Through November, nearly $210 billion has flowed into exchange traded products around the world and nearly a third of that total has been allocated to precision-driven, or smart beta, strategies.

Dividend ETFs are capturing a significant of the flows to non-cap weighted ETFs. “Dividend weighted- funds once again led Strategic Beta with $27.6bn of flows this year, more than double the $13.1bn collected in 2012. Many income-seeking investors have turned to dividend stocks as bond alternatives in a persistent low-interest rate environment,” noted BlackRock earlier this week. [Smart Beta Shines in 2013]

Although plenty of new dividend ETFs have popped up this year, some of which have already made inroads with income investors, those investors have also remained fond of the largest and cheapest  dividend products. However, bigger and cheaper does not always equal better and dividend ETFs prove as much. [ETFs for Consistent Dividend Growth]

The largest U.S. dividend ETF is the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation (NYSEArca: VIG). VIG’s trailing  12-month yield of 2% is in-line with that of the S&P 500, though VIG has returned 26.5% this year. With that in mind, we looked for U.S.-focused dividend ETFs that have returned at least 30% in 2013. That list, while not expansive, did turn up a few solid options and at least one well-known rival to VIG.

Three ETFs were picked from that list, including the Schwab US Dividend Equity ETF (NYSEArca: SCHD), which is up 30.3% this year. The ETF’s annual expense ratio of 0.07% is rock-bottom among dividend funds. It is even slightly cheaper than the rival Vanguard products and Schwab clients can trade SCHD commission-free. [Schwab Adds ETFs to Commission-Free Lineup]

SCHD has also proven durable as interest rates have risen as utilities and telecom names combine for just 2.3% of SCHD’s weight. SCHD also excludes rate-sensitive, yield-generating asset classes such as MLPs, REITs and preferred stocks from its lineup and has a distribution yield of 2.52%.

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