Zillow Offers Self-Serve Ads to Home Sellers and Local Services

Zillow, the site that lets users peek at property value estimates and create free home sales listings, today has unveiled a do-it-yourself ad service. Dubbed “EZ Ads,” the CPM-based offering differs from most self-serve ads that typically require advertisers to pay on a cost-per-click or cost-per-action basis.

The new system, aimed at real estate agents and related businesses like mortgage lenders and landscapers, lets advertisers create text and image ads, similar to the way Google’s AdWords and other sponsored link networks do. Rather than targeting the ads based on keywords, advertisers can target by zip code, and their ads will appear with others on pages featuring homes and content associated with that area. The ads are priced on a $10 CPM basis with a $10 minimum. Advertisers can choose the length of the ad run, include a photo, link to a Web site or e-mail address, and feature contact information including a phone number.

Cost-per-click ads aren’t always appropriate for real estate agents or local service providers, said Jorrit Van der Meulen, Zillow’s VP of partner relations. “They don’t really know how to deal with those clicks on the Web site, but they do know how to deal with a phone call,” he said.

The business card-like ads will rotate in sets of four on zip code-related property profile and search results pages. Until now, Zillow has been offering display ads and sponsorships; current advertisers include Lending Tree, Bankrate.com and Home Depot. Zillow has sales operations in New York, San Francisco and Seattle, and is moving into Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles. Late last month, the firm hired former CNNMoney.com ad sales VP Greg Schwartz as VP of sales.

“We’re investing fairly heavily on the direct sales side and EZ Ads is a complement to that,” said Van der Meulen.

Despite the fact that real estate agents, local businesses and private owners selling homes have several advertising options online, from yellow pages and classifieds listings to paid search ads, Van der Meulen thinks these advertisers want to be in several places. “It’s not a zero sum game,” he added.

In addition to the new ad product, Zillow has launched new features, including forums, questions and answers with community ratings, photo uploads and profile pages for agents, home sellers and buyers.

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