As an affiliate marketer you're not alone. There are thousands of other competing affiliate websites, possibly in the exact same niche as you. Of course you don't want to stress too much about the competition, but what benefits are there in learning more about what the competition is up to?
Competitive Intelligence (CI) allows businesses to make strategic decisions, gaining an advantage over their competitors. Not to be confused with industrial espionage (something that can put you inside), CI helps businesses know what the competition is doing, either to counter the threat of their promotional activities or to copy best practices.
Gathering information on competitors has been going on since the invention of the wheel, and is standard practice for businesses operating in a free market.
So how do you go about collecting information about your competitors?
The good news is that it is a lot easier for anyone operating online than it is for traditional bricks'n'mortar businesses. No longer do you have to dress up as a mystery shopper and surreptitiously visit competing businesses, furiously scribbling notes about their latest promotion or their snazzy new uniforms. CI can easily be done from the comfort and security of your own office, without fear you'll get sprung by the business owner.
Here's a simple strategy that, as an affiliate marketer, you can use to identify your competition and then gather information about them that can give you the edge you need to stay ahead in your niche. But how can you identify the affiliate sites you're competing with?
Step 1 - Spotting your competition
With traditional stores, spotting the competition was easy. It was the store across the road, or across town, that was selling the same stuff as you. With the internet, it may not be as obvious. How do you identify affiliate sites in your niche from the billions of websites currently online?
To begin with, search using the keyword you are targeting. For example, if you have a dog training site, you might be focusing on “stop puppy biting”.
From scanning the search results, we should be able to identify affiliate site based on the following identifying marks:
- Paid advertising – This is a common method used by affiliates to drive traffic to their site. The cost of the paid advertising is covered by the commission they hope to make. If you click one of these sponsored listings you'll no doubt find a site that is very promotional. Words commonly used in these ads include “review” or “scam”.
- Product reviews - Affiliates will often sell products by reviewing several products and rating them. At the end of each review will be a link to the merchant site that actually sells the product.
- Affiliate links – When on a page that is reviewing or recommending a product there will usually be a link where you can purchase that product. By hovering over this link you will be able to see the destination in the status bar (unless they have hidden their affiliate link) and if it includes an affiliate ID or has ClickBank as part of the link then it is an affiliate link.
You'll find the more familiar you become with affiliate marketing, the easier it will be to spot affiliate websites.
Step 2 – Analyze the competition
Now that you've been able to spot some affiliate sites in your niche, it's time to start gathering some information on your competitors.
To do this you can use Traffic Travis, a free SEO analysis tool that allows you to 'spy' on your competition and easily identify their strengths and weaknesses.
First of all, see what keywords they are targeting and copy these to a list. Then start Traffic Travis and do a Page Analysis on the site and the targeted keywords.
Some of the things you can learn about your competition include:
- How well are they optimized for on-page SEO including using keywords in headings and page titles?
- What is their position in the search results is for any keyword, and are they going up or down?
- What backlinks do they have to their site, where are they coming from and what anchor text is being used?
- How good is their keyword density?
Traffic Travis can review your competitor's site and tell you what they should work on to improve it. Of course, you can use that valuable knowledge, taking into account those recommendations on your own affiliate site, as you work towards outranking them and the rest of the competition.