I’ve encountered truckloads of SEO tools throughout my long blogging career.
Out of the tools I’ve used, there were a few that stood out.
SpyFu is one of those tools.
However, SpyFu is specifically designed for a single purpose: to obtain actionable data through competitive research.
I’ll show you everything in this in-depth SpyFu review.
Table Of Contents
What is SpyFu?
Looking at the name, I bet you already have an idea of the SpyFu features we’ll talk about.
It allows you to acquire unlimited SEO and PPC data from your top competitors.
SpyFu also offers a handful of useful tools like the Rank Tracker, custom SEO reports, and keyword research tool.
With a complete lineup of tools, SpyFu has earned the right to compete with the top platforms. But how well do these tools actually perform in real use cases?
Let’s find out.
How to Use SpyFu
SpyFu features a streamlined design to help users get familiar with the platform.
It doesn’t matter if you want to analyze domains or look for promising backlink opportunities. Most of the tools have a single search bar you can use to kickstart your research.
The fastest way to gauge SpyFu’s capabilities is to use the “Overview” tool.
Upon logging in, go to the ‘Overview’ tab and enter your competitor’s domain.
For the sake of this guide, let’s use Social Media Examiner as our competitor.
After entering their domain, SpyFu almost instantly pulls up essential data.
Some of the crucial metrics you’ll see here are your competitor’s:
- Number of organic keywords
- Estimated monthly organic clicks
- Number of shared keywords with top competitors
- Number of PPC keywords
- Estimated monthly paid clicks
If you want to dig deeper, you can click on any of the data cards on the overview page. This will take you to the specific SpyFu tool that analyzes the data you’ve chosen.
Moving on, you’ll also find a quick view of other competitors, keywords, top pages, backlinks, and organic ranking history
Again, you can run a deeper analysis of any data that interests you in one click.
For example, if you’d like a complete view of your competitor’s top SEO keywords, click ‘View All Organic Keywords.’
This will fire up the corresponding SpyFu feature that analyzes this data.
Remember, we’re just looking at SpyFu’s overview tool.
There are other tools you can use for domain analysis. That said, let’s move on to SpyFu’s “SEO Overview” tool.
You can use it by going to the “SEO Research” page. The SEO Overview tool should be selected by default.
After entering your competitor’s domain, the SEO overview page will then be populated with important organic data.
First, you’ll see charts that visualize information such as your competitor’s organic keywords, rank changes, and clicks.
There are, of course, a dozen other items worth your while on this report page. These are organized into individual sections.
Here are some of the most important ones:
- Page 1 Keywords – Shows the number of keywords your competitor ranks within the top 10 spots for. You’ll also see the number of keywords they rank for in positions 11-16 and 11-100.
- Keyword Gainers and Losers – Tracks the number of keywords that fall under three growth categories. This includes “Improved Ranks,” “Newly Ranked Keywords,” and “Lost Ranks.”
- Top Organic Competitors – Shows similar websites and tracks their SEO keywords, monthly clicks, and traffic value over time. The chart’s date ranges include six months, one year, two years, five years, and “all time.”
- Shared Organic Keywords – Measures the number of shared keywords between your competitor and three similar websites. The data visible here is taken from SpyFu’s “Kombat” tool, which we’ll discuss in detail later.
- Most Valuable Keywords – Displays the competitor’s most valuable keywords in terms of SEO clicks and search volume. You can quickly add any of these keywords to your project with one click.
- Top Pages – Shows your competitor’s top pages in terms of monthly SEO clicks. You can quickly view each page’s SEO keywords, including metrics like search volume, position, and keyword difficulty.
In addition to the SEO overview report, SpyFu also lets you analyze domains from a PPC perspective.
From the “PPC Research” page, select the ‘PPC Overview’ tab and enter your competitor’s domain.
SpyFu will then generate a report that’s similar to the SEO overview page. Only this time, everything is related to your competitor’s PPC campaigns.
Here’s a quick rundown of the data sections you’ll find in this report:
- Paid Keywords – Provides you with a brief analysis of your competitor’s PPC keywords. You’ll see their total number of paid keywords, estimated monthly paid clicks, and PPC budget.
- Shared Paid Keywords – Utilizes data from SpyFu’s “Kombat” tool to track shared paid keywords. Keyword data from two other competitors are used in this section.
- Top Paid Competitors – Compares your competitor with similar websites in terms of PPC keywords, paid clicks, and ad budget. You can also choose different date ranges for the chart.
- Most Successful Paid Keywords – Rounds up your competitor’s most successful keywords in terms of search volume, paid click percentage, and costs. If you’re managing PPC campaigns with SpyFu, you can easily add any of these keywords to your project.
- Google Ads History – Previews your competitor’s recent ads for individual paid keywords. You can check out different ad copies launched throughout different months.
- Top Google Ads Buy Recommendations – Analyzes the top paid keyword recommendations according to competitor activity and ROI potential. Recommendations for keywords can be “Great Buy,” “Good Buy,” “Buy,” and “Consider.”
Now that we covered SpyFu’s domain overview features, let’s look at something a little more in-depth.
Doing keyword research
I personally like to judge SEO platforms based on their keyword research features.
Fortunately, SpyFu belongs in my top 10 keyword research tools of all time. It’s actually third – behind only Ahrefs and SEMrush.
To do keyword research with SpyFu, you can start by going to the ‘SEO/PPC Keywords’ tool. You can access it under either “SEO Research” or “PPC Research.”
Take note that these keyword research tools are designed to obtain competitor keywords.
No surprise there.
It’s actually surprising how fast SpyFu acquires competitor keyword data. It actually feels like a cheat code.
In less than three seconds, you’ll have access to your competitor’s entire keyword pool.
It doesn’t matter if your competitor has thousands of SEO or PPC keywords.
That’s a lot of keyword ideas.
You know what else is important when doing keyword research?
One word: metrics.
Impressively, SpyFu has a lot of them. In fact, they had to hide some of the metrics by default to prevent the page from being too cluttered.
You can view and enable all of the metrics by clicking the ‘Columns’ button.
Allow me to give a brief explanation of each metric:
- Volume – The estimated number of searches the keyword generated in the past month.
- Rank (Change) – The keyword rankings your competitor gained or lost since data is last collected.
- SEO Clicks (Change) – The number of organic clicks your competitor gained or lost since data is last collected.
- KD – SpyFu’s metric for calculating keyword difficulty, which factors in the quality of ranking domains and on-page signals.
- CPC – The average cost advertisers pay per click – be it for broad, phrase, or exact matches.
- Desktop Searches (Percent) – Measures the traffic share of visitors who used a desktop device.
- Mobile Searches (Percent) – Measures the traffic share of visitors from mobile devices.
- Monthly Cost – The estimated amount an advertiser has to spend each month to target the keyword for ads.
- Clicks – The total number of clicks a keyword has generated from search engine results in the past month.
- Organic Clicks – The percentage of clicks the keyword has generated for organic results.
- Paid Clicks – The percentage of clicks the keyword has generated for paid results.
- Not Clicked – The percentage of users who didn’t click on anything after using the keyword in search.
- Ads – The total number of ads that targeted the keyword over the last 14 months.
- Homepages – The total number of homepages that appear in the top 50 results for the keyword.
Phew – that’s a lot of metrics.
The same can be said for SpyFu’s traditional keyword research tool, which can be launched from the “Keyword Research” page.
This time, you can use a seed keyword to start your research.
Under the ‘Keyword Overview’ tab, SpyFu will show you loads of information on your seed keyword.
The first thing you’ll see is the keyword’s monthly volume and estimated number of clicks generated. Below these numbers, you’ll see the following additional metrics:
- Mobile and desktop traffic share comparison
- Percentage of paid clicks
- Keyword difficulty rating
It’s worth noting that SpyFu includes a bunch of other data sections on the keyword overview page.
The report is actually pretty in-depth. You’ll find backlink opportunities, organic rankings data, and paid keyword recommendations.
But since we’re testing SpyFu’s keyword research capabilities, let’s stick with keyword suggestions.
To the right, you’ll find four keyword lists:
- Similar Keywords – Additional keyword ideas that are related and relevant to your seed keyword.
- Questions – Question-based keywords that can help you understand user intent.
- Also Ranks For – Similar keywords that the top results for your seed keyword also rank for.
- Als Buys Ads For – Paid keywords that the top advertisers for your seed keyword also target.
To view all keywords in one category, click ‘View All.’
This will take you to the ‘Related Keywords’ tab with the appropriate settings for the keyword category you’ve chosen.
For example, if you click ‘View All’ under the “Questions” list, you’ll arrive at the following page:
Here, you can start crunching the numbers using every available metric discussed above. This includes each keyword’s search volume, keyword difficulty, mobile searches percentage, cost per click, and so on.
To speed up your analysis, you can use filters and pre-set keyword groups.
You can use them from the panel to the left.
SpyFu’s keyword filters system is pretty straightforward.
Just enter your desired filter values for any metric and click ‘Apply.’
You can filter keywords based on basically every metric SpyFu uses in its keyword research tool.
If you want an even faster way to discover the keyword ideas you need, switch to the ‘Groups’ tab.
There, you can search for keywords that contain specific terms.
Finally, SpyFu offers a shortcut for finding transactional keywords.
These are keywords that people use when they’re close to a purchase decision. Some examples are:
- SpyFu discount
- SpyFu promo code
- GoDaddy domain discount
You can find transactional keywords with SpyFu by selecting ‘Transactional keywords’ on the “Search Type” sub-menu.
Transactional keywords are valuable because they help turn traffic into sales.
If you plan to monetize your blog, consider sprinkling your keyword strategy with transactional keywords.
Spying on competitors
Now that we got keyword research and domain analysis out of the way, let’s look at competitive research.
As I mentioned before, SpyFu is a platform specifically built for competitive research.
It would be highly irresponsible of me to write a SpyFu review without covering its competitive research tools.
In my defense, competitive research is ingrained into SpyFu’s ecosystem.
Every tool we’ve discussed so far has a competitive research side. A good example would be the domain analysis report, which is technically a competitive research tool in itself.
Just below the initial data cards, you’ll find two useful data sections for competitive research.
Under “Competition,” you’ll find a list of additional organic and paid competitors.
By looking at other competitors, you can go levels deeper with your research by broadening your data sources.
Next, we have the “Competitor Shared Keywords” section. This is where you can jump into competitive keyword research by analyzing shared keywords between multiple competitors.
Here’s what it looks like:
You can take a closer look at your top competitors’ shared keywords by launching SpyFu’s Kombat tool.
To do this, simply click on ‘View All’ right below the shared keywords graph.
If you’re familiar with SEMrush, you may notice that SpyFu’s Kombat tool looks and functions like the “Keyword Gap” tool.
That’s because they’re meant to do the exact same thing.
By analyzing the shared keywords between your top competitors, you can build a keyword “master list.” This should include all the keywords you should optimize for to get noticed in your niche.
If you’d like a bigger pool of target keywords, you can easily add more competitors by typing in their domain.
Below the Kombat report page, you’ll have a detailed view of your competitor’s shared keyword segments.
Of course, this includes all the essential metrics you need for analysis.
You can view other keyword segments by selecting them from the ‘Segment’ drop-down menu.
Below is a brief explanation of each segment:
- Core Keywords – Keywords that all analyzed competitors target for either SEO or PPC.
- All Keywords – Every keyword that at least one competitor targets.
- Questions – Question-based keywords that at least one competitor targets.
- Missing Keywords – Keywords that other competitors rank for, but not the first competitor you entered.
Remember, you can also enter your own domain as the first competitor on the Kombat tool. Doing so allows you to use the “Missing Keywords” segment to find high-priority target keywords.
Before we proceed to other SpyFu competitive research features, remember that there are other ways to launch the Kombat tool.
Apart from the overview tool, you can launch the Kombat tool directly from the “SEO Research” and “PPC Research” pages.
Another noteworthy competitive research feature is the “Top Pages” analysis tool.
Basically, it allows you to take a peek at your competitor’s top-performing content.
There are two ways to use it. You can either look at the “Top Pages” section on the overview page or click ‘Top Pages’ from “SEO Research.”
If you haven’t yet, enter a competitor’s domain to start analyzing their top content.
SpyFu takes no time at all to aggregate your competitor’s entire content library. It even calculates the total number of clicks your competitor gained from these pages.
What’s the point of viewing your competitor’s top content?
First and foremost, it can provide you with great content ideas that are proven to get your target audience’s attention.
As you can see, the Top Pages tool automatically sorts your competitor’s pages according to their organic traffic.
The pages with the highest number of monthly SEO clicks appear first. This allows you to get straight to the content responsible for the majority of your competitor’s traffic.
Second, SpyFu allows you to steal those top pages’ keywords.
That way, you can better analyze whether or not you have a shot at outranking your competitors for those topics.
You can do this by simply clicking the ‘View Keywords’ button to the right of each post. This will prompt SpyFu to instantly pull up the organic keywords that your competitor’s content ranks for.
Want content ideas for specific keywords?
You can easily comb through your competitor’s top pages using the built-in filter tool.
Just enter your target keyword in the “Filter by keyword” field.
SpyFu will instantly refresh the list with pages that are relevant to your selected keyword.
Lastly, SpyFu’s Top Pages tool allows you to take a quick look at your competitor’s newest pages.
This is great if you’re in need of fresh topic ideas to cover in your blog. It will also give you an idea of what your competitor is focusing on lately.
Spying on your competitor’s content strategy will definitely give you the upper hand.
It will allow you to leverage the research they’ve done, especially around target keywords.
Just don’t forget that the goal is to outperform your competitor in terms of content quality. Keep your eyes peeled for ways to create better content, be it through more visuals, updated stats, and comprehensiveness.
Checking backlink profiles
Here’s another reason why competitive research is so effective.
By checking your competitor’s backlink profile, you don’t have to look for potential backlink sources yourself. You can simply target the websites that already supply your competitor with backlinks.
More importantly, you can inspect your competitor’s linked pages to understand what makes content “linkable” in your niche.
After all, there’s no point in finding potential backlink sources if websites don’t want to link to your content.
To do all of this with SpyFu, head over to the “Backlinks” page and enter your competitor’s domain.
SpyFu has a list of backlink sources there waiting for you.
You can quickly refine the results by entering a keyword or choosing the specific backlink types you want to see. These can be set to the left of the backlink list.
To gauge the value of backlink sources, SpyFu will include important metrics, namely:
- Domain Monthly Organic Clicks – Measures the monthly organic clicks for the entire domain of the linking page.
- Page Monthly Organic Clicks – Measures the monthly organic clicks of the linking page.
- Domain Strength – SpyFu’s proprietary metric for measuring the overall SEO power of domains (on a scale of 1-100.)
- Ranked Keywords – The number of keywords that the referring page currently ranks for.
- Outbound Links – The total number of outbound links detected on the referring page.
Here’s one more thing that could knock you off your boots.
Remember the Kombat tool for keywords?
SpyFu has a similar feature for its backlink analysis tool.
Below “Backlink Kombat,” enter the domains of more competitors and click ‘Add.’ The backlink analysis tool should instantly reload, showing you pages that link to all added competitors.
To have a cleaner list of backlinks, you can easily exclude pages that already link to you.
Just enter your domain in the “Exclude pages that already link to me” field and click ‘Remove.’ This will ensure you’ll only get useful results from SpyFu’s backlink analysis tool.
That’s it – you should now be able to tap into a massive list of potential link sources.
What naturally comes next is to launch a full-on outreach campaign – reaching the right people and securing your links.
That’s what SpyFu’s “Backlink Outreach” tool is for.
Put simply, it’s your one-stop platform for managing your contacts and tracking your link building results.
After adding potential backlink sources to your project, SpyFu automatically reveals the contact information of the people behind each site. This way, you won’t have to spend several grueling hours creating a spreadsheet of contacts yourself.
Tracking your keyword rankings
When managing link building prospects, SpyFu lets you build your project from within the website.
All activities related to backlink outreach are neatly tucked away in the “Outreach” section of the projects window.
In addition to link building projects, you can also track your keyword rankings using SpyFu.
To create a new project, you simply need to enter your domain name and a display name.
The latter is solely for the purpose of organizing your SpyFu projects, so feel free to use anything you want.
Creating a project allows you to create, manage, and track custom keyword groups for individual campaigns.
A good use case for this is creating a “High-Priority” keyword group, which should consist of low-hanging fruit keywords.
Of course, this is only a suggestion.
You’re free to create and manage keyword groups in any way you see fit.
SpyFu can also help get your campaigns up to speed by suggesting keyword groups, namely:
- Your most searched keywords – Includes keywords that you frequently analyze via SpyFu.
- Biggest Traffic Opportunities – Relevant keywords with the highest traffic potential.
- Easy Wins – Low-competition keywords with reasonable traffic potential.
- Highest ROI – Keyword ideas with the most potential for profits.
Use these default keyword groups or not – that’s up to you. If you want, your project can be 100% built with custom keyword groups.
What’s important is, you can build your keyword groups and track your rankings in one place.
Speaking of which, you can start tracking your keyword rankings in three ways:
- Keyword Universe – Track all of your keyword positions for the entire project.
- Groups – Track your keyword positions for predefined or custom groups.
- Labels – Track your keyword positions for keywords with specific tags.
Ideally, you should have one SpyFu project for every website under your belt.
This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re running the paid version of SpyFu.
Even with the entry-level plan, you are allowed to create as many projects as you need.
Simply click ‘Create Project’ from the drop-down menu in the upper-left corner.
That should wrap up the key SpyFu features you should know about before purchasing.
Bear in mind that SpyFu has plenty more to offer under the hood.
But since you’re probably itching to try SpyFu out yourself, I’ll make this quick:
- Google Ads Advisor – Generate a list of high ROI keywords for your Google Ads campaigns.
- Google Ads Templates – Enjoy the fastest way to set up a Google Ads campaign with SpyFu’s expertly-engineered templates.
- Recon Reports – Easily build a detailed SEO report for client recaps and sales pitches.
- Business Leads and Contacts – SpyFu features a large directory of business leads exclusively for marketers with nearly eight million contacts.
- On–Demand Custom Lists – For a price, SpyFu can procure custom lists for anything, be it PPC budgets, large-scale keyword metrics, and so on.
Now that you have a good understanding of SpyFu’s capabilities, let’s talk pricing.
Despite SpyFu’s comprehensive arsenal, the team behind the platform managed to keep costs low for users.
Here are the numbers:
- Basic – $39 per month or $33 per month for annual plans.
- Professional – $79 per month or $58 per month for annual plans.
- Team – $299 per month or $199 per month for annual plans.
Comparing SpyFu Plans
|Keywords and backlinks||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Domain overview reports||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Tracked keyword rankings||5,000||15,000||40,000|
|Leads and contacts||250||500||2,000|
|Custom branded reports||No||Yes||Yes|
SpyFu Pros and Cons
After reading about SpyFu’s pricing information, you’ve probably got your eye on one of its monthly or annual plans.
If you’re still not sold on SpyFu, here’s a quick recap of its pros and cons.
- Unlimited data on all plans – Unlike most platforms, SpyFu is built to provide you with unlimited SEO and PPC data on all plans. Solo bloggers can stick with the basic plan for as long as they want without missing out on data.
- Great usability – A proper analytics platform should make research easier, not the other way around. Luckily, SpyFu provides a great user experience with intuitive interfaces and fast loading speeds.
- Low price tag – Compared with heavy-hitters like SEMrush and Ahrefs, SpyFu’s pricing is more than reasonable. Despite this, it still manages to deliver top-tier data – making it one of the most cost-effective platforms to date.
- Powerful competitive research – SpyFu’s Kombat, domain analysis, and backlink analysis tools take competitive research to a new level. It also does a great job at visualizing competitor data to smoothen the decision-making process.
- Google Ads tools – PPC is actually a large part of SpyFu’s ecosystem. The Google Ads Advisor and campaign templates more than prove this.
- Backlinks outreach tool – Being able to manage your backlinks research and outreach in the same place is a huge advantage. It’s actually surprising that SpyFu offers a backlinks outreach tool considering their pricing plans.
- No keyword trend data – The only thing missing from SpyFu’s keyword research tool is the trend data. This pertains to the monthly fluctuations in keyword traffic, making it possible to spot seasonal and trendy keywords.
- One-page reports are a double-edged sword – I get the idea of cramming all possible information into a single, streamlined page. However, I would’ve preferred if SpyFu had a compartmentalized approach to make key data more searchable.
Is SpyFu worth it?
Who is SpyFu for?
Does SpyFu have a free trial?
Does SpyFu have a money-back guarantee?
If you still don’t own an SEO tool, I can confidently say that SpyFu is a solid buy.
You don’t even need to rely on SpyFu’s competitive research features to make the most out of your investment. With unlimited data at your disposal, you’ll have enough keywords and backlink ideas to run your campaigns for months.
If you have questions about SpyFu, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
You can also leave your feedback and suggestions for future posts – I’m always listening!