100 Ways to Spy on Your Competitors: A Complete Guide (2020)
I personally tested and reviewed 100 tools and techniques, both free and paid.
You can filter through the list to find the best methods for your business.
Let’s dive right in.
There are a number of ways to find out who your competitors are.
You might already know off the top of your head. If not, try using a tool like iSpionage.
This tool will give you extensive insight into who your online competitors are, but if you just want a simple list, scroll down to the Top Competitors in Google section.
What do your competitors look like?
GrowthBot is an insanely good tool to get quick answers to your competitor questions, that integrates directly into Slack.
Check out this article by Dharmesh Shah for a detailed overview of how it works.
Basically, you hook it up to Slack and then ask GrowthBot questions like, “get an overview of www.competitor.com” or “how much traffic does my competitor get to their site”, and it provides you with basic intel on your competition.
Get an overview of their entire digital footprint
Try Crayon for this.
Crayon is a comprehensive competitor analysis tool that lets you analyse your competitors’ entire digital footprint.
You can gain insights on your competitors’ product and pricing changes, latest news and announcements, online reputation, content, and marketing campaigns.
Unlike other competitor analysis tools on our list, this tool’s insights are not limited to SEO and PPC campaigns, but cover a lot more.
Get Your Free Competitor Spy Report
Competitor website overview
Firstly, start by getting an idea of what your competitor’s website looks like.
Use a free tool like Screaming Frog to get a list of every page on their website.
This allows you to find hidden pages and content that may not be immediately obvious when browsing the site. You can also use SEMrush’s Organic Research tool.
Do they have any subdomains?
Once you’ve scanned their website, the next step is to see if they have any subdomains.
Subdomains can often house landing pages that are used for specific marketing campaigns.
These landing pages can often have deals and offers that are hidden from the main site. FindSubdomains is a great tool for this.
What pages are indexed in Google
One of the best tools to use to find out the structure of your competitor’s website is Google.
Using a site: operator tag, you can get a list of all your competitor’s web pages that are currently listed in Google.
Just type: site:yourcompetitor.com.au for a complete list of their web pages that Google has indexed.
What technology are they using on their website?
If you want to get a complete breakdown of the technology used on your competitor’s website, you can’t go past BuiltWith.
This tool is amazing— even gives you an estimate of how much they spend per month on technology.
Seriously, check this tool out. You can also try woorank for this.
How many website visitors do they get each month?
Want to know how many people visit your competitor’s site each month? Use a tool like SimilarWeb to find this out.
What are their top traffic sources?
Do they compete for my audience?
Use this tool to find competitor sites that compete for your audience online.
Alexa’s Audience Overlap tool allows you to see this. It’s a paid tool, but you can get a free 30-day trial.
How strong is their website?
Marketing Grader is a great little tool that allows you to see what your competitors are getting right and wrong.
It’s a free HubSpot tool that assesses websites in terms of blogging, social media, SEO, lead generation, and mobile, providing an overall score.
How often do they update their website?
Get a complete history of your competitor’s website by using Wayback Machine. You can browse 20+ years of web history using this amazing tool.
How fast does their website load?
Your site should load as fast, if not faster, than your competitor. Fast-loading sites are ideal for user experience and boosting your SEO.
What are their current offers or deals?
What’s their keyword strategy?
These tools do A LOT more than just keyword research, but if you want to know what keywords your competitors are targeting with their SEO campaign, these tools have got you covered.
You’ll see them again throughout this post in other strategies and tactics.
Where do they currently rank in Google?
This is a big one! If you want a list of every keyword your competitor currently ranks for in Google, then head over to SEMrush and navigate to Domain Analytics > Organic Research > Positions.
You can also use ahrefs Site Explorer tool for this.
How has their Google rank changed over time?
Want to see how your competitor’s Google rankings have changed over time?
SEMrush’s Positions Changes tool has got you covered.
When did they start their SEO campaign?
Curious to know when your competitor started doing SEO?
Using SEMrush, navigate to Domain Analytics > Organic Research > Overview.
Here you’ll find a graph called Organic Keyword Trend.
This shows you the growth in their organic search rankings over time, effectively giving you insight into when they started doing SEO.
What’s their backlink strategy?
What anchor text are they using?
Discovering a competitor’s anchor text will give you insight into what keywords they may be trying to rank for.
Which pages have the most organic search traffic?
Find out which pages on your competitor’s site get most of their organic (aka SEO) traffic using ahrefs Top Pages tool.
What’s their Internal link structure?
According to Backlinko, internal linking is key for any site that wants higher rankings in Google.
Use ahrefs Internal Backlinks tool to find out how your competitor is internally linking their site.
How well-optimised is their site?
How does your SEO compare to your competitor?
You can use the Yo Media SEO Audit tool to compare your website’s SEO with your competitor’s.
Have they claimed their GMB Listing?
Check to see if your competitor has claimed their GMB listing.
This is one of the first things any business owner should do in order to have a basic online presence.
Are they actively using GMB?
Are they actively using and updating their GMB listing.
Do they have photos? Are they replying to reviews? Is their business information current or outdated? Do they have a “Request a Quote” button on their listing?
This will give you insight into how active they are using their GMB listing to generate leads.
What are customers saying about your competitors?
This is an easy one. Start by going to your competitor’s Google My Business listing and have a read through their reviews.
Are they good, or bad? Is your competitor replying? What are they saying?
Are there specific things their customers are complaining about that can give you insight into how you can improve your own business?
Reviews can be a gold mine into how your prospective customers are thinking and what they deem to be important. You can also check out their Facebook page and Yelp page.
Lastly, you can do a simple search in Google for: “competitor name” reviews.
Which competitors are using PPC ads?
You can use a number of different tools for this one.
If you’re currently running a Google Ads campaign, you can’t go past the Google Ads Auction Insights tool.
All these tools will show you a list of your competitors running Google Ads.
What ad formats are they using?
To see a list of the ad formats your competitors are using, check out iSpionage, which gives you a breakdown of the search ads that your competitors are running.
Then head over to SEMrush and use their Display Advertising tool to generate reports that tell you everything about your competitor’s use of online display ads.
This allows you to study your competitor’s banners, sidebars, and text ads placed throughout the Google Display Network.
How long have they been running PPC ads?
Check out SpyFu’s PPC Overview section to get an idea of how long your competitor has been running Google Ads.
Which of your competitor’s PPC ads are performing best?
If you want to find out which of your competitors Google Ads are performing the best, try using Adbeat.
Adbeat will show you how long each ad has been running for.
Generally, if an ad has been running for a while, there’s a good chance it’s delivering a consistent return on investment.
What landing pages are they sending traffic to?
This is a great one to see what landing pages your competitors are using in their Google Ads.
Typically, these landing pages are hidden from the main site and can sometimes house valuable data about the deals on offer from your competitors.
Use SEMrush’s Display Advertising tool and click on the Landing Pages section to see this data.
What keywords are they targeting in their PPC campaign?
How much are they spending on their PPC campaign?
What countries, industries, and demographics are they targeting?
The SEMrush Display Advertising tool shows you a breakdown of the countries, industries, and demographics that your competitor is targeting.
Which websites are they running ads on?
You can get a breakdown of your competitors’ Google Display Network (GDN) advertising with SEMrush Display Advertising tool (again).
The report will give you an overview of your competitors’ GDN strategies and allow you to analyse how they successfully build display ad campaigns.
What products are they advertising?
Do a simple Google search for this, or alternatively, you can use SEMrush’s PLA tool or Pricing Lab’s Carl tool. These tools give you the ability to analyse your competitors’ Google Shopping campaigns.
What’s their product pricing strategy?
Their product pricing is also most likely available on their website.
However, scraping this data manually can be time consuming. For the more technically inclined, try scraperapi.
Which are the best performing products?
Which of your competitors’ product listing ads is Google showing the most? In the SEMrush PLA Copies report, you’ll find copies of your competitors’ ads launched via Google Shopping.
Each ad is followed by the number of keywords for which it appeared in Google Shopping results.
Therefore, you can define top performers among your competitors’ product listing ads, analyse their components in order to understand what Google likes the most, and use them for your own ads.
How long has their shopping campaign been running?
SEMrush comes out on top (again) with their PLA tool.
With this tool, you can also see how long your competitor has been running Google Shopping Ads.
Simply go to PLA research and select Positions > All Time.
What’s their Amazon Shopping strategy?
There aren’t any specific tools designed to audit Amazon Shopping accounts, however Helium 10 appears to have a great platform to help Amazon sellers.
They offer a tool called Cerebro that dives deep into competitor data to identify winning keywords.
Do they have a Facebook page?
This is an obvious first step. Go to Facebook and search for your competitor’s name to see if they actually have a Facebook page set up.
Check out how often they’re posting, as well as the type of things they’re posting.
Are they running Facebook Ads?
You can see the ads that a page is currently running on Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Company Products, even if you aren’t part of the intended audience.
Check out Facebook’s Ad Library. Make sure to select the “All Ads” view. For some reason, “Issue, Electoral and Political” is set by default.
What are their most successful Facebook posts?
If you want to find out what their most successful posts are, head over to Fanpage Karma. Here, you’ll be able to get a list of every post on their page and how well it has performed.
What audience are they targeting?
If you follow your competitors’ Facebook pages, when you see their ads in your feed, you can get additional insights with the Why Am I Seeing This Ad? Option.
In the About This Facebook Ad window, you’ll see an explanation of why Facebook is showing you the ad, which can provide insights into your competitors’ targeting strategy.
If your competitor is large enough, you can get a breakdown of their current audience.
For many established competitors you can even see the breakdown of their Facebook page’s followers, including age, gender, and geography, via the Facebook Audience Insights tool within Facebook Business Manager.
How much Facebook traffic are they getting to their site?
Use SimilarWeb to find this out.
Are they retargeting?
Companies that use the Facebook Ads platform to remarket generally have the Facebook Pixel installed on their site.
The easiest way to figure out if they have the Facebook Pixel installed is to install the Facebook Pixel Helper Chrome extension.
Trigger their retargeting campaigns
This is a great method I discovered in this article on the Single Grain website. It’s not 100% reliable, but can work well if executed correctly.
Firstly, any business doing Facebook Ads well will have retargeting set up on their site.
You can actually trigger an ad campaign from your competitor by going to their site and viewing product pages, or abandoning a cart.
Once you’ve done this, log back into Facebook and see what ads now appear from your competitors.
Look at what strategies and offers they’re using to drive those conversions: are they offering discounts, free shipping, or other perks?
If so, consider matching them—or outdoing them—in your own campaigns.
Are they using Messenger Bots?
Check to see if they’re using Messenger Bots. Simply go to their Facebook page and send them a message and see what response you get.
Are they running eCommerce Ads?
If you operate an ecommerce business you should check out AdPlexity.
According to their website: “AdPlexity offer six different tools that provide you with a range of data related to the world of eCommerce and affiliate marketing. They give you information on market trends, product and store value, and other related data. AdPlexity lets you analyze online markets, and keep track of what your competitors are doing.”
This one’s a paid platform, so you need to be willing to hand over the money if you want to check it out, as they don’t offer free trials.
Get alerted every time a competitor launches a new Facebook ad
Get an email whenever a competitor or business you love launches a new Facebook Ad using AdInboxMe.
It’s a tool that the PixelMe team built, that automatically sends you an email alert with a link to your competitor’s ad details in the Facebook Ad Library.
Follow all your Facebook competitors in one place
Once you’ve set this up you’ll be alerted every time your competitor posts something new.
You can choose what kind of alert you want: text message, email, or even copy the entire contents of the post to a Google Doc. Huge possibilities with this one!
How do you stack up against your competitors on Facebook?
You can use Sprout Social’s Facebook Competitor Report to run a competitor analysis to see how many messages your competitors send and receive, the types of content they’re posting (text, images or videos), their engagement, and much more.
Do they have an Instagram page?
Simply head to Instagram and do a search for your competitors to see if they’re active on the platform.
Are they running Instagram Ads?
Head over to the ‘Gram and click on your competitor’s account. Navigate to the About This Account section and tap Active Ads for a list of your competitor’s current Instagram ads, both feed and story ads.
What are their most successful Instagram ads?
Use Facebook’s Ad Library and filter by Instagram ads to get a list of the current ads and how long they’ve been running for. The longer the ad has been running, the chances are it’s delivering a positive ROI.
Get notified when your competitors post on Instagram
Turn on notifications from your competitors to be alerted every time your competitor posts.
How do you stack up against your competitors on Instagram?
Using Sprout Social’s Instagram Competitors Report, you can easily compare and benchmark your brand against competitors in key areas including:
- Audience growth: Are your competitors growing their audience quicker than you?
Media sent: Get a sense of how frequently your competitors are publishing. You may find you’re not posting enough to keep your audience engaged.
- Engagement: See how many likes and comments your competitors are getting on their content.
Hashtags: Find your competitors’ most frequently used hashtags. You may be able to use the same ones in your posts, if they’re relevant, and gain exposure to more people.
- Top posts: Take a look at your competitor’s most popular posts. Try to get an idea of why these posts are performing well. Are they product photos? Do they use certain colours? Find out what these posts have that your content doesn’t and use the info to improve your images and videos.
Are they active on Twitter?
Head on over there and find out.
What’s their Twitter strategy?
Neil Patel writes a great article on this. If you want to know what’s working for a competitor on Twitter—then simply watch what they do.
You don’t even need to follow them. You can set up a Private List in Twitter and add your competitors to it.
That way, you’ll have a stream of incoming information telling you exactly how they handle their Twitter strategy.
Keep a record of everything they Tweet
It’s easier than having to scroll through their entire feed. Plus you can run reports on the data to spot trends.
Analyse their Twitter followers
Want to know who your competitors’ clients are?
You can get insight into this by analysing who follows them on Twitter.
Check out Tweepi, which allows you to bring up their follower list and sort it by the number of updates their followers have, their following count, and other metrics.
You can use this tool to find out who the influential people in your niche are, and then work to build a genuine relationship with them.
Whose content are they sharing?
This is a great one. Head over to BuzzSumo and create a free account. Then, select the Influencers Tab (Twitter).
Enter the name of the influencer and select the View Links Shared option.
You’ll then be presented with the sources of content that your competitor tweets out the most, as well as their favourite topics.
How do you stack up against your competitor on Twitter?
Sprout Social’s Twitter Comparison Report is the perfect tool for the job.
It compares your Twitter profile with your competitor. The report shows you engagement, influence, followers gained/lost, and mentions.
Is your competitor active on LinkedIn?
Head on over to LinkedIn and do a search to see if they have a LinkedIn account.
Are they running LinkedIn ads?
To access a LinkedIn business page’s ads, go to the page and look for the “Ads” tab on the left.
Click this tab and you’ll see a list of ads associated with the page.
Note what ads they’re running and see what you can learn. Review the creative and copy you see for ideas you can incorporate into your ads.
Which ads are generating the most engagement?
I got this tip from a post by Clix Marketing.
You can’t view comments or interactions on LinkedIn ads directly from the Ads section, but you can view this information in a roundabout way.
Click the three dots in the upper right of a post and select “Copy link to post.”
Then, paste this link into your browser to view the actual post, along with any comments.
If there is a topic people are particularly engaged with, perhaps that’s worth using for a future blog post or whitepaper to promote on LinkedIn.
How do you stack up against your competitors on LinkedIn?
You can use a tool like Unmetric to benchmark against your industry competitors to see how you fare.
What content are they posting on Snapchat?
Snaplytics has a Competitor Analysis tool that allows companies to easily add any Snapchat account, observe the frequency with which that account posts stories and snaps, the duration of the updates, how the content is split between videos and images, as well as the duration and overall amount of time people have been engaged. You can even watch all past stories from the account.
Are they active on Pinterest?
Is your competitor working with influencers?
Influencers who are promoting your competitors on social media will typically mention the brand and/or their products in their posts.
So, running a search of your competitors’ social media mentions can help you identify sponsored posts in which an influencer has promoted those brands.
A great tool to determine if your competitor is working with influencers is Mention.
Mention crawls extensive sources across the web such as forums, blogs, news, and review websites, as well as social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—identifying every instance when your competitor is mentioned.
CONTENT & EMAIL
Does your competitor have a blog?
Looking through their blogs will give you ideas of the type of content that might resonate with your audience.
Which posts are performing best?
To find out which of their blog posts is most popular, you can run your competitor’s website through Buzzsumo’s Web Content Analyser tool.
This tool shows you what content works, which networks perform best, who is sharing their content, and how your content compares to theirs.
Rival IQ is another tool that enables you to look across multiple competitors at one time and view the top engaging content across six social networks, so you can see immediately what’s working for them.
Set up an RSS Feed Alert
Get alerted every time your competitor posts something.
To do this, you’ll need to find their RSS feed URL. You can find this using the Chrome extension, Get RSS Feed URL.
Once you have the RSS feed URL, use IFTTT to set up an action so you receive an email every time your competitor posts a new blog post.
What’s your competitor’s email marketing strategy?
Use MailCharts to track your competitor’s email marketing strategy.
MailCharts saves you the trouble of secretly subscribing to your competition’s emails and spending hours trying to find something actionable.
Mailcharts shows you all the emails your competitor has sent, plus gives you a stats breakdown of sending time, segments, seasonal emails, and more.
There’s also a feature called “Journeys” that allows you to view a brands’ on-boarding strategy, cart abandonment offers, incentives for repeat purchases, and more.
If you want a more comprehensive (and expensive) solution that provides you with every aspect of your competitor’s email activity, then try eDataSource.
What’s their Sender Score?
Sender Score is like a bank running a credit score to gauge credit history, but it measures the health of an email program instead.
Sender Score is a number between 0 and 100 that identifies a sender’s reputation and shows how mailbox providers view an IP address.
Run your competitor’s domain name through this to see how healthy their Sender Score is.
This gives you insight into how well-received their emails are with their audience, and you can work out how you can do better.
What are their email marketing habits and routines?
Use SendView to get a glimpse into your competitor’s email marketing habits and routines, as opposed to just the actual content they put out.
While the other platforms put a lot of focus onto the creatives, this one is all about the aggregated data.
You can get an understanding of your competitor’s send days, spam score, time of day, word count, link count image count, what platform did they send it on, and more.
Does your competitor have a YouTube account?
Like Instagram and Facebook, this is an easy one. Simply head over to YouTube to see if they have a channel.
Are they running YouTube ads?
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a tool to uncover the ads that a channel is running. If you know of any, please hit me up in the comments.
Get their channel analytics data
vidIQ has a Competitor Analysis tool that you can use to see your competitor’s information and top videos, including highest viewed, views by hours, and subscriber growth driven by premium content.
Get notified when your competitors post on YouTube
Turn on YouTube notifications from your competitors to be alerted every time they post.
Do they have a podcast?
Are they guest posting on other sites?
Guest posting or guest blogging is the act of contributing a post to another blog or news site.
You can find out what sites your competitors are posting on by running a back link check using ahrefs Site Explorer tool.
This gives you a list of all the links that point to your competitors site.
From this list, you can determine the blogs or news sites that they’re posting on.
Are they running webinars?
There aren’t any tools (that I know of) that you can use to discover you competitors’ past and current webinar strategy.
You could try using MailCharts to view previous emails they may have sent out for webinars.
The other way is to simply attend future webinars. Subscribe to their mailing list and social media accounts and get alerted when they next run a webinar.
Is your competitor working with a PR company?
To find out if your competitor is working with a PR company, head over to TrendKite and get a free Competitive Intelligence Report.
This helps you analyse and compare PR statistics for your brand against any competitor.
You can also use Buzzsumo for this. Check out this great article showing you exactly how to do it.
SALES & CUSTOMER SERVICE
What is your competitor’s sales process?
Easy. Buy from them. If it’s a product, pay attention to how easy the sales process is.
Look for areas where the user experience might be lacking and use that information to improve your own sales process.
If they sell a service, document the sales process. Review the proposal and pricing. Does this match yours, or are they cheaper/more expensive?
What was the sales person like: were they friendly, pushy, aloof? What was their follow up process like? Did they call you once and then never again? Or was there a robust follow up process in place?
What is your competitor’s delivery process?
Once you’ve purchased their product or service, pay attention to the delivery.
A lot of companies do the sales process really well, but once they’ve got your money, the delivery process can be lacking.
Notice how they deliver the product or service.
Do they proactively keep you up to date with time frames and delivery processes, or do you have to follow up and ask how things are going?
What is your competitor’s repeat sales process?
Once you’ve purchased their product or service and it’s been delivered, then what?
What’s their process for getting you to buy again? Do they offer you special deals via email or post?
Do they have a process for reminding you to buy again?
Pay attention to the days and weeks following your purchase and see where their repeat sales process might be lacking.
What is your competitor’s pricing model?
If your competitor is a service-based company, finding information about their pricing might be difficult.
Try this: go to Google and search: site:yourcompetitor.com.au pricing.
Then try site:yourcompetitor.com.au price. You might get lucky.
We uncovered one of our competitor’s entire pricing structure using this method.
Alternatively, if your competitor sells products, then they may have listed their entire product catalogue, including pricing, on their website.
Lastly, if the above two methods fail, you can always email them and ask them for it.
LEAD GENERATION PLATFORMS
Are your competitors using any lead generation platforms?
What’s their customer service process like?
Find out how responsive they are to customer enquiries.
Try asking them a question on social media, or using the chat feature on their website (if they have one).
Also, you could try emailing them or using the contact form on their website.
Pay attention to how long it takes them to respond.
What’s the tone of communication like? Are they friendly and informative, or short and blunt?
Try asking questions about the product, pricing, or delivery. You’d be surprised how forthcoming your competitors might be.
Lastly, you could ask some of their existing customers what it’s like to work with them.
FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION
Who owns the business?
Head over to the ASIC website where for $17 you can obtain a Current & Historical Company Extract that tells you who owns the business, the split of shareholdings, who the current directors are, as well as all previous shareholders, directors, and activities related to the business.
Set up Google Alerts with your competitor’s name
Keep tabs on your competitor’s online activity by setting up Google Alerts for their business.
The service sends you an email when it finds new results that match your competitor’s business name, as well as any other terms you want to be alerted for (such as your business name).
PERSONNEL & STAFF
Who currently works at the company and how big is the team?
LinkedIn is the obvious choice for this one.
If you want to get a sense of who works at your competitor, how many staff they have, and what roles they’re in, do a search on LinkedIn.
Or, better yet, head to your competitor’s About page.
A lot of companies will list every employee on their About page, including their role.
Are they hiring?
Learn if your competitor is currently hiring, and for what roles.
This can give you insight into how quickly they might be growing, and what the focus of that growth is.
For example, are they hiring more salespeople? This could be an indication that they’re gearing up for growth.
Or perhaps they’re hiring for an account manager, which may indicate that they’ve already got a lot of business and need help fulfilling on it. Head over to Seek or Indeed and run a search for your competitor’s name.
How happy are their staff?
Head over to Glassdoor to see what staff are saying about the working conditions. If you’re lucky, you can also get salary information.
How much money are they making?
If your competitor is a public company, simply download their annual report to get their financial information.
If they’re a private company, depending on if they’re small or large, they may be required to lodge their financial records with ASIC. If this is the case you can request a copy of these records from ASIC and gain insight into how their business is run.
Are they actively fundraising?
Check to see if your competitor is actively fundraising using Crunchbase.
Has you competitor protected their brand?
In Australia, registration of a business name, company name, or domain name does not in itself give you any exclusive ownership or proprietary rights to use the business name—only a trademark can give you that kind of protection.
Check to see if your competitor has registered their brand name using the Australian Government’s Trade Mark Search.