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Competitive Intelligence and Competitor Analysis of Paid and Organic Search Marketing Activities

Table of Contents


Introduction to Competitive Intelligence / Analysis Resources, Tools and Services

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Competitive intelligence is an important task that Internet marketers should not take lightly. Knowing what your competition is doing is imperative in the offline world; the same is true online.

Online marketers have an advantage over their offline peers: eMarketers can get data about their competitors' marketing activities, and the data can be worth a lot of money if used correctly. For example, with the right tools you can find your competitors' estimated marketing spending, targeting patterns, and means of optimization. Offline, getting such data could require breaking several laws and risking prosecution and jail time!

This data is accessible at various levels of accuracy and detail on the Internet and you don't have to break any laws to get it. There are a number of tools and services available to help you with competitive analysis. The data provided are ALWAYS estimates, and some are more realistic than others; the general rule of thumb is to take any information with a smaller or bigger grain of salt.

Don't use the data as if they are absolute facts and figures. Before you make important decisions based on the data you uncover, use a number of different tools to acquire the data, and still others to compare them; most important, inform yourself about what sources were used by each service to generate the results for you.

A very good article that explains some of the issues when it comes to metrics and measurements on the web is Web Numbers: What's Real? by Sarah Lacy at BusinessWeek Online.

Articles on Keyword Intelligence and Competitor Analysis

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See also

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Professional Organic and Paid (PPC) Search Traffic Analysis and Keyword Monitoring

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Syntryx is an enterprise level tool that allows you to analyze in great depth the sources of traffic for your competitor's search, which includes organic search, pay-per-click and also other sources, such as major affiliate publishers who drive considerable business for your competition.

One of Syntryx packages, the "Affiliate Recruiter", is especially geared to find and identify top performing affiliates, who you could then try to recruit for your own affiliate program.

The "Search Marketers" package is aimed towards PPC marketers and SEOs. It includes the tool "Keyword Dossiers", which allows reverse-engineering the way thriving internet companies actually use keywords and not just how they pay for them.

Syntryx is an enterprise level service and only affordable for larger corporations with 5 figures and more marketing budget per year.
Trellian Competitive Intelligence allows you discover your competitors' Internet marketing activities. In terms of price and benefits, this is the best option in my opinion - affordable even for smaller and mid-size businesses. Trellian CI modules:
  • Link Intelligence (traffic sources)
  • Search Term Intelligence (keyword traffic)
  • Campaign Intelligence (keywords bid on (PPC advertising))
  • Benchmarkting (compare your business with other competitors)
  • Keyword Ranking (keywords that competitors rank for organically)
  • Affiliate Partners (identify top affiliate partners)
Search Intelligence by is a real-time keyword research and competitive intelligence service. Hitwise provides information on more than 800,000 websites in more than 174 industry categories. The data is derived from partnerships with Internet service providers and represent 10 million U.S. Internet users (25 million worldwide as of December 2006).

This is the most comprehensive and by far the most expensive solution available. Pricing for access to the Hitwise data ranges from $50K to $60K annually, and scales down based on narrower deliverables (number of seats requiring access, categories, etc.). Keyword Research Tool

LogoDescription SEM Insight provides PPC campaign and competitor monitoring, including organic results monitoring and keyword research. A free trial is available and the fee for the service starts at $89 per month for a limited number of keyword and domains to monitor (AdGooRoo Express). The full service "SEM Insight" starts at $399 per month and "Trademark Insight" starts at $499 per month.

SEM Insight Features
  • Find competitors' keywords
  • Access a historical archive of all competitors' ads
  • Track competitors' landing pages
  • Spot trends in your data
  • Identify top competitors with industry maps
  • Track seasonal trends
  • Find keywords where your ads have stopped appearing
  • Benchmark any two campaigns side-by-side
  • Track important PPC statistics (rank and coverage)
  • Automatically monitor organic rankings for any URL
  • Find and fix common campaign problems
  • Find your competitors' link exchange partners
  • Receive daily email alerts of important events
  • Track ads on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Baidu, AOL, and
  • Monitor 14 countries (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany, France, and others)
  • Dozens of valuable reports!
Try's SEM Insight for free now!*

*AdGooRoo offers a 10 Day free-trial for their Express and SEM Insight products. You will not be charged for the service until your trial period is over. You will be enrolled into the service and charged automatically, unless you cancel your trial membership within the provided trial-period. There is no free trial available for Trademark Insight, but you can request a free demo instead.

Huge keyword database. Top competitors found here. KeyCompete allows you to download competitors' keywords and adwords. Enter a keyword or phrase and find out who the top five advertisers are for free! Or, enter a website URL and get the top five PPC keywords for free. Pay a one-time fee of $5.00 to get all of the site's keywords, or a list of all sites that are bidding on a keyword/phrase (the number of keywords/sites found is shown prior your purchase). If you frequently conduct PPC-related competitive research, I would suggest that you buy a membership for access to unlimited queries and domain data. Different memberships are available: $19 for a single day access, $39 for a full month and only $299 for a full year.

If you are constantly doing competitive research, the $299 plan is best suited for you - and actually a bargain compared to the prices of similar services.

The $19 for one-day access is sufficient if you put together competitive intelligence only a few times a year, as long as you are well prepared to do all the checks in one day. Free tools are not even getting close to this one regarding freshness and accuracy. is an advanced competitive intelligence and keyword research tool that also allows you to manage your PPC campaigns at the major PPC services, such as Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing. The fee for the service is $89 per month. by Velocityscape is the sequel to and is loaded with new features and more than twenty times more data. The free tool shows older data though (two to three months old). For paying customers, Velocityscape also offers competitive intelligence enterprise solutions.

Also see my article about SpyFu with the title: In-Depth Competitive Analysis and Keyword Research Tools.
PPCBully uncovers your competitors' winning combinations of Keywords, Ads, Landing Pages and even Merchants, enabling you to know up front what works (and more important: what does not).
SEOBook Paid Tools for paid members of SEOBook, including an in-depth competitive research tool for all your organic SEO and paid search competitive intelligence needs.

The paid membership for $100/month also includes an interactive training program, educational members-only videos, access to the members-only community forums, a free copy of the best selling SEOBook by Aaron Wall and several other goodies.
Compete Search Analytics provides competitive intelligence data for keyword phrases and sites. It also offers the ability to compare two specific websites (the top referral keywords). The data are collected by Compete itself who also provides some free statistics about websites similar to Alexa. The search analytics tool is not free. There is no subscription fee, you pay as you go per report. Each report costs 1-10 credits, one credit costs $0.50. You can get 2-30 bonus credits if you purchase Compete credits in bulk (spending $50 - $500 in one transaction).

The individual Compete Search Analytics tools: Keyword Referrals - Site Referrals - Site Comparison is the PPC Competitive Intelligence solution that allows you to Research & Drill competing campaigns, setup Alerts to competitive threats, generate campaign related keywords and do Competitive benchmarking.

Interesting for affiliate managers: You can also track affiliate ads and identify affiliate networks.

They offer a free trial to take it for a test drive. The subscription fees range from $39 to $79 per month. They also have a solution for agencies, but you have to call them for pricing. is a tool for online marketers and affiliate marketers that lets you legally spy on your competition, track competitors ad placements and ad copy and help you to improve on already proven ads.

Hexatrack is currently in closed beta and free for accepted beta testers. The pricing for the release version is not available at this time.

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Free Tools for Organic and Paid Search Keyword Intelligence

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Demographics of your competitors' sites, a tool by Microsoft AdLabs.
SEO Digger is a free CI tool based on the top 20 organic Google results. The number of queries for unregistered users is limited, but registration is free. Registered users can perform 10 domain searches per hour and perform full searches for their domain names.

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Non Competitor-Specific PPC and Organic Keyword Analysis

The Compete Toolbar - Download for free now!

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Keyword Difficulty Tool is a special tool to measure the relative difficulty of optimizing for a particular keyword phrase at Google. Provided by, but limited to premium members only.
Overture/Yahoo! Bid Tool shows the highest bidders for a specific search term.
NicheBot v2 and WordTrend provide access to Wordtracker, Trellian and Overture data for individual keyword research or competitor analysis and intelligence, as well as graphical reports with 12-month trends for your keywords. Fees depend on usage; the semi-annual subscription provides the best value and is less than $20 per month (which is a bargain). You can test-drive the products for only $1 for 14 days before the selected subscription fee is charged.

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Competitor Analysis from Your Desktop

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Competitor Dominator by Blue Infinity Software Solutions is desktop competitive intelligence software to determine keywords used by your competitors in organic search results or pay-per-click advertising campaigns on the major search engines like Google, Yahoo! or MSN. The software costs about $167 per license.
IMTP Competition Finder is only one of five tools of the IM Toolpad package by Softnik Technologies to check your own listings and rankings in major search engines and well as your competitors. The tools were formerly known as Good Keyword Professional and then PPC Bid Reporter Professional. The prime purpose of Competition Finder is to find and assess your competition. The initial versions of this software will make use of search engines to find information. However this will be updated to include multiple other methods.

The IM Toolkit also contains the following tools: The IMTP Keyword Pad to Organize and Manage Your Internet Marketing Keyword Lists, the IMTP Website Explorer lets you study websites from a technical perspective, title and meta tags, H1...Hx use etc., the IMTP Website Monitor checks on a regular basis if a specified page loads properly and sends out an alert if something is not okay and last but not least the IMTP Tool Kit is a collection of tools needed to keep things you do with the other tools organized and structured. Pricing: $117 for the single user license with setup on max. 2 different PCs or site license $279 for the installation on multiple PC that belongs to the same company.

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Organic Traffic Indexes and Scores for Competitor Websites

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Google Website Trends shows traffic trends for a specified website. It also shows regions where visitors came from, other websites visited by the same user and keywords used by those users at Google websearch. Additional filters in addition to the domain name are the country/region and date ranges. The tool does not include all sites that are indexed by Google. There is an unknown threshold of traffic that must be reached among other criteria.
Alexa Traffic Ranking statistics make data available for most websites on the Internet.
Popularity Index Rank (PI Index Rank) from Trellian offers a three-month rolling average based on unique sessions logged visiting a specific website.
Site Analytics by (formerly known as Snapshot) provides traffic data; rank is based on data collected via Compete Toolbar. You can directly compare traffic data for up to five domains at once. This service is provided by Compete free of charge. shows information like estimated number of unique visitors per month, demographics and more. It also allows the direct comparison of five domains at once. This service is also free of charge. "Top Sites" feature bases its information on data collected via market research software (data explained).
Statsaholic (formerly Alexaholic, which was sued and shut down by who owns will let you compare up to three sites' traffic volume over time, using data from and (Statsaholic is a mash-up of the two services). provides ranking and linking trends related to Google, Yahoo!, AllTheWeb, Altavista, Teoma, Furl, Delicious, IceRocket, MSN and Alexa link popularity trends, Google PageRank and Alexa traffic rank trends.

Find more Background Information and Statistics to Internet traffic and search engine relationships and market shares. Also related are the Trends & Statistics resources and services, offering usage statistics and survey results for researchers and marketers.

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WordTracker Keyword Tool - Free Trial

Other Web Ranking and Scoring Services

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Download the free Compete toolbar! (Firefox version also available.)
Access Competitor Site Profiles, Traffic Data and Ranking with a click of a button. You can also enjoy benefits of other features - for example, "Trust Scores" helps you identify and avoid malicious sites.

Get the Compete Toolbar

Especially interesting for e-Commerce / B2C Advertisers is another feature.
Do you want to see what promotion your competitor is running? Deal Light automatically lights up if the site you are on is offering a special deal. The toolbar will not tell anybody if you decide to take advantage of a very good offer or coupon from one of your competitors. ;)

Top Sites by InternetListed will give you a base score (so you can measure your progress) - the score is calculated using your PageRank, Alexa Rank, and average number of backlinks.
NetCraft offers traffic data and hosting information collected via Netcraft Toolbar. is a web analytics tool combining the top 500,000 U.S. websites with their topic tags, using data from and Quantcast. You can see the top sites for a specific tag/keyword or see what tags/keywords are associated with a web site.

Top Blog Lists

AdGooroo Express
If you are more interested in the traffic and ranking of your own websites (and you should be!), check the Ranking Analysis tools and services. If you have spent enough time checking the bidding activities of your competition at PPC search engines, consider doing some Keyword Research for yourself.

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News Sources Comparison

Learn who the top news sources are in Google News. This lets you evaluate the reach of an exposure of your competitor in any major news source and helps you with the determination of priorities for your own PR campaigns and activities.

LogoDescription - shows the top news sites at Google News
Google News Report is similar to NewsKnife, but shows data and developments in condensed format over a period of time.

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Trends and Mindset

Google Trends lets you see what the world is searching for.
Google Hot Trends shows todays 100 hottest key phrases. Historic data for past days are also available, as well as a RSS feed for the current data.
Google Insights for Search to compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames.
Yahoo! Buzz provides statistics of most-searched terms on Yahoo! by category.

Buzzlog Index shows the top overall searches, leaders and movers. IQ - top weekly searches at the search engines, broken down into general searches, advanced searches, news searches and movie searches vs. top movies (box office).
Google Zeitgeist is similar to IQ and provides top searches on a weekly and monthly basis. Also an anual Zeitgeist report is available and monthly Zeitgeist(s) from around the world, outside the United States.
Alexa Top 500 shows the top 500 sites worldwide (break-down by country is available) based on their meassured Alexa traffic ranking.

For additional trends and statistics resources and services see my Research, Statistics and Knowledge Bases for Marketers resources page here at

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Social Media Intelligence

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Technorati Advanced Search by the blog search engine pionier lets you search for tags or keyword phrases that were used by bloggers for their posts. You can use it to find out what people are saying about your competitor or your competitors products (or about you and your products).
Facebook Lexicon lets you find out what people on Facebook are currently talking about a lot. You simply enter the keyword or keyword phrase where you would like to know more about and "Lexicon" will return figures that show you how much people are talking about it.

You must have a (free) Facebook account to be able to access Facebook Lexicon.
Twitter Search is the official real-time search for tweets by that contain the entered keyword or keyword phrase is a great tool to find out who is talking about a certain topic and also to learn what they are saying.
TweetScan is a real-time search like the official Twitter Search, but has additional features that the official tool is missing, such as the ability to narrow the search by Twitter user and most importantly the option to sign-up to receive Email alerts to phrases where you want to monitor the twitter stream for.

Social Media monitoring and tracking tools to find out and keep track of what people are saying about you, your brand or your products on social media networks and sites like, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Delicious and Blogs.

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Competitive Intelligence Beyond Search

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The UCLA Library Collection to Competitive Intelligence (Call Number: HD38.7) has over 70 publications to the subject of competitive intelligence available.
WebExcellence Scorecards by Keynote offer bi-annual industry-specific scorecards that use a framework of 200+ expert-determined criteria to measure sites' ability to meet best practice guidelines.

Keynote's Web Transaction IndicesKeynote's Web Transaction Indices is a white paper on CI methodology.
CI Webinars by SCIP, free for members, but not for non-members. SCIP also has a magazine to competitive intelligence that is only accessible for SCIP members.

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Competitive Analysis Tools

Competitious is a free competitive analysis service by DreamThis, LLC. Competitious does not provide competitive data, but lets you keep track of your competitors activities and features provided in comparison to your own. The interface is designed for collaborative work of multiple peopleon the same "project". Updates about edits and additions are available via RSS to every team member.

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Competitive Intelligence Books

Super Searchers on Competitive Intelligence
I own this myself
Super Searchers on Competitive Intelligence
The Online and Offline
Secrets of Top
CI Researchers
by Margaret Metcalf Carr, founding director, Motorola's Intelligence, Jan Herring

buy Super Searchers on Competitive Intelligence
The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence
I own this myself
The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence
How to See Through and
Stay Ahead of Business
Disruptions, Distortions,
Rumors, and Smoke Screens
by Leonard Fuld

buy The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence
Competitive Intelligence Competitive Intelligence
How to Gather, Analyze,
and Use Information
to Move Your Business
to the Top

by Larry Kahaner

buy Competitive Intelligence
The New Competitor Intelligence The New Competitor Intelligence: Complete
Resource for Finding,
Analyzing, and Using
Information about
Your Competitors
by Leonard M. Fuld

buy The New Competitor Intelligence

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