The affiliate field keeps developing and growing. With so many changes happening every day, it is important to keep up with how your competition is doing traffic-wise. Spying on your competition for user data is a common practice and can even out the playing field. Of course, it is important to distinguish spying to get information or inspiration from spying with the intention to steal ideas. Our performance marketing network is here to show you how to find out what your competitors are doing in an ethical way.
We understand the term ”spying” may be a little overwhelming. However, in most cases spying on your competition means doing your due diligence and researching the ins and outs of the market. Knowing your competition‘s strengths means having a model of success in front of you. Knowing their weaknesses means understanding where you fit in. Look at your statistics and see which actions and strategies can propel you above the rest. It doesn‘t matter if you are a newbie or a seasoned veteran, competitive research is a must.
You can go about competitive research in two ways. The first one is hiring a professional consultant or agency to do the research for you. The second one is to do it yourself. The method you choose depends on your means and experience, as well as your own understanding of the results you want.
Spying On Your Competition: whom to track?
As we have previously mentioned, the competition in basically every imaginable field is fierce. Hence, if you wanted to track every single competitor, your work would never be done. In other words, it is important to know how to select your direct competition – those running campaigns most similar to your own, with the most similar target audience. It is important to scale your research according to your own reach and success. Watch out for the campaigns most similar to your own in scope and size, but also keep an eye out for up-and-coming newbies with a fresh vision.
Competitor website analysis
When you have identified your competitors, it‘s time to think about spying strategy. Your final goal should be to get a complete understanding of what makes their sites successful and then develop your own brand accordingly. This doesn‘t mean stealing ideas, but getting inspired and building upon an existing foundation. The factors you should be looking into include
Spying On Your Competition: Traffic
While you can‘t get a complete and accurate overview of your competition‘s traffic, there are different online tools every affiliate manager needs to use that offer insights into other sites’ traffic sources and number of visits. Additionally, it would be good to find out the location of your rival‘s audience. Then you can compare their strategies to your own. Whether the results show your competitor is more or less successful than you, it is good to know what works and what doesn’t and plan your own next steps.
Analyze your rivals’ content
While you need special tools to see how your competitors are doing traffic-wise, we recommend analyzing their content yourself. The reason for this is the fact that so much of our personalities register in what we do, and seeing your rivals‘ approach can be very inspiring. Again, we do not condone stealing ideas from others. However, making small changes in your own approach while still expressing yourself can be very beneficial. We recommend studying the ways other content creators incentivize audience interaction and applying it to your own content. This step can be especially fulfilling and pleasant to do as you can expand your research to different verticals and niches and still get some great guidelines from creators you appreciate.
Competitor keyword research
SEO is a sensitive topic for many content creators. This is true because understanding search engine algorithms is only the beginning. After you learn what to do to propel your content to the top results, you will have to keep updated on different changes happening within the ranking system. This can become tiring and discouraging. In this case, studying your competition’s keyword use can be beneficial both because it helps your site grow and shortens the time you invest in learning the newest SEO trends.
Relying on a keyword research tool exclusively is not bad in and of itself. Yet, if you want a more complete cross-section of the state of your rivals’ content and SEO strategies, it is time to do competitive analysis as well. Our biggest tip when it comes to competitor keyword research is to target both high and low volume keywords. This way you can become an authority both to the general population aficionados and experts alike.
Of course, having all the right keywords isn’t enough if it isn‘t paired with providing your audience with great content as well. The top-rated and undervalued keywords are there to inspire you to create that content.
Spying On Your Competition: Backlinks
Competitor backlink analysis is another great way to get an insight into their success and find solutions for areas where your own campaigns are under-performing. Even basic knowledge about this topic can be extremely beneficial. For example, even knowing only how many backlinks an average competitor has gives you a very concrete guideline to work toward. Not to mention understanding the quality of the sites backlinking to them.
After you conduct traffic and backlink analysis, you will be able to create a list of sites that drive the most traffic to your competitors. This, in turn, will allow you to build your own backlinks on those sites as well, in most cases.
As you can see, analyzing your competition can give you a cutting edge if you utilize the resultsyou get in a smart way. Don‘t miss this opportunity to not only follow their path but also upgrade it to something more powerful.
It has never been easier to build a business online. By that same token, there has never been more competition. The best way to remain profitable long term is to invest in moats using the 7 Powers Framework.
It’s terrifying being a seller on Amazon. What if Big Bezos decides he wants to make an AmazonBasics version of your best seller? Or what if your supplier decides they want to start competing against you?
Affiliate marketers have to deal with people spying on and ripping off their campaigns. Facebook costs keep rising. Margins keep shrinking.
I learned a concept over a decade ago called the moat. Centuries ago, castles would protect themselves from enemies by building moats. These were deep ditches surrounding the castle, filled with water.
Warren Buffett refuses to invest in a company unless he feels they have enough strong moats. Moats are the competitive advantages that protect your profit margins despite competition.
This subject fascinates me because so much of the eCommerce world is based around private labeling. Everyone’s re-selling private labeled goods at a significant markup. What’s stopping someone else from coming in and copying you? Supplement companies such as Bulletproof and Onnit are doing roughly $30 million a year in revenue. Anyone can easily start a supplement company by private labeling. Yet these companies are thriving in spite of competition because of the moats they’ve established.
As much as I understood the concept of moats, I’ve always wondered if there was a framework that breaks down what types of moats there are.
My research led me to a book called 7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy by Hamilton Helmer.
This book is recommended by some super smart people such as Daniel Ek (founder of Spotify), Reed Hastings (founder of Netflix), and Peter Thiel (the first outside investor of Facebook).
This is a simple and straight to the point framework to help you understand business strategy. Successfully implementing these concepts will help you build a long-lasting and profitable company. Despite the increasing amount of competition.
Some Helpful Terminology
Before we begin, I want us all to be on the same page when it comes to definitions. We’ll be using these terms a lot.
Strategy:the study of the fundamental determinants of potential business value. Power:the set of conditions creating the potential for persistent differential returns.
Each power needs to have a benefit for you while serving as a barrier to your competition.
Benefit: how the power improves cash flows, such as through lower costs or ability to charge higher prices. AKA the magnitude of power.
Barrier: the way that competitors are prevented from arbitraging the benefit of the power. AKA the duration of power.
I’m going to quickly define the 7 powers, and then we’ll go into them in more detail.
The 7 Powers
Scale Economies: A business where per unit costs decline as volume increases.
Network Economies: A business where the customer gains more value as the userbase increases.
Counter Positioning: A business adopts a new, superior business model that incumbents cannot copy because it’ll cannibalize parts of their existing businesses.
Switching Costs: A business where customers expect a greater loss than the value they gain from switching to an alternate.
Branding: A business that enjoys a higher perceived value to an objectively identical offering due to historical information about them.
Cornered Resource: A business that has preferential access to a coveted resource that independently enhances value.
Process Power: A business whose organization and activity set enables lower costs and/or superior products that can only be matched by an extended commitment.
Power 1: Scale Economies
As the volume increases, the per-unit costs decrease.
We all understand this. The more widgets that you’re able to purchase from a supplier, the bigger the discount you’ll receive. Your local diner can’t get a discount on potatoes like McDonald’s can.
The author demonstrates scale economies through Netflix.
In the early days, Netflix negotiated deals with different content providers. They were able to get fantastic deals because the content providers didn’t understand the value of streaming.
Eventually, the content providers started to wisen up. Their streaming rights were worth more than they realized. So they kept increasing the cost of the streaming rights to their content. Some of the content would permanently become unavailable because Disney, Starz, and NBC would start their own services.
Netflix realized early on that the differentiator in the streaming wars would be original content.
In 2011, they spent $100m for two seasons of House of Cards. This is where Scale Economies come in.
Netflix had a first mover’s advantage which led them to acquiring a massive userbase. Their scale economies meant they could acquire original content at a much cheaper relative cost compared to a newcomer like Hulu.
D&D (D.B. Weiss & David Benioff) were the showrunners for the massively successful show Game of Thrones. After the series was over, they were looking for a new streaming service to develop movies and shows for.
This caused a bidding war among Disney, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and others. In the end, Netflix won by paying $200 million for the rights. Even though the other companies had a larger war chest, it made more financial sense for Netflix to pay that much.
Scale economies are why some companies are willing to run at break-even or unprofitably for a few years. They know that once they achieve scale economies, they can lower their costs. To the point where they’re profitable, and their competition can’t keep up.
Power 2: Network Economies
Your customer’s experience improves as more people join.
Technology can be an initial advantage. However, it can over time become a commodity and easily replicated.
You can build an app like Tinder for around $50,000 USD. What you can’t copy are the users and the community.
How useful would a dating app be if there were no more new matches after the first day? How useful is a job board if no one’s actively posting jobs there?
The service becomes more useful the more people that join. Sometimes it can be a winner takes all situation. Because of that, these companies will raise massive amounts of money and focus on growth.
Some examples include Facebook, Linkedin, eBay, and Tinder.
Power 3: Counter Positioning
A business adopts a new, superior business model that incumbents cannot copy because it’ll cannibalize parts of their existing businesses.
A fear that small businesses have is if they achieve product / market fit, a bigger and more well-funded competitor can come in and copy their idea.
Counter positioning is when you have a business model that will harm them if they try to copy it.
Think about Kodak film cameras vs. digital cameras. It’s easy to say in hindsight, “Wow, how did Kodak not see that digital cameras were coming to destroy them?”
They did see it, but they couldn’t do anything about it. Their biggest cash cow was selling film rolls. Betting on and investing in digital cameras would be killing their existing business.
Next, digital cameras were a different industry. Developing technology wasn’t their strength.
It’s easy to see what the right move was in hindsight. If you were the CEO Kodak during that time, it’s easier to keep your job by doing what works.
Counter position isn’t the same as disruptive technology. McDonald’s is the biggest hamburger seller in the world. Shake Shack has taken a counter-position by selling gourmet hamburgers that cost twice as much.
McDonald’s can’t copy the same strategy without hurting their brand.
Whenever there is a leader in a market, realize that their strength is also a weakness. There’s always room for the “opposite.”
High priced hedge funds: Vanguard index funds
Cheap McDonald’s burgers: ShakeShack
Instagram showing off how perfect your life is: TikTok where people can be goofy
Power 4: Switching Costs
The value loss expected by a customer that would be incurred from switching to an alternative supplier for additional purchases.
I’ve used depositphotos.com for years to supply photos for my blog posts. I decided to switch over instead to Pexels.com for my photos. I save $300 a month that way. There were no “consequences” for me switching.
Let’s look at a situation where I have high switching costs. I use Keap.com (the CRM formerly known as Infusionsoft) as my CRM for this blog – it’s how I email everyone on a weekly basis.
I chose to work with Keap because it was the best CRM provider when I signed up around 2015. Now, there are many more viable CRM alternatives out there I could try such as ConvertKit or Drip.
I’d love to test them out, but I can’t. The switching costs would be too high.
I’ve invested so many years in learning how to use Keap.
My automation contractor specializes only in Keap. I’d have to find someone else to replace them.
I might run into some email deliverability issues.
All the funnels that I’ve built are in Keap. It’ll take significant labor to re-build them on a different platform.
While I’m not thrilled with using Keap, the switching costs of it is too high for me to use a different product. I’m sticking with them for the foreseeable future.
Another example for affiliate marketers is the Voluum.com tracker. They were one of the first large trackers in the industry. There have since been countless competitors such as RedTrack, and Adsbridge.
However, many affiliate marketers chose to stay with Voluum because of Switching Costs.
They invested the time to learn how to use the software.
They don’t want to lose their historical data.
And it might be a pain to switch the links in their active campaigns.
Right now I’m using WPEngine to host this blog. Several years ago, I was with another provider. It’d be a pain in the ass for me to switch server hosts. WPEngine offered to painlessly switch my service over as a free service.
Some companies add to the switching costs as part of their strategy.
I can’t ever get rid of my Gmail account. It’s because I have at least 50+ sites where I signed up using the “Sign in with Google” feature.
Me getting rid of my Gmail account means I have to go through the process of signing up to all these websites.
I’ve been using Apple Macbooks for the past decade. I have to admit, those Microsoft Surface laptops look damn sexy. But I’ve invested so many resources into the Apple ecosystem.
If you’re trying to get customers to try out your product, think about how you can make it easier for your customers to switch.
Power 5: Branding
The durable attribution of higher value to an objectively identical offering that arises from historic information about the seller.
Branding is such an overused phrase. Just because you have a cute logo and packaging doesn’t mean you’ve built a brand.
What defines a brand?
There are two parts to branding.
1. Affective Valence: Associating with the brand gives the customer good feelings. It could have been built from nostalgia or associations with positive moments in their lives.
I have positive emotions with brands such as Disney, Apple, Ben & Jerry’s, and Adidas. I’m willing to pay more money because those brands make me happy.
2. Reducing Uncertainty: You take a risk every time you buy a product. Brands offer peace of mind that the product works as intended.
I don’t mind buying generic versions of food. I can’t tell the difference most of the time between generic and name-brand food.
There are some categories where people don’t want to take risks.
Diamond Ring. A diamond at Tiffany’s can cost 3 times more than an equivalent diamond. People are willing to spend that because they know Tiffany’s has a certain standard of quality. They don’t want to take the risk with their local jewelry store.
Baby Products. Most parents don’t want to take any risks with their children. I’m willing to pay more money for products by Graco or Fisher-Price because these are the brands I grew up with. I have no interest in getting a stroller seat from AliExpress.
The book, 7 Powers, limited branding to affective valence, and reduced uncertainty. I’m going to add a third aspect of branding based on my experience.
Signaling means you’re trying to broadcast to people a characteristic of you.
If I want people to think that I’m a selfless, caring person, I can record and upload a video of myself volunteering at a homeless shelter. If I want people to think I’m staying fit, I’ll post a photo of me exercising at the gym.
Social media has increased the amount of signaling by everyone. There’s this pressure to appear special. There’s a pressure to signal to everyone how well that we’re doing in life.
This is where certain brands come in. By buying certain brands, we’re signaling what the brand represents.
This is why some women do an awkward pose to show off that they have “red bottoms.” (Christian Louboutin is known for having their shoes be the color red on the bottom. The average pair costs around $600.)
This is why some men do an awkward pose in front of a supercar in their Facebook profile picture. They’re trying to signal to others that they have money.
That’s the power of the brand. Some brands have developed such a positive reputation that people will buy them simply to “signal” the characteristics.
However, the power of branding has decreased in the past decade. It’s because part of branding is to reduce the uncertainty for the customer.
A big mistake people make is they think brands take a long time to develop. A few years ago I needed to buy rechargeable batteries.
Who are the top names in batteries? Duracell and Energizer. They’ve built their brands over decades.
Yet I went with Anker who was only 5 years old at the time. Why did I go with them?
The first is influencers. I saw a few reviews on YouTube, and most of the tech reviewers preferred Anker’s battery.
And second, reviews. I compared the reviews on Amazon. Anker’s reviews were far superior to that of Duracell and Energizers.
Brands are still important, but consumers have alternative ways to help them select quality.
Power 6: Cornered Resource
A business that has preferential access to a coveted resource that independently enhances value.
In every industry, there are certain resources that give advantages if you can obtain them.
DeBeers has exclusive rights to so many diamond mines in the world.
Nintendo has developed so many iconic video game characters such as Mario, Pokemon, and Link.
You’re a meth dealer in the Southwest, and you’re the exclusive seller of Heisenberg’s blue sky.
If you’ve developed certain technology, you can get a patent so that other people can’t get access to it.
I mentioned earlier that Netflix signed D&D to develop a show. They signed them to a ten-year deal.
Power 7: Process Powers
Sometimes a company’s processes are so valuable, that it lowers the costs of the product or enhances the experience. And it’s not easily replicated.
The author uses the example of Toyota who are known for their Toyota Production System. What’s interesting is Toyota had a partnership with General Motors at one point.
Toyota gave General Motors 100% access to learning their systems. But General Motors could not replicate it under any circumstances.
Another example is Pixar.
Reading the book Creativity, Inc. gave me insight into some of the secret sauce of how Pixar built their movies. In fact, it was one of the reasons that Disney bought Pixar. The talent and their process powers would go on to lead a revival of Disney Animation.
And finally, a modern example is the social app Tik Tok. Everyone assumes that TikTok is an app for Gen Z to dance and be goofy. What most people don’t realize is how advanced Tik Tok’s algorithm is. So much of traditional social media feeds are based who you follow.
TikTok’s algorithm is able to predict what you’re interested in based on a few behaviors. Right now Instagram’s trying to lure audiences away with their feature called “Reels.” But TikTok has created a Process Power with their “For You” algorithm that keeps their audience coming back.
Affiliate Marketing and the 7 Powers
Let’s do an exercise.
I introduced you to the 7 Powers. Which of these powers would apply to running affiliate marketing campaigns?
Take a few minutes and do this exercise, rather than scrolling down for the answers.
First, let’s eliminate some of the powers that don’t apply. There’s no network effect, or counter position, branding, or switching costs in affiliate marketing.
1. Scaling Economy:
What advantages does a super affiliate have by sending more volume?
On smaller traffic sources, more volume means you can negotiate discounts and flat fees for traffic. I’ve had situations where I bought out a publisher’s entire month of impressions. On bigger traffic sources like Facebook, volume means you’re feeding data to the pixel.
Furthermore, scaling gets you access to information. Every affiliate asks their affiliate manager at a network, “What’s hot?” Trust me, there’s going to be a world of difference between a guy generating $10k revenue a day vs. a guy that’s generating $100 a day.
After that, Scaling Economies can lead to Cornered Resources. If you can generate a massive amount of traffic, then you can get an offer exclusive.
2. Cornered Resource:
When I reflect on affiliate marketing, cornering resources is most of the advantage super affiliates have.
Signing an exclusive media buying deal on a hot property.
Getting the exclusive offer.
Working with the advertiser on getting a unique offer page designed, that converts higher.
Designing a great landing page isn’t a moat. Writing great headlines and angles aren’t moat.
Why? Because they can easily be replicated by your competition.
3. Process Power:
Finally, we land at process power.
How does one affiliate get a campaign to profitability versus someone else? How do they optimize the campaign? What’s their formula to creating winning video ads?
All of these contribute to process power.
Process power is going to matter less over time with media buying. We’re seeing it right now with Facebook. You can set up the right pixel, feed it enough data, and Facebook will optimize the campaign for you.
In a few years, there will be A.I. Copywriting tools that can outperform your average marketer.
I challenge you to think about what can’t be replaced.
I’m grateful to be living in this era.
We’d all be forced to climb the corporate ladder if we were born several decades earlier.
Instead, we’re in one of the greatest entrepreneurial eras of all time. You don’t need permission from anyone to make money off your music. You don’t to understand coding to set up your own eCommerce stores.
However, lower friction means more competition.
It has never been easier for us to copy each other.
When you find a business model that works, start thinking in terms of strategy and power. Capital allocation is one of the most important decisions you make.
You don’t need to pay yourself $200k a a year to upgrade your lifestyle. Live on less. Invest the difference into creating moats for your business.
If you’re making money, then expect the wolves to come. Invest in your defense.
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The secret to finding success on the internet isn’t about coming up with the next big million dollar idea, or simply creating content better than the competition — it’s about continually adapting your website and business with the changing times and environment around you. A perfect example of this can be seen in the world of content management and SEO. We all know the important of ‘great content’, gaining backlinks and ranking in the search results, but far too many of us stop right after the latest publication goes live on our sites.
What site owners, brands, and businesses should be focusing on is the actual foundation of their sites, content, and link structures, while also looking for anywhere improvements can be made — and when it comes to content and SEO, there is always going to be more room for improvement.
To help with this process, I wanted to provide my audience with a list of the best options available when it comes to SEO analyzers. The way these tools work is extremely simple. All you need to do is plug in your site URL, then the SEO analyzer gets to work and spits out a nifty report for you on what improvements can be made to your site. While the concept of analyzing your site and SEO is nothing new, it’s still something that many site owners continue to neglect, which is why it can give your site a huge advantage over the competition if you decide to put in the time, work and effort.
3 SEO Analyzer Tools Every Site Owner Should Use
Neil Patel has some of the most powerful and successful sites on the internet today. Not just in the eyes of his audience, but also in reference to Google and search ranking power as well. This is mainly as a result of his great content, numerous references on other sites and also the powerful tools that he offers to his audience.
One such tool is hisSEO Analyzer, which is free to use, while also being extremely clean and easy to follow in the process. Through the screenshot above, you can see where you would enter in your own site URL and then add three competitor sites as well. This will allow you to not only analyze your own site, but also your competition as well.
There are four main component’s to this SEO Analyzer, which are:
SEO Analysis – If you want more search traffic all you have to do is follow the website analysis report. It will point out all of the SEO errors you need to fix in order to increase your rankings.
Content Marketing – Wondering what you should be blogging on? The content marketing report will show you the popular articles on your blog as well as your competitors’ sites so that you can write content that goes viral.
Marketing Checklist – Feeling overwhelmed? There are a lot of things you can do to grow your traffic and sales, but I’ll prioritize them for you, so that way you focus on what’s important and get results.
Competitive Intelligence – Are you wondering why your competitors are doing better than you? Well, you won’t guess anymore. Through the competitive analysis report you’ll be able to dissect your competition and compete with them.
After clicking the “Analyze” button, you will then be given a report on your site (based off each of the four factors above)… which includes Page Level SEO Score, Speed Score, Site Viewing Screenshots, content marketing reports and competition analysis. Reports can also be downloaded to PDF for continued viewing.
SEMRush Site Audit
When it comes to premium SEO tools and tracking, SEMRush is a name you’ve likely seen and used before. While the service offers much more than SEO analysis, we are going to stick with that feature for that concept of this article. Through their “Site Audit” project management tool, you can handle all aspects of your site, it’s content, ranking scores and overall SEO.
You can see an example of one of their reports above. In the “Overview” section of the report, you can quickly get an idea on the general health of a site through the listed Errors, Warnings, and Notices, while also being given a Total Score.
Warnings: Missing ALT Attributes, Duplicate H1 Tags
Notices: NoFollow Attributes, Blocked by Crawler
Another great feature of SEMRush and their Site Audit tool, is that you can make any recommended changes to your site, then run the report again and see how a site’s score improves almost instantly. As with Neil Patel’s SEO Analyzer, SEMRush also lets you take a look at the competition as well.
SEMRush is a premium tool, which has several premium plans to choose from (starting at $69/m), but they also offer a free trial account with limitations as well.
SEO Site Checkup
Another free SEO Analysis tool on the market is SEO Site Checkup — which is extremely fast, simple and easy to use. You can enter your URL on the main page to pull a quick SEO report, or you can sign up for a free account and have access to ongoing stats for your site. The option is also there to upgrade (starting at $19.95/m) to access even more features.
After running a free report from their main page (or within your member account), you will see a full report like the one above — which includes.
Common SEO Issues – A review of existing meta tags, descriptions, Google search preview, keyword usage and more.
Speed Optimizations – HTML Page Size Test, Compression Test, Image Tags, Minification Tests and more.
Server and Security – URL Canonicalization, HTTPS Test, Safe Browsing, Plaintext Emails Test
Mobile Usability – Mobile Snapshot of site, Media Query Responsive Test
Advanced SEO – Microdata Schema Test, Noindex Tag Checker, Canonical Tag Checker, NoFollow Checker
All in all, it’s a pretty advanced report that site owners can get their hands on for free, simply by entering their email address and creating a trial account.
Run an SEO Analyzer Test on Your Site Right Now
It doesn’t matter what niche market you are in, or what you are trying to rank for… you are doing yourself a huge disservice if you aren’t actively monitoring the health of your site, it’s content, usability and search rankings.
Choose any (or all) of the SEO Analyzers above and run a quick report today!