I wish we knew everything there was to know about business and could make the right decision at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, that’s wishful thinking and won’t get you far. Instead, we have to research and experiment.
But, why start from scratch when there are people who’ve gone before you. In other words, why not stand on the shoulders of giants? In this case, the giants are established competitors who do marketing, customer service, and other things well. The problem is that they’re not going to give you the step-by-step guide to their strategies.
You’ll have to get creative. In this guide, you’ll learn about 8 competitive research tools that’ll help you dissect competitor campaigns and grow your business as a result. Let’s dive in.
Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our comparisons and recommendations. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.
Best competitor research tools
Semrush is a competitive research tool that’s geared towards organic and paid search marketing. It has multiple tools wrapped into one and you can drill down into organic keywords a competitor is ranking for, the estimated search traffic, total number of organic keywords, and even the paid search positions and keywords.
There’s a neat feature that tells you whether the keyword that’s being ranked for is commercial informational, navigational, etc. This will help you understand where to apply your energy and what kind of return to expect.
- Backlink tracking
- Organic search volume estimates
- Organic keyword tracking
- Paid keyword tracking
- Performance over time (since 2012)
- Organic traffic distribution by country
- Website audits
- Market research and trend comparison
- Search intent analysis
- Sample ads from paid marketing
- Top pages by links
- Audience insights
- Limited free plan
- Keyword research
- So much more
- It is a complex tool that will take most users a considerable amount of time to master.
- Can only log in from one place at a time (will kick you if you’re on desktop and mobile)
It has three pricing tiers which are:
Buzzsumo does competitor research a bit differently than Semrush. It focuses on the social aspects of content to determine who the best candidates for collaboration are. Conversely, you can use the information to find a new angle to write content around.
I’d say It’s ideal if you want promotional partners or have keywords you’re targeting and want to figure out the angle to use or the channel you want to promote it on. You just type in a domain name or a keyword and find the most shared content related to the topic or website.
It also does social monitoring based on a list of competitors you submit or keywords. When those terms are mentioned, you’ll get an alert which will allow you to act quickly.
- Social media share count for domains and keywords
- Keyword mention monitoring on major social channels
- Discover trending topics
- Find top influencers on each channel that are relevant to you
- Basic backlink analysis
- API to build on top of the platform
- YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook tracking
- The backlink analysis misses a lot of backlinks
Ahrefs is one of my favorite competitive research tools and has a clear emphasis on SEO and content marketing. It has similar features to Semrush such as backlink tracking, organic keywords tracking, paid search tracking, content analysis, etc.
Like other advanced marketing tools, there is a pretty steep learning curve and it’s easy to miss some of the advanced features. The good news is that they have a comprehensive blog and YouTube channel that’ll teach you how to make the most of the platform.
- Backlink tracking
- Backlink analysis
- Organic keyword tracking and monitoring
- Keyword research via multiple search engines
- New and lost backlink reports
- Estimated organic traffic
- Paid advertising analysis
- Estimated traffic value
- Site audits
- Content research
- Best performing pages
- Much more
- Like other advanced tools, it’s expansive and has a steep learning curve
- Has very few integrations with other services
It has four pricing plans plus a custom enterprise plan.
4. Facebook (Meta) Ads Library
When Facebook first started getting crucified by the media and individuls for its data mining practices and apathy towards protecting users, it needed to make a change. One of those changes was introducing the Facebook Ads Library.
This is a collection of all the Facebook pages on the platform that are running ads. You can see the entire ad and when it was created. Of course, the longer an ad is running, the more effective it is at generating revenue for the company so that’s something to keep in mind.
It’s free to access and can reveal a lot of insights about what competitors are doing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t share information about targeting so that’s something to take into consideration when you’re looking at the ads of your competitors.
Similarweb is a competitive analysis tool that lets you peek into multiple aspects of a website’s performance. It gives general information such as how many employees there are, where it’s based, etc. Additionally, it’ll share how much web traffic it’s getting and where the traffic is coming from.
You can then dive into each channel. For example, you can see the social media platforms sending traffic and in what percentages. You can figure out the best referring domains. Even the keywords sending traffic are revealed.
One of my favorite uses of Similarweb is figuring out the top players in a niche. If you enter a domain, it’ll bring back a section of competitors. From there, it’s just a matter of following the trail until you’ve mapped out the major players in a niche.
- Display ad insights
- Referral traffic insights
- Social traffic insights
- Search engine traffic insights
- Basic backlink analysis
- Basic keyword analysis
- Top competitors
- Audience insights
- The data can be off by an order of magnitude in many cases
- The tool can be complex to use
Their pricing tiers are not public so you’ll need to contact them to get custom pricing.
Mention is a suite of tools that allows you to stay on top of the pulse of the business landscape as relates to your brand and competitors. It accomplishes this by allowing you to track mentions of specific brands or keywords across multiple social platforms and websites. Mention claims it monitors over 1 billion sources a day.
You can set up powerful alerts based on specific criteria that matter to you and narrow down the kind of results you get using different operators. It’s social listening tools allow you to create better social content by analyzing performance across multiple platforms. With the insights you gain, you’ll be able to publish to your social accounts directly from Mention.
- Social media analytics
- Website monitoring
- Create custom alerts
- Social media publishing
- Categorize mentions based on importance
- Respond to mentions that appear in your social media feeds hosted on Mention
- Powerful content calendar
- Can miss important mentions if you’re unable to set up searches correctly (which can be complex)
- Lacking many third party integrations
Mention has a free plan for solo creators or small brands. There are three paid plans and a custom enterprise plan.
- $29/m Solo
- $99/m Pro
- $199/m ProPlus
At its core, Sproutsocial is a social media marketing tool. It lets you publish to various social platforms and, of course, get analytics about how social posts are performing. Those are nice features but they’re not relevant to competitor research.
For that, Sproutsocial offers social listening tools. You’re able to monitor industry topics, topics related to competitors, or competitors themselves. With those insights, you can jump into conversations about competitors as they’re happening, understand what your competitors are doing (both right and wrong), and lead the conversation in the right direction.
- Social publishing
- Social analytics
- Social media monitoring
- Analytics related to monitoring and engagement
- Consumer research
- It is more expensive than many comparable social media platforms.
- Certain social media platforms get logged out regularly.
Sproutsocial has three pricing plans which are divided based on the number of users and features available.
- Standard $99/m/user
- Professional $169/m/user
- Advanced $279/m/user
Moz is a competitor to Ahrefs and Semrush but the data isn’t as robust when it comes to the core SEO aspects which is why it has a lower position on the list. With that being said, you can still glean a lot of competitive insights from the platform and make decisions that’ll drive your brand forward.
It’s divided into multiple products like Moz Pro, Moz Local, and Moz STAT. We’re focused on Moz Pro as that’s the core SEO suite. It lets you dissect the backlink profile of competitors, research keywords, understand how strong their domain is, run website audits, and otherwise stay on top of your SEO and the SEO of competitors.
- Rank tracking
- Spam score
- MOZ DA
- Site auditing
- Link tracking
- Page optimization recommendations
- Link prospecting
- It’s data seems to be a bit slower or dated at times when compared to Semrush or Ahrefs
- The platform can be complex for beginners
Pricing has moved custom but it used to display pricing as $99/m, $179/m, and $299/m.
Whether you’re actively looking to understand what your competitors are doing or you just want to make the right decisions sooner – competitor research tools are essential.
They’ll quickly give you a baseline of understanding about what works well in your niche and what doesn’t. From there, you can quickly devise strategies ranging from customer acquisition to long-term engagement.
The tool you eventually choose will depend on what your goals are. IF you’re interested in organic search traffic or paid search traffic then something like Ahrefs or Semrush would be ideal. If you’re leaning towards social media ads or organic then Buzzsumo and Facebook Ads Library are good choices.
Let me know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to share the post.
Daniel Ndukwu is the CoFounder of Growth Boost and the Founder of KyLeads. He brings extensive digital marketing experience to the table and enjoys helping people on their entrepreneurial journey. When not creating internet-first brands, he spends as much time as he can with his family.