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Over-Reliance on Zillow Leads Can Spell Bad News For Real Estate Brokerages

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Chris Kirksey


The Risks of Relying Too Much on Zillow Leads

Putting all your eggs in the Zillow basket may seem convenient at first, but over-dependence on any single lead source puts your business at major risk.

Zillow has become the dominant player in real estate lead generation. With its popularity among home buyers and sellers, it’s easy for agents to lean heavily on Zillow leads to fill their pipeline. However, relying too much on this third-party site poses significant risks.

While Zillow provides a major source of leads, agents have less control over how they are represented on the platform. Competition is high, as multiple agents vie for the same leads. And lead quality is not always ideal, as many are not ready to transact immediately.

Overdependence on Zillow makes brokerages and agents vulnerable if anything were to happen to the site or their listings. Just like an investment portfolio concentrated in one asset, lack of diversification puts agents in a precarious position.

The solution is for agents to take proactive control by generating leads through their own website. By strengthening organic visibility and optimizing for buyer and seller searches, they can supplement Zillow leads with direct, highly qualified traffic.

Reducing over-reliance starts with owning your lead gen strategy. Now is the time for agents to build a balanced pipeline on their own terms.

What are Zillow Leads?

Zillow leads refer to inquiries and connections generated through the Zillow real estate platform. There are a few main ways real estate agents can get Zillow leads:

  • Claiming a free Zillow profile – Agents can create a profile displaying their listings, contact info, reviews, and other details. Zillow users can then contact the agent directly through the platform.
  • Advertising in Zillow’s agent directory – Agents can pay to display their information prominently in Zillow’s directory of local agents, increasing visibility.
  • Paying for Premier Agent membership – This paid subscription provides agents with a Sponsored link on high-traffic pages and priority customer service.
  • Purchasing ZIP code level ad campaigns – Agents can buy ads targeting specific ZIP codes to get their listings and contact info in front of interested buyers.
  • Responding to buyer inquiries – Home buyers can submit inquiries through Zillow, which get routed to Premier Agents to respond and convert.
  • Claiming and optimizing Zillow reviews – Positive reviews build credibility and can result in direct contacts.

How Much Do Zillow Leads Cost a Real Estate Agent?

The cost of Zillow leads for real estate agents varies depending on the advertising program:

  • Premier Agent membership – $9.99 to $99.99 per month depending on market competition. Gives agents a Sponsored link on high-traffic Zillow pages.
  • ZIP code level ad campaigns – Around $40-$60 per day for a targeted ZIP code. Gets the agent’s listings and details in front of interested buyers.
  • Pay per click advertising – Agents pay on average $8-$12 each time someone clicks on their ad. Cost per conversion is $30-$75.
  • Pay per impression advertising – Around $2-$4 per thousand impressions, depending on ad positioning.

While Zillow leads may convert at a more decent rate than other sources, the constant advertising costs can quickly eat into profits. Top Premier Agents can spend over $1,000 per month to maintain visibility and leads.

One analysis showed the average Zillow Premier Agent spent 15-30% of their yearly commission-based income on advertising costs. This highlights the need to balance third-party leads with more cost-effective organic lead generation.

The Downsides of Over-Dependence on Zillow Leads

At first glance, Zillow grants easy access to a high volume of real estate leads. However, over-reliance on this single source poses considerable risks that agents should weigh carefully.

Most notably, over-dependence on Zillow leads to a significant loss of control. You cede power over brand identity and listings, as Zillow dictates critical factors like placement, visibility, and content presentation. Your ability to customize the home search experience is also limited.

Additionally, leaning too heavily on Zillow leads drives up customer acquisition costs. Bidding against competing agents on the same leads chips away at profit margins. There is also no guarantee of lead quality, as Zillow’s algorithm may funnel buyers not aligned with your niche or at different stages of readiness.

Above all, concentrating all your lead generation efforts into one basket makes your business vulnerable if anything were to happen to that source. Just like diversifying investments to mitigate risk, agents should proactively develop new lead channels to avoid reliance on Zillow alone.

Rather than wait for Zillow to deliver leads, take charge of your pipeline strategy. Diversify sources to maintain autonomy and gain control over your marketing and brand identity.

How to Supplement Zillow Leads Through Real Estate SEO

While Zillow provides a valuable lead channel, smart agents mitigate risk by diversifying their pipeline. Optimizing your website for organic search can help generate direct, highly qualified traffic to supplement third-party leads.

1. Optimize for Buyer and Seller Keywords

One of the best ways to generate real estate leads through your website is to optimize your content for the keywords and phrases that home buyers and sellers are searching for. This allows you to appear prominently in search results when people are actively looking for properties or real estate agents in your area.

When doing keyword research, look for both informational and transactional terms. Informational keywords are earlier in the research process, such as “homes for sale in [city]” or “best neighborhoods in [city].” These bring in users who are just starting to explore their options. Transactional keywords indicate later-stage buyers who are ready to act, like “recently sold homes near me” or “[city] real estate agents.”

Make sure to include relevant location-based terms in your target keywords. For example, “first time home buyer programs Seattle” or “new construction homes Austin.” Hyperlocal geo-modifiers help you connect with searchers in your specific market.

Optimize pages on your site for each keyword, incorporating the terms naturally into headings, body content, image names, etc. Provide useful information that answers searchers’ queries and questions around that topic. This improves your chances of ranking for those valuable terms.

With smart SEO that targets buyer and seller intent, you can position your real estate website as a helpful resource throughout the search process, building trust and credibility with potential clients. This strategy helps diversify your lead sources beyond reliance on paid sites like Zillow.

2. Creating Hyperlocal Real Estate Content

One effective SEO tactic is to publish market reports, school guides, neighborhood highlights, and other hyperlocal content that is specifically tailored to your geographic area. This helps you rank for searches from nearby homeowners looking for information about your local real estate market.

For example, create detailed pages showcasing popular neighborhoods, covering topics like:

  • Overview of the area
  • Median home prices
  • Notable schools and amenities
  • Local points of interest
  • Demographic information
  • Housing market trends

Other ideas include “Best School Districts in [City]” or “[City] Neighborhoods for Families.”

Focus on creating truly useful, in-depth content that goes beyond just homes for sale. This demonstrates your expertise and familiarity with the region. Incorporate keywords and location names related to that specific area so the content ranks for hyper-targeted queries.

With insightful, information-rich content about your local market, you can become a trusted resource for potential buyers and sellers doing their initial research. This strategy enhances your visibility and helps generate real estate leads without sole dependence on sites like Zillow.

3. Build Local Links and Citations

In addition to creating helpful local content, you should build links and directory listings on trusted regional websites. This boosts your visibility and authority in local search results.

Some potential link and citation sources include:

  • Local newspaper websites
  • City guides
  • Regional business journals
  • Chamber of commerce pages
  • Relevant local blogs (food, family, real estate, etc.)
  • Online directories like Yelp

Aim to get your real estate site listed on these pages with your business name, address, phone number, and a link back to your website. Proper NAP citations and quality links from reputable local sites reinforce that your business is prominent in the community.

You can also partner with other local professionals like home inspectors, contractors, or mortgage lenders to swap links to each other’s sites. This generates referral traffic from synergistic businesses.

Optimizing your local SEO footprint takes time, but earns long-term trust and authority in the region you serve. This allows you to pull in buyer and seller leads without relying solely on paid referral platforms.

4. Implement Schema Markup

Another impactful SEO technique is to implement schema markup on your real estate website. Schema is code that tags different entities on a page, like properties, agents, location info, prices, and more.

Adding appropriate real estate schema improves how your site’s listings appear in Google search results. For example, you can display an address, price, number of beds/baths, property photos, and your agent info directly in the SERP snippet.

Some important real estate schema to implement:

  • RealEstateProperty – For property listings
  • RealEstateAgent – For agent profiles
  • Place – For neighborhoods, cities, etc.
  • GeoCoordinates – For location tagging
  • PriceSpecification – For home prices

Proper semantic markup like this reinforces to Google the relevance of your pages for real estate-related searches. Users also get more details about listings right in the search results, making them more likely to click through.

Schema implementation demonstrates the technical SEO expertise agents need to rank well and generate buyer and seller leads in today’s competitive market.

Leveraging Local SEO Software

As a real estate agent or brokerage, you can leverage local SEO software tools to expand your visibility and supplement third-party leads. These tools can automate citation and listing management across hundreds of directories and local data aggregators relevant to home buyers in your market.

Local SEO tools allow you to easily push your business name, address, phone, listings, and other details to top directories that consumers check when researching homes in an area. This builds local authority and gets your business found across more channels.

The software also syndicates your listings and neighborhood content to hyperlocal publisher sites, apps, and other platforms where potential buyers go to search. This multiplier effect provides more opportunities to connect with motivated sellers and buyers as they conduct research.

In short, leveraging the right local SEO tools can simplify and scale your efforts to supplement Zillow leads by improving visibility and reach across the web. The automation takes the heavy lifting out of optimizing a hyperlocal lead strategy.

Driving More Organic Leads Through Your Website Directly

Beyond third-party portals, your website itself can become a lead generation workhorse. Here are tips for converting more organic traffic into high-quality leads.

Use Google Analytics to see which website pages already rank well for buyer and seller keywords. Double down on optimizing and promoting these pages to increase conversions.

Completely optimize your Google My Business listing with photos, descriptions, attributes, etc. This helps you rank prominently in local map packs where buyers first look.

Remove friction in the lead capture process by placing forms strategically, simplifying fields, and adding value in exchange for contacts. Clearly convey next steps post-submission.

Driving organic leads directly through your owned platforms not only reduces costs, but allows you to control the branding and experience. Analyze existing strengths and bottlenecks to maximize conversions from SEO traffic.


Over-dependence on third-party sites like Zillow for real estate leads poses significant risks for agents’ business and marketing autonomy. While Zillow offers a valuable source of buyer and seller connections, concentrating all lead generation efforts on one external platform makes agents vulnerable.

By diversifying lead sources through strategies like optimizing for organic search, agents can take control over their online visibility and supplement Zillow leads with direct, highly qualified traffic. Strengthening the website as a lead generation hub allows agents to reduce reliance on portal sites and gain more influence over branding, experience, and costs.

In today’s digital landscape, a balanced approach to lead gen is essential. Savvy real estate professionals mitigate risk by actively developing new channels, like SEO, while also tapping into existing third-party sources. A diverse pipeline gives flexibility and sustainability as market conditions evolve.

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