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In-Depth Competitive Analysis and Keyword Research Tools

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by Carsten Cumbrowski, November, 21 2006, Edited: March 7, 2007


Keyword research is the single most important task related to all of the following: SEO (search engine optimization); organic search engine optimization for existing pages and also paid search and pay-per-click marketing campaigns.

Along with keyword research, another critical component of marketing is competitive intelligence. Knowing what your competition is doing will help you to make strategic decisions. Online marketers have a distinct advantage over their offline peers: they can access valuable information about their competitors' marketing activities. When you do your homework, you can learn a lot about what your competitors are doing - how much they are spending for specific marketing campaigns; their campaign targets; and the type of business optimization strategies they are employing.

Competitor Analysis: Tools and Services

The campaigns to which I am referring are search marketing campaigns, which are among the most important mechanisms for building an online business. Data about your competitors' campaigns are accessible at various levels of accuracy and detail on the Internet. Offline, competitive intelligence analysts might have to break laws to get this type of information. But online, this information is readily (and legally) available if you know where to look!

There are a number of tools and services that can help you with competitor analysis. The data provided by any service or tool are always estimates, never exact figures. Relying on the data for exact figures is a mistake. Before you make important decisions, use alternate services and then compare what you find. Most importantly, be informed about which sources are used by each service or research tool.

Well known competitive intelligence tools and services and keyword research tools include Trellian's Competitive Intelligence, HitWise, Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery, the Overture Bid and Keyword Tools, NicheBot and WordZe.

With exception of Overture, services and tools are available only to paid subscribers. Fees can range from $20 to $50 per month up to thousands of dollars per month.

See list of Competitive Intelligence and Keyword Research Tools and Services.


There is a free tool that offers almost as many features as those well known paid services. It's been flying below the radar for a while.

The name of the tool is SpyFu. Provided by VelocityScape, SpyFu is the sequel to the popular and free tool GoogSpy and can be found at If you know about GoogSpy, you will be amazed to experience the improvements of SpyFu.

SpyFu offers free website and keyword analysis for organic and paid searches. It has more than 20 times the amount of data than its predecessor, GoogSpy, and tons of other features.

You can approach the data from three angles, and change the approach instantly because SpyFu provides cross links for any detail shown in its result pages. The three angles are:
  1. Keyword or key phrase research and analysis;
  2. Website (domain) data including top keywords and top competitors; and
  3. Category-specific data.

1. Keyword-specific data

SpyFu lets you see information like average cost per click for a specific keyword, clicks per day, number of advertisers, cost per day and search results in Google. You can also see which sites compete for the keyword in the organic and paid search results. It also reveals other keywords used by your competition, as well as related keywords.

Let's try an example. If you own a website that sells bonsai trees and you would like to get a sense of what your competitors are doing, go to, set up a free account, and enter the keyword "bonsai." First you'll see the Adword results: a list of your competitors (and, I hope, your site!) and how much each pays per click for the keyword "bonsai." Next, you'll see organic search results - that is, the sites that come up "at the top of the list" when the term "bonsai" is entered into one of the search engines.

You'll be able to review a list of ad terms that your competitors have purchased (in this case the list includes misspellings of the term "bonsai").

2. Website-specific data

Click on the name of each website to get even more information - like the site's average number of clicks per day, the number of incoming links, load time, etc.

SpyFu also shows known sub-domains and in some cases even allows drilldowns to individual pages. You can see the top organic and top paid search competitors and the website category/niche to which each was assigned based on its ranking and advertising behavior.

In the case of our example, you can learn a lot about sites that are paying 40 cents per click for the term "bonsai" - including other terms for which they are paying considerably less.

3. Category-specific data

SpyFu shows per category additional subcategories, related search terms and related domains. In the case of our example, we learn that the search term "bonsai plant" is much more expensive than "bonsai." We can also see related domains and their top organic and ad competitors.


SpyFu provides a lot of information and is unusually comprehensive for a free tool.

The only drawback of SpyFu is that the beta version does not provide current data. The information on the free beta site is a few months old. Because of that, you should use it only as a guide, to get an overall idea what your competitors are doing and to find keyword ideas that you might want to explore. Use it in conjunction with other tools and services if you want to find out how accurate the provided numbers are.

This tool is a cost-effective resource that should not be missing from the bookmark list of any serious Internet marketer.

For the big players out there who are looking for a smart investment: VelocityScape could be worth some due diligence as the next competitive intelligence solution.


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©2006-2007 Carsten Cumbrowski
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