Questions? (877) 643-7244
FutureNow Article
Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008

14 Tools to Legally Spy On Your Competition

By Bryan Eisenberg
October 7th, 2008

spy legally on your competitorsHave you ever wished you were Bond? James Bond?  Here are 007+007 = fourteen ways to spy on your competitors’ web sites, without breaking any FISA laws.

1. Statbrain – Using several sources, Statbrain’s algorithm computes the number of visitors to a website based on offsite factors like backlinks, Alexa Rank etc. Statbrain does not have access to log files or any hit-counter information. Use this as a rough relative benchmark of your traffic to theirs. First run your website and compare the results given by StatBrain to your actual results to get a sense of its accuracy in your category. Figure out what the multiplier is and then try it on a competitor.

2. AideRSS – Find out which of your competitors’ blog posts and topics are engaging people. This should provide you with a list of topics you should be covering. Engagement doesn’t necessarily mean your competitor’s opinion is right or even agreed with — but it does mean the engaged people are interested in the topic and therefore why not your opinion on the topic.

3. FeedCompare – If you use Feedburner to track your rss subscribers you can compare the size of your feed to others. Just like in #1 above, figure out your own multiplier and then compare it to the competition.

4. Xinu Returns – Xinu Runs a report from multiple sites to tell you how well a site is doing in popular search engines, social bookmarking sites and other technical details. How well are you stacking up against your 5 biggest competitors?

5. Google Trends For Websites – Enter up to five topics and see how often those topics been searched on Google over time. Google Trends also shows how frequently your topics have appeared in Google News stories, and in which geographic regions people have searched for them most. You can learn more on how to use this from our friend, Avinash Kaushik.

6. Google Insights for Search – With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames. Again, Avinash explains how to use this well.

7. Microsoft’s Keyword Forecast tool – This tool forecasts the impression count and predicts demographic distributions of keywords.

8. Microsoft’s Search Funnels – Customers often perform searches by typing related keywords in specific sequences. This tool helps in visualizing and analyzing the customers’ search sequences. Search Engine guru Mike Grehan explains the value of these query chains.

9. WayBackMachine – Go back in web history to see how your competitors’ site has changed through the years. Look for the things that have stayed consistent, because those might have been the most successful. In the same vein, what have you changed on your own site during that time? It’s easy to lose track, particularly of your own work, and to think of your current site as “how it’s always been”.

10. Web Page Speed Analyzer – Compare the download speed of your pages with those of your competitors to see which are loading quicker. Quicker loading pages tend to have an advantage at converting visitors. This analyzer provides a detail analysis of the page elements. For a rough comparison of two pages side by side try WebSlug. And, WebWait is great when you want to get accurate speed results from the visitors perspective because WebWait pulls down the entire website into your browser, so it takes into account Ajax/Javascript processing and image loading which other tools ignore.

11. Web Page Readability – By comparing the readability score of web pages you can optimize your writing and make sure that you aren’t creating overly complex sentences and paragraphs for your audience.

12. Attention Meter – Attentionmeter gives you a quick snapshot comparing any websites you want (traffic) using Alexa, Compete, and Quancast.

13. Websitegrader – Website Grader is a free tool that measures the marketing effectiveness of a website. It provides a score that incorporates things like website traffic, SEO, social popularity and other technical factors. It also provides some basic advice on how the website can be improved from a marketing perspective. Also worth checking out Twittergrader to check on your competitors’ twitter accounts.

14. Google Alerts – set up searches for your competitors, key employees, and keywords to monitor their activity.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it: Try some (or all) of the above techniques and report back on your intriguing espionage! This tape will self-destruct in 10 clicks.

Shhhhh… care to share your spying secrets? What tools or techniques do you use?

Add Your Comments

Comments (140)

  1. I’ll have some fun with these. Thanks.

  2. This list is great. Although I’ve heard of most of them, there’s a few of them I definitely haven’t. Bookmarked! Thanks!

  3. Definitely some interesting and original ideas here.

    Stumbled!

  4. Very cool stuff! Also stumbled, thanks.

  5. You should definitely add UpdatePatrol to that list. It will monitor your competitors’ sites for updates and notify you when it finds a change. Invaluable ;-)

  6. Very nice list with some original ideas. Stumbled+

  7. Thanks Bryan, most useful :o )
    Here’s a couple I like to use http://www.Feedwhip.com keeps an eye on pages changes and tells you what and when.

    http://www.Marketleap.com is good for Back Link info and Search Engine Saturation, plus over time you can build a trend.

    http://www.dnsstuff.com has lots of useful tools from whois lookup, traceroutes, ping etc.

    and finally
    http://www.spyfu.com does some interesting stuff for free, though will try to sell you more.

    Hope you like them. Best wishes, Doc.

  8. I just started testing a product called Market Samurai (http://www.marketsamurai.com/) as part of Ed Dale’s thirty day challenge. It’s a niche marketing tool, but it has some built in competitive analysis features as well. Looks promising. If you try the free version, prepare for the upsell… it’s coming.

    Bryan, this list is pure schweetness. I’ve used many of these tools, but forget about them from time to time, because I haven’t generated my own list. This page will certainly be bookmarked.

    Can someone point me to a recent Future Now post that listed many of the recent industry conference videos? I started reviewing them a day or so ago, and cannot find that post now. :(

    Thanks in advance.

  9. Bryan,

    This list is great. Some of the tools we’ve been using already, but there are some new ones on there that will be fun to test out.

    Just thought I’d say thanks!

    -Emer, Interactive Return, Ireland

  10. @Joshua Briley: the post you’re looking for is at http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/10/02/onclick-the-online-marketing-virtual-conference-mashup/

    I, too, am partway through all those awesome presentations :)

  11. This list is awesome, Bryan! I’m trying some of these tools now, and stumbled over another one on the way: http://siteanalytics.compete.com/
    Most of their tools you have to pay for, but the web site comparison is free for up to 5 sites, and offers a comparison graph of things like pages/visit, unique visitors, velocity, attention (% of all web visits), average stay. The graph is not very helpful if the sites have extreme differences in visitor statistics (except for pointing out how one site is competing at a much, much lower level than the other).

  12. Bryan,

    Thanks for sharing this via FB.

    Are there tools like this that will evaluate sites that do not rank within the top 100,000?

  13. 14 Tools to Legally Spy On Your Competition…

    How are your competitors performing on the internet? These 14 tools will help you learn what makes your competitors tick online….

  14. Great tools thanks dear share with us…

  15. That’s amazing. Thanks for the tools! I’ll be using some of these pdq!

  16. Thanks. Great ideas and additional comments. These tools can also be used for other purposes. I use the WayBackMachine to look at prospective clients old websites as they are usually calling me to say ‘we used to get traffic on our old site’. I use it to see what they did right or wrong. It could be they went for a change of the ‘pretty’ and got messed up code. I also use WebsiteGrader when I am contracted to optimize a clients site. I can then show the client a quick before and after score.

  17. We add Twitter Search results to our Google Reader subscriptions to keep up on what is being said in the Twittersphere. Info on how to set that up is on our blog at:
    http://www.fastspot.com/blog/2008/10/how-to-listen-to-the-web/

  18. Thanks for the list. I’ve been looking for a free website analysis tool.

    Doug

  19. Very neat list of tracking tools. I’d say I use about 90% of these already, but I haven’t used Google trends and insights as much as I should be.

  20. Thanks for sharing all these tools. We are using few of these for our website but some are new to us. Its always great to know about all these from GROKDOTCOM.

  21. Great article, some brilliant tools here.

    Thanks,
    Http://www.newpathweb.com

  22. Thanks for the list, I’ve used maybe 4 from there.

    Here’s a good one, Link Diagnosis (http://www.linkdiagnosis.com)

    This nifty tool extracts the alt text keyword from incoming links to websites. Check it out!

    Jorge

  23. Excellent post. I swear by Google Alerts, not just to keep up on competition, but also to keep track of my clients. Some of these products I’m not familiar with, however, and I look forward to testing them.

  24. Great list. I found the attention meter site very useful.

  25. Great list – we have been using Google Insights for Search more and more recently.

    Marketleap.com has always been a standard to look at top-line backlink penetration.

  26. This is a wonderful list! Love it. I am already playing with a few of them I have not had exposure too. The blog popular feed tool is a nice one!

  27. These are some great tools. I didn’t konw them all, thanks!

  28. I love this list. I had been a big fan of compete.com, but with their new pricing scheme it’s moved out of my league for now. Another one that allows purchase of just a few days access of their whole product at a time is spyfu.com

  29. [...] Just found this great blog post on how to spy on your competition – great suggestions! http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/10/07/14-tools-to-legally-spy-on-your-competition Great Twitter Resources! [...]

  30. Ah yes! Thanks for this. I’m ready to spy on the competition now!

  31. [...] their network, what can you do to get the real goods? FutureNow’s Bryan Eisenberg says there are several strategies, all perfectly legal, to spy on your competition. If you’re comfortable with some esoteric web tools, these look like they could be a lot of [...]

  32. I bookmarked your site for future reference.

  33. [...] futurenow: Have you ever wished you were Bond? James Bond? Here are five ways to spy on your competitors’ web sites, without breaking any laws. [...]

  34. I am using Affiliate elite, but I had no idea on how many other tools were there to test with, and spy legally on your competition, this is very useful information.

    thank you
    Ludier Pabon
    http://www.bestguidesonline.com

  35. [...] 14 Tools to Legally Spy On Your Competition [...]

  36. Some great tools thanks for sharing.

  37. Here is another link which will show you what adword company is buying.

    http://www.ask2link.com/lab2/advertiser

  38. Obviously these tools have more uses than just spying competitors. But, is Technorati excluded intentionally?

    I am about to use Xinu Returns to see how well it works for me, so thanks.

  39. this is a great list! there are many clones of xinureturns tho – but great list in deed

  40. We loved this spy list so much, we Bundled it and made it into a sharable widget. Click on my name to visit the Bundle and get the widget code.

  41. We’ve used Spyfu.com as well as Google Insights in the past and have found them fairly useful.

    I just tried the first one on the list: StatBrain.com and the result we’re off quite a bit, it also showed us to have a lot more traffic than our competitor, which we know not to be true.

  42. This is a list worth saving. I stumbledupon it and will give it thumbs up!

  43. Thanks, Bryan, to you and everyone else here who has posted their responses with some really good sites. I tend to collect pages like this one and add links to them on my site in case they can help anyone. The right hand side of http://www.brooksvillepc.com may have some useful links if anyone can find the time to dig through them. They all open up as _blank so you can turn off your popup blockers. Brian, without all the great people like you writing pages like this.. – all I can say is thanks.

  44. Fantastic tools for online makreters. Check out http://www.newpathweb.com.au for more tips, tolls and info.

  45. FYI, if you don’t mind paying, this Linking Analytics service http://www.ericward.com/linkstrategy.html rocks. We’ve used it for multiple sites. Worth every penny.

    We run these for every site we have.

  46. No sure how I missed this originally. Thanks Bryan, much appreciated.

  47. [...] 14 Tools to Legally Spy On Your Competition (tags: web tools) [...]

  48. [...] 14 Tools to Legally Spy On Your Competition [...]

  49. Excellent group of links. Thanks!

  50. [...] For the rest of the list, click here. [...]

  51. Thanks for the great list!!

  52. [...] lista sigue, por lo que si te interesa puedes hacer click aquí. Comparte este [...]

  53. [...] La lista sigue, por lo que si te interesa puedes hacer click aquí. [...]

  54. This is really good tools! tTanks for sharing. This will really help a lot.

  55. The original post, plus some of the comments have some really great tools, thank you!!!

  56. [...] [upmod] [downmod] 14 Tools to Legally Spy On Your Competition (www.grokdotcom.com) 1 points posted 7 months ago by SixSixSix tags imported business seo [...]

  57. Great post! It is really amazing the kinds of tools available today for the online marketer.

    I’ll definitely bookmark these for later use.

    Chuck

  58. Great information. Have already bookmarked this page. :-)

  59. Great List – We are a client of FN and think you do a great job! Keep it up

  60. haha nice :) )) great list!!

  61. thanks for sharing this list, some great looking tools to try out here

  62. I just bookmarked this post. Thanks for sharing it. I will surely try and experiment all of the above list of tools.

  63. [...] time-to-time to see what’s going on. A few days ago I stumbled upon an interesting article, 14 Tools to Legally Spy On Your Competition. There are some pretty interesting tools on this [...]

  64. is there a way to see the keywords that lead people to a particular website. OR.. the keywords for which a particular website is optimized for

  65. With http://www.thewebwatcher.com you can track the changes on the competitors websites! Very valuable and free !

  66. This is a great list. Don’t forget about RhinoSEO Website Grader. ( http://grader.rhinoseo.com/ ) It offers the similar grading as hubspot but looks at other factors too like sitemaps

  67. Very interesting list. It’s a great addon to what I’m already doing. Thanks.

  68. [...] Popego (http://popego.com/) , o monitorizar a nuestra competencia (les dejo un buen resumen en este enlace [...]

  69. Great article, good resources.

  70. Hi! You should also consider http://www.estimix.com They provide a nice summary of the website performance. I trust that you’ll find this very useful cause it seems to use the Alexa traffic information quite well and provides much better traffic information.

  71. Thanks for those links! I’ve used website grader before, so I’ll have to check out the rest of the 13.

    Alex,
    Vom Bullenfeld German Rottweiler puppies

  72. I always use google alerts to monitor well known rss feeds and news for competitors names. I also use my own service, ezwebsitemonitoring.com to track competitors keywords and backlinks. Check it out if you have the time.

  73. Hi! I have seen many such websites that provide competitive analysis for free. My personal favourite is http://www.estimix.com . It seems to generate very accurate traffic information, too.

  74. It’s great tool.

    Thank for introduce me.

  75. Thank you for the great list! It’s just what I needed.

  76. An other online seo tools: Yookeo dot com. This website generate seo report about your website.

  77. Thanks Bryan,

    No sure how I missed this originally.

  78. statspy.org is a new tool, i hope it will be better then other inaccurate ‘somethings’.

  79. Ótimo Post. Parabéns!!

  80. Thanks man for post.

  81. Nice compilation of useful tools. Thanks a lot

  82. This is an invaluable list! Thanks!! Great help.

  83. Thanks a lots. It’s a very invaluable resource.

  84. The original post, plus some of the comments have some really great tools, thank you.

  85. thanks for that post, is that useful for me, sorry about my english.

  86. Thanks for post. Very good. By!!

  87. Ótimas dicas, gostei da matéria e do assunto abordado. Feliz 2010!!

  88. Muito bom seu artigo. Interessante mesmo

  89. Thanks for post!!!

  90. You’re so awesome for posting this. Thank you very much. I had never even heard of a lot of these tools. I know there are a lot of SEOs mad at you right now. Lol, just kidding, but thank you very much.

  91. indeed a good list :)

  92. use google alerts to monitor well known rss feeds and news for competitors names. I also Personally I am a big fan of google alerts. Just checked ezwebsitemonitoring.com to track competitors keywords and backlinks, and it is relevant. Also, don’t forget about RhinoSEO Website Grader.

  93. This is really a nice tricks to spy.

    I use mostof the times http://www.doloop.com

  94. I love that tool – http://www.surcentro.com

  95. I prefer Google Trends to other because it can show history report of search.

  96. Thank you for the awesome list! Would like to add versionista.com as a solid tool to track changes in content of your competitor’s webpages.

  97. [...] 14 Tools to Legally Spy On Your Competition [...]

  98. well this is better i think u have to give better explanation about seo

  99. Bryan, thanks for sharing your helpful post. I just bookmarked this page, will visit this site often. Cheers!

  100. Awesome post, this is something I wanted for a while. Some of these tools are very interesting!SEO keeps on innovating.

  101. bryan, thanks for the great list. best tom

  102. Excellent tools. But you forgot semrush and the like.

  103. Thanks. Great ideas and additional comments. These tools can also be used for other purposes. I use the WayBackMachine to look at prospective clients old websites as they are usually calling me to say ‘we used to get traffic on our old site’. I use it to see what they did right or wrong. It could be they went for a change of the ‘pretty’ and got messed up code. I also use WebsiteGrader when I am contracted to optimize a clients site.

  104. Thanks for this great list of websites. This will come to great use

  105. This is an excellent list since I just started re-doing my keywords and checking my new site structure.

    Thanks!

  106. Obviously these tools have more uses than just spying competitors. But, is Technorati excluded intentionally?

  107. Nice list. I just love the Wayback Machine! One of my favourites is of course Market Samurai to keep an eye on where my competition have their backlinks

  108. Nice stuff. I am in a Master’s program, and these tools are starting points when working with clients as I have learned. Does anyone know how often though these companies update their data caches? Some of my stuff was old.

  109. #

    I prefer Google Trends to other because it can show history report of search.

  110. Treads website grader and yahoo tools are all great and can really help out any seo compaign

  111. to say ‘we used to get traffic on our old site’. I use it clients I’ve used many of these tools, but me as I have learned. they forget about them from time to time, Does anyone know how often though to see what

  112. Thanks for the post. Feedcompare seems like a cool thing to use since I’m a feedburner user. So far I’ve been using the SEOQuake plugin for Firefox. Seems to do a pretty good job and I recommend it.

  113. Tried this one: http://www.statools.com/ – not bad too, but only first level domains allowed.

  114. That’s an interesting list. I used Google Insight the other day and was fascinated (as a marketing person) at the ability to drill down to specific maximum areas of interest for various keywords. Another one that I’ve used on occasion that isn’t on the list is spyfu which provides interesting data on competitor’s adword campaigns. It seems a good way to follow what worked and didn’t work for them in terms of keyword effectiveness in campaigns.
    Thanks,
    Parker

  115. I always use statbrain to calculate the status of my websites and its competitors. For waybackmachine, this is useful to me in getting domains for my development. Thanks for this list of tools that helps not only to legally spy your competitors, but also to spy your own – to search for improvements.

  116. The Wayback Machine is amazing. All time fav for me is Market Samurai to keep an eye on where my competition have their backlinks. Thanks for sharing!

  117. Thanks for the post.I use “Reach Analysis”. This tool will diagnose your site in all SEO and SEM aspect with free recommendations.
    u can also try

  118. Thanks for your list but ads spy pro is also one of the best tool to spy on competition.

  119. Market Samurai is the one for me! Sometimes i also use sheerseo.com

  120. I use market Samurai and some addons from Firefox… in this way i saw the competition backlinks.

  121. I have used web page speed analyzer before, works like a charm :) . I hate that some only allow first level domains :( but still great to use.

  122. I just love to use Google alerts and Attention Meter. Haven’t use others but sure will. thanks for arranging this list.

  123. Google insight and adwords are extremely helpful if your doing SEO for your website. I like insight very much, will definitely try others also.

  124. I use half of the sites listed. The way back machine is only good to see how site changed over the years. It does not help much in any other way.

  125. so it takes into account Ajax/Javascript processing and image loading which other tools ignore.

  126. Great post. I am looking for a professional tools to spy on the competitors conversion rates per keyword and page. Is there any way to do that.

  127. Great and useful list. I am using most of those toold.I would like also to add http://www.webranker.info, also provides some useful info on competition rankings.

  128. Love it, there is so many places to get so much information, you have to becareful not to put yourself into a comma trying to do it all. I have used MarketSamuri with great success, I would highly reccommend them. Another one that is interesting is Woorank.com it does a full analysis report that can be helpful.

    Till next time.

    Dale

  129. Great post! Google Trends and waybackmachine help us a lot in web marketing! Thank again for sharing.

  130. Thanks for the list. A lot of new ones I need to look into. Though a tip about Google Alerts- Make sure you use quotes otherwise all the broad match results get worse than spam! Thanks.

  131. Great post Bryan.
    Trends and mashable are good ones for current ideas. I’ve been trying to use Traffic Travis v4 but the keyword /research tool is not working at all. Market Samurai is good but it has some learning curve to it. I wish I could find a good alternative for my comp analysis.

  132. These are interesting, I’ve not heard of a lot of time, I’ve just been using Traffic travis, Alexa and seopen lately

  133. Maybe am not after a lot of tools and instead stick to a few very good tools. Such as Google Insights and Trends. But hey, this is a really COOL post. I am sure to give a try to all of these excellent looking tools. Thanks mate.

  134. [...] 14 Tools to Legally Spy on Your Competition – A list of tools and techniques for monitoring how your competitors are doing on the web. [...]

  135. Brilliant post on all the tools out there for competitive analysis and brand reporting. Do try Adthena Competitor Intelligence as well, its ingenious in the way it looks at your market place and reports if any of your top keywords are dropping off the charts.

  136. Nice post – I use a lot of these tools myself when doing competitor analysis research. I actually just made a video today showing how some of these tools here you mentioned all work together.

    Check it out:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Rww1AUFKCo

  137. Great Post. I have used some of these but since last few months stuck with http://www.adthena.co.uk. Amazing accuracy great customer support and very reliable.

  138. Thanks for the outstanding resource list. I am familiar with some of these but many I have not heard of. I will be spending some time checking them out!

  139. Excellent resources, some I have used in the past, others I look forward to utilizing in the future.

  140. You should add http://www.SimilarWeb.com – great tool to find out where your competitors’ sites get their traffic from

Add Your Comments

 

Print this Article
Share

Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

More articles from Bryan Eisenberg

Marketing Optimization Blog
FREE Newsletter Sign-Up
send it once every: