10 best competitive intelligence tools from 10 experts

Competitive Intelligence
Sun Tzu’s wisdom in The Art of War is as true today as it was in 500 B.C.
Competitive Intelligence is the gathering of publicly-available information about an enterprise’s competitors and the use of that information to gain a business advantage. The goals of competitive intelligence include discerning potential business risks and opportunities and enabling faster reaction to competitors’ actions and events.
If Sun Tzu were with us today, he would probably be using digital competitive intelligence tools to understand his adversaries. Which ones would he use; why and for what purpose?
Here are 10 experts giving us their best competitive intelligence tools:

  • GOOGLE TRENDS: Measuring individual sites (yours or competitor) is good but the real fun in this is comparing trends. That will give you the key context you need to make even more sense of this competitive data. Don’t focus on the actual numbers (you’ll notice I say this a lot in this post). You want to compare the trends and each line gives context to the other two. That is deeply meaningful. – Avinash Kaushik (Google)

Google Trends Competitive Intelligency

  • COMPETE: Has a useful interface, speaks the right language (unique visitors, visits, etc.), offers the ability to compare multiple sites, and its data is easy to understand and well presented. Compete is best used for comparing competitors’ website traffic. The trends are reliable. The information could be meaningfully used to look into seasonal trends between competitors. – Sam Crocker (MOZ)

Compete competitive intelligence

  • ALEXA: Has been around since 1996. It’s a (mostly) free service that will help you analyze traffic on your competitor’s ecommerce store. Type in your competitors URL and Alexa will give you their global traffic rank, number of sites linking in, search analytics, audience insight, average site load time, and a whole lot more. You can really dig deep with Alexa, but it’s important to note that there are inaccuracies with Alexa’s information, since they get their data from those who have installed their toolbar for IE and Firefox or installed their Google Chrome extension. Take the numbers with a grain of salt. – Mark Hayes (Ecommerce University)

Alexa compettive intelligencce

  • HITWISE: An Experian product, provides excellent data and insight that no free/ low-cost alternative can rival. With Hitwise, you can build an even more accurate picture of where you are versus your competitors. Upstream and downstream reporting allows you to form an impression of the behaviour, intention and ‘mindset’ of visitors to your website. An ‘upstream’ report will show you what sites visitors have been to before visiting yours and shed light on the types of behaviour customers are displaying before they visit you. – Gavin Llewellyn (Smart Insights)

Hitwise copetitive intelligence

  • KEYWORD SPY: Offers a free Organic Competitors report that can help identify who the top competitors are for a particular keyword. Using this tool to identify competitors can not only help identify competitors you may not have known about, but also lets you see how competition differs around different keywords.  – Mark Purtell (Search Engine Journal)

Keyword Spy Competitive Intelligence

  • OPEN SITE EXPLORER: Is one of the free tools which will enable you to check link popularity, and monitor existing backlinks. If you are trying to promote your website with the help of blogs or guest blogs, you should definitely keep an eye on the links that you create. Open Site Explorer can help you predict page and domain authority, calculate total number of inbound links and determine the domain’s ranking potential (with the help of over 40 parameters). – Anna Robeson (Grow Map)

Open Site Explorer Competitive Intelligence

  • QUANTCAST: Provides “free direct audience measurement for all website owners including traffic, demographics, business, lifestyle, interests and more.”  What I love most about this free tool is the amount of data it shows, in graphical form, without needing to sign up for an account.  See the screenshot example below for google.com. – Amin Shawki (InfoTrust)

Quantcast Competitive Intelligence

  • SEMRUSH: Lets you monitor competitors’ organic keyword positions, find relevant long tail keywords, see your competitors’ PPC ads, and more. It also includes SEO tools. There’s a wealth of data available from the free search bar on the homepage, though you will have to upgrade ($69.95 per month) for more queries and results – Chris Kilbourn (Kiss Metrics)

SEM Rush Competitive Intelligence

  • TOPSY: Is the tool Siltala recommends for competitive intelligence analysis because it lets you search the entire history on Twitter. He also said, “Use Circle Count for G+ to find intel about your competitors”. – Matt Siltala (Avalaunch)

topsy competitive intelligency

  • MARKETING GRADER: Allows you to learn about the overall success of your competition’s SEO. With this tool, you can learn website traffic patterns and SEO data. You can also see which tactics are working and which aren’t, and you can also learn if conversions are being made. This tool will score you out of 100, and it will even provide you with suggestions on how you can improve your SEO. – Indiesilver Marketing

Marketing Grader competitive intelligence
These are our 10 best competitive intelligence tools from 10 experts. Do they match yours? What would you add or delete?


  1. akronsound

    I am kinda shocked how experts by pass THE best competitive intelligence tool which is Hitwise from experian. Yes I understand it is very expensive but the insights it provides me on a daily basis is to say the least “priceless”. Such tools make a massive difference in how you compete VS brands.

  2. robpetersen

    akronsound Thanks for the comment. Yes, Hitwise is a great competitive intelligence resource. Glad to hear the pricing relevance as you express it.

  3. Amin Shawki

    Thanks for the mention Rob! We love Quantcast and all these tools, but one I’d like to make sure I share is also TagInspector.com.
    http://goo.gl/Zm069 is a free tool we developed to show what tags are running across an entire website and where. Understanding what tags and marketing tools competitor’s have on their websites can give a really in depth insight into their marketing goals and campaign initiatives.  For example, if you search your competitor’s site and see that Doubleclick tags are are firing, this gives you a solid indication they are involved with PPC campaigns, probably both search and display.

  4. ZCintelligence

    No matter how sophisticated a software tool is, there is no substitute to human intelligence. How about a human tool where you tell it exactly what information you are looking for in a competition? 
    That is what we are working on:  http://bit.ly/1HRM8hh
    Private beta users welcome!

  5. JhnNguy

    What about WhatRunsWhere? Great for tracking your competitions’ display ad strategy.

  6. SteveDave

    Another new one is Kompyte.com – combination of a powerful CI suite and a digital tracking tool. Basically automates your competitor analysis and pings you with relevant updates in real-time.

  7. arifansariseo

    Awesome post. While SEMrush tends to provide bad ranking data in my experience, their other competitive analysis tools are pretty spot on. This is a prime example of how to use these to your advantage. Thanks for writing this up.

  8. akronsound

    arifansariseo I agree. Semrush is to say the least dissapointing. The only good use i ever got from it was the paid search keywords/adcopies / etc

  9. robpetersen

    akronsound Thanks very much for input. Glad we were in agreement with 9 out of 10. Appreciate the feedback. Thanks again.

  10. robpetersen

    arifansariseo Thanks for the comment. Understand your concern with SEM Rush and glad the others were helpful and on target. Appreciate your input.

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