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Monitoring your competition — is it crucial or trivial? You have limits on your time, manpower and budget. Are you thinking of dedicating any of these toward analyzing other similar companies in your space? If so, you need to know whether you’re putting your resources to good use.

Peeking over the fence at your competitors isn’t a waste of time — far from it. You can gain valuable insights to help give you the edge you need. On the other hand, it isn’t the end-all strategy that’ll transform your marketing efforts. You have to prioritize where competitor analysis fits in your overall plan.

Thankfully, there are plenty of companies out there that have developed software to meet your needs, whatever you decide those needs are. These competitor analysis tools range from comprehensive one-stop shops to niche services that analyze a slice of online activity.

You may want to invest in a suite of powerful tools. Or, you may decide that the “free version” is all you have time for right now. Wherever you’re at, here’s our best advice for getting started with competitor analysis tools.

What Are Competitor Analysis Tools?

Have you ever wondered why your competitor has such great social media engagement? Or why certain ads seem to really work for them? Then you’d likely benefit from the insights you can glean using competitor analysis tools.

These software solutions provide data that help you learn about the online presence of other players in your sphere of business. Some tools simply present you with data. Others also help you make sense of those numbers and percentages. Here are just some of the things that competitor analysis tools track and measure:

  • General site traffic stats
  • Keywords and SEO rankings
  • Online advertising and pay-per-click campaign success
  • Site authority (trustworthiness) measured by links and backlinks
  • Social media metrics
  • Ecommerce metrics

Why (and When) Should You Use These Tools?

Tools are great, but you have to know how to use them. Competitor analysis software can help you fine-tune your own marketing strategy based on the success of your peers. You can also use the information to see potential gaps that you can fill. You might discover a need for altering your product or service lines, upping your content marketing game or better optimizing your website to drive traffic.

But can’t you just monitor your competitors without using software? Competitor analysis tools simplify a very complex and arduous data-collection process. The software collects data and presents it to you in seconds, so there’s no arguing with the convenience. But some also perform proprietary functions. These allow them to access material and intelligence that you can’t easily find for yourself, even if you’re willing to take the DIY route.

Competitor analysis is a healthy activity for any business to perform periodically or on an ongoing basis. But benchmarking is especially useful if you’re just starting out with building and growing a new web-based business. It’s essential when you’re creating that all-important business plan, and it can justify your business’s viability to yourself and others.

If you’ve got a website redesign in the works, check in to see what is and isn’t working for your competitors. This can help you optimize your own site to the fullest.

Top Tools for Competitor Analysis

We’ll start with some of the big names in the competitor analysis space. These are popular, comprehensive tools that have a variety of service tiers, including pro-scale offerings for businesses that are serious about benchmarking. Many also offer free trials or even free accounts so you can get a feel for the functionality before scaling up.

  • SEMRush – One of the most popular and feature-rich competitor analysis tools on the market. No free plans available, but there’s a discount for choosing the annual payment option.
  • Alexa – Offers detailed and accurate web traffic rankings, statistics and analytics, along with a full suite of SEO tools. Variety of free trials available depending on your goals.
  • Ahrefs – Specializes in SEO and keyword comparison. Helps you understand why your opponents rank so highly and what you can do to outperform them. No free plans, but offers a one-week trial. If you go with annual billing, you get two months per year for free.
  • SimilarWeb – Offers one of the most reliable traffic estimators out there, and competitor analysis is just a slice of what’s on offer here. Free intro plan available.
  • SpyFu – A robust keyword-comparison tool that lets you see what your competitors are buying on Google AdWords and using for their PPC campaigns. No free plans available, but offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. SpyFu also created Nacho Analytics, a tool that lets you see the analytics of other websites right within your own Google Analytics account.
  • BuzzSumo – Helps you analyze what type of content performs best for any topic or brand. This one is particularly good for content discovery and curation as well as social media listening. No free plans, but you may save 20 percent with annual billing.
  • iSpionage – Full-service tool dedicated solely to competitor analysis with a focus on advertising and PPC. You can even track your competitors’ A/B testing, monitor their entire sales funnels and set up email alerts. No free plans, but offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • Searchmetrics – Displays top keyword phrases for sites and advertising efforts. Pricing on request only.
  • Serpstat – Can automatically detect your top competitors and analyze a batch of up to 200 websites simultaneously. First-timers can sign up for free with a limited number of queries.
  • Majestic – Claims to have the largest link index database on the planet. Majestic gives you detailed information about websites and historical backlink information to determine site authority. No free plans, but there’s a seven-day money-back guarantee.
  • Open Link Profiler – Simple, free tool that lets you analyze the backlinks of any website.

Niche Competitor Analysis Tools

Here are some specific tools that can help you along the journey of competitor analysis — that are more focused in scope than those above.

  • Prisync Enjoy competitive pricing intelligence for ecommerce businesses. Find the price of any product on any website.
  • Built With This tool analyzes a website’s code and tells you about the technology behind it, such as the platform it’s built on and the plug-ins used.
  • Owletter This tool monitors and analyzes your competitors’ emails so you can monitor the good and bad of their communications.
  • Siteliner Discover the broken, dead or weak links on competitors’ sites to identify content gaps that you can fill. There’s a free option with limits and a premium unlimited plan.