By: SpyFu, Inc.
SpyFu is a keyword research tool which helps you find all the information you are supposed to know when it comes to keywords related to your domains. The company is based in Arizona, US and has been in action since 2005.
Getting a website in top pages of search results and improving its SEO ranking are far more difficult tasks as compared to creating a good quality website. The battle only begins when you create a website.
Keyword research tools turn out to be the most potent weapons in this battle. They provide the user with all the necessary and filtered information so that he can go about jumping ranks in search results.
SpyFu is one such tool which helps you in keyword research and a bit more. It comes with a lot of features which are supposed to help you feature your domain in top search results.
It can be used both for SEO management as well as PPC campaigns. This review will take you through the ins and outs of all features available on this tool.
As the name suggests, it involves comparisons and monitoring of top rankers, and we will how good of a spy it is.
When one talks about keyword research, it is not just numbers which matter, but their quality matters as well. We will tell you if you can trust the numbers provided by SpyFu.
We will put it against more popular products such as SEMRush to find out if it can be a worthy alternative. You will get to know everything about SpyFu which matters, and possibly learn a few things about keyword research.
Research tools are all based on data. These numbers give you an insight into what’s happening around your landscape.
There are numbers for reach, money spent, ads placed, backlinks, etc. But from where do they get all this data. Are their sources credible? And can you blindly rely on numbers they throw at you?
Well, there is no straightforward answer to all these questions at once. According to them, they derive their data from two sources.
The first data source for them are the millions of searches they do every month. They search for as many keywords as they can, and then save the top results for both ads and SEO data.
They even claim to keep a record of all this search data. You will realize in further sections of this review that SpyFu specializes in competitor analysis for PPC and other relevant fields.
Since they dig out most of this data themselves, it is reliable, and users tend to benefit a lot from it.
However, SpyFu hasn’t got a pristine reputation of providing users with pinpoint accurate data. It is one of their significant criticisms.
They agree that they are not always correct and blame Google Keyword Planner for this. All other stats and numbers available on SpyFu come from Google Keyword Planner.
They mention how Google does not always show accurate data, and then those differences end showing up on their platform.
They also explain how one can still use this information even though it might not be accurate at all. The user needs to compare original and SpyFu stats for his own domain.
It will point out any existing discrepancies and their scale as well. Once you know where these differences exist, you can always factor them into future results.
We know this extra step does not sound pleasing at all, but this is the best solution to stay on track if you want to continue using SpyFu.
They still present reliable data for ads. And if you ever feel them being wrong in other areas, you have at least got a way to crosscheck information.
We feel there isn’t much of an issue with the credibility of information if one wants to continue using SpyFu.
One should keep in mind that all data can be sorted into two categories only, that is, the US and UK.
SpyFu comes with tons of features and tools. There are so many of them that it can get overwhelming for some users, and they may end up with no clue as to how to use this tool.
But, the service provider has a very simple solution to this issue. One can ignore everything else available on this tool and simply add in a domain name in the search bar.
It can be your personal domain, your competitor’s domain name, or you can even type in any arbitrary popular domain to test out the water.
Once you press enter, you will feel as if you have opened a treasure chest of information. Data is indeed a valuable commodity these days, and SpyFyu will present some serious value to you in its overview section.
It is arranged into various sections and sub-sections which makes it easier to comprehend this mountain of information. Let us go through these sections and see how they can be useful for us.
This section is mostly about the performance of organic and paid keywords on the website. Organic keywords are those which one includes in various sections of pages and site to attract more traffic related to that keyword.
Various SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques are used to first find, and then strategically employ such words on the website to get more traffic.
Using organic keywords is a reliable and effective way to make a website rank higher on search engines, but it requires a lot of effort and patience as well.
Paid keywords are those which are deemed so popular and useful that webmasters are ready to spend some money to get placed on top of results for these keywords.
It requires some significant analysis to choose these keywords as well.
This section will compare the number of organic and paid keywords on the website, and give you an estimated value of traffic that these words may bring. They even determine a monthly budget for both kinds of keywords.
There is a graphical comparison of both types to keywords so that you can easily tell which one is dominating over the other. They will also tell you about how many of these keywords are present on the first page of search results.
You can click on most of the information panels in this section, and they will give you more in-depth insights about that stat. For instance, you can click on the box for either of these keywords and SpyFu will take you to another section where you can analyze specific keywords.
We will discuss those other sections in later parts of this review.
The current panel can tell you about how much your competitors are focusing on a particular category of keywords, and if your domain has a good balance of organic and paid keywords.
It is totally up to you as to how you use this information.
This domain will show all top domains which are competing with the domain under consideration.
These competitors have again been sorted into two groups. One group is of those who are competing over organic keywords, and others are those who are competing over paid keywords.
You may come across some new competitors in this section. If you were analyzing your competitor already, you might want to make sure your domain is in this list.
You can choose to see the complete list of competitors for a keyword category of you can choose to see stats of one of the domains in the list.
If you click on any domain under organic keyword category, you will be redirected to its SEO overview, and if you choose one from the paid keyword list, you will be redirected to its PPC overview.
SEO overview focuses on organic keywords, and PPC overview has paid keywords at its core.
Once you are aware of your competition, you get introduced to so many new strategies which your competitors might be using. One should consider it as an excellent opportunity to learn new things.
This is the most graphic as well as interesting sections among all. It shows how top domains are competing over keywords.
It shows what percentage of keywords are exclusive to a domain and what percentage is common for two or all them. As it has been a trend in previous sections, these stats will be available separately for organic as well as paid keywords.
You will want to make sure that your domain includes those keywords which are common among your competitors, but you don’t use them.
Similarly, if one of your competitors is very successful and have a lot more exclusive keywords than you, then you may want to tap into that resource as well.
‘Weakness’ for organic keywords and ‘Buy Recommendations’ for paid keywords are those which your competitors are using for better ranks but not so active on yours.
You can get deeper into this section and diversify your research by including other domains for comparisons.
It is simple enough to go through this one. It lists out your top organic and paid keywords with their relevant stats.
Organic keywords come with an estimated number of clicks they bring on a website every month. The data shown against paid keywords are CPC (Cost Per Click) and monthly cost one needs to bear in order to rank on top of search results.
You can directly add these keywords in your campaign if you were going through a rival’s domain and that keyword does not have a lot of emphasis on your domain.
These two sections are more inclined towards the PPC side of things.
Adwords Advisor will tell you what keywords are likely to make you more successful as your competitors are using them.
It is not necessary that if your competitors are investing in a keyword, then it will be useful for you as well. But if they have been investing in it for long enough and if most of them are bidding on it, then it may be a wise decision for you to invest in it.
Adwords History shows different Adword investments made by domain under consideration. They include screenshots for your reference as well.
SpyFu is very proud of ad data they avail to users, and screenshots seem to be their way of emphasizing the same fact.
Unlike the previous two sections, this section is focused on SEO.
It displays a graph with information about how the website has been ranking for various keywords over the past months and year.
The graph makes it easy to identify the trends in rank and tell if SEO strategies are working the way they are supposed to be.
It can tell you if others are growing faster or slower than you. You can identify where things went wrong or what decisions thrust website up in rankings.
You can apply this graph for individual keywords and use various filters as well.
This section may excite managers and marketers a lot. Backlinks are essential for building up a site’s reputation and ranking on search engines.
You can see all the backlinks associated with a domain in this section. One can find out backlinks across domains of rivals and end up with a vast database of new possible connections.
These backlinks come with some detailed metrics which help one categorize them under various parameters.
As we move on to other sections on SpyFu, you will notice that all of them are detailed versions of subsections already available in this overview section. It encompasses the majority of features and tools available on SpyFu.
Let us try to learn through some examples as to how one can use this keyword research tool to achieve various goals related to SEO and PPC.
Some people may consider it cutting corners when we talk about keeping an eye on keywords that your competing domains are using to get better ranks.
But instead of considering it as something unethical, one should think of it as proper harvesting of abundant information available on the internet.
The name SpyFu may suggest that these people are doing some eyebrow-raising activities to bring in so much information about ad activities of others. In reality, it is nothing but gathering available information on the internet and using it to rank better on search engines.
You can compare both SEO and PPC keywords of your competitors using Kombat. This feature shows a comparison of the use of keywords between any three domains you want.
You can use it to compare your website with others or even see a comparison between your top rivals.
Let us take an example to showcase how it can be useful in various cases.
Suppose, you want to start a PPC campaign from scratch. One way to start this journey will be to begin researching various keywords in your niche and evaluating their ROIs.
It may take too long to do this research if your campaign is new. You will not have a lot of experience to get new ideas, and the market is always too big for detailed research.
This is where you can make use of Kombat and get some valuable data in a short period.
You will first need to identify top players in your niche, which is not a very difficult task on SpyFu. You can then take any three of these competitors and enter them in Kombat of PPC research section.
The application will give you a thorough comparison of how these three domains are using keyword. You always have the option to include or exclude your domain from this comparison.
It will show you the distribution of keywords exclusive to these sites as well as the ones which are common between two and all three of them.
You can take advantage of these common keywords and get a solid base to start your PPC campaign. The reasons you should have these keywords in your campaign are simple.
Firstly, these keywords are being used by most popular websites in their niche, which means these keywords must be having some role in the success of the sites.
Secondly, these websites have been using these keywords for a long time. One can be wrong at times and make some bad investments. But if these websites have been continuously paying to get top ranks for these keywords, then it can mean only one thing. These keywords help them attract more traffic.
There is no reason as to why you should not have these keywords in your PPC campaign. You can get hundreds and thousands of these keywords for your PPC campaign almost instantly.
You can use Kombat for more than just for PPC campaigns. With the click of a button, you can switch the emphasis from paid keywords to organic keywords which have a lot of relevance for SEO.
It will be a similar comparison of keyword usage, but this time, the keywords will not be paid ones. Instead, it will show you those which have been accommodated in SEO techniques of these domains.
One can again use the same logic to find new keywords for SEO as we just did for our PPC campaign. You can put some emphasis on those keywords which are being used by most of your competitors and include them in your SEO considerations.
You can choose to view the keywords present in any of the classes shown in Kombat analysis. There is an option to export selected few or all of them in different file formats. You can export them into an excel file and directly paste them in your campaigns and other places when needed.
Kombat shows some stats against individual keywords which can help you get things into perspective and give you a clue about how much effort or money it will cost you to get top ranks for these keywords.
We have already explained how they suggest relevant keywords as ‘Buy recommendations’ and ‘Weakness’ depending upon your research perspective.
Kombat can help you ensure that you never miss out on any popular keywords in your industry and niche by telling you what others are using.
We just witnessed how one can benefit from information about his competitors. Such information is especially useful for you if you or your client has a relatively new domain.
If you don’t even know your competitors, then SpyFu can help you in this case as well. You can discover new websites which are working with similar keywords and in the same niche as you.
There is a Competitors tab in both SEO Research and PPC Research panels. You can enter your domain in this section or one of your competitors’ domain to discover how well they are doing.
You will get timelines about lots of stuff depending on whether you are monitoring them under PPC Research or SEO Research. It will be up to you how you use all this literature to get yourself on top of search engine rankings.
The charts will show stats about top competitors by default. You can remove the ones you don’t want to see in the results and include ones of your liking as well.
The timelines will show you the number of SEO and PPC keywords these websites have been using for years. How many clicks they received for it, and what are values of these clicks.
You can monitor any sudden growths and falls in charts to learn the dos and don’ts of the industry. Other features on SpyFu such as Ad History can assist you in such cases.
One cannot emphasize enough the importance of keyword research when it comes to search engine marketing.
Some people confuse it with finding the most searched terms on the internet. We cannot call them completely wrong, but that is just a part of what that analysis is.
There is no point of getting loads of traffic on your site if you cannot convert it into sales or any other beneficial form. One needs to do some thorough keyword research to find their targeted audience and to let their audience discover them.
A good keyword for your PPC campaign will be one which specifically targets your ideal customers, is not highly contested by others, and is able to bring in sufficient traffic. Interestingly, a perfect keyword for someone’s SEO campaign will have essentially the same qualities.
SpyFu has a dedicated section for keyword research where you can find the best keywords for both your SEO and PPC goals. It serves you with a lot of information when you type in a keyword, and it is again up to you how well you use all this information.
You can get information ranging from related keywords to who are using that particular keyword to achieve top ranks in the search history.
This section is somewhat similar to the domain overview section we went through in earlier parts of this review. The only difference being that it was for domains, and this one is for keywords.
When you enter a word which you need to be at the core of your research, it will serve you a lot of information about it on a platter.
You can see local and global search numbers for that word, the click-through rate, its ranking difficulty, CPC, monthly cost, etc. You can see how many advertisers are using it, and how many of the top 50 ranking websites use it on their homepage.
All this information serves as an excellent base to start away with research. It would’ve been even more relevant to you if you are already using it or planning to use it for your domain.
However, the first word you enter while doing some keyword research is not necessarily the best one. The way you carry out keyword research depend mostly on your end goals.
That goal can be to bring in more traffic on your website, or it may be to attract users with intent so that you can achieve more sales. The next sub-sections in keyword research cater to these specific needs of users.
This is where you may spend most of your time while doing keyword research on this application. You will get hundreds of keywords based on the one you entered at the beginning.
There will be long tail keywords, keywords with intent, keywords which everyone is using, keywords which no one is using, etc. You can consider this collection of keywords as your haystack where you need to find one or many of those gems of keywords.
But unlike conventional haystacks, this one comes with a lot of tools which will help you to chop off and eliminate the irrelevant sections. Once you reduce the sample space, the job will become so much easier.
You can sort these related keywords based on their cost per month, SEO difficulty, number of advertisers using them, click through rate, search volume, etc.
Most of these filters are easy to understand and mean what they say. But there are some like SEO difficulty which may ask for an extra bit of attention from you.
It is a scale between 1 to 100, which indicates how difficult will it be to get in the top results by using the keyword. If you are planning to include that keyword in your SEO methods, then you will want that score to be low.
Such scores should only be considered in relative terms as making meaning out of absolute numbers on these scores will make things complicated.
You get the option to set custom ranges for all these scores and numbers which will help you shorten the long list.
There is only so much that these numbers can do for you though. Once you get a subset of possible keywords after applying appropriate filters, it will boil down to your understanding of your needs and how customers think.
For instance, we used ‘credit card’ as a keyword to start our research. If suggested keywords including ‘credit card score’ and ‘get credit cards’ in results, then it will be up to us to decide which one will give us better results.
If you were looking for a keyword to fit in your PPC campaign, then you may be interested in knowing how well that keyword performed for others.
Ranking history will show how various websites jumped between top-ranking positions by using this keyword in their PPC campaign.
It will give you a good idea as to how much of a sustained improvement you can expect in ranks after including a particular keyword in your campaign.
There are additional filters which show you top gainers and top losers as well.
We all know that a single keyword can never be enough for a website to get in top search results over a long period. Other related keywords need to be involved in the equation as well.
Getting such an optimized keyword is no easy task. This is when you can go through advertiser history and find out what other keywords are being used by advertisers.
It will give you so much more information about other ads which have been doing well for these advertisers. As we discussed in earlier sections of this review, it is a great idea to find out keywords through sources which have been doing well for a long time.
Creating a significant number of good quality backlinks is critical to better ranking of your website for search results. A lot of factors contribute to the quality of a backlink such as the relevancy of site linking to yours, its strength, etc.
It is difficult to find sites which have a good reputation, are related to your keyword, and agree to create backlinks to your site. The whole process of backlinking requires a lot of effort and time, but a website with quality backlinks can experience an exponential increase in traffic and a positive growth in search result rankings as well.
You can find tools which specialize in finding the best backlinks for you and some of them are astonishingly good at their jobs. SpyFu isn’t one of those specialized tools, but it has got some tricks up its sleeves which will get the job done for a good part of your backlinking campaign.
It gives you options to find backlinks based on keywords as well as domains. When you add a keyword in the backlink section, it will serve you with domains which are already providing backlinks related to your keyword and niche.
This data comes with a lot of filters and metrics. You can separate results based on their type. The options include blogs, ones with affiliate links, forums, directories, etc.
You can choose any of these types according to your preferences. Then there is an option to include and exclude domains as well. You will be entering your domain name in exclude section most times.
You can add domains of your competitors to find backlinks leading to them as well.
There is another way to do some domain-specific research. You can add domains in the backlink section and find backlinks already helping that site.
As we mentioned earlier, SpyFu is not a specialized backlink finding tool. But it will give you enough information about relevant backlinks which can be used to increase traffic to your site.
They show links from those domains which entertain backlinks to other sites. If your competitor has an inbound link from some website which is helping them rank better in search results, then you should go for it as well.
They provide various metrics against the domain list to help you sort them. You can see a count for organic traffic on that site as well on the page which contains backlink.
Then there is domain strength and the number of outbound links along with ranked keywords on that page.
If you are looking for such domains which contain multiple outbound links but not so many that it seems spammy, then you can quickly identify such domains using the available periods.
Clicking on any backlinking domain will give you additional information about it. SpyFu will even provide you with contact information of relevant people related to these sites. It is invaluable information when you need to approach that domain to add an outbound link to your site.
There are more ways you can use this information from the backlinks section while managing a project on SpyFu. We will talk about it in much details in a later part of this review.
All the topics we discussed so far indicate that SpyFu does a lot more than just basic keyword research. It allows you to manage SEO and PPC projects which involve the use of most of the features that we have discussed so far in this review.
Project management on SpyFu brings everything under one umbrella, and it is an easy way to integrate data that you obtained from sections of SpyFu. Let us explore this exciting feature on the platform.
To start a new PPC campaign, an SEO campaign, or even a general campaign, all you need to do is enter the name of domain which will be under the spotlight and give a name to this project.
You can create multiple projects for the same domain. Make sure to give them different names so that it is easy for you to identify them. You can create projects for as many domains as you want.
It allows one to manage his clients and projects efficiently. There is an option to change names of projects at any time, so you don’t need to worry much about trivial matters such as the name of a project.
When you proceed to the next step, SpyFu will ask you if you want to include suggested keywords from them or want to continue only with those keywords you enter in the project.
They will provide you keywords under various groups, which makes it easier for you to understand their relevance for your project. You can create keyword groups yourself and add them.
Keyword research feature on this application is an excellent way for one to find keywords if they are not sure what keywords to add.
When you add these keywords, your project is ready to go, and you can focus on subsequent steps.
When you add a keyword group in the project, you have the option to label them as well. You can put multiple labels on one keyword. Same can be done for keywords suggested by SpyFu at the beginning of the project.
When you carry out at keyword research on this application, there is always an add button after attributes of metrics. You can press this ‘Add’ button to include that keyword in your project. It will directly go to your current project.
The project name can always be seen on the strip in the right section of the window.
You can find all the keywords that you have included in your project under Keyword Universe tab. It will show all of them separately with some metrics alongside them.
There are options to view these keywords under their groups and label. This way, you can focus on a segment of keywords and devote your full attention to them.
You will see information such as their CPC, monthly searches, keyword difficulty, etc. Most importantly, you will be able to see how does your domain rank for those keywords along with recent fluctuations.
You can use this information to see how much you need to work on a keyword. You can combine this information with other attributes such as CPC and keyword difficulty to decide if this keyword should be in your PPC campaign or only in the SEO campaign.
Tools available on SpyFu will help you with more research related to keywords anyway.
We just had a whole section dedicated to backlinks where we discussed how one can go about finding suitable backlinks for keywords and from domains.
But a website usually contains a lot of keywords, and you will want to have inbound links from a lot of sources on the internet. It means that there will be a lot of backlinks sources to monitor and a lot of information related to them to process.
You can use the project management tool on SpyFu to get all this information organized and take care of all your inbound link opportunities.
The Outreach section is all about getting more sources to connect to your website through backlinks.
When you do backlink research for specific keywords and domains, you can always ‘Add’ and save those links in your projects. It is the same as adding keywords to your projects.
They let you save backlinks and websites inside the project manager along with notes, labels, status, and rating. You can keep modifying most of these attributes along with other developments in your project.
They provide you with an overview of domains added in your project so that you know which ones will give you a better-quality inbound link. You can prioritize links and domains based on this information.
SpyFu automatically finds out some backlinks for you as well. Some of these are the ones which are already attracting more traffic on your competitors’ websites.
The most impressive feature of Outreach has to be ‘Contacts.’ SpyFu will automatically look for contact information of people linked to domains and links added in your project. You can verify these with some minor research and add them in your contact list.
One can manually add contacts as well. Finding the right people to even present your content for backlinking is difficult. SpyFu makes it so much easier by providing the user with so many contacts without much of a hassle.
You can keep adding notes and updating status as you start reaching out to these people in a professional way.
In our opinion, this project management feature can turn out to be a blessing for you if you use it to its full potential. It takes care of most of the annoying part so that you can focus on reaching out to others and building connections, which will benefit both parties.
The name of this tool strongly suggests that it is all about sneaking into others’ business. But as we progressed through it, we found out that there is a lot more one can do other just spying on competitors.
There are a lot of features which rely solely on how well others are doing in a specific niche. It is a smart move to get some momentum for your domain by analyzing what top players in your niche are doing and learning from their examples.
SpyFu aids in this learning process by unearthing information about how other sites have been able to feature in top results. This information points you in the right direction, which saves you from spending your resources on redundant tasks.
Let us first zoom through what is there to like on this platform. Well, for starters, we loved how much flexibility it provides to its users.
There were always multiple ways to research something. For example, you can start with keyword research and then move on to the PPC side of things or vice versa.
This sort of freedom is receptive for multiple approaches. It does not matter what path you choose on SpyFu; the end goal is always to get a higher rank and more relevant traffic on the website.
We liked how they kept PPC and SEO categories different for most features. This filtered approach helps to keep everything organized, and one can be more productive in such an environment.
We liked metrics and other parameters available to put things into perspective. They allow comparisons at every step of the way which helps one make sure they don’t fall too far behind the norms.
Lastly, we enjoyed using the project management feature on this platform. It brought together all the features under one umbrella and allowed users to establish some coherence between information collected from various tools on SpyFu.
There are still a few areas where they can make improvements. The first thing they need to do is make the available data more credible and reliable. It is tough for a user to subscribe to a service which has a reputation of giving results which don’t gel with facts.
We are hopeful of improvements as they acknowledged the fact that they have this anomaly. The current solution of using one’s domain as a reference is a temporary fix. It may not even turn out to be a suitable solution if the user’s domain is relatively new on the turf.
Another area they can work on is to make it a bit less cluttered. Even though their intention was to load the platform with a lot of useful features, it may end up being overwhelming for a few users.
SpyFu is a good enough research tool which will address most of your SEO and PPC related issues.