Posted April 9, 2007 9:00 am by with 29 comments

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By CK Chung (aka Kid Disco).

What if I was to tell you that you could cut the amount of time spent on a certain element of SEO by half and, at the same time, double your production for it. Is that something you might be interested in?

If so… read on, grasshopper. πŸ˜›

SEOs will generally kick-off an optimization campaign by examining analytics, performing keyword research, checking on-page elements, analyzing links, and so on and so forth. However, there exists an extremely useful tactic that is often underutilized or left out completely from the SEO’s arsenal. What am I talking about? Ladies and gentleman, I present to you… Competitive intelligence.

What is competitive intelligence? As it relates to search marketing, I would define it as the process of performing research to gather information about your competitors’ websites and analyzing that data for the purpose of extracting methods used and formulating strategies that you may use to optimize your own website.

Competitive intelligence can open your eyes to many things, including:

  • What your competitors are doing.
  • How you compare to your competitors.
  • Predict what your competitors will be doing.

There are plenty of resources and tools on competitive research and analysis that are readily available for you to utilize. Simple searches on the SEM Search tool for competitive intelligence, competitive research, and competitive analysis will return a barrage of blog posts and articles that will lead you to a slew of more resources and tools you may incorporate.

These tools and tactics that you will find will lead you well on your way to gathering useful data on your competitors. Being the swell guy that I am, I’ll present you with two of my favorite tactics…

View the source

Often times, you will find that your competitors will leave a bunch of clues and/or trails in the source code of their pages. Some of the things you may find include:

  • What keywords they are targeting (meta name=”keywords”)
  • What kind of content management system they are using, if they are using one.
  • What analytics package they are using, if they are using one.
  • What other third-party companies your competitor is using.

You may use this knowledge to exploit your competitor’s weaknesses, implement these practices on your own site, and/or obtain additional information through further research… if you know what I mean. πŸ˜‰

Another item in the source you should look for are comments. Many web developers and designers will leave notes in comments like this:


You should also look for entire elements or blocks of code that may be commented out. These may reveal such things as new elements that may soon be introduced to the site and/or items that are being tested on the site.

Competitive Link Analysis

And now we get to the answer to the initial question: How can you spend half the time on a certain element of SEO and get twice as much out of it?

The element I’m talking about is inbound links. Everybody knows the importance of inbound links in an SEO campaign. Why not use your competitors to help you out? You can easily analyze the backlinks of your competitors.

There… there’s half the work of researching for potential link acquisition targets all done for you.

Now all you need to do is implement the usual link building strategies to acquire backlinks from the same sites that are linking to your competitors… right?

Well… you could, and I’m sure many of you are doing this.

But, I have more. Using those usual link building strategies, what if you were to get the website that is linking to your competitor to change that link to go to your site, instead?

Then, instead of your competitor having 1 backlink to your 1 new backlink, now your competitor has 0 and you have 1.

Bang! Double your productivity. Not only are you gaining links… you’re competitors are losing them! πŸ˜›

Of course, you will want to avoid anything that may cause the search engines to become suspicious… and I’ll speculate that your competitor’s backlinks being replaced by yours across hundreds of sites may do just that.

So, you obviously should be replacing not just one, but many other competitors’ links.

In addition, keep in mind that this strategy should be just a part of your link building campaign, as it is best to keep your link profile diverse.


So, there you have it folks – competitive intelligence and a few tactics in a nutshell. I would really need something larger, like a clamshell, to expand on the subject, but I hope I have provided enough information for you to get started on the right path.

Being aware of competitive intelligence will not only help you gather information on your competitors to use to your advantage, but it will also make you aware of what you should and shouldn’t be doing on your own web properties so that your competitors can’t gather the same type of information about your websites.

Of course there are more sneaky tactics you may use with competitive intelligence, but we can’t go into those here. πŸ™‚

CK Chung is a Holistic SEO Consultant and his alter ego, Kid Disco, keeps up an SEO blog covering the lighter aspects of search marketing.

[This has been an entry for Marketing Pilgrim’s SEM Scholarship contest. Keep up to date with all entries and other marketing news by subscribing to our rss feed.]