You’re only as good as your best competition. And that’s why you need to make sure you’re not only on top of your business, but that you also know exactly what’s going on with your competition. I learned this trick early on in the game and have applied it ever since to ensure my business success. I ask myself “what’s my competition doing that I’m not,” and then I go and find out. Once I’ve locked on, I go through their website, product or services with a fine tooth comb.

Perhaps my advantage here is that I have a keen marketing eye and a killer attention to detail. Everyone has their strengths and this may not be one of yours – so check out the competitor analysis tools below to give yourself a leg up!

See How Your Competition Has Evolved

Sometimes it’s not just about where your competition is now, but how they’ve changed over time. A track record covering their growth and changes gives you an idea of where the company is headed – and if the company has recently come into greater success than you can likely pin down what changes spurred their profits.

WayBackMachine lets you do just this by acting as a web “time machine” that goes through your competition’s website over the years. It charts the changes by looking for what’s consistent; consistent elements are likely where you’ll find success. However, a little sleuth work can also show you how consistent may have played a part in their failure. Here’s where you can do a little comparison between you and them. If you notice your site hasn’t changed much over time, perhaps it’s time for a relaunch to get the systems fired up again.

Assess Your Competitor’s Website

You should be caring about your competition’s website and how they’re ranking for traffic. Whichever site has higher and more qualified traffic is going to pop up higher in search engine results. And whatever company gets listed first wins.

To get the scoop on how their website compares to yours, check out Attention Meter and Websitegrader. AttentionMeter offers to compare websites based on traffic by using Alexa, Compete and Quantcast. Websitegrader does just what its name suggests. It rates your chosen site based on traffic, SEO and social relevance. Websitegrader also offers suggestions for improvement, which saves you from having to run your site through a marketer and paying any associated costs. You can also check out I Need Hits, which offers the same service.

A more focused part of this research is the keyword analysis. It’s crucial to see what keywords you and your competition are receiving traffic for. If you find that there are a few major keywords that are ranking more favorably with your competition, then it’s time to hire an SEO expert. Before you panic, check out Compete – which also gives you an honest take on your web traffic vs. your competition.

Find out Who’s Winning the Popularity Contest

There’s no denying social media’s relevance, and so it’s only natural that you should be checking out your business arch nemesis on popular social media sites. Xinu Returns (now Site Trail) does just that by browsing sites to let you know how well they are doing on social booking marketing sites and popular search engines.

Take it a step further by using FeedCompare to compare your RSS subscribers to your competition’s. If you see your competition has totally outnumbered you here, subscribe to them and compare their output with your own.

And don’t forget to set up Google alerts for keywords. Google then shoots you an email with links to all the pages that featured your keyword. Don’t go keyword happy or else you’ll be slammed with useless emails. My advice is to set up a Google Alert for your competition as well as strong phrased keywords (usually a set of three will do). Also, don’t forget to follow your competition on social media sites and sign up for their newsletters.