Spy ToolsHave you ever wished you knew everything your competitors where up to? Well online it isn’t that hard.

1. SpyFu – Want to know what keywords your competitors are targeting in the search engines? Use this tool to download the list of keywords and adwords they are using. Don’t forget to visit their SpyFu Universty.

2. The Search Monitor – They have several tools including another great search engine competitive intelligence tool. The Search Monitor Track market share, page rank, ad copy, landing pages, budgets, day parts, and uncover new competitors on Paid & Organic Search. You can catch trademark abuse on paid search, track brand buzz web wide, as well Monitor your affiliates for TOU compliance, watch paid search activities, monitor ad copy and landing page copy, recruit your competitors’ affiliates.

3. Yahoo! Site Explorer – Site Explorer allows you to explore all the web pages indexed by Yahoo! Search. View the most popular pages from any site including your competitors, dive into a comprehensive site map, and find pages that link to that site or any page.

4. Compete Search Analytics – Enter a site or a category; get a list of keywords referring traffic to it or enter a keyword; get a list of sites it refers traffic to.

5. Copernic Tracker – automatically looks for new content on Web pages, as often as you like. When a change is detected, our Web site tracking software can notify you by sending an email, including a copy of the Web page with the changes highlighted, or by displaying a desktop alert.

6. Statbrain – Using several sources, Statbrain’s algorithm computes the number of visitors to a website based on offsite factors like backlinks, Alexa Rank etc. Statbrain does not have access to log files or any hit-counter information. Use this as a rough relative benchmark of your traffic to theirs. First run your website and compare the results given by StatBrain to your actual results to get a sense of its accuracy in your category. Figure out what the multiplier is and then try it on a competitor.

7. FeedCompare – If you use Feedburner to track your rss subscribers you can compare the size of your feed to others. Just like in #1 above, figure out your own multiplier and then compare it to the competition.

8. AideRSS now Postrank– Find out which of your competitors’ blog posts and topics are engaging people. This should provide you with a list of topics you should be covering. Engagement doesn’t necessarily mean your competitor’s opinion is right or even agreed with — but it does mean the engaged people are interested in the topic and therefore why not your opinion on the topic.

9. Xinu Returns – Xinu Runs a report from multiple sites to tell you how well a site is doing in popular search engines, social bookmarking sites and other technical details. How well are you stacking up against your 5 biggest competitors?

10. Google Trends For Websites – Enter up to five topics and see how often those topics been searched on Google over time. Google Trends also shows how frequently your topics have appeared in Google News stories, and in which geographic regions people have searched for them most. You can learn more on how to use this from our friend, Avinash Kaushik.

11. Google Insights for Search – With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames. Again, Avinash explains how to use this well.

12. Microsoft’s Keyword Forecast tool – This tool forecasts the impression count and predicts demographic distributions of keywords.

13. Microsoft’s Search Funnels – Customers often perform searches by typing related keywords in specific sequences. This tool helps in visualizing and analyzing the customers’ search sequences. Search Engine guru Mike Grehan explains the value of these query chains.

14. WayBackMachine – Go back in web history to see how your competitors’ site has changed through the years. Look for the things that have stayed consistent, because those might have been the most successful. In the same vein, what have you changed on your own site during that time? It’s easy to lose track, particularly of your own work, and to think of your current site as “how it’s always been”.

15. Web Page Readability – By comparing the readability score of web pages you can optimize your writing and make sure that you aren’t creating overly complex sentences and paragraphs for your audience.

16. Attention Meter – Attentionmeter gives you a quick snapshot comparing any websites you want (traffic) using Alexa, Compete, and Quancast.

17. Websitegrader – Website Grader is a free tool that measures the marketing effectiveness of a website. It provides a score that incorporates things like website traffic, SEO, social popularity and other technical factors. It also provides some basic advice on how the website can be improved from a marketing perspective. Also worth checking out Twittergrader to check on your competitors’ twitter accounts.

18. Google Alerts – set up searches for your competitors, key employees, and keywords to monitor their activity.

19. BoardTracker – searches across 37,000 forums representing more than 63 million threads. Set up your own custom alerts using RSS and the site’s search function to see what other people are saying about your competitors.

20. Twitter Search– track important keywords, competitors’ Twitter user names, and product names.  You can save these as RSS feeds or you can just save these searches in a tool like TweetDeck.

21. SocialMention – Enter in a search term and SocialMention will track down what people are saying about that term across different blogs and social outlets.  It will tell you how many times a keyword was talked about, the time frame, and let you subscribe to an RSS feed for that term or export the information as a CSV.

Care to share your spying secrets? What tools or techniques do you use?