Press - How is the competition using press? This can help generate ideas by keeping up with trending opportunities, linking opportunities, as well as seeing how the competition is using press for SEO, social marketing etc.
http: //trendwatching .com/ is a great resource for learning about trend watching. @Matt_Siltala
Article Websites - Another great way to keyword research, generate content ideas, and see how they are using these sites (and how many of them) for link building.
You can then go to each article site and do a search for the URL, and see what they are posting, what keywords they are going after (by anchor text) and how many articles, links etc. they have. @Matt_Siltala
Social Media Twitter is just the example, but what are your competitors doing on social networking sites? Are the running ads/contests/discounts etc. on Facebook? Are they creating content that will do well on major social websites? @Matt_Siltala
Anchor Text & The Allinanchor: Search Operator
Allinanchor: This search operator is still important for researching the competition because it shows the sites that have high number of inbound links with specific keywords. This helps you keep a better eye on your progress as well as snooping on how the competition is doing.
Search Operator You now know which sites are doing the best job with their anchor text (and what keywords they are going after) so its time to see where they get all their links from! @Matt_Siltala
Now that you know the sites that are on top by using “allinanchor:”, you can do a search with those sites and the keywords that you are targeting to get a better idea of places to find links, and why the competition ranks. @Matt_Siltala
ALSO: You can now start to compare the top sites, and gain valuable information (including top keywords) from sites like Compete.com @Matt_Siltala
If you use tools that are available to you (and FREE), like the SEO For Firefox Tool (by Aaron Wall of SEOBook), You can get very exciting site comparison data. @Matt_Siltala
Use these same tools to help you find out how many unique domains are linking to the competition. This will give you a better idea for link building and how much effort you are going to have to put in.
What pages of the competition are getting the most traffic? What pages have the most links going to them? How can you tell which pages are doing the best on social media sites?
How is the Technical SEO/Page Structure of their content? Titles, Meta, Alt & Header Tags etc.
The easiest option is to use the SEO For Firefox tool to gather this data by doing a site: search in Google. This will tell you what pages/content are doing the best. Its obvious what you would then do with that kind of data! Data for: Digg, Delicious, SU, Twitter and more! Great for researching STRONG content! @Matt_Siltala
Google has many Search Operators that you can use to research the competition, find great sources for links, and do some pretty intensive competitive analysis - and its all FREE!
The source of these Search Operators can be found here: http://www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators.html With an explanation of each operator and what it will do for you. All great and worth the time it takes to research. Highly recommend! @Matt_Siltala