7 Legal Ways to Spy on Your Competitor

Do you ever watch action-packed spy movies and think, “I could totally do that.” Or maybe you order your Martinis “shaken – not stirred,” just like James Bond – the ultimate in fictional spy characters.

Personally, I’d love the chance to use cool spy gadgets, find the bad guys and bring them to justice. But since this is unlikely to happen, I have to get my espionage fix through leveraging the internet.  Hey, I’m not talking about anything that will catch the attention of NSA.  I’m referring to a few simple tricks (and completely legal) to gain some competitive intelligence.

Although it might not be as thrilling as James Bond adventures, try out these suggested “spy tactics” to gain insight into your biggest competitors (without breaking and entering). For instance, you can:

  • Discover and analyze product lines and marketing strategies.  Does their strategy match yours?
  • Understand the markets they are targeting and the overall direction of their company.
  • Identify key differentiators and attributes that set your competitor (or yourself) apart.
  • Understand a competitor’s online budget, targeted keywords, and how much website traffic they are generating from those keywords.
  • Improve your own marketing plans with real-time data (versus assumptions).

Competitive Analysis tools

These are just a few benefits when leveraging the web to gain competitive intelligence.  Are you ready to learn a few of our spying tricks?   

Below are 7 legal ways you can spy on your competitors via the web.

1. What Are Your Competitors Doing to Succeed?

Alexa tracks global web traffic, and is a great tool to compare how you are doing compared to competitors.  You can examine the demographics, geography, engagement, keywords and several other key data points which can tell you a lot about the visitors to your competitor’s site.  Let’s say you were crazy enough to take on Amazon (hint: I wouldn’t do it), and so you want to better understand its site visitors.  Below is a sneak peak at what you would find:




2. How Much Are Your Competitors Spending on Online Ads?

SEMrush monitors: Pay-Per-Click Ads; keywords driving traffic to your competitors websites; how much it cost per click; and a few other cool data points to help you with your spying efforts.  I really like using this tool for clues about products and/or services other companies are pushing.  Let’s take a look at Amazon again. By taking a quick peek at SEMrush, I can see what countries and keywords are generating the most traffic to their site from online Ads.  You’ll see from the below images that they are receiving tons of traffic from “Bob Dylan” searches with a very low cost per click. They also are pushing their online free cloud service.




3. Who’s Promoting Your Competitors?

Social Mention is a tool we love to use to see how popular our competitors are.  You will be able to see the authority of your competitor followers, along with their recent tweets, bios and locations. This allows you to build an extensive picture of their social media presence.

Followerwonk is a also a  social media intelligence tool if have a Twitter Account and want to dig a little deeper.


4. How Do You Measure Up Against Your Competitors?

Google Trends is another free tool I love.   You can see how your company is trending compared to your competitor, and get a quick picture of the countries, cities,  keywords used, and online searches as it relates to them.



5. What Keywords Are Driving Traffic To Your Competitors Site?

iSpionage allows you to look at how your competitors are advertising across a few more search engines – Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. You will be able to see their ads and how much they are spending.


6. What Products Are Your Competitors Promoting?

Google Alerts is a simple tool to allow you to monitor your competitors without effort.  Simply set up an alert with your competitors name, and watch all the latest right from your inbox.   This tool monitors news, blogs, video, discussions, and books.   Another bonus – it’s free.


7. How Has Your Competitor’s Market Positioning Changed Over Time?

The Wayback Machine lets you be a spy with the added bonus of time-travel and see how your competitors’ pages looked in the past.  Why would you care?   This allows you to observe site changes and improved online conversions.  Or you can just use it for fun to see how Amazon has changed over time.


Interested in Learning More?

Need some help to kick start your new spying career?   If you are interested in a website audit of your competitors site, we are happy to do some spy work on your behalf.

Free Website Audit