Not the link Zillow was looking for

In For sale by owner I talked about the online tools that helped us sell our house. I gave Zillow high marks. Even though our buyers didn’t find us on Zillow — in the end, it was a good old-fashioned drive-by — the service was useful for the reasons I mentioned. But now I’m going to have to subtract some points.

A few days ago I received this email, misleadingly titled Zillow inquiry:

Hi Jon,

I work for Zillow, the online real estate network. When looking for groups that have cited our brand, I came across your great blog post discussing your marketing strategy when selling you (sic) home and noticed you mentioned Zillow.

Would you consider linking the word ‘Zillow’ in the third paragraph within the text as a resource to your users? Here’s the URL to the Zillow City Page

We really appreciate your coverage and thank you for considering the link on your page. Feel free to use me as a point of contact here if you need any data or content in the future, and if nothing else, I’m just glad to have had the chance to connect!

If this is not the correct contact would you please forward it to someone that can be of any assistance, thanks.



I’m withholding the name because the guy was just doing his job. But shame on Zillow for making that his job. It got worse. A few days later:

Hey Jon,

Just wanted to follow up to see if you can help with adding the link. Let me know, thanks!



Where to start? First, this is my blog. I choose whether to link the word ‘Zillow’ in paragraph 3, and if so, where to point that link. And now, because you had the gall to tell me how to do that, and then bug me about it, I’m going to point here.

Second, people who need a link to Zillow in order to find Zillow, if such people exist, are not your customers.

Third, consider who you’re dealing with. Zillow’s users are by definition going through a seriously stressful phase of life. We are likely to be emotionally and physically exhausted by the process of buying and/or selling a home, and by preparing to move. We wake up in the middle of the night obsessing about our checklists. You presume to add to our lists? Disrespectful. Bad form. Don’t.

Posted in .

6 thoughts on “Not the link Zillow was looking for

  1. Bam! Breakdown.

    Textbook turning a good thing bad. And it might all be linked back to not understanding how the web works. Literacy comes in all shapes for all markets.

    Good luck with the move, Jon, may the West Coast be good to you and yours.

  2. Yea, that’s the kind of behavior I’d expect from a start-up trying to make a name for themselves and not an established company.

    Just curious, but do you think your reaction would have been different had they offered you compensation to add the link?

  3. Sadly this is all too often a case where they run flak on social media attempting to run the score up and get big gains in Search Engine Optimization. They just don’t see the effect it has on “goodwill” in accounting terms. The Internet, the web doesn’t follow those old accounting practices, I think.

  4. Greg, It’s hard for me to imagine them offering a sum that would matter. And yes, Jim, this is a kind of faux literacy that’s actually illiterate.

  5. Jon, I see signs of stress and getting old. Don’t like the social media way? No teenagers at home anymore? I have observed your blog since the Infoworld days and I suggest that you might want to step back and put this ‘transgression’ in perspective.
    Hey, here was an additional person looking at your blog. Perhaps a different approach and he would refer to it, spread the word about its quality and content. I don’t think he will now Seems to me like a missed opportunity for you rather than an insult. You know lemons and lemonade. Catch you later. Makes me thirsty all this talk about lemonade.

    1. Stressed, yep. Old? Whatever. But this wasn’t “the social media way” it was an employee implementing an algorithm. That’s just anti-social.

Leave a Reply