CoStar censured for claims made about traffic in Homes.com ads


The Better Business Bureau National Programs’ National Advertising Division has recommended that CoStar Group’s residential portal Homes.com ceases using claims that it has double the traffic of Realtor.com in its ads. CoStar Group has complied with the request.

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The National Advertising Division, an arm of the Better Business Bureau’s National Programs, delivered a blow to Homes.com Tuesday, recommending the portal giant halt use of two key traffic claims in its advertising due to a challenge filed by Realtor.com parent company, Move, Inc.

Move challenged Homes.com’s claims that it has reached 156 million unique monthly visitors on its site and has double the unique monthly visitors of Realtor.com. This echoed Move leadership’s previous arguments that both statistics are based on the Homes.com Network and not the Homes.com website alone, which boasts 110 million unique monthly visitors — a fact that is disclosed in small print on Homes.com ads.

The National Advertising Division agreed with Move’s concerns, saying that both “claims [are] not supported” based on Homes.com’s publicly shared data statistics. As a result, the portal must stop using “Homes.com just reached 156M monthly unique visitors” and
“Homes.com now has DOUBLE Realtor.com’s traffic” in its ads.

“NAD recommended that those claims be discontinued because the claims conveyed a message that Homes.com attracts 156 million monthly unique visitors when that figure was based on combined total traffic, calculated using Google Analytics, for 16 other CoStar websites,” the NAD said in a press release. “According to Google Analytics, Homes.com itself has 110 million monthly unique visitors.”

“NAD considered the accuracy of the challenged comparative claim that ‘Homes.com now has DOUBLE Realtor.com’s traffic,’” NAD continued. “NAD determined that this claim is not supported and recommended that it be discontinued because Homes.com’s claimed 110 million monthly visitors are not ‘double’ the 66 million unique visitors claimed by Realtor.com.”

Move also took issue with CoStar Group comparing its Google Analytics traffic data to Realtor.com’s Adobe Analytics traffic data, saying the sites use “use different methods” and should not be used to make apples-to-apples comparisons about traffic performance. However, NAD declined to provide a recommendation on that issue due to “limited record in the SWIFT matter.”

In a statement to Inman, CoStar Group General Counsel Gene Boxer took a swipe at Realtor.com before spinning the National Advertising Division’s censure as a victory since NAD will allow CoStar Group to continue using traffic figures for the Homes.com Network in its ads as long as they “explicitly disclose it in the body of its advertisements.”

“Homes.com has far surpassed Realtor.com, which is now sliding into obscurity,” Boxer said in the statement. “CoStar is delighted that the NAD recognized that the Homes.com Network had 156 million unique monthly visitors in March 2024, and that Homes.com had 110 million (as calculated by Google Analytics). Realtor.com reported only 66 million unique monthly users in the same period, measured by Adobe Analytics. CoStar is pleased that NAD recognized that both metrics are derived from “site centric data gathering tools.”

“As a result,” Boxer continued, “Homes.com is the No. 2 most-visited residential real estate portal, far surpassing Realtor.com, and the Homes.com Network has double the traffic of Realtor.com. Apples to apples, Realtor.com is losing the portal wars, and losing big. Consistent with NAD’s decision, CoStar will continue to advertise that fact and disclose the number of unique visitors to the Homes.com Network and Homes.com. Realtor.com’s NAD gambit can’t change those numbers, or the reality: Realtor.com has fallen far behind.”

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Damian Eales

In an emailed statement to Inman, Realtor.com CEO Damian Eales praised NAD’s recommendation, saying the group saw through “Homes.com’s smoke and mirrors.”

“We’re pleased the National Advertising Division saw through CoStar’s smoke and mirrors and put this issue to rest with the recommendation that CoStar withdraw their false advertising claims of 156 million monthly unique users for Homes.com and having double the traffic of Realtor.com,” he said. “The contrast with CoStar is becoming increasingly clear.”

“CoStar has misled Homes.com customers while Realtor.com has remained focused on growing a quality audience and quality leads for both buying agents and listing agents,” he added.

The NAD said CoStar has agreed to comply with its recommendations, noting that its Tuesday ruling “precludes CoStar from making other truthful and non-misleading claims about the number of unique visitors to its websites collectively or to any of its individual websites, or comparative claims about Homes.com’s traffic.”

The NAD’s announcement comes amid an intensifying battle between Realtor.com and CoStar Group as they strive to snatch the portal crown from longtime leader Zillow.

While much of their differences have been limited to comments made during earnings calls, interviews, and onstage appearances at real estate conferences like Inman Connect, Realtor.com brought their concerns to the courts with a July 3 theft of trade secrets lawsuit filed against CoStar Group in the U.S. District Court in California.

The lawsuit claims that the former Realtor.com News and Insights head James Kaminsky “systematically invaded Move’s secure computer systems, secretly exfiltrated Move’s trade secrets, and spied on Move’s real-time confidential electronic documents to give CoStar a massive unfair competitive advantage and to help CoStar increase traffic to its competing real estate listing website, all to the detriment of Move.”

Realtor.com declined to comment on the lawsuit; however, CoStar general counsel Gene Boxer said the suit is simply another distraction in an ongoing battle between the two portal giants.

“This lawsuit is Realtor.com’s latest desperate attempt to distract from the fact that Homes.com has replaced Realtor.com as the number two portal according to the parties’ own site-centric data gathering tools,” Boxer said in a previous Inman article.

Email Marian McPherson





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