Look, it’s not as sexy, dangerous or ethically questionable as it sounds. “Spying” is a fun way to phrase it, but really, keyword spying is just another form of keyword (and link, and SEO, etc.) research. And fortunately, there are affiliate marketing spy tools just for you!
That being stated, knowing how to spy on your competitors’ keywords and strategies provides you numerous precious insights.
Even the best free keyword spy tool won’t help if you don’t know what to make of the data. If you know how to interpret it, and can use that information to build a smart strategy. Welcome then you’re in business.
Every situation varies depending on your branding approach, your product and so forth, but generally, this is what you’re looking to learn from a good old-fashioned competitor keyword spy campaign:
1. Which keywords and phrases top competitors are ranking for
2. Which keywords and phrases aren’t doing so well
3. How those keywords are being played with (density, ad copy, meta-text, all that fun stuff)
4. What kind of ads companies are using, and in some cases, how those ads are doing
5. Competitor customer demographic information.
“But wait, there’s more!”
Sorry, I always wanted to say that. My point is that these five very important functions are just a sample of what these surprisingly sophisticated tools can do for you.
Speaking of, how do you use this information? We’ll start with the most obvious first: navigating competitors’ keywords.
Iceberg, dead ahead!
Assuming you aren’t yet as massive as Sears or Nike (soon, my friend). You probably want to steer clear of the super short-tail keywords when churning out the wonderful, wonderful content.
“Air Jordans for sale”, is probably not going to rank you anywhere near the first page – at least not easily – because your biggest competitors have those babies cornered.
On the other hand, if you try to go too long-tail with it, you’re not likely to bring in the amount of traffic that you need.
Of course, if you somehow found a fat enough commission to make 6 dollars a click at 2% CTR still worth it, then hey, then an “Air Jordans for sale” PPC campaign it is. (Let’s talk later so you can hook me up with that 90% commission!)
“No duh, everyone knows about long-tail vs short-tail, Scott!”
I know, I know, but allow me to finish. The point I’m making is this:
If you don’t know what keywords your competitors are using. You can only guess as to where you should land in terms of long-tail versus short-tail. Like one of my childhood friend’s hippy, draft-dodging parents, who just spun a globe, stopped it at random and took off. Oh well, thought I, they’re Cambodia’s problem now.
Aaaanyway – if you can see exactly what the successful AND not-so-successful affiliates are using in terms of keywords and other strategies, then you can perfectly position yourself to your desired level of niche.
Simply establishing successful keywords is step one. Let’s see the marketing spy tools one by one.
Keyword Spy sneaky software will ingeniously show you the winning keyword and ad copy combination so that you can take the raw intel one step further.
If you are equipped and ambitious enough to compete with some of the bigger fish, then you can absolutely meander your way to the land of short-tail, enduring harsher competition for bigger rewards.
Conversely, you can give your “refurbished aboriginal boomerang” brand the home it deserves, which is pretty much the #1 spot for every keyword that even comes close.
It’s ten searches a month, but hey – even the king of a village is still a king. Once you know the “what,” of course, in terms of keyword strategy, you have to move on to the “how.”
Affiliate See, Affiliate Do
Alright, great – you’ve spent days sifting through columns of barely distinct words and phrases that all look the same after a while, and you’ve finally plotted your course.
But, like, where do you put these bad boys? It’s not 1997 anymore, so you can’t just buy “Pizza.com” for like $7 and throw the word “pepperoni” on the page about a hundred times in a row.
Tact, my friend. Tact.
This is where competitor keyword spy tools come in.
SEMrush will give you super close insights on the types of ads that your competitors are using, whose clicking on them, how they have performed over a certain period of time, where their traffic originates, and on an on the stat reel goes.
Highly successful millionaire blogger and teacher, Brandon Gaille, raves about SEMrush. It really is a quality tool for you to use my friend.
It’s important that you don’t simply find someone super successful and copy them without taking any considerations, though, because your situation is unique. You have to take your circumstances into account and tweak your mimicry to best suit your situation.
If your most successful competitor is raking in tons and tons of profit with native ads, for example, but your particular offerings don’t translate to long-form content without sounding too fluffy, then you’ll have to adjust.
Don’t just copy to copy – make an informed, careful effort to use your competitors’ strategies in a way that benefits you. That’s the key.
Once you’ve learned how to spy on competitors’ keywords for your own benefit, you should have a closer understanding of how to structure your funnels – if you’re listening.
Whether it’s funnels or general “siloing,” the way in which you structure your regular site content, ads, landing pages, and funnels can greatly influence your success. That’s why many rely on the free keyword spy tool Ahrefs.
It will give you in-depth reports covering your competitors’ linking strategies, referring and linked domains, top pages and more.
Effectively replicating your competitors’ funnels and site structures require you to answer a number of questions designed to relate their situation to your own:
1. How is your competitor incentivizing people to opt into their lists, and could you follow the same strategy?
2. Do your products/services require the same level of technical and/or explainer copy as your competitors? Should you dedicate more or less of your content to the FAQ, testimonials, etc. than they did?
3. Do you have enough content and/or products to upsell like your competitors? If not, what will you do differently to keep people in your funnel?
4. Do you have access to the design tools and content creators to mimic your competitors’ content delivery?
As you can see, and as I promise to mention for the last time, spying on your competitors’ keywords is not as straightforward as it may seem.
Anyone can change their template or tweak their copy a bit – it’s knowing how to adapt your competitors’ strategies to fit the needs that will grant you success. Fish versus learning to fish, and all that.
Now go forth on your top-secret mission by using marketing spy tools, and have fun being sneaky!
Disclaimer: The SEMrush link is an affiliate link. If you select the link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission.