11.54%
www.forsalebyowner.com 0.66% 0.11% 0.69% 0.91%
www.coldwellbankerhomes.com 0.72% 0.00% 0.77% 0.00%
www.realestate.com 0.47% 0.00% 0.50% 0.00%
www.homesnap.com 0.09% 0.00% 0.10% 0.00%
www.century21.com 0.44% 0.08% 0.46% 1.02%
www.realtytrac.com 0.35% 0.00% 0.38% 0.00%
www.bhgre.com 0.26% 0.38% 0.25% 7.94%
www.narrpr.com 0.12% 0.00% 0.13% 0.00%
www.kw.com 0.43% 0.00% 0.46% 0.00%
www.eraonline.com 0.33% 0.28% 0.33% 4.57%
www.estately.com 0.10% 0.00% 0.11% 0.00%
www.berkshirehathawayhs.com 0.25% 0.00% 0.27% 0.00%

 

Remember, this is not exact data, it is a snapshot engineered by third party analytics software. It allows us to delve into local markets and see who has the largest share of voice (most traffic), how their website is engaging consumers (page views per visit and time on site), and how they are acquiring their traffic – paid vs. organic search.

WAV Group uses these services to provide consulting and benchmarking service to our franchise clients, brokerage clients, MLS clients, and technology clients.

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