5 sneaky ways to spy on your competitors

4th September 2019
Author: Zoe Chinery
Posted in: Strategy

Checking out the competition is something every business should be doing. 

If you’re able to see what’s working or not working for them, then you can take advantage of this information and improve your own strategies to elevate your business. 

There are several tools out there to help you find out what your competitors are doing well, or not so well. For this post, I’ve decided to focus on the less obvious ways in which you can do so, and (even better) they’re all free!

If you’re like me and you enjoy playing the role of detective, then I guarantee that you’ll want to try out these five tools as soon as you get to the end of this article.

Have fun spying…

 

1. Facebook page transparency

This is something I discovered recently and honestly, I can’t believe I didn’t know about it sooner! Due to Facebook’s efforts to increase transparency, the social network has made it super easy for users to find out what ads brands are running across the platform. 

So how exactly can you do this? If you visit a company’s page, you’ll notice on the right-hand side, usually near the bottom of the column, a box that says ‘Page transparency’. 

If you click on ‘See more’ you’ll be greeted with a pop-up window that tells you if the page is running ads or not, you can then click through to the ‘Ad library’ and boom! Here is where you’ll find the gold! 

FB Ads_Hubspot

If the company is running ads, you’ll see thumbnails of them grouped by month, plus you can even see the exact date that the ad started running. 

Hubspot ads live on Facebook

There’s also a geographical filter so you can check the location of where your competitor is running ads. But, it’s worth noting that you won’t be able to see a specific ad’s engagements.

Of course, let’s not forget that this also means that your competitors can audit your ads, but it’s a great way to help you keep track of their paid activity and will help you to decide which ads to run moving forward. 

 

2. LinkedIn company pages – ad insights

Next up, paid ads on LinkedIn. Similar to Facebook, users on LinkedIn can see what ads companies are running by heading over to their company page. This was introduced by the platform earlier this year to boost transparency and accountability. 

On the left-hand side of a company page, you’ll see a menu with a number of tabs, the last tab being ‘Ads’. If you click on this, you’ll see a stream of all the ads from the past six months. However, compared to Facebook, LinkedIn provides less information about ad content. For example, you can’t tell if the ad is active or not or when it started running. 

Hubspot ads_LinkedIn

For us marketers, this is valuable insight. Put it this way, if you have a competitor who is doing well with their LinkedIn marketing, you can take a look at their ads from the past six months to figure out their secret to success. I know, awesome right?!

FYI – users can click on the ads they see, but advertisers won’t have to pay for any of these clicks… Phew!

 

3. iSpionage

As we all know, paid advertising is extremely competitive, especially when it comes to AdWords. Everyone runs AdWords campaigns, so how can you get ahead of the competition? This is where iSpionage comes in handy! 

With iSpionage, you can find out which keywords your competitors are using and how much they’re spending. Sneaky, huh? And did I mention you can do all this for free?! 

iSpionage homepage

To get started, enter your competitors URL into the search box, and then you’ll see an overview of PPC performance along with some other useful data points. You can even go as far as to see the exact ad copy that’s being used along with the creative if you click on the destination URL. 

iSpionage Hubspot data

Check out your competitors’ top-performing ads. If something is working particularly well for them, it’s possible it can work for you too. Now, I’m obviously not suggesting that you copy their ad like for like, however, think about patterns and formulas and use these to improve on your existing efforts. 

 

4. BuiltWith

A simple tool that provides you with great insight, this is one you’ll absolutely want to bookmark. BuiltWith is a tool that quite simply lets you see what technology your competitors are using to run their website. Maybe you’ve noticed that your competitor is doing something really well and you’re curious to know what tools they’re using, in which case you’ll love BuiltWith. 

BuiltWith homepage

With BuiltWith, you can find a variety of information about your competitors. For example, see which advertising tools they’re using or what plug-ins and widgets are running on their website. 

If you head over to builtwith.com and enter your competitors URL, you’ll see their website’s full technology profile. 

 

5. SimilarWeb 

If you’re looking for more reliable data to figure out how popular your competitors are, then being able to see how much traffic they’re getting to their website is key. 

SimilarWeb reveals the amount of traffic to your chosen site and also provides a breakdown by channel. Use this data as a hint to where it could be worth placing some ads or at least have a presence.

SimilarWeb homepage

You can uncover a whole load of information with this tool and even compare traffic for several competitors. There’s a free package which is, of course, limited in its functions but still provides you with three months of web traffic data. Super useful!