Tracking the Growth of Competing Sites

Question: How do I track the progress of competing sites over time? How do I know what keywords my competitors are ranking for, and which ones they are improving on?

Answer: There are a way variety of means to track competing sites.

Online Ranking Checkers

Online tools such as Digital Point's keyword ranking tool, the ShoeMoney SERP tool, the our rank checker, or the new tool at ZoomRank show where keywords rank. The Digital Point tool also shows you where a keyword ranks over time, but the problems are who wants to check a lot of these keywords one at a time, and where do you get the opening list of keywords?

Competitive Research Tools

There are numerous organic search competitive research tools on the market. SpyFu is a paid tool which offers limited free data, and SEODigger and URLTrends are free tools which shows you keywords that a site ranks for. AdGooroo also takes a look at similar data, with more focus on paid search. If you can afford to spend $10,000+ you may also want to consider trying HitWise.

Keyword Research Tools

After the competitive keyword research tools you may also want to look at the keyword tools promoted by the search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN) and companies like Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery. The Google Traffic Estimator will tell you what terms Google thinks are most valuable, and you can also check keywords in bulk and track them over time by buying software like Agent Web Ranking.

Don't forget to also consider macroeconomic factors and seasonal traffic trends.

Look at the Competitor's Website

Looking for a few more keywords that the competitor may have found but the market missed? Beyond those competitive research tools the easiest spots to look for keywords on competing sites are

  • the internal navigation of competing sites (especially look for pages that are bizarrely over-represented in their navigation)

  • a competitor's homepage page title and headings (you can see the page titles with Xenu and the last two data points with OptiSpider)
  • abnormal patterns in their inbound anchor text (use a tool like Backlink Analyzer)
  • if they participate in AdSense and allow site targeting, buy AdSense ads targeting their site to dig into their traffic stats

Look at Their Reach

As far as general traffic trends for a site go,, Quantcast, and Alexa all give snapshots of site traffic trends. That data tends to be rough though...especially for small sites. The two big ways to track site growth from a market penatration and search representation standpoint are to look for changes in the rate of citation by using the following data points and tools

and look for the rate of the growth of the site's content, reach, and trust using the following metrics

  • number of RSS subscribers (use Bloglines subscribers as a sample estimate if they don't have any other numbers public) and/or number of comments on blog posts for sites with feeds

  • how often you see well read channels mentioning the competitor
  • how often you see (search, contextual, or affiliate) ads for the competitor
  • number of pages on the site indexed in Google
  • the ratio of the pages that are in the regular index vs Google's supplemental index (having most of your pages in the primary index is a good thing)
Published: June 26, 2007 by Aaron Wall in Q & A


June 26, 2007 - 10:37am


This snippet: "buy AdSense ads targeting their site to dig into their traffic stats" contains a malformed link that needs to be fixed....

Looks like a cut and paste error:

Patrick Altoft
June 26, 2007 - 11:05am

You can also track links to their blog posts to see which were most popular and had most effect in increasing their exposure.

June 26, 2007 - 11:25am

Excellent article Aaron.

Rob Chuah
June 26, 2007 - 11:43am

Hi Aaron,

I've been following your blog and I always seems to get something out of it.

Just want to let you know there is another SERP tracking tools out there -- This is a tools which I coded during my free time and is still experimenting with it.


Sergey Petrov
June 26, 2007 - 11:45am
Richard Boyd
June 26, 2007 - 1:35pm

Thanks for this post Aaron we have a competitor who has been spamming for years, maybe we'll be able to use this posts to out rank him without doing anything silly.

Many thanks

June 26, 2007 - 2:05pm

Great post, Aaron. Another suggestion - you can also set up a Google Alert on your competitor.

David Wilson
June 26, 2007 - 2:39pm

Another great article Aaron with some terrific tools for us to explore further.

I would add in to get a sense for what Google keywords your competitor is buying


Vijay Teach Me
June 26, 2007 - 3:01pm

Hi Aaron,
Time invested on this site is all worth every second.


Dharmesh Shah
June 26, 2007 - 3:43pm

You can also try Website Grader:

The product is still in beta, but it tracks history for you and your competitors on a number of different factors including inbound links, search rankings, delicious mentions, digg mentions, meta-data, traffic rankings, technorati, etc.

Khalid Hajsaleh
June 26, 2007 - 7:26pm

we used to track ranking for serps manually. Recently, i discovered this tool: I saw a posting for it on one of the forums. You provide the different urls and keywords you want to track, and the tool does the job. Currently, it is available for free but i have a feeling they will be charging some money for it in the future.


August 1, 2007 - 1:11am

Hello Aaron, can you tell me where i can find a tool where i can see every day or week or month the google results for a website and 10 - 20 keywords? please give feedback. thank you

August 1, 2007 - 1:20am

there are donwloadable software programs for that like agentwebrankings and advancedwebrankings

July 22, 2007 - 8:55am

Kudos once again Aaron. Ive been looking for a tool like SEOdigger for a while, so thanks for flagging it up. As you may see from your 'pings' ive blogged and linked to this great post

thanks again SEPguy

Zoran Rudman
June 29, 2007 - 10:17am


you said this:
"Yahoo Site Explorer for link count (pay attention to the quality of the top links, also use SEO for Firefox to dig in for more general linkage data)"

Yahoo site explorer gives us now random backlinks, not ordered by strength of the domain.

Do you know of some backlink checker which will sort backlinks by domain strength ?

January 22, 2008 - 4:59pm

Great articel Aron, I was happy to read this excellent post.

April 2, 2008 - 10:48am

Great articel Aron

August 30, 2008 - 1:57pm

very great post. here in europe you can search and never find that ideas.

Seo Beratung
October 10, 2008 - 11:30pm

Congratulations. Great post, Aaron. Interesting and informative. Good work.

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