How to do a Competitive Analysis of Your Affiliate Marketing Strategy

Blog cover:  Checklist Affiliate Marketing

On a surface level, it might seem counterintuitive to actively search for competition in your field. Wouldn’t it be better to have the playing field to yourself? The answer to that question is actually no - your competitors have the potential to help you much more than they might realize, especially when it comes to creating and perfecting your affiliate marketing strategy!

Perhaps the most immediate way in which they can do this is through competitive analysis. This involves closely examining the strategies your competition are using, so that you can take notes and replicate the good while improving on the bad.

But how do you connect the dots between what your competition is doing and your own strategies? We’re going to dive into the details to help you make the most of any competitive analyses your business might conduct regarding affiliate marketing strategies.

Why go for competitive analysis?

As of this year, over 80% of brands make use of affiliate marketing. This means that there are plenty of opportunities for you to learn from your competitors. And with more competition than ever around, you’ll have plenty of sources of ideas and comparisons - all of which will help you make your brand look better than any others in your field.

The key is to make sure that your marketing strategies aren’t just good, but that they’re actively the best compared to your competition. This is impossible to achieve without first closely analyzing what exactly it is that your competition is doing, and how they’re doing that.

In other words, the biggest reasons to opt for competitive analysis is to give yourself an edge over the competition by letting them show you how they’re succeeding (and where they perhaps aren’t). Your company gets a chance to grow, and your strategy team can take notes to help them improve the way your business plans work.

Considering that the majority of affiliate marketers in 2021 reported that successful affiliate marketing made up around 20% of their annual income, there’s truly no better topic to apply competitive analysis to. It can really help you take your affiliate marketing strategy to the next level, which in turn increases your revenue and lets your business grow.

Making competitive analysis work for you

Now we know why competitive analyses are so valuable, and why they’re especially useful with regards to affiliate marketing strategies. The next question to answer is how to use competitive analysis in this way.

Put simply, you’ve got to make sure you’re looking at the right topics. Honing your competitor monitoring strategies is only effective if you also know exactly which facets to monitor. Once you do, the data you gather on your competitors becomes an incredibly valuable asset. So what should you be looking out for?

Handling of commissions

Affiliate marketing is built around the idea of earning commissions through affiliate links. That’s why it’s so vitally important to constantly monitor your commission rates - and competitive analysis is uniquely helpful here. It can help you make sure your commissions are a fair compromise between your company and its affiliate partners.

Your affiliate commission rates can never exist in a vacuum. They have to be on the same level as, if not even more enticing than, those of your competitors. Otherwise, why would affiliates choose you over the other options available to them? By comparing your commission rates to those offered by your competitors, you can ensure that your affiliates continue to choose you.

Referral links are a major part of affiliate marketing, because they can let you create a direct link between, for instance, a blog post and an affiliate product. As such, it’s important to include them in your analysis of your competitors. You’ll want to look into how your competition makes use of links and where they could improve, as well as making sure your own links look as attractive as possible to generate maximum clicks.

One prominent example of link usage that should be included in all your competitive analyses is that of backlinks. These are the links that readers follow to get to clients’ websites. By tracking which of your competitors’ backlinks are used the most, you can draw conclusions about your own backlinks and thereby improve your affiliate marketing strategy.

Here’s how a backlink analysis might look:

Competitive Analysis Ahrefs
Source: Ahrefs

This image shows exactly which links are generating the most interest, and by how much. You might find, for instance, that clicks are fairly balanced across many of the links, meaning that the strategy that’s being employed works roughly equally well for each backlink.

If your own business’ backlink click distribution is less even, it’s well worth it to know how to change that. Having competitors’ examples and analysis based on those examples to use as a point of reference is very helpful in that regard.

It’s also worth noting that your competition may be using link cloaking. If they are, then a detailed analysis will help you figure out whether this is something your business should also be doing for its affiliate programs.

Social media and influencers

Are your competitors finding ways to get influencers to help promote affiliate content - and more importantly, are you?

Kitchen aid influencer

The way your competition uses social media is often a big part of their marketing strategy. And the more you know about their strategy, the easier it will be to find a better online hosting solution so that your presence on social media grows. This will help get influencers engaged with your affiliate content, which in turn helps to boost sales and commissions.

Promotions and deals

What kinds of deals are your clients offering, and do they measure up to what the competition is prepared to supply? These are the sorts of questions you can find answers to through careful competitive analysis.

For example, if you can make sure your affiliates offer the best retail loyalty programs on the market, it will be much easier to boost affiliate sales. Of course, you can help to optimize those kinds of promotions by comparing them to those offered by the competition and making sure yours are better.

Promotions don’t always have to be in the form of discounts either. Your business can also benefit from promoting, for instance, your affiliate’s superior supply chain operations so that any potential audience members immediately see how sustainable and otherwise useful that supply chain is. This can help to provide an edge over competitors.

Methods of communication

One last item on the list of things your competitive analysis should include to help improve your affiliate marketing strategy is a close look at how the competition handles communication. For instance, do they have an automated call distribution system, and if so, is it being used to its maximum potential to help their customer service teams?

Your strategy should include not just the means of communication that your competition is already using, but as many more as possible. If you make it easier for customers to reach you and/or your affiliates through less conventional means, such as having the ability to receive fax to email, you will cater to the needs of a larger number of customers.

Does your competition offer virtual phone communications? Then perhaps you will take things one step further and offer a virtual phone number free to any customers who would like one. Is your competition primarily Apple-focused? Make sure you target a wider audience by supplying them with video messaging apps for Android as well.

By analyzing your competition’s communications methods, you can learn to outperform them, which will give your affiliate marketing strategy a leg up. The more you’re able to do this, the more your company will stand out, and the more you can, as a direct result, drive your revenue up.

Things to keep in mind

Your competition’s marketing strategies are a freely-available resource for you to make the most out of - and you can do so by using them as your metaphorical springboard. Analysis can tell you what’s working for your competitors, and what isn’t. Your company can then use that information to optimize their own strategies.

Your affiliate marketing can, in this way, undergo huge improvements. And to top it off, they’ll be the kinds of improvements that necessarily place your company above the competition, since you’ve already learned from their mistakes.

Elea Andrea Almazora

Elea is the SEO Content Optimization manager for RingCentral, the leader in global enterprise communication and collaboration solutions on the cloud. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience in on-page optimization, editorial production, and digital publishing. She spends her free time learning new things.

Related articles

A Complete Guide for SaaS Affiliate Commissions
How to Automate Affiliate Qualification: A Case Study from SEMrush
How to Use The Customer Journey to Create an Engaging Affiliate Marketing Strategy