Want To Know What Works In Real Estate? Spy On Your Competition!

by | BiggerPockets.com

Nice title, huh!?  This will probably get more than a few looks and probably some who will not read past this point and think the article is about “spying” on your competition in the “dirty” sense of the word.  It is not.

If you want to know what is working when it comes to marketing, advertising and selling, then the best place to go is to any one of your fellow real estate professionals – either persons or businesses – that are having success and research what they are doing.  Very few companies are going to tell you exactly what they are doing, so picking up the phone and asking most people or business owners, “what are you doing to have success”, is going to be out of the question.  You will come across those in the community that are very open and will help out as much as possible, but I just think that is rare.

More than likely you are going to have to go about figuring out the successful strategies of other real estate companies the old fashioned way: by following their footprints and looking around at the clues.  There are more than a few websites out there that will help you figure out what your competition is doing.  And remember…it is not always about what they are doing to be successful, but just as important, what are they doing that is not working!  Pay attention to all of the tips below, because in some cases, the tip is about figuring out what not to do!

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1.  Your Competitors Themselves

I want to be real clear on this one.  I have told countless numbers of entrepreneurs to go to my website and take some specific notes.  How is the site laid out?  Where is video used?  What offers are made on the site to encourage registrations which could be the start of a great relationship.  Take notes on what you like and don’t like and use those notes to develop your own site.

I have told investors to register for our offers and notice the educational nature of the offer and then take notes on the follow up.  What emails do you receive?  What phone calls do you receive?  What are the questions asked and what is the tone of the conversation?

Why would I do and say all of this?  Because that is how you learn what is working and not working.  The key to this process is to use the information and build a website or an offer or your follow up around your own personality and company.  DO NOT try to simply copy and paste because that will never work.  Learn to observe and take notes on the best companies out there and the processes they use.  Then duplicate it with your own flavor.

2.  Google Keyword Planner

This is a great place to start if you want to see what your competition is doing with their website.  Be prepared to be let down though!  Very few actually understand how to prepare their website to be found online.  Most are not informed or surrounding themselves with really good SEO help to position their website to be found for the terms most important to them.  So, be prepared to go outside of just your competition and start looking at industry leaders and websites within your niche that you know are performing really well.  Use the Keyword Planner tool to investigate the site and see which keywords they are ranking for and how much traffic they get from those words.

You can also see how much competition there is for their top keywords and what it would cost you per day and the number of estimated site visits you could get if you wanted to advertise for those same keywords.  This is a great way to find out where visitors to that website are coming from and what budget you would have to have in order to get some of that traffic.

3.  Screaming Frog

This site might be a little advanced for some, but if you want to know what is making a site click on all cylinders, this is the site.  Using Screaming Frog you can research meta information, H tags, keywords, anchor test, follow and non-follow links as well as image descriptions and page depths.  Why does this matter?

If you want to know important keywords, H tags and the general layout of a website, then you need to know where to get all of this information.  Do not simply build a site from scratch and go into such an expensive endeavor blind.  Know the information on the best of the best sites and then share that with your developer.  Really good sites are not built haphazardly.  They are built to work and then when working they are left alone and monitored.  You should do the same – monitor the best sites and pull all the data that you need to give you a roadmap to what works.

4.  Alexa

Some people will tell you that Alexa is a waste of time – a paid platform that only a small percentage of companies are using.  I will tell you that unless you an expert in online marketing and advertising, Alexa is a good tool for measuring you AND your competition.  The great thing about Alexa is you can see spikes in traffic to a competitors site which indicates an increase in advertising.  Then you can see which keywords are driving that traffic so you know what keywords or long-tail phrases they are targeting.  Now you know what you need to concentrate on if you want that same traffic.

Related: BP Podcast 026: Building a Scalable Real Estate Business and Tenant Management Tips with Chris Clothier

5.  SEO Moz

I am a huge fan of SEO Moz because they have a ton of both free and paid platforms that you can use to dig into your competitors activity.  For me, I use the paid platform and the access to incredible videos, information, blogs and articles, tips and tricks for driving traffic are second to none.  But they have something else that is super useful and you can get access to it for free.  They have a tool that allows you to see a sites backlinks.  It allows you to see not only who is linking to your competitors site, but also are the links any good.  They might be linking to Money.com when you are concentrating on Highlights.com and, as that analogy shows, if you want to grow your business you need to run with the big boys and graduate to a higher level.  You would never know what that level was without the ability to dig into the backlinks and see what is happening behind the scenes.

6.  SocialAdNinja.com

Do you like Facebook?  I am not a fan…at all.  But as a business owner, I do not have a choice but to be on it and to be using it.  If you are nervous about social media ppc advertising, then check out SocialAdNinja.com.  It has a price tag -$147 a month.  But you may only need to use it for one month, so the cost may be minimal for what you can get.  It allows you to view over 1 million Facebook advertising campaigns.  You can look at the campaigns based on keywords (now that you know what keywords matter to your business) and view ads based on those keywords.  You can see who the ads targeted, how successful they were and how long they ran.  You can also see what the ad spend was so you know about what your budget would be.  This is a great site to get a little info into what is working and what is not working in social media ad space.

7.  Google

I list it last, but it really is the simplest way to know what is happening with your competition.  Google their name.  Look at what comes up.  What are the returns you get when you enter the name of other companies in Google.  What sites come up other than their sites?  That tells you where they are linking.  Look for customer comments both positive and negative.  Throw the best comments and the worst comments out and look for what is being said a majority of the team.  What are they known for?  What is their trademark?  That tells you what area of your business to concentrate on.  Whether it is follow through, constant updates, great management, high level of information available…whatever their trademark, that is what you want to emulate.  Spy on your competition by learning everything you can about them.

This is a great way to determine which direction to head as a person or a company.  You can do all of these things with the top Realtor, lender, insurance agent, whatever in any area.  You can also research on companies the same way regardless of industry.  The top performers and companies with great reputations and growing businesses did not get there by accident.  The great thing for each of us is they left the road map and clues along the way.  We just have to know where to look to find out how they are doing it!

Photo: ckaroli

About Author

Chris Clothier

In 2005, Chris Clothier (G+) began working with passive real estate investors and has since helped more than 1,100 investors purchase over 3,400 investment properties in Memphis, Dallas and Houston through the Memphis Invest family of companies.


  1. Chris Clothier

    Sorry guys – My proof reading is atrocious…LOL! I found three errors, but hey – it was late at night when I was writing it! I just read it on the site and am shaking my head and laughing at the correctly spelled words that don’t make sense in context…forgive me!


    • Chris Clothier

      Hey Sharon – Thanks for the comments! If you want any additional sites or ideas, let me know. I could have kept writing for a while!

      But, I do not want to take all the credit. There are a lot of other bloggers who will not only recommend these sites, but dozens of other ones and there is a BIG one i did not put on the list because it is such a specialized site and only a very small handful of people would use it. But it is really important if you are going to want to keep your brand in front of your clients and even your future clients. Like I said, I’d be happy to share some other sites that I like. Just shoot me an email.


      • Chris –

        I would love to have anything you have got! That is definitely not my strong point, and working on my websites is on the top of my list; my very long list.

        I was just in Collierville last month visiting a friend. I didn’t realize until recently that you are in Germantown. I also have a friend that lives in Germantown. Maybe we can grab a cup of coffee the next time I come through your area.


  2. Chris

    All great ideas; wanted to add something that’s worked well for me. This may not be an option depending on the folks do business in, but Im in Dallas- Fort Worth and since its such a large area, most investors focus on either Dallas, or Fort Worth. Ive become friends with an investor who only buys in Fort Worth, and I only buy in Dallas. Because we never market to the same areas, we can be very open with specifically what is and isn’t working. Its been very beneficial for the both of us


    • Chris Clothier

      Hey Kevin –

      Peer groups are great ways to get new ideas. We used to run a mastermind with about half a dozen other companies who had similar businesses. Three of four of us still talk on a monthly basis and share ideas and successes.

      There are no secret formulas! If you have an abundance mentality then sharing ideas and getting feedback like you described from others in the business will only help you grow.

      Thanks for the comments.


  3. Chris, you delivered the goods on this one. Nice work.

    You’re so correct that most sites don’t bother with SEO so it’s pretty easy to rank when everyone’s asleep.

    I’ve never heard of Screaming Frog – going to go check that one out.


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