How To Increase Your Web Traffic By Spying On The Competition

Alex Middel
April 12, 2016

The multifamily rental industry can be tough.

With so many properties fighting to get noticed by apartment hunters, gaining leads is harder than ever. The internet has made it even more of a challenge, because sites like Craigslist and Trulia are packed with thousands of listings in your area.

Despite all the competition, you’ve probably noticed that the same handful of multifamily properties in your area seem to dominate online. Whether it’s Google, social media or paid advertisements, you seem to see the same four or five companies on every site that has to do with renting apartments in your area.  

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to siphon off some of their leads, and steal their web traffic? We’re going to walk you through exactly how to replicate your competitors online marketing tactics, and use them for your own property.

1. Find Your Competitor’s Keywords

The very first piece of information you want to uncover is what keywords your competitor is targeting. Since most websites get their web traffic from organic search, finding out what keywords people are using to land on your competitor’s site is crucial.

There are a few ways you can do this.

First, you can use a paid tool like SEMrush. Type in your competitor’s URL, and SEMrush will show you the top organic keywords the site is ranking for.

 SEMrush competitor keywords

Click on “View full report” to see more options. You can only see 10 results for free. To see more, you’ll have to sign up for a paid account.

 SEMrush competitor keywords Full Report

If you don’t have a paid SEMrush account and still want to see more results, here’s a cool hack you can use.

Take the relevant keywords you got from the free search, then plug them into Google’s Keyword Planner. In the “Keywords to include” filter, enter the name of the city you’re targeting. This will give you results that are local, and likely to be targeted by your competitors.

 Competitor Keyword Research

Then you’ll get a long list of additional keywords you can target as well.

 Keyword Planner keyword results

Another option is to look through your competitor's website. If a site has had any type of on-page SEO done, the keywords being targeted are usually easy to find.

The first place to look is the meta title. This is the information that shows up at the top of your browser when you view a website. It’ll usually be shortened, but if you hover your mouse over the tab, you can see the full text.

 Meta Title Full

From the home page, we know one of this site’s main keywords is “Seattle Luxury Apartments”. Seem familiar? It’s one of the keywords we found through SEMrush!

And as you go through more pages of the site, you’ll be able to uncover other keywords they’re targeting.

 Meta Title Keywords

Websites will also mention variations of their target keywords within their content as well.

 Keywords in Content

One last technique you can use to uncover your competitor’s keyword is to enter their URL as a landing page in the Google Keyword Planner.

Inside the keyword tool, select “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”. Enter your competitor’s website in the landing page section and click “Get ideas”.

 Landing Page Analysis

On the results page, click on the Keyword ideas tab and you’ll get a list of suggested keywords based on your competitor’s site.

 Landing Page Keyword Results

Once you’ve uncovered these keywords, you can optimize your site for them too. Add them into your meta titles, headings and content.

Here’s another tip that will really help you steal the competition's traffic for these keywords. Create entire pages targeting the keywords with the highest search volume. Most multifamily websites don’t take this step, so this will give you a huge leg up on your competitors.

For instance, you could create an entire page targeting the keyword “Seattle luxury apartments”. You’d be able to target that keyword in the most important areas of on-page SEO:

  • Title
  • Headings (h1, h2, h3)
  • URL (
  • Within the content
  • Image alt tags

You could even create blog posts targeting some of your new-found keywords!

2. Get Backlinks From the Same Sites

Another common source of web traffic is referrals from other websites. If your competitor’s site is being linked to from high profile sites, particularly local ones, there’s a good chance they’re generating traffic. Your job is to find the sites linking to them, and get them to link to you as well.

Start by making a list of all the sites linking to your competitor. There are a lot of different tools you can use to find your competitor’s backlinks. You tend to get better results with paid tools though. Here are some different options you can consider:

For this example, we’re going to use Moz’s Open Site Explorer.

Just enter the URL for your competitor, and Moz will give you a list of the sites linking to it. You can even see which page the link is on.

 Competitor Backlinks

Look through the list to find sites that would potentially link to you too. Some good sources are:

  • Guest posts
  • Business directories
  • Local website
  • Mentions in blog posts

In addition to giving you some extra referral traffic, stealing your competitor’s backlinks will also help your SEO.

3. Create Better Apartment Listings

When you create an apartment listing, do you take a second to look at the other listings first? If the answer’s no, you’re probably not getting as many leads as you should be.

Sites like Zillow, Trulia and all function like search engines. There is an algorithm that determines which listings show up higher in the results. In order to show up above the competition, you need to make your listings better than theirs.

Start by doing searches related to your multifamily community. Set the filters based on the features you offer.

 Apartment Search Example

Then look at the results that show up at the top. Carefully analyze each listing and take note of the things that stand out.

 Apartment Listing Analysis

If you were to compete with this listing, you would have to be just as thorough, and put in even more details.

Here are some general tips to optimize your apartment listings to make them better than your competitor’s:

  • Include keywords in your listing. (i.e. “apartments in Alexandria”)
  • Add as many high-quality pictures as possible.
  • Completely fill in every detail, even if you think it’s unimportant.
  • Be very descriptive in your “About” section. Paint a picture of what the area looks like.
  • Get as many reviews as possible.
  • Keep your listings updated with current information.

Being able to steal your competitor’s web traffic from apartment listing sites is important because these visitors are warm prospects, or leads in some cases.

4. Google Alerts

This is a tactic many industries aren’t even aware of besides PR and marketing firms. Google Alerts is a feature that will send you email notifications whenever a certain term is mentioned online.

In most cases, companies use Google Alerts for reputation management. They set up an alert for different variations of their own business name so they can track when they’re mentioned online.

We’re going to switch it up and create alerts for the names of our competitors instead.

 Google Alerts Competitors

You can create as many alerts as you’d like, but it’s best to keep it to your top two or three competitors. You can create a separate email address strictly for managing your alerts. Just make sure you check it regularly.

Here’s how to put this strategy into action.

Let’s say your competitor is called Brown Books Apartment. Create alerts for:

  • Their website (
  • Their company name (Brown Books Apartment)
  • Different variations of their company name (Brown Books Apartments)
  • Their phone number
  • Their address

When the alerts come, check to see if there’s a way for you to be mentioned on the same site. For instance, if the competitor was mentioned in a blog post, find the person who wrote it and start to build a relationship with them. Then, the next time they’re putting together an article they may mention you instead of your competitor.

5. Boost Your Lagging Keywords

In Google Webmaster Tools, you can see a list of the different phrases people are using to find your website. You’ll see the approximate number of clicks for each keyword, as well as your average ranking position.

For this tactic, you’re going to look for the keywords that you’re showing up for (impressions) but aren’t getting any clicks. The fact that you’re getting impressions means that people are actively searching for these keywords. But since they aren’t clicking on your site, that means they’re going to your competitors instead. You need to shift that traffic to your site.

Start by logging into Google Webmaster Tools. Then go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics. You want the following options checked:

  • Clicks
  • Impressions
  • Position
  • Query

 Webmaster Tools Competitor Research

You can sort the results by impressions, then look for the keywords that aren’t receiving as many clicks.

 Webmaster Tool Results

Once you have a list of keywords, the next step is to Google them and see which of your competitors are showing up on the first page. Analyze each site to see what improvements you can make to either outrank them, or get visitors to click your site instead of theirs.

 meta title and description

If you’re ranking on the first page (positions 1-10) and still getting a low click through rate, the problem could be with your meta title and meta description. This is the information that shows up in Google’s search results page.

Your meta title and description can mean the difference between a would-be renter visiting your site or a competitor. If your search snippet is lacking, people will be less compelled to click through.

Here are some tips for writing meta titles and descriptions that get clicks:

  • Capitalize major words
  • Use appropriate keywords
  • Keep your meta title to 50-60 characters and description to 150-160 to have them display in full without being truncated.
  • Use parenthesis in your title to make it stand out. Ex: “Loft Apartments San Antonio TX (Luxury Studios)”
  • Include a CTA in your description such as “Schedule Your Tour Today & Save $200!”

Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what generates the best results.

Start Stealing (in a Good Way!)

Just to recap, You’ve learned:

  1. How to find your competitors keywords.
  2. How to copy their backlinks.
  3. How to steal their leads from apartment directory sites.
  4. How to replicate their PR strategy.
  5. How to take their search traffic.

We’ve given you the tactics, now it’s up to you to execute.

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