SpyFu vs Semrush: Epic SEO Tool Showdown (2021)

Torn between SpyFu and Semrush?

Trust me – this decision shouldn’t be complicated.

In this SpyFu vs Semrush post, we’ll take a look at how each tool measures up in terms of:

  • Usability
  • Keyword Research
  • Domain Analysis
  • Competitor Research

By the end of this post, I promise that you’ll have a clear choice between these two amazing platforms. 

Sit back, relax, and read on. 


Introduction to SpyFu vs SEMrush

Allow me to start with a brief introduction of our contenders. 

SEMrush is developed as a one-stop shop for all your SEO needs. 

It can help you with keyword research, backlink analysis, competitor research – pretty much everything you need to do for SEO.

SpyFu, on the other hand, has some of the same core features. 

The main difference is, it’s designed to help you obtain crucial SEO and PPC data from competitors. 

Before we begin our comparison, let’s go over the pricing plans of SpyFu and SEMrush.


SEMrush pricing plans

SEMrush vs SpyFu Pricing
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Here are some details about SEMrush’s pricing plans:

 SEMrush ProSEMrush GuruSEMrush Business
Price$99.95 per month$199.95 per month$399.95 per month
Domain/Keyword Analytics✔️✔️✔️
Keyword Searches10,000 daily30,000 daily50,000 daily
Projects31525
Rank Tracker Keywords5001,5005,000
Backlink Analysis✔️✔️✔️

SpyFu pricing plans

Next, here’s SpyFu’s pricing plans and their features:

 SpyFu BasicSpyFu ProSpyFu Elite
Price$39 per month$79 per month$299 per month
Keyword SearchesUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Rank Tracker Keywords5,000 weekly15,000 weekly40,000 weekly
Backlink Analysis✔️✔️✔️

Keep in mind that I didn’t include all of the features that each tool has. 

There’s a lot more to love about both SpyFu and SEMrush. 

You will learn about some of their unique features as you read through this comparison. 

For now, let’s compare the two based on essential factors.


1. Usability

Usability Showdown
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When it comes to blogging tools, having a refined and polished user experience is a must.  

Conducting research for SEO is hard enough as it is. You shouldn’t have to navigate through a maze of menus across cluttered pages to perform basic tasks. 

That’s why I want to kick off this comparison by inspecting the usability of both SpyFu and SEMrush. 

Let’s get started.


SpyFu: Fast, easy to navigate, and easy to learn

“Straightforward” is perhaps the perfect word to describe SpyFu’s interface.

You can use the top menu to access one of SpyFu’s several SEO tools. 

I must say, there’s a smooth transition between each page – something that really benefits the user experience factor.

SpyFu Main Menu
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Each of these tools – save for the last three – has exactly the same user interface. There’s only a single search field where you plug in either a domain or keyword. 

You can’t get any simpler than that.

Another thing I like about the SpyFu experience is speed.

I’m not just talking about the loading speed of different pages. 

Whether you’re doing competitor research or keyword research, SpyFu will pull up results in the blink of an eye. 

Just take a look at this:

SpyFu Speed
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Not user-friendly enough for you?

Did I mention that SpyFu has a free library of learning resources?

Not just your average mini-tutorial articles – we’re looking at a complete glossary, a collection of training videos, and more. 

SpyFu Learning Resources
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So – let’s rate SpyFu in terms of usability. 

Simple menus? Check

Fast loading speeds? Check.

Free learning resources for beginners? You betcha

My only complaint is that SpyFu can sometimes look cluttered due to all the information they cram on one page. 

Not only can it confuse beginners, it also means you have to scroll a long way up to go elsewhere. 

Still, SpyFu’s usability factor is definitely solid. 

SpyFu Usability Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.


SEMrush: Surprisingly easy to use after the initial learning curve 

Let’s get one thing straight: 

Beginner-friendliness is not SEMrush’s strong suit. 

For example, if you’re new to the platform, it’s hard to tell what each tool does.

Personally, I think it has something to do with the unique names SEMrush uses. 

Let’s say you want to do basic keyword research to look for long-tail keyword ideas.

What you need is the Keyword Magic Tool – one of the four menu items under “Keyword Research.”

SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool Menu
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Unless you read about it somewhere, there’s no way you can guess what Keyword Magic Tool does.

To be fair, SEMrush is designed to be an all-in-one “visibility management” platform. So, yeah, it’s going to have jam-packed menus.

But once you get used to the navigation, everything about SEMrush will be smooth sailing. You just need to spend a few minutes looking around and familiarizing yourself with SEMrush’s tools. 

Besides, most SEMrush tools are really easy to use. 

There’s always a detailed description of how each tool works – followed immediately by the search bar and any applicable options. 

Traffic Analytics Description by SEMrush
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The results, of course, also load blazingly fast.

Here – let’s do a speed test: 

Keyword Overview Tool Speed Test
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As you can see, SEMrush’s report pages can be filled to the brim with data. 

The good news is, anyone can learn their way around the numbers using the knowledge base. This can be accessed by clicking ‘User Manual’ in the upper-right corner of the page.

SEMrush User Manual
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You can also investigate use cases from the SEMrush dashboard to know exactly how to turn insights into action plans. 

There are detailed use cases for marketing agencies, SEO, content marketers, social media marketers, and so on. 

SEMrush Use Cases
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Okay, so SEMrush’s menu system isn’t that simple.

Luckily, this is mitigated by the fast platform performance and clear instructions. Not to mention the abundant library of learning resources – from the knowledge base to detailed use cases. 

In a previous review, I rated SEMrush’s usability four out of five stars. 

However, that’s only looking at SEMrush’s “Keyword Research” features. 

If we rate the usability of the platform as a whole, it’s slightly less beginner-friendly than SpyFu. 

SEMrush Usability Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


2. Keyword Research

Keyword Research Showdown
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Every SEO campaign starts with keyword research. 

To attain higher rankings, you need to look for target keywords that are within your reach in terms of competitiveness. You should also consider other factors like search volume, search intent, and average CPC when building your keyword lineup. 

A good SEO tool, to me, should make keyword research a walk in the park. 

Let’s look at how SpyFu and SEMrush fare in this department. 


SpyFu: Competitive keyword research made easy 

SpyFu consolidates all of its keyword research features under the ‘Keyword Research’ tab. 

SpyFu Keyword Research Tool
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The report is then broken down into several pages – from “Keyword Overview” to “Google Ads Advisor.” 

Click the tabs below the search bar to navigate to a specific page. 

SpyFu Keyword Research Tabs
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I’d like to look at five things when evaluating keyword research tools: 

  • Quality of keyword suggestions
  • Keyword metrics
  • Keyword filters
  • SERP analysis
  • Additional keyword research features

SpyFu keyword suggestions

When it comes to keyword suggestions, SpyFu’s keyword research tool is nothing short of impressive. 

On the “Keyword Overview” page alone, you’re greeted by four categories of keyword suggestions.

There are similar keywords, question-based keywords, keywords also targeted by top domains, and keywords also targeted by top advertisers. 

SpyFu Keyword Overview Related Keywords
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For a clearer view of keyword suggestions, head to the “Related Keywords” page. 

The keyword suggestions will be organized in one table with customizable columns. 

Keyword Suggestions from SpyFu
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You can check out other keyword categories using the “Search Type” drop-down menu on the left. 

Simply expand the menu and select a different category to reload the keyword list. 

SpyFu Keyword Categories
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Easy-peasy.

SpyFu also automatically compiles a list of “transactional” keywords. 

These are keywords used by people whenever they’re in the mood to buy something. 

SpyFu Transactional Keywords
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Take note that a transactional keyword may have a significantly lower search volume than a regular keyword. But that’s only because it’s bringing in targeted traffic – specifically users who can become paying customers. 

Impressive, right? 

SpyFu is indeed capable of providing great keyword suggestions. 

Unfortunately, there are not nearly enough suggestions to go around, especially if you’re doing keyword research from scratch. 

To really use SpyFu for keyword research, you need to spy on a competitor’s target keywords. 

First, go to the “SEO Research” page and switch to the ‘SEO Keywords’ tab. 

SpyFu SEO Keywords Tool
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From there, type in your competitor’s domain, run the search, and wait for the report page to load. 

Depending on the size of your competitor, you could be looking at thousands of keyword suggestions here.

SpyFu Total Keywords
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Now that’s what I call a robust keyword list.


SpyFu keyword metrics

Next up, let’s look at SpyFu’s keyword metrics. 

On the overview page, SpyFu will show you basic keyword metrics like monthly volume, estimated click-throughs, mobile searches, and CPC.

Here’s a complete list:

  • Volume 
  • Keyword difficulty
  • Clicks
  • Mobile and desktop search percentages
  • Non-clicks, paid clicks, and organic clicks percentages
  • Cost Per Click
  • Monthly cost
  • Number of ads

These metrics can also be tracked on the “Related Keywords” page. 

Just remember to enable them first by clicking ‘Columns’ and selecting the checkboxes you want. 

SpyFu Keyword List Columns
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You also have three options for the cost and CPC metrics: broad, phrase, and exact. These options will update the metrics’ values to reflect the keyword targeting strategy of advertisers.

Here’s how SpyFu’s keyword list looks like with all metrics enabled: 

SpyFu All Columns Keyword List
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SpyFu keyword filters

Loading up keyword metrics is the first step towards finding ideal target keywords. 

Next, you need to know how to utilize these numbers to sieve out keywords that are no good. 

A good way to find keyword ideas that match your preferences is to use filters. 

With SpyFu, you can do this on the fly using the “Filters” panel to the left. 

SpyFu Keyword Filters
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You can filter keywords based on included words, search volume, keyword difficulty, word count, and other tracked metrics. 

Just find the metrics you want, enter the keywords and values you want to use, and click ‘Apply.’

SpyFu Keyword Filters
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SpyFu also has an “adult” filter option that can show, hide, or focus on sensitive or potentially offensive keywords. It’s a neat little feature, but the real-world uses for it are limited. 

Lastly, SpyFu automatically creates keyword groups based on included words. 

You can find and organize these groups by heading to the ‘Groups’ tab.

SpyFu Keyword Groups
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Using groups makes it easy to find a set of keywords that relate to the same topic.

Targeting them can help you build topical relevance when creating content for your blog.


SpyFu SERP analysis

You can run a SERP analysis with SpyFu from ‘SERP Analysis’ within the “Keyword Research” page. 

SpyFu SERP Analysis Tool
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What’s SERP analysis all about, you ask? 

Put simply, SERP analysis lets you observe the top-ranking pages for any SEO keyword. 

In addition to the pages themselves, a proper SERP analysis also scoops up important information pertaining to each page’s performance. 

Some tools list down SERP features, recent ranking changes, and metrics that relate to each website’s rank-worthiness. 

In SpyFu’s case, users can learn the following information about the top pages: 

  • Domain strength
  • Estimated monthly clicks
  • Keyword usage
  • Number of homepages
  • Number of “.gov” and “.edu” domains
  • Estimated Google Ads earnings for #1 spot
  • Social media platform (if applicable)
  • Overall keyword difficulty
SpyFu SERP Analysis Metrics
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You can use some of those values as benchmarks when building and optimizing your blog content.


SpyFu additional keyword research features

SpyFu has quite a few extra keyword research features you’ll find useful. 

For this particular review, I’d like to focus on the Google Ads Advisor. 

You can run it from the ‘Google Ads Advisor’ tab while doing keyword research.

SpyFu Google Ads Advisor
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Google Ads Advisor works by showing PPC keyword suggestions based on your competitors’ own ad campaigns. 

It unveils information like the keyword’s CPC, estimated monthly ad spend, potential clicks per month, and total impressions per month. 

SpyFu Google Ads Advisor Recommendations
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SpyFu also identifies the companies who bid for each keyword using color-coded tags. 

You can highlight each tag to see which competitor buys ad placements for these keywords. 

Google Ads Advisor Competitor Tags
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With Google Ads Advisor, you won’t be left out on juicy PPC keywords that are effective in ramping up sales. The estimated ad spend value will also help you stay within your advertising budget. 

Other than Google Ads Advisor, here are a few other SpyFu keyword research features worth mentioning: 

  • Keyword organic rankings history – Observe and analyze organic keyword rankings of websites over time. 
  • Advertiser history – Analyze the top advertisers and their most successful campaigns. 
  • Optimal keyword backlink suggestions – Get actionable link building tips for your target keyword
  • Bulk upload – Import up to 10,000 keywords in one go. 

SpyFu Keyword Research Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


SEMrush: Get every keyword research data that matters

Keyword research is one of SEMrush’s fortes.

It starts with the Keyword Overview tool, which acquires important keyword data like search volume, difficulty, and traffic analytics. 

SEMrush Keyword Overview
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The keyword overview report also includes keyword suggestions, a SERP analysis, and some PPC performance data. 

You can find these just below the basic information cards seen in the previous screenshot. 

SEMrush Keyword Overview Keyword Suggestions
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SEMrush keyword suggestions

Clicking ‘View all keywords’ under any keyword list will automatically launch the Keyword Magic Tool. 

It’s SEMrush’s homegrown keyword research tool for generating long-tail keyword suggestions. 

SEMrush View All Keywords
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From the get-go, you may notice that SEMrush generates more keyword suggestions than SpyFu. 

But that’s not the only difference. 

SEMrush also provides more keyword categories, namely broad match, phrase match, exact match, related, and questions. 

You can switch between these categories using these buttons: 

Keyword Magic Tool Keyword Group Tabs
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Another way to get keyword ideas from SEMrush is by doing competitor research. 

You can do this by going to the “Organic Research” page and entering your competitor’s domain. 

SEMrush Organic Research
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Once the results are in, go to the ‘Positions’ tab to see your competitor’s organic keywords. 

Everything, including keyword metrics like search volume and keyword difficulty, should be neatly organized there. 

Organic Research Keyword Positions
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SEMrush keyword metrics

SEMrush is one of the big names in SEO that people trust whenever they need up-to-date, accurate metrics. 

You can find keyword metrics on every report that contains keywords. This includes the following:

  • Volume
  • Global volume
  • CPC
  • Paid and organic keyword competitiveness
  • Number of organic search results
  • Number of top product listing ads
SEMrush Keyword Metrics
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SEMrush also includes a trend chart, which visualizes the volume changes of a keyword over the past 12 months.

SEMrush Trend Chart
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This can help you spot keywords that are only lucrative during specific times, like “inflatable pools” and “Black Friday deals.” 

If you’re looking at competitor keywords, SEMrush also includes the date when a keyword’s data is last updated. 

Last Date Keywords Updated SEMrush
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SEMrush keyword filters

To comb through thousands of keywords, you can count on SEMrush’s powerful filter tool.

You can find all filter controls right above the keyword list.

SEMrush Keyword Filters
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For some filter options, SEMrush includes preset ranges that make it easier to find the right keywords.

For instance, if you want to look for easy keywords to target, select ‘0-39% Easy’ under the ‘KD %’ menu. 

SEMrush Keyword Filters by Difficulty
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In addition to saving time, preset ranges can teach beginners how to interpret certain keyword metrics. 


SEMrush SERP analysis

SERP analysis is something SEMrush does objectively better than SpyFu.

The main reason is simple: SEMrush also measures the total number of backlinks for each page. 

SEMrush SERP Analysis Backlinks
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SEMrush also lets you perform a deep dive into the page’s backlink profile straight from the SERP analysis. 

Just click on the number of backlinks to immediately fire up the backlink analytics tool. This will reveal high-value information like the page’s backlink types, link attributes, and even their anchor texts. 

SEMrush Backlink Analysis for SERP
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Remember, SpyFu also has an in-depth backlink analysis feature. 

But the thing is, it’s not integrated into its keyword research feature. Rather, you have to use it from an entirely different page. 

Other than that, SEMrush also looks at each page’s Authority Score or AS. 

Authority Score is SEMrush’s proprietary metric that measures a page’s overall SEO value. It depends on factors like the number of backlinks, traffic, and referring domains. 

Here are the other metrics SEMrush includes in its SERP analysis:

  • Total number of referring domains
  • Estimated organic search traffic
  • Number of URL keywords

“Wait a minute – SEMrush actually has fewer metrics in its SERP analysis tool than SpyFu, what gives?”

This is where the argument of quality over quantity can be brought up. 

Sure, SpyFu’s SERP analysis pulls up more metrics, but some of them aren’t always useful. This includes the number of “.gov” results, domain diversity, and the number of homepage results.

If SpyFu’s SERP analysis also measures backlinks, I might change my view. But since it doesn’t, I think SEMrush does SERP analysis better.


SEMrush additional keyword research features

So far, we’ve covered three areas in SEMrush where you can perform keyword research: 

  • Keyword Overview
  • Keyword Magic Tool
  • Organic Research

Since I only highlighted one additional SpyFu keyword research feature, I’ll do the same here.

SEMrush features the Keyword Gap tool, which is extremely useful in building a competitive “master list” of keywords. 

It works by aggregating a list of all shared and unique keywords from up to a total of five domains.

Keyword Gap Tool
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To use the Keyword Gap tool, type in the domains you want to analyze into any of the empty fields. 

SEMrush recommends you enter your own domain in the first field if you want to do competitive research.

Sure, you can enter any domain you want in the first slot. But I recommend putting in your own domain to get more actionable keyword suggestions later. 

You’ll know why in a bit.

SEmrush Keyword Gap Tool Domains
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Before you click ‘Compare,’ be sure to select the keyword type you want to analyze. 

You can pick between organic keywords, paid keywords, and PLA keywords. PLA stands for product listing ads, which refer to ad campaigns launched on Google Shopping. 

If you want to analyze different keyword types for certain domains, you can click ‘Select keyword type for each domain.’

Keyword Gap Select Keyword Type
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After running your search, you’ll be taken to a comprehensive report page filled with valuable keyword research data. 

The first thing you’ll see is the “Top Opportunities for You” panel. 

Keyword Gap Top Opportunities
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What you’re seeing should be rather self-explanatory. 

With the ‘Missing’ tab selected, it shows a list of high-potential keywords you don’t have in your strategy. And if you switch over to the ‘Weak’ tab, it shows potential keywords that could use a little more attention. 

The next thing you’ll see is the keyword overlap chart. It visualizes the total number of shared and unique keywords across all the analyzed domains. 

Keyword Gap Overlap Chart
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The keyword overlap chart allows you to quickly spot the domain with the biggest keyword pool. It can also help you measure the total number of shared keywords among multiple domains. 

To see the actual numbers, just hover your mouse cursor over a specific area. 

Keyword Overlap Chart Data
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Finally, you should see the list of all the keywords collected in the keyword gap analysis. 

These are broken down into the following groups:

  • Shared – Common keywords shared by all analyzed domains.
  • Missing – Competitor keywords your domain currently doesn’t rank for.
  • Weak – Keywords your domain has lower rankings compared to competitors.
  • Strong – Keywords your domain has higher rankings compared to competitors.
  • Untapped – Missing keywords that at least one competitor ranks for. 
  • Unique – Keywords that only your domain ranks for. 
Keyword Gap Keyword Groups
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Next to each keyword, you’ll see the organic positions of each domain. You’ll also find essential keyword metrics like search volume, CPC, and keyword difficulty.

Keyword Gap Keyword Metrics
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The Keyword Gap tool can give you a roadmap towards becoming an authoritative brand in your niche. It can show you the SEO keywords you need to target in order to rise through the ranks. 

Of course, the Keyword Gap tool isn’t the only additional keyword research feature from SEMrush. 

Here are some other features that make SEMrush a top-tier platform for keyword research:

  • Organic traffic insights – Identify the “not provided” keywords you find on Google Analytics. 
  • Keyword Manager – Manage your keyword lists in one place and funnel them into other SEMrush tools. 
  • PPC Keyword Tool – Build a clean and optimized keyword list for PPC campaigns. 
  • Topic research – Use keywords to come up with engaging content ideas for your blog. 

SEMrush Keyword Research Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.


3. Domain Analysis

Domain Analysis Showdown
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Domain analysis is one of the most important aspects of SEO.

For starters, it lets you determine where you stand as far as your website’s ranking potential goes. It will show you vital SEO metrics such as your website’s organic keywords, search traffic, backlinks, and more. 

You can also analyze your competitor’s website and borrow some ideas from their SEO strategy. 

Now that you get the idea, let’s compare the domain analysis capabilities of SpyFu and SEMrush.


SpyFu: Know domains from the inside out 

SpyFu does domain analysis by extracting pertinent website data and compiling it into a one-page report.

I know – if you’re familiar with SEO analytics tools, that may not sound like anything special. 

But once you see SpyFu’s analysis, you’ll understand why it’s considered one of the best competitive research tools out there.

To get started, head to the ‘Overview’ tab, type in the domain of your top competitor, and run the search. 

SpyFu Domain Overview Tool
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Right off the bat, you’ll see valuable information that can help you gauge your competitor’s website. 

You can find metrics like:

  • Total organic keywords
  • Estimated monthly click-throughs
  • Estimated monthly PPC clicks
  • Paid keywords
  • Estimated monthly SEO click value
SpyFu Domain Overview Metrics
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Of course, there’s more to SpyFu’s domain analysis report than an overview. 

Here’s a quick rundown of the other sections: 

  • Competition – SpyFu generates two lists of competitor websites – one for organic competitors, and another for paid competitors. This can help you decide which website to analyze next for even more competitor data. 
  • Competitor Shared Keywords – This section lets you view the paid and organic keywords of your competitors. Use this if you need an even bigger list of potential target keywords. 
  • Top Keywords – If you’d rather focus on one domain’s top keywords, head to this section. Aside from keyword ideas, you can check other details like your competitor’s keyword rankings, each keyword’s estimated clicks, and CPC.  
  • Top Pages – SpyFu can also identify your or your competitor’s top-performing pages in terms of monthly organic clicks. This will help you understand the kind of content that gets the most attention in your market. 
  • Top Google Ads Buy Recommendations – Remember how SpyFu’s Google Ads Advisor works? It works the same on SpyFu’s domain analysis page – only it shows PPC keyword recommendations for the domain being analyzed. 
  • Google Ads History – In this section of the domain analysis report, SpyFu’s competitive research prowess is on full display. It shows the paid keywords your competitor has advertised on along with metrics and a preview of the ad copy.  
  • Organic Ranking History – SpyFu can show you a summary of your competitor’s recent ranking changes for organic keywords. You can use the data to grasp their current strategy and analyze how they were affected by Google algorithm updates. 
  • Inbound Links (Backlinks) – SpyFu’s domain analysis tool is more than capable of unveiling your competitor’s backlink profile. This can help you steal potential backlink sources as you get your own link building campaign up to speed.

Want to know more?

You can easily “zoom in” on select data panels simply by clicking on them. Doing so will take you to the specific area of SpyFu where you can closely analyze these numbers. 

SpyFu Domain Analysis Metric
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There are also certain parts of the report with ‘View All’ links. Click these links if you want a closer look at the data. 

SpyFu Domain Analysis Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.


SEMrush: Leave no stone unturned 

Unless you’re new to SEO, you should already know that SEMrush is one of the go-to platforms for domain analysis.

It’s one of the very few tools that can give you a 360-degree view of any domain. 

To use SEMrush for domain analysis, the first thing you can do is create a domain analytics tracker. 

You can add new domains to track straight from the main dashboard. Simply enter the domain’s address and click ‘Add domain.’

SEMrush Domain Analytics Add Domain
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Within seconds, SEMrush will start tracking key performance indicators, like the domain’s organic keywords, traffic, and Authority Score. 

Feel free to add multiple domains to your tracker. 

SEMrush Multiple Domains in Rank Tracker
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The tracker is useful if you want a quick overview of important domains, be it yours or your competitor’s. 

To perform a much deeper analysis, click on any of the domains. This will bring up the “Domain Overview” report page for that domain, which contains a whole new world of data. 

SEMrush Domain Overview Report
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At first, you’ll find some of the basic metrics that tie to the domain’s SEO performance, namely: 

  • Authority Score
  • Number of organic search traffic
  • Total number of organic keywords
  • Total number of backlinks and referring domains
  • Average pages per visit
  • Average visit duration (dwell time)
  • Bounce rate

Right there and then, you can see something that SpyFu’s domain analysis didn’t provide – user engagement metrics. 

I’m talking about the average pages opened per visit, average visit duration, and bounce rate. 

Moving forward, here’s a list of the other sections you’ll find on the domain overview report:

  • Keywords – SEMrush can grant you a deep view of your competitor’s SEO keywords. You can view their keywords by country, current traffic trend, rich snippet features, top organic keywords, and more.
  • Organic Research – The domain overview includes a mini-report of your competitor’s organic keywords. That includes their top keywords, position distribution, main organic competitors, branded traffic share, and so on.
  • Advertising Research – Just below the organic research section, you can do a deep analysis of the domain’s paid search presence. You can look at their top paid keywords, paid position distribution, main paid competitors, and some sample ads. 
  • Backlinks – The backlinks section contains a list of referring pages, anchor texts, linked URLs, and backlink types. SEMrush also identifies the domain’s top indexed pages, referring domains, and anchor texts. 
  • Display Advertising – The display advertising section can be found at the very bottom of the domain overview report. This contains information on the domain’s latest ad campaigns, like their publishers, advertised landing pages, and sample ads. 

Just like with SpyFu, SEMrush’s domain overview page contains links that will take you to even more data. 

For example, let’s say you want to check out a competitor’s top paid keywords. 

Scrolling down to “Advertising Research,” you need to look for the “Top Paid Keywords” panel. 

SEMrush Advertising Research
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To look at the entire keyword list, click ‘View details.’

This will take you to the “Advertising Research” page, which contains loads of information on your competitor’s top paid keywords. 

Advertising Research Full Details
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Long story short, the domain analysis features of SEMrush and SpyFu is like your launchpad.

They show you an overview of all the key data sections you may want to look at. More importantly, they can take you to more in-depth reports should you need a closer look.

SEMrush Domain Analysis Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.


4. Competitor Research

Competitor Research Showdown
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By now, you should already have an understanding of how SpyFu and SEMrush can be used for competitor research. 

You can use them to discover competitor keywords, look at your competitor’s backlink sources, and more. 

This time, let’s compare the full competitor research capabilities of SpyFu and SEMrush. 


SpyFu: The tool for SEO super spies

There’s a reason why SpyFu is called SpyFu. 

It is built from the ground up to be the ultimate competitor research tool. 

Here’s a quick recap of the SpyFu competitor research features we’ve already discussed:

  • Competitive keyword research
  • In-depth SERP analysis
  • Google Ads Advisor
  • Competitor domain analysis

With all that out of the way, let’s talk about the competitor research features we’ve missed. 


Checking your top organic competitors

You can use SpyFu to generate a timeline of the competition’s organic keyword rankings. 

To do this, go to the “SEO Research” page and click ‘Competitors.’

SpyFu Competitor SEO Research Tool
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This tool is designed to accomplish the following:

  • Find out which websites are considered your closest competitors
  • Identify new domains that are ranking for your keywords
  • Compare all competitors based on their keyword rankings and organic click-throughs

After entering a domain, SpyFu generates an interactive timeline that measures the SEO data of all related domains. 

SpyFu SEO Organic Keywords Timeline
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To the left, you’ll see the list of other competing domains that share the same common keywords.

If you entered a competitor’s domain earlier, add your domain via the “Compare custom domain” field above this list.

Add New Competitor Domain
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Moving on to the chart, SpyFu uses color-coded lines so you can quickly identify the most dominant website. 

You can move your mouse over the chart to see the exact numbers during a specific data collection date. 

Inspecting the SpyFu Competitor SEO Timeline
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Remember, you can also compare the domains according to their monthly clicks and estimated monthly traffic value. 

Simply click ‘View SEO Keywords,’ ‘View Monthly Clicks,’ and ‘View Monthly Value’ to load the right chart. 

How to Check Other Timeline Data on SpyFu
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If you want, you can also adjust the timeline’s date range from six months to “all time.” 

By default, the timeline’s date range is set to “one year.”

Competitor SEO Timeline Date Range
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The interactive timeline is a cool feature and all. But if you want to do some number-crunching, scroll down to the actual data table below. 

There, you’ll find useful metrics like their average monthly clicks, monthly value of clicks, and number of keywords.  

SpyFu Competitor Research SEO Data
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Great – you now know how to identify and compare your competitors. 

Once you have a list of your top competitors, you can now investigate them further using SpyFu. 


Using the “Kombat” tool to find keyword gaps and overlaps

“Kombat” is SpyFu’s version of SEMrush’s Keyword Gap tool. 

It’s also built to help you find shared and unique keywords among a group of domains. 

You can find Kombat on the “SEO Research” page. 

SpyFu Kombat Tool
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To use Kombat, start by entering your domain in the main search bar. 

SpyFu will automatically identify two competitors who share your target SEO keywords. However, you’re free to replace any of them with any of your top organic competitors. 

Kombat Tool Automatic Competitors
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Once the competitors are set, click ‘Fight’ to reload the report page. 

I know what you’re thinking – the diagram looks exactly like the keyword overlap chart from SEMrush. 

That’s because they represent the exact same data. 

Each sphere represents one competitor, while the overlapping areas represent their shared keywords. 

Overlapping Keywords Kombat Tool
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You can see a summary of the results to the right of the Kombat chart. 

Under “Overall Market Research,” you’ll see “Keyword Universe” and “Core Starting Keywords.”

Keyword Universe measures the total number of keywords that competitors rank for. “Core Starting Keywords,” on the other hand, measures the number of common keywords shared between them.

Kombat Tool Core Starting Keywords and Keyword Universe
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Clicking on either will update the list of keywords below. 

For example, if you want a master list of core target keywords, click ‘Core Starting Keywords.’

SpyFu will instantly refresh the keyword list along with basic metrics like search volume, CPC, and difficulty. 

Core Starting Keywords List
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That’s about it. 

Apart from “Keyword Universe” and “Core Starting Keywords,” you’ll find two additional keyword categories:

Kombat Tool Weakness and Exclusive Keyword Groups
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As you can see, these are target keywords specifically recommended by SpyFu.

“Weakness” keywords refer to those that your competitors already rank for, but you don’t. “Exclusive” keywords, however, refers to keywords that are unique to your domain. 

Overall, these recommendations would be a nice addition to your keyword master list. 

They include profitable keywords your missing, along with unique keyword opportunities you can build upon.


Utilizing the same competitor research methods for paid keywords

Keep in mind that SpyFu also lets you check your top competitors and use the Kombat tool for paid keywords. 

If you look at the “PPC Research” page, you’ll see the same tools right there. 

SpyFu PPC Research
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Naturally, using those tools for competitor research requires the same steps. 

The only difference is, SpyFu will now focus on paid keywords rather than organic keywords.

SpyFu PPC Research Report
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Dissecting your competitor’s backlink profile

Before we discuss SEMrush’s competitor research features, let’s back up a bit. 

Previously, I mentioned that SpyFu’s SERP and domain analysis tools don’t include backlink data.

What I didn’t say, however, is that they lack backlink analysis features altogether. 

If you go to the “Backlinks” page, you’ll see that SpyFu has two tools at your disposal:

SpyFu Backlink Analysis Tools
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First, let’s use SpyFu to spy on the backlink profile of a competitor.

All you have to do is type in their domain and run the search. It shouldn’t take long for SpyFu to generate a detailed list of their backlinks. 

SpyFu Backlink Analysis Backlink List
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Clicking a link will take you to the page where your competitor scored a backlink. Of course, you can use the metrics to the right to easily identify the best links.

You can also use the backlink filters above the results to quickly refine your list. 

Backlinks can be filtered according to type and the domains they link to. If you want, you may also filter out backlink sources that already link to you.

SpyFu Backlink Type Filters
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Done looking for potential backlink sources?

What makes SpyFu incredibly useful for link building is its built-in outreach tool. 

This is a huge deal, especially since organizing an outreach campaign usually requires multiple tools. 

SpyFu Backlink Outreach Tool
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So, how exactly does SpyFu’s backlinks outreach tool work?

After you find potential backlink sources, you can import those websites to extract their contact information. 

SpyFu Social Outreach Tool
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Contacts can come in the form of social media profiles, phone numbers, and emails. You can then manually approve the contacts you want to include in your outreach. 

With your contact list built up, you can use SpyFu to initiate and manage your relationships with them. Create their bios, engage them on social media, and track your outreach progress – all in one place.

Tracking Your Outreach with SpyFu
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That about sums up some of SpyFu’s best competitor research features. 

Just remember that everything within the SpyFu ecosystem of tools is designed to be used competitively. 

Whether you’re doing keyword research, domain analysis, or backlink analysis, SpyFu does it best if you start with competitors. 

SpyFu Competitor Research Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.


SEMrush: The SEO Swiss army knife

Just like SpyFu, most of SEMrush’s features can be used on competitors. 

Domain overview, Keyword Gap, organic research – these features can be used by entering a competitor’s domain. 

Aside from those three, here are a few more SEMrush tools that can help you spy on your competitor’s data: 


Exploring the market

To unload SEMrush’s “Competitive Research Toolkit,” expand the ‘Competitive Research’ sub-menu from the main dashboard. 

SEMrush Competitive Research Toolkit
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The menu should give away what SEMrush can do for competitor research.

First off, let’s take a look at ‘Market Explorer.’ 

SEMrush Market Explorer
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This tool works can give you a bird’s-eye view of any online niche just by entering a domain. 

For the sake of this guide, let’s move on from SEO companies and dive into the food blogging niche. 

To use the Market Explorer, type in a key competitor’s domain – perhaps Pinch of Yum would be a good candidate. 

SEMrush Pinch of Yum on Market Explorer
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Upon clicking ‘Research a market,’ SEMrush will give you a view of the industry like you’ve never seen before. 

At the top of the market overview, you’ll see the “Growth Quadrant.” 

This segments key competitors into four categories: game changers, leaders, niche players, and established players. 

Market Explorer Segments
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Curious what these categories mean? 

Here – let me describe them to you as briefly as possible: 

  • Game changers – These are new competitors that exhibit high growth potential. 
  • Leaders – These are high-growth websites that cater to a massive audience. 
  • Niche players – These are smaller websites that draw in a relatively smaller audience. 
  • Established players – Finally, these are websites that enjoy stable popularity and steady audience base. 

All in all, the Growth Quadrant is a great tool for performing a day-one analysis of the market. 

You can use your mouse to inspect the numbers and get a clearer comparison of the competitors. 

Market Explorer Competitor Data
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If you’d like a more profound comparison, head on down to the “Domain vs Market Dynamics” section. 

This is where Market Explorer really shines. 

First, you get to analyze the flow of traffic that goes to all competitors. 

Under “Share of Visits,” competitors are ranked according to their total traffic share. If needed, you can change the traffic type to direct, referral, search, social, and paid. 

Market Explorer Competitor Traffic Data
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To the right, you’ll find data that’s more focused on benchmarking the entered website against the competition. 

The “Total Traffic Trends” chart, for example, compares Pinch of Yum’s traffic with the overall market traffic. 

Total Traffic Trends
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Take note that you can always enter your own domain in Market Explorer. Doing so lets you benchmark your website’s performance against the competition. 

Below the traffic trends chart, you’ll see other areas of comparison, namely: 

  • Growth by Sources – Compares the entered domain’s traffic acquisition channels with that of the competition. 
  • Traffic Generation Strategy – A more recent review of the domain’s traffic acquisition strategies compared with competitors. 
  • Audience – An analysis of the domain’s audience demographics compared with competitors. 
Market Explorer Other Comparisons
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What can you do with all this data?

Plenty. 

For one, you can determine which traffic generation campaigns yield the best results for your competitors. This can help you fine-tune your marketing budget. 

Additionally, you can check if your audience matches the gender and age groups that the industry targets. 

You can learn more about your audience in the later sections of the report. 

For example, the “Geo Distribution” section will help you pinpoint where your competitors’ traffic comes from. 

Market Explorer Geo Distribution Data
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You can also check out the in-market audience’s interests.

This can help you come up with content topics that your target audience wants to read. If you’re still looking for a blog niche, this can help you decide if you’re entering the right one. 

Market Explorer Audience Interests
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Still not impressed with SEMrush’s Market Explorer? 

Bear in mind that we’ve only looked at features that come with a SEMrush subscription right out of the box. 

If you purchase the SEMrush Competitive Intelligence add-on, you’ll get access to these additional features:

  • Benchmarking – Compare your website’s audience, social media, traffic channels, and traffic generation strategies with competitors. 
  • Top Pages – Run a deep analysis of your competitor’s best-performing pages. 
  • Audience Insights – Analyze overlapping and unique audiences across competitors. 
  • All Domains – Get a complete list of all players in your industry – no exceptions. 

The downside is, purchasing the CI add-on will cost a whopping $200 per month. 

That’s why I only recommend getting it if you’re already an established blog with a steady stream of income.     


Analyzing your competitor’s backlink profile

SEMrush’s competitive research toolkit includes “Backlink Analytics.” 

In simple terms, it can give you a thorough look at any competitor’s backlink profile. 

SEMrush Backlink Analytics Report Page
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Take note that this is different from the backlink analytics report you’ll get from the domain analysis tool. 

Unlike the previous report, this one is structured to help you obtain ideas from your competitor’s link strategy. 

SEmrush Competitor Backlink Analytics Report
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I know – that’s a lot of information to take in. 

That said, I decided to just give you a quick summary of the report’s sections:

  • Referring Domains and Backlinks – Get an overview of your competitor’s referring domains and backlinks. You’ll also see the total number of new and lost backlinks over time. 
  • Categories of Referring Domains – Understand the type of websites that give your competitor quality backlinks. This will help you build a profile of websites you should target in your link building strategy. 
  • Top Anchors – Easily recognize the top anchor texts of your competitor’s backlinks. These anchors can be branded, keyword-optimized, or empty – helping you come up with link-worthy content ideas.
  • Referring Domains by Authority Score – Group your competitor’s backlink sources by their Authority Score. Do this to tweak the quality of backlinks you should build to outrank your competitor. 
  • Backlink Types and Attributes – Get to know how your competitor likes to build their links. Apart from the link type, you can also identify attributes like follow, no-follow, sponsored, and user-generated.
  • TLD Distribution – Determine the TLD types of domains that link to your competitor. Use this information to plan if you should target “.com,” “.org,” “.gov,” or “.edu” domains.
  • Top Countries – Learn which country your competitor gets their links from. Again, this will help you build a profile of your prospective link sources. 
  • Link Profile Distribution – SEMrush can show you the ratio of referring domains to referring IP addresses and subnets. A high ratio may indicate a low-quality backlink profile due to the possibility of artificially-made links.
  • Similar Profiles – This handy little widget lets you identify other domains that have a similar backlink profile. SEMrush detects similar domains based on common referring domains and backlink properties. 
  • Top Pages – Lastly, SEMrush will present you with a list of pages from your competitor’s domain that has the most referring domains. You can analyze these pages to find out what makes a link-worthy page in your industry. 

Discovering untapped link opportunities using the Backlink Gap tool

SEMrush’s Backlink Gap tool uses the same principles as its Keyword Gap tool. 

It lets you compare your backlink profile with four other competitors to identify potential link sources you should be targeting.

SEMrush Backlink Gap Tool
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To use the Backlink Gap tool, just enter the domains of your competitors in the “Add domain” fields. 

Click ‘Find prospects’ to generate a list of prospective sources of high-quality links for your blog. 

Backlink Gap Find Prospects
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In addition to the referring pages, SEMrush will also show you relevant page metrics. These will help you prioritize prospective sources that can give you the best links in terms of quality. 

You can also use this report to look for lost backlinks you can potentially “steal” from competitors. 

The strategy is simple: review your competitor’s content, create something better, and inform the referring domain about the lost link. 

Prospective link sources should thank you for letting them know about it. 

After all, a broken backlink can ruin the experience of their readers. By pointing out broken links to website owners, you’ll get an opportunity to claim a link for yourself. 


Leveraging brand monitoring to stay ahead of the curve

The Brand Monitoring tool is SEMrush’s proprietary listening tool. 

It involves monitoring the web for mentions of any brand – be it on social media, forums, or other websites. 

Brand Monitoring Tool by SEMrush
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To use the Brand Monitoring tool, just enter your competitor’s brand name and domain. 

After clicking ‘Set up,’ you’ll get a chance to add or exclude keywords from the tracker. You can also specify one country for monitoring brand mentions.

Brand Monitoring Tool Setup Page
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Of course, you’re free to set up a brand monitoring campaign for your own website. 

This will give you the following advantages:

  • Connect with prospective leads the minute they mention your brand
  • Respond to reviews and opinions regarding your brand
  • Easily spot user-generated content you can feature on your blog
  • Identify false information that may be spread by dirty competitors

Now – going back to the Brand Monitoring tool.

SEMrush will then show you a list of all detected brand mentions during a specified date range. 

For example, here’s one mention for Neil Patel between October 15, 2020 and January 13, 2021: 

Neil Patel Brand Mention
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Below are some of the details you’ll learn about each mention:

  • Post Date and Time – SEMrush can obtain the exact date and time when the brand mention was made. 
  • Domain Authority Score – You can use SEMrush’s Authority Score metric to single out the biggest websites that mentioned your competitor.
  • Traffic – The Brand Monitoring tool rates the traffic each domain gets from low to high. 
  • Estimated Reach – This value is the estimated number of people that could have seen the brand mention.

By monitoring the web for your competitors’ brand mentions, you’re always a step ahead whenever they try something different. 

Before we wrap up this section, let’s go over a few more features of the Brand Monitoring tool:

  • Use filters to look for brand mentions that match your specific criteria – You can filter brand mentions according to metrics like estimated reach, domain Authority Score, and domain traffic. If applicable, you can also filter out brand mentions in a specific language. 
  • Filter brand mentions according to user sentiment – SEMrush allows you to filter brand mentions according to user sentiment. That means you can look for mentions wherein users are happy with a brand, or the complete opposite. 
  • Immediately send domains to your link building tool – In a lot of cases, you’d want to add a domain that mentioned your competitors to your link building campaign. SEMrush lets you do this with just a few clicks.

SEMrush Competitor Research Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.


The Verdict

Still with me?

You’re probably having a really tough time deciding between SpyFu and SEMrush. 

Before we declare the winner, always remember that there’s no right or wrong answer here.

Like with anything in life, you need to consider the unique circumstances in every situation. The same applies when you’re about to make an important investment in your blogging career. 

Without further ado, let’s look at the scoreboard:


1. Usability

Usability Winner
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SpyFu: 4.5 stars

SEMrush: 4 stars

While SEMrush is by no means a difficult tool, SpyFu beats it by a small margin in terms of usability. The navigation, tools, site performance – every factor that can affect the user experience is spot-on. 

The winner of this round is SpyFu


2. Keyword Research 

Keyword Research Winner
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SpyFu: 4 stars

SEMrush: 5 stars

I believe that looking at your competitors’ keywords is still the best way to do keyword research. 

SpyFu can do competitor keyword research really well. SEMrush, on the other hand, can do that and a whole lot more. 

It has a bigger database, comes packed with more features, and has a robust SERP analysis tool baked in. 

The winner of this round is SEMrush.


3. Domain Analysis 

Domain Analysis Winner
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SpyFu: 5 stars

SEMrush: 5 stars

Both SpyFu and SEMrush are at the top of their game when it comes to domain analysis. 

SEMrush has a complete set of tracking tools that will feed you everything you need to know about a domain. SpyFu, in turn, can turn in-depth competitor data into readable numbers like estimated monthly ad budget and SEO click value. 

This round is a draw


4. Competitor Research

Competitor Research Winner
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SpyFu: 5 stars

SEMrush: 5 stars

It’s no secret that SpyFu’s competitor research capabilities are top of the line. However, they’re far from outclassing SEMrush’s own set of competitive research tools.

In fact, I’d argue that their competitive research capabilities are just about even. 

This round is also a draw.


Which one should you choose?

Full disclosure: I originally wanted to compare SpyFu and SEMrush’s extra features. 

If that happened, SEMrush’s bigger library of tools will definitely demolish SpyFu’s. 

But then, I remembered that SpyFu costs around a third of the price of SEMrush’s entry-level plan. 

Of course, the more expensive platform should bring more features to the table. 

In the end, I decided to leave you with these takeaways: 

  • Both tools are worth your money – In terms of the price-to-performance ratio, SpyFu is equal to SEMrush. You won’t go wrong with either.
  • SpyFu is perfect for new bloggers – Not only is SpyFu cheap, it also has all the SEO tools every new blogger will need. It’s lightweight enough for one person, but powerful enough to help a new blog make a dent in their niche. 
  • SEMrush is a better option for big blogs – SEMrush is a fully decked out platform that’s best used by a team with different priorities. While possible, it will be hard for a solo blogger to squeeze the full value out of SEMrush. 

Conclusion

Let’s get one thing straight: 

I am a huge fan of SEMrush.

However, I’m also aware that it’s not a tool for everyone. 

The same goes for SpyFu, which focuses on competitor research.

Your choice should ultimately depend on what you require to accomplish your blogging goals.

If you want an all-around platform and have a reasonable budget, go with SEMrush. But if you want to save time and utilize your competitors’ data in your decision-making, go with SpyFu. 

For further questions, feedback, and suggestions for the next article, write it down below.

Cheers!


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AUTHOR

Ankit Singla

Ankit Singla

Ankit Singla is a full-time blogger and founder of Master Blogging. You can learn more about him at Master Blogging about page. If you have any questions or comments for him, just send an email or leave a comment!

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BLOG CONTENT WRITING CHALLENGES REPORT

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Intense report on blog content writing challenges and easiest ways to overcome them in record time!!!

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