We’re guessing you know a lot about your real estate website. For starters, you know what the layout is like, you know what listings you have on display, and you know how frequently you are publishing blog posts and adding fresh content to your site. If you use an analytics program, you also know how many folks are visiting your site each day, where they’re coming from, and what actions they’re taking once they reach your site.
Now, here’s a question: How much do you know about your competitors’ websites? Do you know what listings they’re showing? Do you know what types of content they’re creating? Any idea how many unique visits they’re getting each month?
If you’re relatively clueless about your competition, you’re not alone. For many professionals (real estate and otherwise), keeping tabs on their own business is difficult enough. Trying to keep tabs on the competition as well just seems like too strenuous and time-consuming of a task. But trust us: it’s worth it. By regularly monitoring your competitors, you can learn their behavior and start to anticipate what moves they’ll make next. You can then use this knowledge to inform your marketing strategy and – ideally – start winning clients away from them.
As the old saying goes:
“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.” -Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese general
In this webinar, we’ll show you:
- How to identify and evaluate your competitors
- How to determine areas of opportunity (and weaknesses) within your competitors’ niche
- How to identify tactics your competitors are using to gain a competitive advantage
- The best tools for competitive analysis
- How you can optimize your website to crush the competition
Show notes from 6/7/2013 (scroll to the bottom to download the recording & slides):
1) The Competitive Landscape
It’s all too easy to focus exclusively on what YOU’RE doing as a business and as a marketer. We’re all a bit introverted in that respect – we get excited about that new marketing tool we’re using or that new blog post that we’re promoting, but we don’t necessarily pay attention to what the other folks in our space are doing.
If you’ve yet to do ANY competitive research, a great place to start is to track down your direct competitors: Figure out what other agents or firms are serving the sames areas you are. List them out – you want to be able to keep tabs on these folks so make a list (with Google Docs, Evernote, etc.) that you can refer back to in the future.
Just keep in mind that real estate has moved online. You’re no longer just competing against those folks in the same area as you: you’re also competing against national listing sites like Trulia, Zillow, and Realtor.com. These are places where prospective homebuyers go to search listings, and you don’t want them going there…you want them coming to YOUR site. And while you most likely can’t compete with these sites in terms of marketing dollars, by following some of the strategies we outline (especially when it comes to keyword research) you can still gain a competitive advantage.
2. Analyze the Competition
First things first: you have your list of competitors. now go snoop around on their websites. See what they have to offer and see what stands out. Do they have a blog? Do they update it regularly? etc.
A great idea is to create a chart (in Excel, Google Spreadsheet, etc.) where you can compare the features and functionality of your site with your competitors’ sites. For example, do they have a blog, a search-engine optimized URL (more on that later), indexable property pages, or responsive design? You can then see how your site stacks up against the competition.
Once you’ve explored competitor websites, check out their social profiles. See where they’re active: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc. Pay attention to how frequently they’re posting and what type of content they’re producing (is it mostly company updates? Are they creating guides and resources for buyers and sellers?). And again, you can put your findings in a chart so you can compare your social media marketing efforts to those of your competitors.
With this basic “espionage” insight (from “spying” on websites and social media profiles), you can already start to identify areas where your competitors have an advantage, areas where you have an advantage, and areas that really haven’t been exploited by either you or your competitors. (For example, you might find out that no agents/firms in your area use Pinterest, which might be an opportunity for you to really own that platform.)
3. Spy Tech
What we just outlined were some of the first steps you can take for competitor espionage. But to gain a deeper understanding of what your competitors are up to, you’ll need to use some online tools.
By leveraging these tools, you can learn about your competitors’ web traffic, visitor demographics, backlinks, meta information, keywords, and more. Many of these tools are free (or have free versions), but for the most detailed competitive research data there’s usually a fee.
Want to check out your competitors’ traffic? Alexa, Compete, and QuantCast all offer free solutions for estimating things like traffic rank, unique visits, and demographic data (e.g. who are their visitors and where are they from). It’s kind of like having access to your competitors’ Google Analytics data…only keep in mind that it’s not 100% accurate. (Also, all three tools have paid versions that give you access to a ton more data).
In addition to learning about traffic metrics, you can gain insight into where some of your competitor’s traffic is coming from using a backlink tool. Backlinks, or inbound links, simply refer to which other sites are linking to your competitor’s website. Lots of backlinks – and backlinks from authoritative websites (like HuffPo or New York Times) – have a positive effect on search rankings. MajesticSEO.com, Small SEO Tools “Backlink Checker,” and MOZ’s “Open Site Explorer” all offer free backlink tools.
Want to check out page titles, meta information (“hidden” data that helps with SEO), and common phrases on your competitors homepages? You can reveal a lot of this info using your browser (“View Page Source” or “Inspect Element”). However, there are also tools that can help. For example, with SEObook’s “Webpage Similarity Comparison Tool” you can compare meta data from different sites. Other tools include the Internet Marketing Ninjas “On-Page Optimization Tool” and Submit Express’s “Meta Tag Analyzer.”
And finally, there are several tools you can use for keyword research. We cover a bunch of keyword tools in depth in our infographic, The Best Tools for Keyword Research, as well as our eBook, The Real Estate Marketing Guide to Keyword Research. But when it comes to competitor espionage, KeywordSpy, SpyFu, and SEMrush really give you great insight into the keywords your competitors are targeting, how much they’re spending each day on keyword ads, as well as the average cost per click for their ads.
4. Taking Action
So you do all this research, you check out all the tools and you do a deep dive on a handful of your major competitors…but then what? The final part of the equation is to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your website and marketing strategies.
So let’s break it down piece by piece and start with your website’s domain name. This is something that can be pretty easy to overlook. You think, “I’m Joe Agent, so my website’s domain name should be JoeAgent.com.” Not the best move. During your research, you might notice that some of your competitors who are driving a ton of traffic have locally-focused or “geotargeted” domain names. If they don’t – great! Because you can take advantage. As we outlined in a recent Academy post, customers aren’t searching for YOU: they’re searching for what you have to offer (so domain names like “BostonHomesforSale.com” or “BostonRealEstate” will help with SEO).
If you don’t already have IDX/MLS integration on your site, you’re missing out on crucial “foundation content” (aka MLS listings). These listings are updated regularly, which boosts your SEO and makes you more competitive on search. But perhaps more importantly (when thinking about the competition), if you DON’T have listings on your site, visitors are going to go to a site that does…either a direct competitor OR a national listings site.
In addition to foundation content, created content like blog posts, infographics, slideshows, and videos can help you further distinguish yourself from the competition. Like foundation content, you get the SEO benefit, BUT because you’re creating it, you also get to target specific keywords (which means it’s a great opportunity for you to start “winning” search results away from your competitors). Created content also lets you develop a particular voice or style that sets you apart from the competition.
Remember: you’re not just competing for site traffic, you’re competing for social influence. Don’t let your competitors rule the social web. While you might not have the bandwidth to be on every major social network, you should be where your competitors are. You don’t want them completely dominating a network: you should be in the ring with them competing for attention. Keeping that in mind, if there’s a social network where NONE of your competitors are active, that might be a great opportunity for you develop a monopoly on social influence in that particular network.View Webinar on Demand
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