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BradB's post has me thinking about competitors websites, what do you look at, and how long do you spend doing it?

I thinking along the lines of content (how much, how well written), site structure, SEO techniques.

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

I would view the services that they provide, which my website doesn't.

I would view my website's performance in comparison to them.

I would view How user friendly their website is.

I would view the traffic that they fetch and analyze the reason behind it.

I would also view the SEO techniques they use to fetch the traffic.

Then try to improve my site to exceed their service, in performance and in user frienliness.

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What tools do you use to view a competitor's traffic and SEO techniques? – Lèse majesté Nov 12 '10 at 18:23
user2804 has given the answer to your question, check quantcast.com – Starx Nov 14 '10 at 5:34
Quantcast tries to project what a site's demographic might be (not very accurate for smaller sites), but it doesn't tell you what SEO techniques they use, traffic sources, or traffic levels of a competitor's site. – Lèse majesté Nov 14 '10 at 5:40
Stick to sources and content analysis to learn about SEO techniques – Starx Nov 14 '10 at 5:53

In addition to Starx answer I would also check sites such as quantcast. They can provide valuable incite into market share and audience.

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I start with the structure from the home page. What are the top-level links and what words are used to describe them? As you do this, you have to consider whether the things you are analyzing were done with much consideration or not. You might be thrown off by a competitor who has been successful despite his or her SEO inadequacies.

I've often considered poor page titling logic as a way to determine whether or not I should care about a competitor's technique.

If they pass that test, then I dive deep on details such as the URL string, naming conventions, anchor text (internal), PR shaping (use of nofollow on internal links?), etc.

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