When you’re preparing your marketing strategy, competitive intelligence is key. It’s essential to know what the others are doing (and also who’s interested in your own stuff). Here’s my selection (updated May 29, 2019) of the 45 best tools to become a legal spying expert on the internet. I will update this list regularly. Let’s call it the ultimate marketing spying tools list on the web.
How to spy on your competitors’ web traffic?
Use myip.ms to evaluate the overall traffic of your competitors’ website. It’s originally a tool designed around IP tracking (which enables you for instance to check out the list of the most popular Shopify websites, based on Shopify’s main IP address). But pooling data from Amazon’s Alexa service it gives you, for free, a rather accurate evaluation of your competitors’ daily traffic. I’ve tested it on a few websites for which I had Google Analytics and the results were close to reality.
Similarweb is also a player in this field but it’s pretty expensive for starters (no public price, “talk to a consultant” mode, according to the info I found on Quora, it would start at $199 per month).
How to spy on your competitors’ best performing keywords?
There are a few tools you can use to spy on your competitors’ best performing keywords:
SERPstat I’ve recently discovered this service competing with the more established Ahrefs and SEMRush. I was positively impressed by the quality of their data and their pricing structure. Worth considering as an entry level SEO research tool. You can give it a try for free.
SEMRush One of the leading SEO tools (along with Ahrefs). Bonus compared to Ahrefs, on SEMRush you get a few free queries per day to try out the service. Prices aligned with Ahrefs, starting at $99.95 per month.
Spyfu You also get a sample of free limited results. The service is cheaper than Ahrefs / SEMRush, with prices starting at $33 per month (annual billing).
If you’re simply looking for keyword suggestions at the various stages of your funnel, you can also use the free tool provided by Google Ads, the Keyword Planner. Your competitors’ websites can be the starting point of your research but you won’t get the type of data you’ll see on the premium spying tools: the best performing web pages on your competitors’ websites, the backlinks, the most popular keywords in terms of traffic generation, etc. Google Trends is the natural companion of Keyword Planner to spot emerging trends.
Keywordtool.io is also a good solution for keyword research. Their pro plan starts at $69 per month. They cover not only Google but also Bing, Amazon, Youtube, Ebay, the Google Playstore, Twitter and Instagram (hashtags).
UberSuggest is also a decent tool (but quite slow) to get keywords suggestions. It’s now part of Neil Patel’s website. Note: in various tests I had the impression that their data wasn’t always up to date / accurate.
Re: keyword research, a great starting point is also simply to use the suggestions from Google’s search box (+ the related searches listed at the bottom of each results page, which will usually showcase some of the main brands active in the field).
See for instance what you get when typing: “how to spy on your competitor”.
How to spy on your competitors’ search advertising campaigns?
You can use SEMRush, Ahrefs, SERPstat, SERanking or Spyfu to get a sneak peek into your competitors’ Google advertising campaigns, incl. examples of the creatives used by your competitors.
How to spy on your own traffic, i.e. identify potential B2B leads?
Besides installing Google Analytics on your site, I also advise to set up as soon as possible a Facebook pixel. Reconciled with Facebook’s data trove, this will give you actionable insights from your own traffic.
You can also add an Albacross Pixel to get a view on the companies visiting your own website. How does Albacross (as other similar services) figure out who’s visiting your site: they typically infer basic information about an organization based on the IP address of the person visiting your site. Using the data gathered via Albacross cookies, you can set up account based marketing campaigns, straight from their platform. Plans start at 99€ per month. I love the fact that you get a granular view for all the identified visits (page, duration, source). The data can be exported to a CRM.
B2B leads identification is a crowded scene. There are a lot of other comparable services, just to name a few: Snitcher (starts at $24 per month), Leadfeeder (offering a free trial with max 100 identified leads), WhoisVisiting (from £59 per month), Leadberry (starts at $24 per month), SalesPanel (free trial, then $49 per month), Leadforensics (no public pricing). It’s also a feature part of the Sales product at Hubspot (there’s a free tier with limited capabilities).
Do not forget that, under the GDPR rules, you have to ask explicitly for the consent of your website’s visitor if you’re using tracking cookies (If you’re using WordPress, here’s a link to a very good plugin by Moove Agency).
How to spy on your competitors’ Facebook ads?
You can have a look at the active and past campaigns of your competitors via the Facebook ads library, promoting transparency on the platform. You won’t be able to see the budgets per campaign though, except for political creatives. It’s also worth adding competitors’ pages which you want to follow via the statistics tab of your Facebook page. This might give you ideas based on the most engaging publications of your competitors.
I have just found a free spying tool which gives you not only the basic info about the Facebook ads, as you can find them in the official FB ads library mentioned earlier, but also the engagement data, with a direct link to the actual ad. I tested it for the health/beauty category in France and it returned a lot of results (78K+), which I could filter by engagement types. I don’t know how long this one will stay open but don’t hesitate to use it while it lasts! It’s called BigSpy (free signup).
How to spy on your competitors’ display campaigns?
There are few premium tools available on the market. They don’t come cheap though. Here are the ones which seem the most legit at a decent price tag.
Adbeat has a very neat UI, starting at $249 per month. You can try the service free of charge (Adbeat Basic) to get a taste of the premium offering.
WhatRunsWhere, starting at $299 per month.
Adplexity, starting at $199 per month per platform / ad type (mobile, desktop, native,…)
AdSpy (what a domain name!), starting at $149 per month
How to spy on your competitors’ Youtube strategy?
I advise you to sign up to VidIQ to collect actionable data about your competitors’ Youtube strategy (the Pro plan starts at $7.5 per month). If you’re looking for an alternative (with a lot of additional features) check out TubeBuddy (from $9 per month).
SocialBlade is also very useful to get all the latest Youtube rankings and stats. You will also find data for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch and Mixer on Socialblade.
How to spy on the strength of your competitors’ presence on the web?
If you want to evaluate the strength of a competitor’s presence on the internet, type in the Google search bar site:domain.com (replacing domain.com by your competitor’s domain) to see the amount of URLs indexed by Google. Here’s for instance the result for pinterest.com: about 281M indexed pages. As I’m writing these lines, my site has 375 indexed pages.
Extra tip: you can use other search operators for specific file types. If for instance you want to find the XLS lists indexed for a specific topic, like “uk advertisers”, type filetype:xls “uk advertisers” in Google. It returned the URL of a file containing 3,000 contacts: https://ipush365.com/files/Contacts%20(1).xlsx
How to spy on the most popular content?
There’s a variety of tools which enable you to surface the most popular content shared on the internet, to inspire your own content marketing strategy.
At the moment, you get more free credits on a daily basis on Social Animal than on BuzzSumo. Both tools enable you to curate a list of influencers for a manual outreach. It’s also something you can do with BuzzStream, which helps you create a prospecting list by browsing the web using their Chrome extension (Plans start at $24 per month).
I’ve recently discovered Frase.io which is an amazing tool to prepare a content brief and to speed up your creative process by giving you a summarized view on the most popular content pieces in your niche. It will even suggest H titles you can borrow and improve (very useful to improve your rankings), based on the structure of existing blog posts. Really worth checking out!
How to spy on your competitors’ tech stack?
Want to know which SaaS your competitor (or prospect / client) is using? Check out BuiltWith. They have a wealth of data freely accessible. Premium plans start at $295 per month.
To get a detailed view on the tech stack of more than 300,000 websites, you can also try Rescan. As I’m writing these lines 1,309,632 websites are using Shopify and 19,638,593 are using WordPress!
How to spy on your competitors’ Amazon strategy?
If you’re interested in launching or growing an Amazon (FBA) business, you should check out JungleScout which offers a wide range of tools to spy on your competition, pick a niche, start a business and scale it properly.
How to spy on your competitors’ ASO strategy?
Since the App Store and Google Play are pretty competitive battlefields, there are a lot of tools available to spy on your competitors’ native applications titles, descriptions, screenshots, keywords, download figures, earnings, etc.
To get an idea of the popularity of any application, start by using a tool like SensorTower which offers you the opportunity to grab some data for free. Premium plans start at $59 per month (annual billing).
MobileAction is another player with a comparable pricing structure, also starting at $59 per month.
When researching this piece, I also came across AppTweak which has a really neat interface and will give you a lot of insights for free via their homepage widget. I really love the vibe of the UI. In the UK, prices start at £58 per month (but you’ll need to pay at least £249 per month for their Search Ads Intelligence, App Download Estimates and App Revenue Estimates products, which is cheaper than the same type of package at MobileAction, priced $599 per month!).
If you’ve found this list useful, feel free to share it with your friends & colleagues.