Can you think of a time in your life where something unexpected challenged you? For example, if you played sports growing up, chances are you were familiar with your competition and their strengths, but were you ever surprised by a competitor? Did they ever play unexpectedly well, or did you simply underestimate their ability?

If you think about it long enough, chances are that you’ve experienced unexpected, fierce competitors in your life.

In your professional life, this same phenomenon takes place. You might think about your competitors as the people that sell similar products/services, but this view isn’t comprehensive—especially when it comes to your online competition. After all, your online competitors might be completely different than the traditional list of competitors that comes to mind.

So, how do you learn about these online competitors so you can overcome them? Well, you can go Bond, James Bond. Seriously, you’ll need to do a little bit of secret agent work to get the inside scoop.

Luckily for you—and your criminal record—this recon mission doesn’t need to include peeking through any windows or trespassing on any properties. Instead, you can take advantage of the latest and coolest spy tools …

Below, you’ll find four of my favorite tools for spying on your fiercest online competitors. Once you understand these tools and how to use them correctly, you’ll improve your business and become a candidate for the prestigious International Marketing Spy Museum.

Full disclosure: the International Marketing Spy Museum is something that I made up for shock value. (Sorry!)

1) iSpionage

iSpionage can provide you with a lot of useful marketing information, but one of the most important things it is used for is identifying keyword gaps. When your keywords are disjointed, it’s harder for customers to find you.

If you feel like you’re using the right keywords but somehow you aren’t getting the right customers to your website, you’re probably suffering from a keyword gap.

To fix this, you’ll need to review your marketing data to understand your contemporary gaps and determine the keywords you should use. In the past, you might have used Adwords to view this data, but today, you can also use iSpionage. In addition to providing you with information about your keyword gaps, it’ll help you understand contemporary top keywords, advertisements and landing pages concurrently.

Pretty awesome, right?

2) SpyFu

One of the greatest tools you can use to start improving your marketing efforts is SpyFU. This tool helps you find the best keywords for your company.

When you use this platform, you’ll start by typing a competitor’s name into the search bar. Here, you don’t necessarily need to worry if they’re an overall competitor or simply an online competitor—either will give you an effective understanding of how the tool works.

As soon as you enter your competitor’s URL, the tool will provide you with an overview about your competitor. For example, it’ll tell you how many keywords your competitor ranks on. It’ll also provide you with various estimations, like your competitor’s potential monthly advertising budget.

You might find this free report to be all-consuming, and if you’re not a trained online advertising professional, it can be a bit confusing. To help alleviate this unfamiliarity, SpyFu has useful drop-downs that can help you make sense of the information you see.

3) Quick Sprout

This might feel like déjà vu at first, but stick with me.

To start using Quick Sprout, navigate to their website and type one of your competitor’s URL’s into their search bar. After you enter their information and click the “Analyze website,” button, your search’s response page will populate.

From here, you’re ready to start analyzing the data it provides. One of the most useful pieces of information it will show you is how your competitors’ sites are performing. With this in mind, you can devise a plan for outranking them.

Quick Sprout is also an extremely useful tool when it comes to generating more traffic to your blog. According to HubSpot, making blogging a top marketing priority will give you a 13x positive ROI. To help you achieve these returns, Quick Sprout provides several pieces of blogging advice and information, like why SEO is becoming less important.

Simply put, if you’re ready to spy on your fiercest competitors and start outperforming them—especially when it comes to blogging—Quick Sprout will be an invaluable tool.

4) SEMrush

If you’re currently running a campaign that you’d like to evaluate, SEMrush is a very helpful tool. Overall, this platform will help you with four things: keyword research, competitor research, site audit and backlink analysis.

In real time, this tool will provide you with keyword data and competitive insights you can use to help improve your campaigns. Overall, this tool is rather similar to SpyFu, but it’s real-time keyword feature is specifically beneficial for active campaign optimization.

Additionally, SEMrush is advantageous because it allows its users to track information about their competitors’ Facebook advertising.

Wrapping Things Up

As an adult, it’s generally not acceptable to act like a kid. If you start doing some online advertising recon, though, you don’t have to completely abandon your secret agent games …

Leave your binoculars and two-way radios at home, but familiarize yourself will all of the great online marketing spy gear that exists. I’ve outlined four must-know platforms above, but there’s many more out there.

The only way to really familiarize yourself with the online marketing spying options is to spend time researching them and their purposes. From there, you can decide which ones you should use to improve your efforts in the most effective way possible.

Oh, and before I forget … If the whole spy thing isn’t for you—or if you simply don’t have enough time to become a 007 in online advertising—you can reach out to a digital marketing agency for help.

Some of them are so good at what they do, they have their own sections in the International Marketing Spy Museum. (Well, they would, if it were a real place.)

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