Five years ago, real estate agent Jenny Wemert noticed something interesting about her team’s Zillow leads: the portal was delivering more sellers than buyers.
She welcomed this, but was also confused. As a Zillow advertiser, buyers who scoured the portal for properties saw her face and contact info (along with that of two other agents) on Zillow listing detail pages in her team’s Orlando, Florida, market.
Why was her team getting more listing leads than buyer leads?
The answer, she surmised, centered on the unfiltered reviews that Zillow had recently rolled out and highlighted with each agent’s ad.
Wemert’s team had just surpassed 10 reviews on Zillow, more than many other profiles in her market then. Sellers were coming to Zillow looking for agents and Wemert’s profile stood out.
Beefing up her team’s profile on real estate’s three most popular sites -- Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com -- with stellar ratings and reviews (and recommendations in realtor.com’s case, until recently) has been a central component of her team’s business strategy ever since.
As of mid-January, her team of 28 agents and support staff had 348 Zillow reviews, most of them outstanding. Wemert, a Curaytor client, estimates that her team’s online ratings and reviews strategy accounts for 60 percent of its business. Her team closed 430 units for $90 million in 2015.
With unfiltered ratings and reviews, in-depth transaction histories and sophisticated agent search filters, Zillow agent profiles bring more agent information to consumers’ fingertips than ever before.
A significant portion of agents’ business will always come from personal referrals, but the increasing agent performance data available to consumers suggests that maximizing ratings and reviews will become more and more important to agents’ lead-generation equations.
“We do anything and everything to avoid a bad review,” Wemert said.
Wemert’s profile strategy enhances her team’s advertising spend on Zillow Group and realtor.com, which runs $15,000 and $5,000 per month, respectively.
(Zillow recently switched up how it sorts agent profiles, drastically cutting the prevalence of seller leads Wemert’s team receives. A sizable portion still come from the portal, and they’re typically warmer than buyer leads because they more often come from her profile page, which is full of glowing reviews).
A dive into Wemert’s strategy illustrates the importance of beefed-up profiles and delivers some ideas for how agents can kickstart their own effective online profile strategies.
First, a look at the portals’ agent profile platforms.
As of last fall, Zillow and Trulia share one profile database under Zillow Group.
Profiles are free on both Zillow Group and realtor.com, whether agents are advertisers or not.
Each has an agent-finder platform that gives consumers the ability to find agents by city, neighborhood and ZIP codes using a variety of filters, including recent sales activity, number of reviews and rating quality.
Both platforms have sophisticated fraud detection. Agents can respond to reviews, but can’t change them, if the portals determine they’re valid.
Realtor.com profiles used to feature just positive “recommendations” and did not include ratings, but a November revamp brought unfiltered ratings and reviews to profiles nationwide, bringing it in line with Zillow Group. The ratings on both Zillow Group and realtor.com profiles are on a five-star scale.
The portals’ profile platforms have some differences, however.
Realtor.com’s agent-finder tool only displays NAR members, though all agents can have profiles. Zillow Group profiles surface all agents in the profile search tools on Zillow and Trulia; last year, however, Zillow began highlighting three agent advertisers in agent search results in some markets.
Zillow Group populates its transaction histories on agent profiles from public data sources and from agents themselves, while realtor.com pulls this data directly from MLSs.
Only consumers who have done a transaction with an agent can leave a review and rate on agent on a realtor.com profile. On Zillow Group profiles, any consumer can leave a rating and review, whether they completed a transaction with the agent or not.
How Wemert games the profile system
Given their importance to her business, Wemert has become maniacal about her online profiles, compelling her team to go the extra mile to ensure every client leaves a glowing review and a five-star rating.
First and foremost, she said she focuses on providing great service, even more so than she naturally would. A positive review is always in her team’s mind.
For example, if a hiccup occurs at the closing table (like the seller left the property unclean), her team will pay to have it scrubbed within 24 hours.
A positive rating review is worth more than the $200 last-minute deep clean, Wemert said. Her team faces this scenario regularly.
Her team’s transaction coordinators are responsible for asking for ratings and reviews as part of their closing checklist. As soon as the contract closes, when everyone’s the most happy (ideally), they pop the question.
The coordinators give specific directions to consumers for how to go in and fill out a review/rating on each platform.
She used to give her coordinators bonuses based on the number of reviews and ratings they gathered, but that backfired, when a hounded consumer gave a clearly reluctant review.
To keep transaction histories up to date, she also directs the coordinators to enter both the homes it sells and those of its buyer agents those into Zillow Group. This data is pulled in automatically from MLSs on realtor.com, which displays sold data going back up to two years.
Wemert aims for her team’s profile to have the most reviews and highest ratings of any team or agent in Orlando on Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com, making her easier to find and more appealing once found.
Her team lists all homes under The Wemert Group brand, which ensures that the team stays near the top in its market.
This puts her just a few clicks away for consumers who are searching for agents in her market. A Google search for “real estate agent Orlando“ pulls up realtor.com’s agent-finder No. 1 and Trulia and Zillow’s No. 3 and No. 4, respectively in search results.
On Zillow and Trulia’s platforms this puts her at the top of search results for Orlando agents. Realtor.com’s default algorithm sorts agent by most recent listings or transactions by default and Wemert’s not near the top. If consumers sort by most recommendations in Orlando, she’s No. 1.
Wemert’s team is also careful never to blow a lead off, even if it’s clearly not a good fit. One lead was way below her team’s price point and it blew it off. The person left the team a negative review.
Now, Wemert’s team will respond and say it’s not a good fit and provide suggestions.
Zillow launched an API that allows brokers and agents to automatically pull in their Zillow profile reviews to their websites, but Wemert has opted not to take advantage of that to not become too overly reliant on the portals.
Instead, she copies many of her team’s reviews into blog posts and Facebook posts.
|Jenny’s tips for maximizing portal profiles|
About the Author: Paul Hagey, founder of HageyMedia, is a journalist and real estate content strategist. He was a staff writer at the premier residential real estate news publication Inman News for four years.