Zillow.com today launches "EZ Ads" among other features to attract user-generated content to its real estate site, increase visitation, and generate revenue. Zillow's do-it-yourself ad capability allows anyone to create an ad and then purchase space locally by geography or ZIP code.
Another buzz-worthy addition to the site is a question-and-answer function that allows anyone to pose a question and view answers from anyone who chooses to respond. Visitors can then rate answers as "helpful" or "not helpful," and each contribution links back to a user's profile page--telling visitors, for example, if the question was answered by a local agent, or if the contributor frequently answers questions within the Zillow community.
"Today, some of the most colorful and important information about homes and real estate is trapped inside the heads of local experts--agents, homeowners and neighbors," says Lloyd Frink, Zillow president. "By allowing people to freely ask questions and share information online about homes, we hope to unlock, for the community as a whole, a powerful vault of data, such as an agent sharing insight into a neighborhood, or a potential buyer asking the shortest commute route downtown."
The Kelsey Group's Matt Booth, an analyst who covers interactive local media and was given a preview of the site enhancements, predicts that the EZ Ad tool in particular will prove popular because it depends on "self enrollment" and will attract buyers of local ads with credit card in hand. Inexpensive and simple to use, Booth predicts the feature will take off.
"I can see someone going in right away and buying up all the really good ZIP codes. If you're selling in Beverly Hills you want to be there and in the surrounding areas."
Seattle-based Zillow was launched a year ago by former Expedia.com executives. Its "Zestimate" valuation tool allows anyone anywhere to type in an address and find out what that home is worth. So far, interest in the site has exceeded expectations. Company founders had projected 1 million unique visitors by August, and instead saw 5 million unique visitors in just three weeks.
What has made the site attractive to advertisers such as Lendingtree, Washington Mutual, Bank of America and dozens of others is the quality of its visitors: 84% own a home, most are affluent, and they're concentrated on both coasts.
Last month, according to data compiled by Hitwise, Zillow ranked No. 7 in share of market for site visits in the real estate category.