• Zillow's brand recognition is so acute, consumers are more likely to search 'zillow' on Google than 'real estate.'
  • That may partly explain why some agents can find it challenging to get consumers to trust them more than the listing portal.

In what could be seen as a symbolic branding triumph for Zillow, consumers recently became more likely to search “zillow” on Google than “real estate.”

The number of “zillow” searches had been in striking distance of the number of “real estate” searches for the last year or two.

But in March, “zillow” searches surpassed “real estate” searches for the first time.

When comparing the search terms “zillow,” “real estate,” “realtor.com” and “trulia,” Google Trends handed “zillow” a “search interest” score of 52 in March, three points higher than “real estate”s score of 49. During the same month, Trulia and realtor.com registered scores of 9 and 5, respectively.

Source: Google Trends

Source: Google Trends

Comparing searches of “zillow” and “realtor.com” may be unfair because consumers may be less likely to search a company name that’s the same as its web address.

This is borne out by the fact that zillow.com’s lead in total web traffic over realtor.com is vastly smaller on a percentage basis than its lead in searches by Google users. Zillow reportedly received about 55 million in unique visitors in March, while realtor.com clocked around 31 million.

Still, the fact that searches of “zillow” have eclipsed searches of the word that describes Zillow’s focus reflects formidable brand recognition, and may partly explain why agents say they sometimes have trouble persuading consumers to trust their opinion and data over Zillow’s data.

Google Trends also shows that the development is partly due to the steadily decreasing popularity of “real estate” as a search term. That trend may have been driven, in part, by consumers’ growing awareness of listing portals as destinations for real estate research.

Given that “zillow” is a more popular search term than “real estate,” some observers might infer that consumers conducting local property listing searches might pair location names with “zillow” (i.e. “zillow chicago”) more often than they pair them with “real estate” (i.e. “chicago real estate”).

Source: Google Trends

Source: Google Trends

That’s not the case — not yet, at least. Zillow has been steadily closing the gap between those two types of searches.

For example, when comparing searches of “chicago zillow,” “chicago real estate,” “chicago trulia” and “chicago realtor.com” in March, searches of “chicago zillow” trailed searches of “chicago real estate,” by three points.

That’s up from a gap of five points in April 2015 and 11 points in April 2014.

Email Teke Wiggin.

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