I recently got a beta account to the upcoming Compete.com Search Analytics tool. I am not sure of their pricing yet, but Jay Meattle, from Compete.com, told me "the price points will be extremely attractive to small business owners."
You can get leading category based keywords, top competitors for a given keyword (exact or broad match), compare competing sites head to head on keywords, and get the breakdown of traffic sent to any website.
How Accurate is Compete.com?
Their model of data collection is going to make their data more accurate for frequent search terms and larger sites, but I tested their keyword data against some of my smaller sites and it was surprisingly accurate.
How to Clone Smaller Competitors
This is yet another way authority sites will pick off smaller competing sites. It is a simple process. If your site is one of the most authoritative sites in your space you can clean up.
Use Google's site targeting ads stats to check what sites are running AdSense and getting a lot of traffic (you don't even need to buy ads on them to do this)
Go to Compete.com to get the top keyword phrases competing sites rank for and create content targeting the same keywords. You can also run the keywords through Google's Traffic Estimator to sort the keywords by Google's value estimates.
Beyond that, you can run Google's site targeted ads or general contextual AdSense placement reports to find out what pages are the most popular on competing sites, and then create content covering the same topics.
Lowbrow webmasters are fast becoming the outsourced market research department for bigger, more technologically advanced, and cash flush companies.
The Effect of Better Competitive Data
All of these analytic services are going to increase the value of domain authority (since it can be easily leveraged for greater profit) and force webmasters to move themselves up the value chain (since models like AdSense give away too much competitive data, especially when combined with Compete.com).
Other Ways to Use Compete.com
Compete can be used to see how strong a brand is in its field. The top keyword in the credit card category is Capital One. Both www.capitalone.com and capitalone.com are also in the top 5 keywords. They are obviously a leader in that space. You can also see what percent of a website's traffic originates from its brand related keywords.
You can search for a broad match phrase to see how established your site is inside a vertical, how consolidated a vertical is, and how much potential upside you have by increasing your share of search traffic.
Compete can also show you the if a competing site is heavily reliant on a few strong keywords or if their traffic distribution is wider. This can be used to see sites worth investing in (especially if you understand search relevancy algorithms) or sites which have a lot of risk and are worth avoiding.
Google's traffic estimator tool by default is set to broad match. If you want to see an estimate of the value of a specific phrase remember to wrap it in [brackets] instead of just submitting the broad matched version of the keyword term. I just reprogrammed my keyword research tool's traffic estimator link to include the broad, phrase, and exact match of each term. Since my tool is driven from Yahoo's it strips the s in some plural phrases, so the link to the traffic estimator tool gives all 3 match types, and links to all 3 match types with an s appended to the end of of the keyword phrase.
Google recently added the ability for you to report link buyers, which is probably nothing more than a mind control game and a complete waste of time. I recently saw what looked like obvious link buying by Discovery.com. Do you think Google would do anything about it if I reported them? Nope.
Google also recently starting a phased launch of their position placement reports, which is far more beneficial to webmasters, as it shows what sites your AdSense ads are syndicated to. Most sites monetized via AdSense only make a fraction of their full potential, so sharing this data presents more arbitrage opportunities. How you can use this data to profit:
refine your AdSense ad buys to only target the best performing sites and pages
better learn who has your desired traffic stream and create things that appeal to their ego / belief system / audience
buy custom ads direct from the best converting sites (including text links)
find out what pages on competing sites get the most traffic and see how easy it is to rank for the terms those pages target
survey a competing site's traffic profile to find out which entire sections or sub-sections you should duplicate
if a site is getting a lot of traffic but an exceptionally poor CTR, consider buying the site outright and better integrating the ads into the content
Spyjax allows you to view the browsing history of website visitors. You upload a list of competing URLs and see which ones the browser visited before visiting your site, which can be used to let you know what competing sites people typically visit before seeing your site. By tracking this, you can replicate the features and/or marketing strategy of other well visited sites and move yourself earlier into the buy cycle.
I just updated SEO for Firefox again. Now it numbers the search results, and it allows you to sort the results by any of the selected variables. I didn't want the sorting to be obtrusive, so you have to right click on the search results, scroll over SEO for Firefox, then scroll over sort on the submenu and click the variable you want to sort by. The sorting works best at digging deeply if you have your results set to show 100 search results per page. To show 100 search results on Google you would add &num=100 to the address bar of the search result.
A few ways to use the sort feature:
find the most recently cached pages
find the oldest sites for purchasing advertising on them
find the most important internal pages on a site to get a link from. For example, search for site:targetlinksource.com topic, and sort by PageRank, .edu page links, etc.
The tool is fast, and does a good job of showing you how well you have been mixing your inbound anchor text, but you need to be using Firefox with Greasemoney installed to see the information. Greasemonkey extensions are easy to make, especially if you read Dive inot Greasemonkey.