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How to Spy Competitors (And What They Can Teach You About WordPress)

You don’t need the name Aldrich Ames or Hercules Mulligan to be considered a great spy on the internet. What’s even better is that you won’t be thrown in jail for treason if you get caught peeking in on what your competitors are doing.

In fact, spying on your competitors is one of the more prudent strategies you can follow, considering there’s a good chance your competition has knowledge that you’ve yet to discover.

Take AirBnB for example. During its infancy the apartment and home sharing juggernaut completed some perfectly legal spying on Craigslist. The folks at AirBnB saw that Craigslist had an iffy interface for selling and buying temporary housing, and it even contacted the people listing on Craigslist to bring them over to AirBnB.

With a WordPress site you have plenty of lessons to learn from forums and blogs, but your competitors are in the thick of the battle, making it all the more enticing to see how they’re taking advantage of internet tools.

Keep reading to learn more about how to spy on your competitors and what your results can teach you about WordPress and your business as a whole.

Tips and Tools for Spying on Your Competitors

The first step involves finding a competitor you would like to spy on. Let’s say Home Depot is our target. Go to that company’s website and follow them on every outlet possible. This includes social media accounts, blog subscriptions and email newsletters. This way you see which marketing tools and tactics are being utilized.

For example, a Valentine’s email from Home Depot might give you some ideas for your own hardware store. Or you might notice that a WordPress plugin is being used to automatically share new blog posts to Twitter and Facebook.

semrush spy on competitors

Now that you’ve tapped into the marketing outlets, let’s take a look at some of the more effective tools for spying on competitors.

  • Google Alerts – Save searches for keywords about your competitor to see when they’re mentioned in the press and on blogs. Some of these are press releases, while others are tutorials with backlinks, giving you plans for how to market your own company.
  • Hootsuite – Quite a few social tools help you track conversations and monitor what’s being said about your competition. I like Hootsuite, since you can manage your own social platforms while also checking on how your competitors engage customers.
  • Website Grader – This site gives a website a score when you punch it into the search bar. It evaluates items like lead generations, social media, blogging, mobile and SEO, providing information about what your competitors are doing right and what they’re doing wrong.
  • SEMRush – If you’ve ever wondered which keywords a competitor targets, SEMRush has you covered. The comprehensive tool offers a few free searches before having to pay, but the premium version is worth it if you’re interested in things like ad keywords, organic traffic, sample ads, backlinks, referring domains, landing pages and video marketing. Heck, you could mimic the landing pages and videos for your own business.
  • BuiltWith – Scan through which tools are being used to run your competitor’s website. We like this best for WordPress spying, since you can check on items like plugins, themes and hosting.
  • SpyFu – We like SpyFu since it not only shows you the most profitable keywords targeted by competitors, but it cuts out the ones that haven’t been performing well. This way, you can construct paid ads and organic SEO based on intelligent data.
  • Ahrefs – Track backlinks, keywords and brand mentions for your competitors and your own brand. The alerts come in handy so that you don’t have to keep monitoring it manually, and the rank tracker benchmarks where you need to get compared to your competitor.
  • Moat – If you want inspiration for your own Google and Facebook ads, Moat’s the place to go. Moat asks you to search for a brand, then it reveals recent internet ads from that company. For instance, a local hardware store might see that Home Depot is advertising power tools at a discount, allowing for you to counter with your own ad.


What Your Competitors Can Teach You About WordPress

Not all of the tools above directly tie into WordPress, but they certainly come back with information that you can use for adjusting your own WordPress, marketing, social and web design strategies. For example:

How to Become a Force with SEO

WordPress has built-in SEO tools, but skipping keyword optimization leaves you at a huge disadvantage. Tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs offer keyword lists on your competitors, giving you a taste of what keywords work and which ones don’t. This way, you’re not optimizing your WordPress pages blind.

Which Plugins and Themes Work for Them


BuiltWith searches any website you punch in. It then delivers the tools being used to make that site run. For example, you might type in your competitor’s site and realize that they’re using WordPress with faster hosting than you, a cool email subscription plugin and a full eCommerce store for making more money. I also like BuiltWith if you stumble upon a site design you’d like to mimic. This way you know which tools are used to achieve the design.

Traffic Sources and How They Gained Access to Them

where is traffic coming from

From Google Alerts to SEMRush, many of the tools listed above give you insight on where traffic comes from for your competitors. For instance, you might realize that your competitor’s website is listed on a popular local blog. Are they paying for this backlink? Do they have a good relationship? Knowing about this relationship could be enough for you to contact the blog and get your own exposure.

The Right (Or Wrong) Blogging Strategies

Since WordPress is a blogging platform before anything else, it’s essential to examine how your competition is utilizing their blog. This is where signing up for the blog newsletter comes into play, since you can check out social shares, the number of comments and the type of content being produced. Is it possible for you to make similar blog posts to get more people coming to your site?

Are You Ready to Spy on Your Competitors?

With these resources the question isn’t how to spy on your competitors, it’s when are going to start? WordPress has so many plugins, themes, settings and third-party tools to take advantage of, and the majority of them can be tested out by looking at your most successful competitors.

This way, you don’t have to go through failures if you already know something didn’t work out for your rival. If you have any other suggestions on how to spy on competitors, lets us know in the comments section below.

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