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5 Ways to Spy on Your Competition

Jul 7, 2009 / by Dan Patterson

secret-agent1In my last post, How to Create a Huge Keyword List, I suggested to spy on your competition for keyword ideas. Well, today I want to delve a little further into that topic, and give you some techniques and tools for doing just that.

Learning from your competition is one of the best ways to get keyword suggestions. One of the great things about marketing online, is your competition is right in front of you, and can’t hide everything they’re doing. Here are a few ways to get keyword ideas from your competition:

1- Inspect Meta Tags
This technique doesn’t always work because enough sites have learned that meta keywords are not as important as they used to be. If your competition is still using meta keywords, it is a very easy way to get an idea of what keywords they’re targeting.

You can use SEOBook.com’s SEO XRay (part of SEO for Firefox) and easily see this information. Just do a right click and choose “SEO For Firefox”, then SEO XRay. Or you can always just look at the source code and find it there.


2- BacklinkWatch.com
I find this tool is hit and miss, but sometimes you can get some really good information from it. Just go to BacklinkWatch.com and type in the URL you want to check. It can take a while to load everything, but this tool will provide a list of pages that are linking to the site and the anchor text of some of the links. The anchor text is what you should be looking at for ideas.

3- Google AdWords Keyword Tool
You can use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to get suggestions for keywords based on the URL. Just choose the option “Website content,” type in your competitors URL, and see what suggestions it gives you. This can be a great way to brainstorm other keyword ideas as well.


4- Yahoo! Site Explorer and SEO Link Analysis
This is one of my favorite techniques to see what keywords your competition is using in their anchor links from other sites. First, you’ll need to download and install the Firefox plugin SEO Link Analysis by Joost de Valk. Then, go to Yahoo! and type "site:www.whateversite.com" into the search bar. This will take you to the Yahoo! Site Explorer.

Once the site explorer comes up, click on the button that says "Inlinks." Once the next page loads, change the first dropdown menu to say "Except from this domain." Here's a shot of what the results look like with the SEO Link Analysis plugin working:


This plugin shows you what the PR and anchor of the links are. As you go through the list of links, you’ll be able to see what keyword phrases they are using as anchors from other sites. Chances are you’ll find a lot of your competition’s main keyword phrases this way.

5- Other Tools
There are a bunch of websites that offer to provide your competitors AdWords lists and other information. I don’t really believe them; but I figure you can use some of them for ideas. So, before you go spending a lot of money on a software program that claims to steal your competitor’s keyword list, understand that it’s a marketing ploy. Get some ideas from their free tools, if they have any, then leave them alone and don’t waste your money.

Here are some more credible sites that provide useful information:


Of course, there are other ways of spying on your competition that I haven’t covered in this post. If you have tools or techniques that you have found helpful, please share them in the comments below!

Topics: Blog

Dan Patterson

Written by Dan Patterson

Dan has been involved in online marketing since 1999 when he first started building websites for people. Since then he has worked as a template designer, regional account coordinator for a pay-per-click search engine, internet marketing trainer, and is the former Director of On-Page Optimization at SEO.com. Dan graduated from UVU with a degree in Information Systems, and currently lives in Lehi, Utah with his wife and two sons.

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