Search Engine Optimization

Competitive Keyword Research with SpyFu and Others

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What keywords are your competitors buying? Knowing this can help with your pay per click search engine marketing, organic SEO, and overall competitive positioning. Fortunately, there are some useful tools available to help you figure this out.

SpyFu

SpyFu is my favorite tool for competitive keyword research. It is the second generation of the popular tool GoogSpy. It lets you find what keywords your competitors are buying, what they’re bidding (sort of), and what their ads say. Just enter a domain (no http, e.g. www.marketo.com) and you get a report showing the competitor’s top organic words, paid words, and competitors — as well as an estimate of their daily search marketing budget.

Competitive Keyword Research with SpyFu

By clicking on “More” under Advertisements, you can see what their ads say, rough estimates of what they’re playing, and how much traffic they are generating per word.

Competitive Keyword Research with SpyFu

The best part of SpyFu is that it’s totally free, and as long as it is in beta even the subscriber-only features like downloadable Excel reports and statistics down to the specific web page are free.

As useful as SpyFu is, take the results with a grain of salt. The data are refreshed every 30-60 days, so it can be out of date. Also, the bidding / price info often seems off in my experience. Personally, I ignore the bid data but use SpyFu to get ideas for new “long tail” keywords that I didn’t think of.

Hitwise

Hitwise is the most comprehensive tool for online competitive analysis. One of their reports shows the most popular terms actually typed into a search engine that resulted in traffic to the website. You can also get reports on what words are driving conversion. Much of the Hitwise data are focused on B2C marketing, but they do have some B2B industry coverage, including Software, Hardware, and Manufacturing / Industrial.

Competitive Keyword Research with Hitwise

Hitwise is not free — in fact it can be a little expensive. A full subscription typically ranges from $50k to $60k annually, although you can buy single reports (such as one time analysis of a competitor) starting at $695.

Other Useful Links for Competitive Keyword Research

  • MSN AdCenter Labs provides lots of useful tools, including search funnels (what words do people use before and after they search for a particular word) and demographics analysis. Occam’s Razor has some great tips about using their tools for web analytics and keyword research.
  • You can get competitive get traffic reports from Quantcast and Compete (although the data are less accurate for less frequently visited sites). Quantcast also gives demographics information.
  • URL Trends gives charts with various rankings over time, and their Reverse Keyword Lookup tool finds keywords (paid and organic) that drive traffic to the site
  • Tech 2 Blog posted Five Tools for Spying on Your Competition, which has some links to useful tools to do research and keep track of the competition.
  • Finally, SEO Book has a comprehensive review of keyword research tools. If you are looking to do serious keyword research, this is a good place to start.

If I’ve missed any tools that you find useful, please let me know!