20 sneaky tools for spying on your competitors

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  • October 9, 2015
Alexandra Tachalova

Alexandra Tachalova

    My article today will discuss the best competitive intelligence tools that will give you a secret advantage over your competitors. Integrating these solutions into your daily routine will help you make informed decisions based on real data. I have carefully selected 21 tools that provide competitive insights about your rivals’ content marketing activities in paid and organic results, display advertising and social media. After giving these softwares a try, I promise that you’ll see that spying on your competitors has never been so easy!

    Content Marketing Research

    This section is about content marketing research tools. Which tool you should choose will depends on your goals and, of course, your budget. If you’re on a shoe-string budget, then Google Alerts is the best option for you.  If you can afford to pay a monthly fee, then take a look at Buzzsumo or Ahrefs. The last one has quite recently released a Content Explorer feature that provides actionable insights.

    Buzzsumo is a time-tested choice. It not only helps you analyze which particular articles are best for a particular website, it also shows you information about users and top influencers who have shared a piece on Twitter.  After you discover the most popular authors, Buzzsumo lets you follow them immediately from its interface. By using Buzzsumo’s Influencers Report, you can empower your SMM engagement significantly because you don’t need to spend hours searching relevant to your business audience in Twitter, you can get with only one click.


    Moreover, Buzzsumo offers alerts that will keep you informed about your competitors’ web mentions.

    Ahrefs Content Explorer allows you to find the most popular content concerning a specific topic. It offers the same insights that Buzzsumo does in general, but still lacks a convenient navigation; however, it’s really developing proactively.


    You can perform a couple of searches for free, but this won’t show you its full range of capabilities, for example, the ability to browse a list of users who have shared specific content on Twitter.

    Mention gives you the ability to track all your mentions across all channels – web, social media, news, blogs, videos, forums – in one place. To set up an alert, you need to specify which words and phrases you want track on a daily basis; pick up mentions, languages, and sources you want to monitor; and wait for an email. Unlike Google Alerts, Mention has export and report building functions, and it also lets you to share your alerts with your team

    Mention’s interface is designed so that you can see a list of views and preview every page with a particular mention. It’s very convenient as you can see the context of each mention and identify whether it’s relevant to your business; if it’s not, you can simply click delete without spending time opening each link in a new window. Also, you can immediately react to your mentions by favoriting them or deleting them.


    Collecting social network mentions is a big plus of Mention, compared to others like Moz Fresh Web Explorer or Google Alerts.

    Moz Fresh Web Explorer is a part of the Moz tool, which includes separate tools like Moz Analytics, Rank Tracker, On-Page Grader, Keyword Difficulty, and Crawl Test.

    Moz Fresh Web Explorer has recently been updated with a feature that tracks web mentions, which has replaced the Moz Web Mentions tool. In fact, compared to the Mention tool, Moz Mentions provides you with perhaps more meaningful, but less exhaustive results. This new tool promises to keep you informed about your content lifecycle and gives you the ability to export data and statistics, it also alerts you when your competitors are mentioned on the web.

    Moz Fresh

    Monitoring your major competitors’ mentions also helps you stay informed about their market shifts. However, the tool was only recently launched, so we will see if it is an improvement compared to the previous Moz tool.

    Kerboo Audit is one more tool to keep you informed.

    Kerboo Audit

    It is designed to alert you about toxic links in your backlink profile, but it’s also widely used for monitoring competitors’ websites profiles as well.

    Google Alerts provides you with fewer mentions than other tools, but it delivers a high number of spammy mentions. Additionally, Google Alerts tends to ignore a majority of blogs and forums, because it regards them as untrustworthy sources. However, this tool is absolutely free, and it has all the necessary functions to  track the competitive landscape.

    Talkwalker catches some results that can be missed by Mentions or Google Alerts, but the probability of getting trash and spam pages is really high. But still, Talkwalker is free, like Google Alerts, but it has a more user-friendly design; so, I prefer to deal with Talkwalker rather than Google Alerts. But, sometimes it makes sense to use both tools and aggregate data from both providers into one spreadsheet.

    Paid and Organic Competitor Analysis

    There’s no need to tell you that by only analyzing paid and organic competitors’ insights, you can learn about their long-term strategies as well as their past and current failures and successes. Also, going through your rivals’ keywords for both organic and paid results can give a significant boost to your SEO and PPC presence. So, the following tools will give you an extended overview of your competitors’ presence in SEO and PPC simultaneously.

    Searchmetrics helps you analyze your competitors’ performance. It provides you with analysis of both paid and organic traffic. I especially love that Searchmetrics shows you whether an SERP includes Universal Search Results, which may consist of images, videos, maps, news, etc.


    Another fascinating Searchmetrics feature is Industry Spread, which provides you with an at-a-glance understanding of your rivals’ current positions in the market.  Because Searchmetrics is a German company, it goes without saying that the quality of its German data is excellent.

    SEMrush without a doubt is a market leader, and for only $70, it provides you with very deep and extended analytics.

    Quite recently, SEMrush has launched a Mobile Traffic Report, so now you can discover whether or not your competitive landscape is mobile-optimized.


    I especially love how SEMrush provides you with an overview of any domain’s presence across all its databases – and by the way, it supports 28 Bing and Google databases in 27 countries! Also, SEMrush now has the ability to distinguish brand and non-brand traffic, which saves a ton of time and gives you a more accurate estimate of your competitors’ SEO traffic.

    SEM rush

    Ahrefs’ Organic Traffic reports offer substantial advantages over some of their rivals; Ahrefs’ analytics are based on the first 10 pages. This means you can uncover keywords that don’t create traffic for your competitors, but might bring traffic to your domain. And this may give you a more comprehensive understanding of your competitors’ strategies and what they’re focused on in their SEO presence. It’s no wonder that with the help of this data you can now beef up your keywords list and know what your rivals are doing to make it to the top of Google.


    SpyFu is among the oldest competitive intelligence tools on the market. As all previously mentioned solutions, it shows you a list of your competitors in both organic and paid results. Among its unique features, I want to highlight its ability to allocate the “Most Valuable Keywords,” which is a list of special keywords that consistently produce high-value clicks month after month. This means you will get in one click the best keywords for your domain’s keyword strategy.


    SpyFu also shows you another great metric–how difficult it will be to bring a domain to the first page of Google search results with a specific keyword, which will help you avoid wasting time by doing SEO for keyword whose SERPs are too competitive.

    spyfu 2

    The only issue with SpyFu that all these actionable insights are gathered only for USA and United Kingdom Google databases. So, it might be a bit costly to pay only for those two countries if you have a worldwide business.

    SERPstat is a newly launched tool that shows you your competitive landscape in organic and advertising Google results. I love the visualization of data and the at-a-glance overview of the most visible pages in organic results. Another helpful feature is the subdomains analytics that gives you the ability to see how much visibility is generated from which keywords on each subdomain, without exporting and filtering data in Excel.


    Ispionage is another solution that is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of your rivals activities.  Besides providing PPC keywords, and ad copies, it also allows you to browse landing pages on which your competitors are sending traffic from ads.  For extended PPC analysis, Ispionage has a tool called  Campaign Watch, which shows your local competitors, points out the companies that’re using your brand name in their advertising campaigns and uncovers their landing page A/B test campaigns, showing a side-by-side comparison. All in all, it establishes a bird’s-eye view of your competitors’ complete PPC strategies, so you can see a history of their changes and track all their newly launched products or services proactively.

    SimilarWeb doesn’t provide the same analytics as all the previously mentioned tools, because it  collects data from apps and various toolbars, so it  means they can provide you with a more  accurate numbers about the traffic, CTR’s and much more. With the help of SimilarWeb, you can uncover your competitors’ traffic sources, so you can see their distribution across these channels and tweak your marketing strategy according to newly gained insights.

    Traffic sources

    It also offers comprehensive analytics concerning traffic and engagement metrics.

    Compete is one of SimilarWeb’s competitors and it provides pretty much the same analytics. It also gives you insights about your rival websites’ performance and engagement metrics. However, it has a couple of interesting features which you might be interested in checking out. For example, its Online Conversion Insights feature will show you your competitors’ conversion performance, so you can learn their most successful strategies and adapt them for your website. It also includes a set of reporting tools that are designed to save you time, so you can create graphs inside Compete’s interface without exporting data and spending hours in Excel.

    SEOmonitor Competition Insight  helps you understand your competitors not only on a global level, but on a local level as well. SEOmonitor Competition Insights is a tool designed to show you your regional competitors. Your rivals are defined automatically by a selected set of keywords and location, so you can compare your website’s performance against your competitors. This data helps you spot new opportunities and optimize your niche strategies by identifying your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses.

    Social Media Competitive Landscape

    SMM is a constantly changing environment, and you need to react proactively to newly born trends and get an at-a-glance overview on your competitors’ activities. You need to know how and on which SMM channels your competitors are effectively engaging with their audience in order to improve your own activity with this knowledge.

    Social Bakers is a market leader in SMM tools. It helps you get competitive insights and discover your competitors’ promoted posts. So, if your competition is out-performing you on social media channels, you’ll be notified. By giving you the ability to monitor and investigate how your competition is spending money, Social Bakers helps you optimize your spends on ads and reach a bigger audience on social.

    RivalIQ is one of my favorite tools for SMM competitive intelligence. With RivalIQ, you can set your competitive landscape, as well your industry landscape and your niche. This tool gathers data and content from any social network channel you want to track and consolidate it to show you how you’re performing compared to your competitors.


    Also, RivalIQ has an awesome feature with timely alerts and notifications that send you information about your competitors viral posts, big metrics moves and more.

    Fanpage Karma tracks your competitor’s social media presence day by day. Based on your competitive landscape activity, it analyzes their posts and tells you the best times to post, as well as the best topics and types of posts. Additionally, the tool tells you what kind of audience and influencers you have by pointing out their interests and showing how they interact with your page. Also, Fanpage Karma helps you stay up to date and is always ready to provide fresh alerts about your competitors according to your tool’s settings.

    Display Advertising

    Among the biggest challenges of competitive intelligence has always been finding out where your rivals locate their display ads, as well what kinds of banners or texts they use, and how much money they spend on them.

    The cheapest and easiest way to get this information and start your own successful display advertising campaign is to learn from your competitors. With the help of the following tools, you will know what an efficient display ad looks like, with which publishers should you cooperate, and how much you need to spend.

    Whatrunswhere tracks over 150 thousand unique publishers in 15 different countries. With the help of this tool you can learn where your competitors are advertising and find new sources of traffic. Also, besides Dekstop data, it provides access to mobile advertising data. Whatrunswhere helps you avoid your competitors’ mistakes and save money by analyzing your campaigns and benchmarking their effectiveness.

    SEMrush doesn’t offer the same in-depth analytics as Whatunswhere, but it’s farily good for providing insights on your competitive landscape. With SEMrush, you can observe which type of ads (text or image) your competitors are using and also browse a list of top display ads publishers in order to find the best spots to allocate your ads.

    SEMrush 2

    Adbeat uncovers your competitors’ display ad strategies by pointing out the most profitable publishers, and the most successful ad copies and landing pages. This allows you to simply grab this data, tweak it a bit according to your strategy and run your campaign. In addition to this, Adbeat’s Publisher Discovery Tool shows you where your competitors and industry leaders are already spending their money.

    Conclusion. The tools mentioned in this article are designed to help you make informed decisions and choose the appropriate strategies. Moreover, they are all about saving you time and money. I tried to pull from my toolbox various solutions – both time-tested and newly launched – and compare them using my personal experience. Learn, enjoy and try several of these. Don’t forget to share your ideas in the comments, as the list of thrilling spy gadgets is always growing!