Competitive intelligence is “the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, and competitors …”.

We, affiliates, already know the value gained from a thorough understanding of keyword & market research but these two items merely touch the surface of what can be learned from the competition.

This post isn’t for everyone – it’s for those that want to get deep within the minds and tactics of the competition by going the extra mile to qualify an opportunity through proper research. The tactics discussed in this post take some time to learn but will become one of your best skills for all other elements of online business & marketing from here on out.

Tools of the Trade

There are a plethora of SEO tools at your disposal (just do a quick Google search and you’ll find more than you can handle) but let’s curate the list and go with just four that will give us all that we need:

  • Google Chrome (which we’ll use to look at the developer code)
  • Google Trends (which we’ll use to track the trending of the topic/niche)
  • Google Adwords Keyword Tool (which we’ll use to analyze the keywords)
  • (which we’ll use to scope the backlinks to the competition)

The best part of these are, of course, that they’re free to use; they’re also incredibly easy to understand so even if you never touched these tools it shouldn’t take longer than an hour or so to adjust.

Seek and Outrank

Now let’s get into action and put these tools to good use. What you’ll be doing is digging deep into the competitor’s website to find any missing “pieces” of the SEO equation. You can then use your information to exploit your competitor faults for your gain.

Quick note: Gut instinct plays an important role in competitor intelligence. You can get a “feel” for your competitor’s position in the market based on the social reactions of their community and consumer base. You’ll also do yourself a huge favor if you buy their product to see what they have to offer from the buyer’s perspective.

Step 1: Analyze the Competitor Keywords (and Faults)

One of the handiest tools that happen to be built right into Google Chrome is the ‘Inspect Element’ option when you right click on a part of a page. This brings up a developer preview of the web page code which can reveal a wealth of information about a competitor’s website including:

  • Title (and other meta) tags
  • Scripts and themes
  • CSS styling
  • File directories

This may seem like an invasion of privacy but it’s completely legitimate since it’s merely code that you’re receiving in the first place.

Yes, there are tools that will pull most of this information automatically but what we find most helpful is when you’re trying to reverse engineer elements of a competitors website which looks and feels to be highly effective – – you can go into the developer mode to view what plugins or what external service they may be using to achieve a particular effect.

It may take a small amount of time to adjust to using this tool but it’s immensely powerful AND you’ll learn a good amount of coding skills that could be very beneficial to your website at a later time.

Step 2: Gauge the Competition and Market Potential

Next up you want to understand two things:

  • What’s the potential for the keyword the competition is going for?
  • What’s the likelihood that it will stay relevant in many years to come?

You may be adjusted to doing keyword research as part of your routine when creating a new project or writing new content but never forget that it’s still very powerful when it comes to doing competitive research in a topic/niche you’ve taken under consideration.

Simply place in the keywords you’ve discovered based on the heading tags found from the process explained in step 1 of this post (otherwise fill in the exact URL within the ‘website’ field).

You’ll now have a propagated list of keywords relevant to your competition which they’re most likely trying to claim #1 position.

You can also use our SpyFu guide to reinforce your information by examining the exact keywords they have chosen based on their Google Adwords campaigns.

Put the two-and-two together and you know have a refined focus on what keywords you need to capture to become a main competitor in the market.

Secondly, head on over to Google Trends and populate the fields with you newfound keywords and phrases discovered through the Adword keyword tool.

You can refine this speculative look at the keyword trend with great modifiers, such as:

  • The type of search (web, image, product, etc)
  • The location
  • The date range
  • Specific categories

As a bonus you can find related search terms listed under the graph which can give you a great set of ideas for other keywords you may have missed during your research with the Adwords tool.

In all, look at the graph and see where the trend is going – – if it appears that it has been a consumer favorite term (product/service) for a good amount of time and doesn’t show any major signs of dips than you’re looking at a keyword that has long-term potential. On the other hand, if you’re seeing big spikes at specific points of the year than it may just be a holiday-type keyword/niche; and if it just completely drops off than it’s already losing market favor and doesn’t seem to have a long-term future.

Step 3: Check in on the Backlinks (and Find the Opportunities)

Finally, we’d recommend using SEO tools to search backlinks such as to have a glimpse as to where the competition has been building (or gaining) links to their website.

As you know – links matter in search ranking but it’s more important to understand HOW they may have received the link than just where it’s coming from.

The results can be somewhat of a jumbled mess and a little hard to understand (at first) but you’re given all you really need to know in order to replicate (and improve) the competitions link building campaign so your project can capitalize on hidden opportunities.

Basically …

1. Compile a list of the websites where your competition is present.

2. Visit the pages and find whether they received a simple link, mention, or guest post.

3. Contact the website owner and mention that you have a relevant website, too, or pitch them on a guest post.

You may streamline this process if you chose to work with virtual assistants that can be used to compile and complete this process while you continue on the big picture.

Piecing it All Together

After completion of these steps you should have a firm understanding of where your competition stands within the market and their level of value they bring to the community. From here you can begin working the angles to build your ranking and market placement through link building, social media, and SEO practices (such as those they’ve failed to utilize).

This research will allow you to enter any market with the ability to quickly get in, start promoting, and earn a great income because you’re making your entrance with a thorough understanding of what the consumers want and what the competition fails to deliver.