SEO Spy Tools
In a previous post, SEO Keyword Research – Choosing Keywords for SEO, I mentioned the ability to spy on your competitors for SEO purposes. I’d like to expand on that in this post. Below is a list of free research & spy tools that will give you insight into a competitor’s SEO status. Seeing which keywords your competitors are ranking or bidding on may give you a few ideas for your own campaigns. These tools should help you make more informed decisions for your search engine marketing campaigns. Not being first in the game isn’t always a bad thing. You can skip the growing pains and trial and error of the first comers have to endure and put all your time and resources into the proven methods, and avoiding the first-comer blunders. Spy tools like this allow you to see which other sites are being visited by visitors to your website (as well as your competitor’s) can provide expanded knowledge on who your competitors are.
This massive site exporter/backlink checker has become the go-to tool for many SEOs. Just drop a competitor’s URL and get the freshest backlink index available that includes a nice intuitive graph along with intuitive metrics (URL rank, Ahrefs Domain Rank, Backlinks, etc). There are several ways to use this tool to spy on your competitors. For example, you’ll also get breakdowns that will parse out .gov and .edu links, new links, broken links, etc.
Other useful metrics include domain comparison (perfect for checking your backlink profile against those of competitors), and a whole new “content” section which shows which of your pages are attracting most of the links.
Ahrefs.com has a lot of overlap with Moz’s Open Site Explorer and Majestic but I prefer this, as I find it has the freshest index, which helps me stay current. All 3 tools are worth their weight however (OSE comes packaged as part of Moz Analytics so it may be the best bang for your buck whereas Majestic’s “old/outdated” index (Majestic has the “largest” index, but it includes old links that no longer exist) can be useful for historic purposes.
Plans range from $79/month to $1,299/month. That said you can get some limited usage for free. If you’re looking to stick to a free tool, there are several options out there. Like ahrefs, OSE and Majetic all allow for some free limited usage. That said, one of the best free online backlink checker tools I’ve come across is Open Link Profiler. The amount of data and detail they’ll show for a backlink profile (for free) is pretty impressive.
As the name implies, this tool is specifically geared towards spying on your competitors. The paid account is reasonable and since monthly plans are an option, you can always get all your information in the first month. Unlike many other SEO spy tools, Spy Fu allows you to download a large amount of SEO ranking data into your spreadsheet. You can see which and how many keywords your competitors are ranking on organically and/or paying for in Adwords. Their “Kombat” feature is also useful for gauging a website’s historical SEO/PPC trends (or comparing them for multiple websites). Metrics SF provides include:
- Daily Adwords (PPC) Ad Budget
- Avg. Ad Position / # Advertisers
- Daily Organic (SEO) Traffic Value
- Paid vs. Organic Clicks Per Day
- Top 10 with free account, expanded and exportable list with paid account: Paid Keywords, Top Ad Competitors, Organic Keywords, Other Domains Owned
- Basic: Free
- Monthly Subscription: $59.95
- Annual Subscription: $395.00
SEO Spy Glass is a software download and allows you keep track of your competitors, and their inbound links. It combines several powerful online tools i nto one large automated package. Just enter a competitor’s URL and SEO Spy Glass will return your competitor’s inbound links, anchor text, Page Rank, and even the contact page for those linking websites. SEO Powersuite is a larger package which also includes Link Assistant, Rank Checker and other SEO tools. Visit SEO Spy Glass Website
- Competitor Inbound Links
- Inbound Links anchor text
- Contact Page
- Misc. SEO factors (DMOZ listings, number of inbound links, Alexa rank, etc)
- Part of the much larger SEO Power Suite
- Free Limited Version
- Professional $99.75
- Enterprise $249.75
This tool is a beast. While it’s largely useful for analyzing your own websites and finding errors and areas for improvement, it’s also useful for analyzing competitor websites. The URL “importance” score can tell you which of your competitor’s pages are most important (in terms of internal linkbuilding, placement, etc) and you can also look for specific content on their website (using the same function used for auditing GA tracking or other scripts).
You can play with the data within the tool or export into excel and play with it there. It might seem overwhelming at first because of the sheer amount of data that it passes (it’s more than “traditional SEO” data), but you can filter out what you don’t want/need and it becomes intuitive with a little use anyhow. This tool is very similar to Screaming Frog SEO Spider. To date, I still prefer A1 WSA. It’s less intuitive but the flexibility (once you’ve learned how to work the tool) really allow you to filter exports and removes the need for subsequent work in Excel.
This is a very extensive tool and gives you a wide variety of metrics to compare and the ability to compare multiple sites over a period of time. The payment plans are a bit pricey but even the free account provides meaningful data. Enter a URL and get the following SEO spy data;
- View trends in visits over time
- Compare multiple websites at once (3 without logging in, 5 with free account, many more with purchase)
- Site Description
- Other sites visited
- Keywords searched for
- Referring sources
- Basic site metrics: Visits, Unique Visitors
- With Pro Account: Reach, Attention, Pageviews, Pages/Visit, Visits/Person, etc)
- With Pro Account: Visitor Demographics (gender, education, age, and income)
- Price: Basic account is Free.
Tools that automate what once required painstaking manual work are great. They allow us to batch process much of the collection and filtering and free us up to work on more projects. That said, we must be careful not to become so dependent on tools that we become accustomed to outsourcing our critical thinking and just end up doing little more than analyzing columns in spreadsheets.
Spend some time on your main competitor’s websites. What makes them your main competitor? Why do they deserve the (natural) links that they have? What’s their unique selling perspective? What does their site’s design convey? Be as objective as you can. How would a first time user feel landing on their website in comparison to yours? Again, the above-mentioned tools are great, but don’t skip out on doing your own analysis. So put that prefrontal cortex to use!
Go forth and research!
These are by no means the only Web or SEO spy tools out there. However, they are the tools I have found most valuable. Feel free to give your 2 cents on these tools and/or share other SEO spy tools that have worked for you.