Search Engine Marketing

Keyword Analysis Tool: Spyfu, Compete and KeywordSpy

As SEO tools have evolved over the years, many different types of keyword research services and methods have come out. One notable subset of these are what could be called “dedicated” competitive keyword tools, i.e. those that allow SEOs to try to get a laser-focus on what’s working or not, and/or could work, for certain domains and their natural and/or paid search visibility.

It’s important to consider this a specialized type of competitive keyword research, as opposed to getting more generalized beads on how hard and/or costly it could be to get visibility on a given query for publishers on average.

On the paid side, think of it as the difference between getting general CPC estimates from Google’s Adwords Traffic Estimator when planning a PPC campaign, as opposed to (how there used to be the option of) using Overture’s View Bid tool to see exactly what competitors’ bids were.

On the natural side, think of it as the difference between using general tools like Wordtracker and Nichebot vs. dedicated tools like SpyFu, Compete Search Analytics and KeywordSpy, vs. tools that offer a more “in-between” degree of domains-level metrics and granularity such as SEOmoz’s Keyword Difficulty tool and Wordze.

Recently on a large research project I leveraged most of the above in combination, with the initial project phase focused on trying to deduce what a set of (5) particular publishers are doing i.e. what keywords are getting them traffic or not, what they’re bidding on or not etc. What I came away with was some interesting comparisons re. the (3) dedicated competitive keyword research tools group specifically. Note that these mostly are about looking at the PPC area. With no further adieu, here’s the skinny:

  • SpyFu:
    • Provided some unique metrics on the PPC intelligence side, several quite valuable.
    • However, on “big” metrics such as trying to estimate what the publishers’ daily PPC spend was for instance, the range estimates where often so big that they couldn’t be taken as actionable intelligence. Also, their DB contained records for only (1) of the (5) domains I was investigating.
    • It felt a little clunky, using their site and also trying to work with their exported data.
  • Compete Search Analytics:
    • I like their custom metrics for comparing estimated volume levels vs. actual visibility levels per keyword a lot.
    • Also, that they offer easily-downloaded chunks of data simply by industry category and subcategory is very cool.
    • What I didn’t like was that the tool is a pay-by-credit system. Personally I find it really annoying when tools do that. Having a low cost entry point is fine but I’m not pinching pennies when I need data. I like it when tools can simply my money for a day/week/month/year’s subscription time and be done with it. It’s not like, whatever daily usage cap there is), if I make a habit of using a given tool I won’t often be using the thing right up to said quota limit in its fullest via sicking a dedicated ‘bot on the thing anyway. Credits-based usage is fine when I want to try out a tool of a day or three, but it’s actually a deterrent as far as potentially using it regularly and/or over a longer term.
    • Their database is noticeably “dirty,” i.e. it contains a lot of junk that makes their data hard to trust. If I’m looking to get the most popular keywords searched on throughout the Finance space for instance, I can understand it if/when there’s a little muck like “50 cent” in there. That’s to be expected. Finding records like “my chemical romance” getting returned upon doing such a pull though, is wholly uncool. This is the kind of problem that easily happens with substantially toolbar-collected data, IMHO. When it comes to search, toolbars suck for users on the privacy end and they suck for analysts on the data quality end. I have many toolbar add-ins in my browser(s), but use none for searching and all are for totally different things. No Alexa, no Google, no Compete. I’ll use the default option in Firefox’s upper right-hand corner almost every time and stay a consistently happy camper.
  • KeywordSpy:
    • The most robust and impressive database of all the three contenders. They had relevant data on all the (5) publishers I was sniffing. Nice and clean. My understanding is that they’re the only tool of their type tapping ClickBank data, so that’s part of what’s going on there.
    • Nice usability.
    • Like the other tools, easy exporting data to TXT/CSV, however unfortunately this isn’t an option for all data available when directly using the site. For example, exporting captured creative from competitors’ Adwords campaigns. SpyFu offers a way to export that to TXT/CSV but KeywordSpy as far as I could tell does not.
    • It’s comparatively the most expensive of the three, so it’s powerful but of limited value to anyone not doing SEO full-time moreover with keyword research and analysis always being a huge part of it.
    • Canceling one’s subscription is a bit of a tedious process, i.e. faxing over a signature. C’mon, Spy. Save a tree.


I’d use any of these tools again, and expect to do so with re. of them again at one point or another. I generally feel KeywordSpy provided the best value of the dedicated competitive tools I tested on my project, however KeywordSpy, Compete Search Analytics and SpyFu each have their unique sets of pros and cons. Hopefully my take on them here for the time being will help other SEOs choose their weapons well when seeking such of this type.

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