Have you ever wondered…
…how much traffic your competitor’s website is getting?
…what the best traffic sources are in your market?
…where your competitors are spending their ad dollars?
…what keywords your competitors are targeting?
…what ad copy they are using?
No matter whether you are a business owner, consultant or entrepreneur, marketing spy tools are one of the best ways to answer all of the above questions and more.
In this article I discuss 7 of my favorite tools for competitor research, advertising research (PPC, PPV, display, social) and keyword research.
Many of these services offer free trials or $1 trials so you can test them at no risk.
Overplay VPN – Research Ads in 48 Countries
A VPN Provider lets you to access the internet through a virtual private network which allows you to appear as if you are in any location different from your actual location. This is extremely useful for advertisers who want to see which ads are running in other countries.
For just $10 a month a VPN service is the cheapest way to spy on various online marketing strategies. Once you have a subscription you can use it on your computer, tablet and mobile phone (iPhone, Android etc.). It’s especially useful on mobile devices to check what kind of ads are running in mobile apps or on websites.
Besides the research component a VPN is also useful to establish a more secure internet connection, for example when you are using a public wi-fi in a coffee shop.
Unlimited VPN access is just $9.95 per month or $99.95 per year. Check it out here.
SimilarWeb – Competitive Research Tool
SimilarWeb is a great starting point if you want to understand the online marketing strategy of a specific company or an entire industry. Similar to Alexa, it’s a research tool that provides a variety of metrics for any website including traffic volumes, sources, referrals, destination sites and more.
It’s mainly based on desktop traffic at this stage but I’m sure they will integrate mobile traffic at some stage. One thing to keep in mind is that the traffic volumes are not 100% accurate and can be way off in some cases. The more traffic a website gets the more accurate the data tends to be.
I normally start by looking at a websites traffic volumes and sources on SimilarWeb. Once you understand where most of the traffic is coming from you can move to spy tools for specific traffic sources to continue your research. SimilarWeb also offers a free Chrome extension which displays insights without having to leave the website you are on.
The basic version of SimilarWeb is completely free. The pro version provides more data and starts from $199 per month.
WhatRunsWhere – Advertising Spy Tool for 90+ Platforms and 15 Countries
WhatRunsWhere is one of the best advertising spy tools. Especially for display and mobile advertising it’s probably the best one out there.
If you are interested in WhatRunsWhere, also check out my full review here.
It shows you ads from 90+ advertising platforms and 15 countries. You can research where advertisers are running their ads, which creatives they are using, how long campaigns have been running ads for and much more. You can even add specific domains which WRW will then start tracking for you. Subscriptions are not cheap but they are worth the money as a serious advertiser.
Check out the 3-day trial for $1 here.
AdBeat – Advertising Spy Tool with a Focus on Desktop Traffic
AdBeat is another good advertising spy tool. Overall I think the AdBeat interface is more user friendly than WhatRunsWhere. However, AdBeat’s mobile intel is currently still in beta, so it’s much more limited and data is only available for the US.
Overall if your focus is mainly US traffic for desktop/mobile or international desktop traffic then it’s also a great tool.
UPDATE: The free 14-day AdBeat trial is not offered anymore. I still recommend you check out AdBeat. If the subscription really isn’t right for you, there’s a 30-day money back guarantee. Check it out here.
SEM Rush – Google (SEO/SEM) Spy Tool for 22 Countries
SEM Rush is a competitor research tool with a focus on organic and paid Google traffic. It provides intel for 22 different countries. You can research Adwords strategies (search and display advertising) and organic strategies both by keyword and URL.
If you are operating in a competitive market you might be wondering whether you are targeting the most important keywords both through SEO and SEM. It’s a great tool to uncover the entire organic and paid search strategy for specific URLs.
Pro plans start from $69.95. Check out SEMrush here.
SocialAdNinja – Facebook Advertising Spy Tool
Unless your own location and Facebook profile matches your target audience you will have a very hard time doing any kind of advertising research on Facebook. Facebook is not an easy traffic source to spy on but SocialAdNinja does a great job.
It allows you to spy on Facebook ads in 43 countries. Ads can be filtered by demographics, interests, destination URLs and many other criteria.
There’s no free trial but it’s definitely a great tool if you are spending a significant amount on Facebook advertising.
SocialAdNinja is $147 per month. Definitely worth it if you are a serious Facebook advertiser. Check it out here.
Box of Ads – PPV Advertising Spy Tool
Box of Ads is one of the few spy tools for pay per view (PPV) traffic. The only way to research PPV traffic without a spy tool is to download and install adware like specific toolbars on your own computer (only an option if you don’t mind annoying popups on your computer).
There’s a 3-day free trial, check it out here.
What marketing spy tools are you using? Please share them in the comments.