The Internet is a highly competitive space to operate in because the technological barriers to entry are low and operating costs are affordable.
As a result, no matter what niche you choose to be in, you’ll find that there will be many players like yourself competing for a slice of the pie.
Is this a problem for online solopreneurs? Not necessarily. The fact that there are a lot of people doing the same thing doesn’t mean that they all know how to do it right—for example by choosing the best tools for the job.
In this article you’ll learn about the best competitor spying tools available for analyzing, dissecting and reverse-engineering your competitor’s every move so that you can outsmart them and outrank them every step of the way.
Disclosure: Although I receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no additional cost to you that compensation in no way influences my recommendations, which are strictly informed by my years of digital marketing experience working with clients large and small. My aim is to always recommend tools that will offer you the best return on investment.
Here's a good analogy: the real estate industry is packed with novice realtors because becoming accredited is not a high barrier to entry.
Yet, only a relatively small percentage of realtors make most of the sales because they're the ones who know the tricks of the trade that generate the best results.
Technically, the same dynamic takes place on the Internet with one big exception: you have a key advantage that doesn't exist in any other business—it’s really easy to legally spy on your competitors and learn all their tricks!
The reason is that everything that’s performed online is tracked, measured and archived for posterity. If you know where to look, you can always find the specific strategies that are making your top competitors successful.
How do you find this information? By using one of the online spying tools recommended below.
The ability to spy on your competitors to find out what they're doing will give you a significant leg up when you’re planning your own online strategy.
If you don't take the time to figure out what your competitors are up to before you plan your own strategy, you’ll be just shooting in the dark.
Fortunately, the Internet has a number of spying tools that make it easy to reverse-engineer what your competitors are doing, and a tool that always stands out is SE Ranking.
When it comes to analyzing your competitors, you want to be able to focus on the following areas:
- What’s their keyword strategy?
- What keywords are they ranking for and which ones drive the most traffic to their pages?
- What specific pages are bringing the most traffic to their sites?
- How do their pages rank in search results?
- What specific backlinks are pointing to their pages and what domain authority do the referring sites have?
- If they are running paid search ads, what keywords are they bidding on?
- What ads are performing the best for them?
- What's the specific ad copy of their winningest ads?
SE Ranking will provide you with the above information and more. For example, you can track specific keywords from your competitors to see how their rankings have changed over time and even track your own website and compare it side by side with up to 5 different competitors.
SE Ranking is one of the best all-around competitor spying tools and it’s even priced lower than many of its peers while basically offering the same functionality.
SE Ranking Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- High accuracy (many competing tools are known for producing inaccurate results)
- Powerful backlink explorer to spy on your competitors' backlinks and see what websites they're originating from so you can target them in your backlinking strategy
- Keyword rank tracker, to check how your competition has ranked historically for your chosen keywords
- Ability to track your competitor's organic keywords and traffic as well as paid keywords and ads
- Track your website's ranking and compare with to up to 5 competitors websites in real time
- Easily find your competitors' best ranking pages and how much traffic they're generating for them
Now the Cons...
- To be honest, there isn't really much to complain about SE Ranking. If anything, a mild negative for beginners is that in order to access the more advanced features, there will be a bit of a learning curve. However, this is really no different for most competitor spying tools.
- Although support is excellent, it's not 24/7 like other competitors in the space.
Find Out More About SE Ranking Here.
Best Budget Competitor Spying Tool: SpyFu
One of the features that makes it stand out is that even though it provides you with a smaller data set, it doesn’t cap your searches.
For example, you can spy on an unlimited number of domains, keywords and backlinks and you can export unlimited data as well. In contrast, many competitors impose monthly caps.
On the downside of things, they track keyword rankings weekly instead of daily as is more typical in the space.
But this is a reasonable trade-off for a monthly lower cost, especially considering their great user experience. SpyFu's simple to use UI is perfect for beginners.
While more pricey competitors tend to offer a more complete approach to SEO (along the lines of an SEO "Swiss army knife"), SpyFu specializes just in competitive analysis SEO.
For example, they have a feature called SpyFu Organic Kombat where they show you where your site fits inside a Benn diagram in relation to your competitors.
From this diagram you can figure out what keywords you all share, which ones are unique to each competitor and which ones are shared between two or more competitors.
This unique view makes it really easy to identify keyword gaps that you can then exploit.
SpyFu Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- Affordable pricing
- Competitor-focused keyword research tool
- Easily discover competitors you didn’t know you had
- Reverse-engineer you competitor's organic as well as paid keyword strategies
- Uncover top-performing keywords for any website
- Track the historical ranking of keywords from any website
- Excellent live support: phone and chat
- 30-day money-back guarantee
Now the Cons...
- Limited data for some industries
- US and UK data only
- Basic keyword rank-tracking capabilities
- Not the best solution for backlink analysis
Find Out More About SpyFu Here.
Best Runner-up: SEMRush
A great alternative to our top pick, SE Ranking, is SEMRush. Although both tools are extremely capable, and in fact quite comparable feature-wise, the main reason SEMRush was relegated to the status of runner up is the price—it’s much costlier for roughly the same results.
This is not to say that SEMRush doesn’t have unique features that SE Ranking doesn't have, in fact, they have one of the best features for researching and creating backlink outreach campaigns. It’s just that this activity is not related to competitor intelligence.
For example, you can enter your competitor’s website into their position tracker tool and then compare how your own site is performing over time for your chosen keywords in relation to them to spot areas for improvement.
They also have a very useful competitive-positioning map that shows where you are placed in relation to your competitors, using the number of ranking organic keywords on the x-axis and the amount of organic monthly traffic on the y-axis.
SEMRush is also very intuitive and easy to use and they offer live support via phone and chat as well.
SEMRush Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- Easy to use, domain and keyword analysis are straight forward
- Excellent support (phone, live chat and email)
- Offers a great data set of both organic and pay-per-click keywords
- Very high limit of daily reports that you can run before hitting a cap, compared to its competition
- Excellent backlink analysis tool
- Provides both desktop and mobile data breakdowns (very few competitors currently do this, although that’s bound to change in the future)
Now the Cons...
- High price for monthly subscription
- Data is based on Google searches only (other competitors have more options)
- Not mobile responsive (user interface not really designed to be used on smartphones)
- Allows only a single user account. Additional seats are quite expensive
Find Out More About SEMRush Here.
Best Free Competitor Spying Tool: SeoQuake
This great browser extension (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Edge), brought to you by the folks at SEMRush, is the perfect free tool for spying on your competition.
Since the data is served by SEMRush, you can count on its reliability and accuracy.
Now, being free to use, you’re not going to find the range of features you'll find in any of the above tools. However, the on-page and domain SEO information about your competition it’s able to unearth is extremely useful.
Once installed on your browser, all you have to do is to visit a competitor's page, click on the SeoQuake browser extension icon on the top menu bar and you’ll immediately see a wealth of SEO information, including:
- Page information including meta title and description
- Page parameters like the Alexa rank
- Page traffic
- Page backlinks
- Internal and external links
- Keyword density, and
- Page SEO audit
Once the two tools are connected, you’ll be ready to dig deep into the page you're visiting.
The best part is, you can easily export the page's SEO data into a file that you can then open and manipulate on a spreadsheet, all for free!
SeoQuake Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- SEO data export (you can get a thorough analysis of search-engine results pages and export the output in a convenient csv format or print reports directly from the browser)
- SEO dashboard (this is a compact mini-panel that opens on top of the page chock-full of juicy SEO information, including a brief SEO overview of your competitor with page, domain and backlink details)
- Keyword Analysis (you can get a detailed report on all keywords found on your competitor's page!)
- Access to the SEMRush's massive SEO dataset
- It’s 100% free!
Now the Cons...
- Since it’s free, you’ll get much more limited SEO capabilities
- It’s missing key features found in the above paid tools
- It’s only good enough to get you off the ground until you can afford its paid cousins
Find Out More About SEO Quake Here.
What to Do Next
Now it's time to get your hands dirty with competitor intelligence tools! Sign up to SE Ranking, SpyFu or SEMRush taking advantage of the free trial periods or their money-back guarantees, enter a competitor's URL, sit back and enjoy.
You'll be surprised (and delighted) by how much of your competitors' best strategies are just sitting out there, all in the open for everyone to see, if you have the right competitor analysis tool.