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 15 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 at no additional cost to you to support this site that compensation in no way influences my recommendations, which are strictly informed by my 10+ years of online business experience consulting for clients large and small. My aim is to always recommend tools that offer the best return for your investment (for more details, read my Affiliate Disclosure).
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.
What Are the Best Online Spying Tools?
1. SE Ranking
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
- 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
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
- 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
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
- 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)
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
- 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
This budget SEO tool doesn't have the ability to do on-page optimization, but it does have an excellent site audit feature that packs as much punch as other tools that cost two or three times more.
Ubersuggest is backed by Neil Patel, one of the industry’s most prolific SEO bloggers and a large agency owner. He has a tremendous amount of experience helping clients rank high on search engine results and has automated much of his knowledge in this powerful tool.
By simply entering your domain name into the tool and running a site audit, Ubersuggest will crawl all of your pages in real time no matter the size of your site and show you site audit results against a 44-point SEO checklist, broken down into critical errors, warnings and recommendations.
For example, you can find out if:
- You have any pages without a single H1 tag (your goal) or with multiple H1 tags (a no-no in SEO)
- You have pages with meta titles and descriptions that are either too long or too short
- You’re missing your meta descriptions
- You have pages with a low word count
- You have pages that take too long to load
- You have an SSL certificate that's about to expire
- You have pages with broken links
You can also find out what keywords your pages are ranking for, how many backlinks each page has and which pages on your website drive most of your traffic.
And as importantly, you can find the above information about any of your competitors! For example, what keywords are driving traffic to their sites, what pages are attracting the most visitors, and what websites are linking to their pages.
Ubersuggest Features that Stand Out
- Site-wide audits
- Backlink profile, including new and lost backings, shown on a daily basis
- Historical backlink data
- Demographic data about your searchers
- Keyword and content ideas, including keyword suggestions, related keywords, keywords phrased as question, keywords containing prepositions and comparisons
- Monthly search volume, average cost per click, pay-per-click competition and SEO competition for each keyword
- Facebook and Pinterest shares for your pages
- SEO Keyword ranking
- Priced much lower than competitors with similar features
Ahrefs is the granddaddy of SEO spy tools and one of the most popular platforms among SEO professionals. The reason I relegated it to position 6 on the list is cost: Ahrefs is very expensive.
Unless you're doing SEO research at high volumes, say if run an agency with many clients, then the high cost may hard to justify.
Having said that, they have a very generous 7-day trial, and if you work diligently you may be able to get a lot of work done in that time frame.
Ahrefs Features that Stand Out
- All-in-one SEO tool set: competitor research, keyword research, website audit, content research, and rank tracking
- Keyword research available for the world's three largest search engines: Google, YouTube and Amazon
- Handy browser extension
- 396.68 billion crawled pages in index
- 7.5 billion pages crawled a day
- 3.35 trillion external backlinks in database
- 26.15 trillion internal backlinks in database
- 543.33 million keywords in database
KWFinder is a simple yet powerful keyword research tool that beats its competitors for one simple reason: all they do is keyword research and they do it better than everybody else, who tend to clutter you with additional data you don’t need.
In fact, KWFinder provides exactly the information that you need to succeed without taking you on twelve different tangents.
Once you enter a group of seed keywords, KWFinder will generate a large list of suggestions, autocomplete keywords (harvested from Google’s autocomplete feature) and keywords phrased as a question (harvested from Google's “People also ask” section).
Then, KWFinder will show you the three critical pieces of information you need to land you on page one of search results: the monthly search volume, the organic keyword difficulty and the paid difficulty.
It can’t really get easier than that! On top, KWFinder has the reputation of being highly accurate on all three measures (many of its competitors produce inconsistent data) and better yet, it’s very intuitive and easy to use for beginners.
KWFinder Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- Very well priced compared to the competition
- Super easy to use (minimal learning curve for beginners)
- Excellent, highly responsive support
- Goes straight to the point and provides you exactly what you need in order to rank high in one place, without forcing you to drill into multiple screens to find relevant data
- Allows you to import your own list of keywords and still obtain the three critical metrics to qualify you for a first page result
Woorank is a website review and analysis suite of tools that allows you to audit websites and track how they rank on search engines.
You can use it to rank yourself as well as your competitors to see how you benchmark against them, using features such as SEO monitoring, competitive analysis, the keyword tool and site crawl analysis.
Woorank Features that Stand Out
- Website review
- Backlink analysis
- In-depth reporting
- Competitive Analysis
- Continuous tracking
Similarweb is not so much a spy tool at the nuts and bolts level but a tool that can allow you to observe and learn from your competition's overall SEO strategy so you can outsmart them.
For example, you can use Similarweb to benchmark your website against your competitors by comparing visitors, bounce rates, page views and time on site.
You can also use it to find out what sources generate traffic for your website as well as your competitor's by tracking visitors from social media, organic search, paid ads and direct traffic.
Similarweb Features that Stand Out
- Uncover top keyword trends
- Uncover unique visitor data
- Analyze and create benchmarks for any category
- Uncover top referring sites for your site and your competition's
- Uncover audience interests
SpyOnWeb is a tool that allows you to get traffic insights for any competitor, including their global rank, country rank, category rank, visitors coming from social media platforms, organic search, referrals, display ads and more.
In addition, SpyOnWeb allows you to find out if you're competing against multiple websites that happen to belong to the same owner, by inspecting their IP addresses, Google Analytics codes and online ad account numbers.
SpyOnWeb Features that Stand Out
- All data is aggregated from publicly available sources
- Current database: 243,101,616 Unique Domains; 21,444,939 Unique IP Addresses; 6,454,165 Unique Nameservers; 11,994,159 Unique Analytics IDs; 1,779,188 Unique Adsense IDs
- It’s 100% free to use plus no registration is required!
Majestic scours the internet for backlinks in order to populate their link-intelligence database. They then present this information in a way that allows you to create a competitive advantage.
This award-winning intelligence tool developed a number of proprietary metrics to help you benchmark your site against your competitors, including Trust Flow, Citation Flow, Visibility Flow and Topical Trust Flow.
Majestic Features that Stand Out
- Broad array of backlink indexing and domain analysis tools
- Keyword generator based on AI-based NLP algorithms
- Industry-leading API
Although iSpionage can be used for organic keyword analysis like the tools above, where they truly shine is in their ability to spy on your competitors' online ad campaign strategy.
To facilitate this task, it offers a range of features designed to lower your PPC costs, including intelligence about your competitors' cost per click, number of ads, search volume, average position and first & last seen dates.
iSpionage Features that Stand Out
- Pay per click competitive analysis tools
- A/B testing tools
- Rank tracking
- Website monitoring
13. Moz Pro
Moz Pro is an all-in-one SEO tool set that works along the lines of Ahrefs, and SEMRush but with a smaller database.
In addition to crawling your site for SEO errors, it allows you to analyze your competitors' websites for top pages by backlinks, keywords and traffic as well as for page and domain authority.
Moz Pro Features that Stand Out
- Link Explorer
- Brand mention monitoring tool
- Keyword explorer
- Site auditing
- Rank tracker
- Page optimization
Screamingfrog is an SEO Spider that crawls websites to find broken links, duplicate content and other errors that can impact your performance in the eyes of search engines.
Unlike all other competitors on this list, Screamingfrog isn't a cloud-based solution but a piece of software you need to download and install on your computer.
Screamingfrog Features that Stand Out
- Analyze page titles and meta data for SEO compliance
- Generate XML sitemaps
- Review meta robots & directives
- Compare staging vs production environments
- Google Analytics, Search Console and PageSpeed Insights integration
If you're looking for a 100% free tool to help you do a reasonable job with your keyword research, look no further than KW Surfer, from the developers of the top of the line on-page SEO tool Surfer SEO.
KW Surfer Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- Great source of related keywords based on your seed keyword
- Great source of monthly search volume for related keywords
- Handy clipboard feature for exporting your keyword list and associated traffic numbers to a spreadsheet
- They claim datasets from 70 countries, so the results are not just restricted to the English language
- It’s 100% free!
How Do I Spy on My Competitors' SEO Strategy?
When it comes to SEO, there are three core words that you need to consider: keywords, content and backlinks.
To be able to fully understand how your competitors are ranking on search engines and what what strategies they're using to rank, you'll need to use tools like the ones listed above to deconstruct their SEO strategies.
For example, you can use SEO spy tools to discover your competitors' top ranking pages, how many domains are linking to their content and what keywords they're using to rank those pages.
Then, once you learn what pages are bringing them their online success, all you have to do is to analyze them to find clues from their content — in short, what are they doing that you're not?
How Do You See What Keywords a Competitor Website Is Using?
Unless you own a website, Google won't tell you what keywords it's ranking for — they consider this privileged information.
As a result, a great number of SEO tools, like most of the ones listed above, have had to set up a parallel universe of crawling servers to replicate what Google does in order to harvest critical keyword information.
Some tools operate more servers than others, based on their financial ability, therefore revealing what keywords websites they've crawled are ranking for.
Large outfits, like Ahrefs and SEMRush, run the largest banks of crawling servers outside of Google itself and will be able to provide you with the most actionable competitor keyword data.
How Do I Track Traffic on a Competitor's Website?
The best way to track traffic from your competitors is to use tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush to run a site explorer search.
These tools will show you their traffic variations from day to day so you can spot trends.
Now these tools use traffic approximations and not absolute values, since Google only reveals those to website owners. But, since what you're looking for are trends over time, this is not really an issue.
What to Do Next?
Now it's time to get your hands dirty with SEO spy tools to get online intelligence on all your competitors!
So, make a short list and then sign up to some of the tools above, taking advantage of free trial periods or money-back guarantees.
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 use the right competitor analysis tools!