Keyword Spy Review

Keyword Spy Logo

Keyword Spy offers 3 different accounts.

  • Research
  • Tracking
  • Professional

The countries available within a Keyword Spy account are:

Keyword Spy Country List

No other competitor really comes close to the breadth of their country offerings.

Keyword Spy Research Account

Keyword Spy's Research account gives you access to the following data

  • PPC Ads (ad copy, the keyword, estimated search volume, estimated CPC, the position last seen of an ad and it's average position, total days seen/days checked. You can also see the ad url and destination url of the ad in addition to other keywords being bid on for that particular ad, as well as an estimated ROI.
  • PPC Keywords - showing individual keywords, ROI, search volume, CPC, total profitable ads, affiliate ads on that keyword, days seen, last/first seen
  • Organic Keywords - showing individual keywords, position in the SERPS, total search results, estimated CPC, and the URL
  • Competitors in PPC and Organic results.
  • Sub-domains

Domain Overview

The research portion does *not* include organic or PPC overlap coverage, which kind of stinks especially when you consider the price point they charge.

You get access to their Top 1000 sites and keyword reports which can be previewed here.

You can search by keyword as well. A Keyword search will show you:

  • PPC Ad Copies with Keyword in them
  • Up to 1000 related Keywords
  • Misspelled Keywords
  • PPC Competitors
  • Organic Competitors

Keyword Search Overview

You can filter with these metrics but you can only apply 1 filter to the results at a time. Which can be bothersome if you are doing large scale research as they limit the exported data to 50,000 keywords.

Research Account Metrics

  • ROI- they compute this as (Days Seen*Percentage Seen/Number of Days Seen since Last Seen). Below is a screen shot of their formula. Again, this is based on the assumption that the PPC advertiser is shrewd and on top of things. I don't particularly care for this metric. ROI to person A can be much different than ROI to person B for a variety of reasons.
  • Keyword Spy ROI Picture

  • First/Last Seen- Last seen is the last day KS saw the ad (they scan daily) and First Seen shows the first day KS saw the ad (I believe its back to August of 09 as of this writing).
  • Profitable Ads - Ads that are profitable based on their internal metrics (like ROI and such) out of total number of ads.
  • Affiliate Ads - Ads that are affiliate ads (based on destination url) out of total ads found.

Screen shot of PPC keyword tab showing the above mentioned metrics:

Keyword Spy PPC Keyword Tab

Keyword Spy's Tracking Account

The Tracking account option gives you real time tracking in Google, Yahoo, and Bing for your PPC and Organic campaigns. This can be useful in checking out your coverage and competition across all three engines. You can also benchmark your data with the competition's scraped data.

Of course, the question is do YOU want your campaigns being monitored by a spy tool that makes its money but showing advertisers their competition's organic and PPC data?? :-)

You can read about more of their tracking/alert/coverage type options here, but outside of tracking and coverage you get:

  • Landing Page Intelligence - shows current landing page, ad copy, and destination URL for a particular landing page.
  • Landing page intelligence

  • Organic and PPC overlap data (only between 2 sites) and quite frankly, this is much more research than tracking and should really be included in the research account IMO.
  • Benchmarking in PPC/Organic Listings (below is a screen shot of the organic one, they are fairly similar)
  • Organic Benchmarking

So the tracking account is really more for tracking your campaigns across the 3 big PPC engines with some nifty benchmarking and gap analysis features but I don't see it as being overly useful for smaller PPC advertisers, although the coverage options might be a good fit for those in competitive markets across Google, Yahoo, and Bing. In general, Spy Tools aren't all that great at looking into smaller sites and markets simply because the resources required to be accurate with somewhat sparse data would be overkill and far to costly. This is why I do not really feel the tracking option is going to be a good fit outside of pretty big PPC advertisers.

Professional Account

The Pro account combines the Research and Tracking account features (up's the overall trackable keywords, export limit, and query limit) plus gives you access to a couple new features:

  • Affiliate Intelligence
  • Affiliate Reports

Affiliate Intelligence

This tool gives you access to look at products and ads being used by 132 affiliate networks.

Affiliate Intelligence

You can click through on any network and be shown their offers by URL with searchable affiliate ads for those products.

Affiliate Reports gives you access to big players in the affiliate marketing space such as CJ, LinkShare, Clickbank, ShareAsale, etc. Here you can access top affiliate products and top affiliates by product id and affiliate id respectively. You can also use affiliate product and affiliates id's to search in the destination URL field to try and find additional products/ads they may be promoting.

Affiliate Reports

Keyword Spy mentions something about "Anti-cloaking" technology but they do not elaborate on it. However, color me skeptical that these affiliate options are able to uncover properly cloaked links by top affiliates. So while this may be good for help in looking at potential affiliate products, as well as finding affiliates who do not cloak their links, I'm really not overly impressed with these features but they can be somewhat useful when first starting out.

In Closing

Keyword Spy is a feature rich membership and they have a deep database. For me, if I had to pick just one tool I would opt for either SemRush or SpyFu as both supply solid PPC/SEO competitive intel at a much more reasonable price. Although, if I were a serious PPC player their tracking account might be quite nice (still have reservations about giving a spy tool company my campaign data though). Another great feature for Keyword Spy is their regional databases...they cover many areas missed by some of the other competitive research tools.

SpyFu Review

SpyFu Review Logo for Blog

SpyFu is one of the more feature rich tools, but probably has the least attractive interface out there. SpyFu offers SEO and PPC spy tool options along with their own keyword research tool.

The SpyFu toolset covers US and UK markets.

SpyFu's toolset includes:

  • SpyFu Kombat
  • SpyFu Classic
  • Keyword Ad History
  • Domain Ad History
  • Keyword Smart Search
  • A Variety of Top 100 Lists

SpyFu Kombat

With SpyFu Kombat you can look at overlapping and site specific keywords for up to 3 websites. For the PPC version you can also see a chart which goes back over a period of a few years showing the overall amount of keywords being bid on by all three sites. You can also rollover the chart to see keywords specific to just 2 of the sites if you feel the 3rd site may not be doing as good a job (or vice versa) as 2 of the other sites. It will also show you the PPC budgets of the sites as well as the number of organic keywords ranking in the top 50 results for said keyword.

SpyFu Kombat Graphic for Blog Post

When you click on an area of the circle chart it will show you the keywords in whatever bucket you click, to the right of the chart. You can view and download those keywords for your own use. As you can see I am on the ads tab but the options are similar when you click on the organic tab (on the top box, the organic one on the bottom shows you total organic keywords).

Switching between the organic tab and the ppc tab (as well as the overall # of organic keywords + PPC ad budget should also give you an idea of which of the bigger sites are more into the PPC or SEO side of things which can be a good barometer to look at if you happen to be concentrating on one area over the other.

SpyFu Classic

SpyFu Classic is the "flagship" section so to speak. This is where you enter one domain on the home page and are presented with a TON of data including:

  • Daily AdWords PPC Budget
  • Links through to SpyFu Kombat
  • Average Position of Ads vs # of Advertisers
  • Estimated Value of Organic Traffic (estimated traffic with a variable of CPC factored in)
  • Paid Traffic Compared with Organic Traffic Estimates
  • Subdomains (useful for looking at how a site might break out parts of the main domain, perhaps a good spot to look for niche keywords???)
  • Top Ten Paid Keywords w/ Keyword Ad History (links through to full Keyword Ad History tool)
  • Total Paid Keywords
  • Total Organic Keywords
  • PPC Competitors (with a link to overlapping keywords)
  • Organic Competitors (with a link to overlapping keywords)
  • Category

In addition to searching for a domain SpyFu let's you search by keyword as well, as shown below:

SpyFu Classic Keyword Search Blog Post

The data here can be useful, as you can see the:

  • Estimated PPC, Clicks, Cost Per Day, Total Advertisers...all with trend data
  • Top Ten Domains Advertising on the Keyword, with Domain Ad History
  • Additional Keywords Purchased By Relevant Domains
  • PPC Ad Copy with a Link to Keyword Ad History
  • Top Ten Organic Results with Title, Meta Description
  • Related Terms
  • Related Concepts (based on semantic relationships)
  • Categories

Keyword Ad History

Keyword Ad History will show you, via color coded bars, how often the keyword appeared in a domain's PPC campaign along with any changes in the ad copy (all of which can be exported to excel). It shows a year's worth of data up front and goes back to 2006 via the Bonus History Button.

SpyFu Keywod Ad History Blog Post

So it's pretty straightforward, which is what I like about SpyFu Tools. No over-reliance on "in-house metrics" it's just "here's the ad history of the keyword", plain and simple. Typically, if you see a keyword being advertised on by a good PPC advertiser consistent then you can look to apply that ad copy technique to a niche market of that larger keyword. If I were advertising for "hotels in Oklahoma" I might pay attention to what ad copy has been successful, over time, for that main/core keyword "hotels".

Domain Ad History

Domain Ad History is similar to Keyword Ad History except it shows the keyword history of a particular domain:
SpyFu Blog Post Domain Ad History

This tool is useful in looking at keywords that have been successful for your competitors (or larger players in your niche) and which ones they tried and abandoned (which could be ones for you to avoid out of the gate). All of this assumes the domain you are researching is competent PPC advertiser.

Keyword Smart Search

The Keyword Smart Search tool in SpyFu uses semantic word relationships, publicly available keyword data, and PPC campaign data to return a list of keywords related to the keyword(s) (up to 10) you enter. As you can see, you can also filter by CPC, search volume, and you can also exclude keywords:

SpyFu Keyword Smart Search

Here is a screen shot of the results page for Keyword Smart Search:

Spyfu Keyword Smart Search Results

For me, I prefer to use the PPC keywords and the Organic keywords found in either SpyFu Classic or SpyFu Kombat. I like to use other tools for pure keyword research (Google tools, Microsoft Ad Center Intelligence, and Wordtracker). Primarily, I feel SpyFu is at its best when used as a competitive research tool versus a keyword research tool.

A Variety of Top 100 Lists

They have a list of all there Top 100 Lists here.

In Closing...

I find their tools pretty useful for competitive research. I don't use their Keyword Smart Search much as described above but the amount of data that they give (in a straightforward fashion) at the price points they give is quite a nice combination. SpyFu makes its way into my toolbox on just about every project.

Interview with Andrew Shotland

Today I get to interview one of my favorite reads in the SEO blogoshpere, Andrew Shotland. Andrew runs the Local SEO Guide blog and has graciously taken some of his time to share with us his thoughts on Local SEO.

1. You have an enjoyable, albeit unique, writing style. Lots of people write about things worth reading but much of what they write, or how the present it at least, makes it pretty forgettable. How much has your style helped you in acquiring and keeping visitors to your site, landing clients?

With the blog I just try to be myself and talk about what I think is interesting - and let's face it local search, while often interesting, is not always interesting - so if I need to talk about doing keyword research for personal hygiene products to get my point across, so be it. It's no different in how i interact with my clients. I think half the reason my business works is because maybe I know what I am doing and the other half is because I am totally myself with my clients/readers.

While I am serious about helping my clients succeed, I try not to be too serious about much else. I have a friend who ran a pretty cool web start-up. His wife was a phd focused on the palestinian situation in gaza. I remember her asking him when he was going to stop wasting his life and do something serious. That stuck with me. I used to think building companies was a meaningful way to spend your life, and I still do, but compared to trying to solve Middle East peace problems, SEO is not exactly ghandi-type work. So you better enjoy it.

2. In reading your Local Search Predictions for 2010, I found the point about Google not allowing "agency accounts" with respect to their Local Business Center pretty interesting. I imagine it would make it harder on small businesses, who likely don't have time to manage their entire marketing campaign, to do the proper things within the LBC to make it work for them, thus make them less loyal to Google.

Do you think they will eventually implement that? They do that on the Adwords side and you can give agencies access to Analytics so what is with their reluctance with LBC? Do they want to engage the business directly and cut out the middle-person?

I really think they need to do this. First off, let's face it, a huge number of businesses would rather have an agency deal with their LBC account. But agencies have to trick Google into getting control of their clients' LBC accounts. It's really just ridiculous.

Even worse is that there are so many businesses that have problems accessing their LBC accounts when they part ways with an agency. That's a big problem. So it would make a lot of people's lives much easier to have a system that solves these problems.

That said, Google's POV on this is quite interesting. Googlers that work on LBC will tell you that the reason why many businesses would prefer an agency to manage their LBC account is not because these businesses have better things to do than figure out how to use the LBC, but rather because the LBC software design is not optimal. So if they come up with a better software design, then more businesses will use the service and there won't be a need for agencies. I like the apollo-13/mcgyver-like thinking here, but i think that flies in the face of everything I've ever experienced with how SMB's operate.

So I am optimistic that we'll get some kind of agency user thing happening this year. But then again I thought health care reform would get passed in '09 so what do I know?

3. Some marketers entering the "local" scene have preconceived notions about local SEO/PPC not being worth the effort because "most small businesses are cheap, they don't want to listen, and there is no search volume anyway". How real are the concerns and was/is that something you've experienced?

A. There's a ton of local search volume and Google, for one, has made big efforts to drive more web search traffic to local businesses (e.g. the 10 pack).

B. A lot of small businesses are definitely gun-shy about spending $ on SEO and search in general, but they are not stupid. The past year was a real watershed moment in terms of the number of SMB's jumping on the SEO bandwagon. The number of companies selling these services has gone through the roof and there are plenty of success stories out there. So the questions from a lot of these SMB's has gone from "wtf is SEO?" to "I know i need to figure this out. How can you help me?" While it's still a tough pitch to get a lot of these smaller co's to make the investment, all I can say is that there are plenty who are willing to step up and these are the ones who get great results and then help bring their peers into the market.

4. You mentioned a lot of small business can be gun-shy from an investment standpoint. Is getting a commitment on the dollar amount you need to make the campaign work the biggest hurdle in dealing with local SEO clients? If not, what is?

In my experience it's not very hard to get money out of the clients who understand the value of SEO, or at least those who understand that they need to understand the value. If they don't get it, then they are probably not worth pursuing. In my experience, the biggest challenge with these guys, big or small, is getting them to work on their sites to make sure that they are set up to convert. I am constantly surprised at businesses that know how to put together a TV or print ad that is designed to drive people into the store but don't bother to apply the same rigor to setting up their web pages. This is a big reason why so many of us in the SMB marketing world use pages other than the client's website to drive leads.

5. There are lots of places to advertise a site outside of search from a local marketing standpoint. what is your opinion on twitter, Facebook, and/or MySpace for local companies? The buzz seems to be Facebook is great for local businesses and local events, Twitter can be hit or miss, and MySpace is ehhhh.

The consensus in my little corner of the search marketing world is that Facebook is the place to be these days. Lot's of cheap, highly qualified, easy-to-target traffic. I have found Twitter to be an interesting source of traffic, but you have to be pretty creative about it. You need to be a lot more socially engaged in Twitter to get a lot out of it. I think Twitter and Facebook are going to get a lot more locally-oriented over the next year so it should be fun to watch. Nothing against MySpace, but it's not really a factor in my work.

6. Have you experienced any discernible difference between using the free listings vs paid listings/premium services on some of the big IYP's you mentioned in your Top IYP's for SEO 2009 post like Citysearch, Yelp, etc?

one of the biggest opportunities for local businesses is to understand how to optimize not just for Google, yahoo & Bing, but also for the big IYP's the traffic that comes from these sites is uber-qualified and most of the time businesses that are advertising on these sites usually just set it and forget it. if you learn how to optimize your ad on say, you can probably get just as much if not more business than from a well placed Google maps listing. for some of these sites there's no discernible benefit to having a paid v. free listing, but for a few of the biggies, the paid listings allow you to manipulate your listing so that you can better optimize for the site's internal search as well as for Google

7. What is the best way you find for targeting local keywords, since keyword tools aren't so good at it? Checking the popular variations of broader terms and tacking on local modifiers or just jumping right into Adwords upfront when you take on a client?

Adwords is really the best way to test if there is traffic for a locally modified keyword, but of course most SMB's would rather not spend the $ to figure that out. Most RBB's (Really Big Businesses) won't spend the bucks to figure this out either so why should the little guys be any different? That said, I have done enough of these projects for both big and small local search clients that I have a pretty good handle on what the queries are like for the big categories. And once you have done one in a market, the variation from market to market is usually not too big so you can kind of cookie cutter it a bit for those clients in new markets that don't want to invest the time/money to test. This will likely cover 90% of the good queries.


Thanks a bunch Andrew, great stuff as usual. To read more about Andrew and get more great local SEO tips and techniques please visit and subscribe to his blog over at LocalSeoGuide.Com

Local SEO - A Case Study

How Do You Do Local SEO?

It's quite clear that local SEO will be *one* of the places to be in 2010 and beyond. Need convincing?
Check out:


  • Google and Yelp's failed deal - If local search was unlikely to see a decent ongoing up tick, Google might not have as much interest in acquiring a site like Yelp. Even if Google was just buying Yelp out to remove competition for it's own local stuff, it still shows an acknowledgement that local search is quite important.
  • Google's Flat Rate Local Adwords Pricing Model aimed at local businesses
  • Google's Local Business Center is becoming a more and more robust service.
  • The local 10 Pack continues to show up in general service related queries. Local SEO is also about gaining visibility in Google's 10 pack and maps in general so it is equally as important to be optimized for your geo-specific keywords as it is to be set up to succeed in the local pack

Speaking of the local 10 pack, it appears to have done part of its job for Google. Consider the following from TMPDM/ComScore

So Google's maps increased sharply, likely due to the local 10 pack being shoved down people's throats. I happen to like the 10 pack to some degree, more when I type in a town/city + service instead of my town + service because lots of times they pull from my IP which is a ways away from where I am now, which kind of renders the initial map findings a bit useless for me. I also like it much better when it takes up #4 in the rankings rather than having be at spot 1 or 2

The Process

One of the nice things about local SEO for me is that I don't have to fuss around with a bazillion different keyword tools, cross reference data points, wonder which data sets are more accurate (and which ones are entirely useless), or spend time creating a site structure which ultimately has to be redesigned after finding some some of the keyword data was rubbish.

There are a few ways get a general idea of which keywords you should incorporate in your campaign. You can use tools like Google Trends, Google Insights, as well as PPC campaigns. You can also look at competing sites to see how they structure their page or site in order to target specific keywords.

A Case Study

So you just spoke at a local chamber of commerce meeting in your hometown of Atlanta and now you have the locals all fired up about search marketing. You end up landing a client named Mary Smith who owns Peachy Insurance Agency which has offices in Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, and Athens.

Mary has decided her agency is going to focus on vehicle insurance only. So she asks you to begin the process of figuring out which keywords best suit her goals. Will it be broader geo-local keywords (on the state level) or pursuing really local keywords (down to the town level) or both?
In this case, we have to figure out if car insurance or auto insurance is the more popular keyword in this specific area. I would start with the Adwords Keyword Tool to figure out if there is any big difference from a broad perspective

It appears that the modifier georgia and "auto" is a bit more popular (but it is pretty easy to work in other variations like the state abbreviation into your on-page copy)

Then I would head over to Google Insights for additional data points, one targeted to the state and one broader country wide search with local modifiers

Broad Search with modifiers

Broad Keywords but geo-targeted by region

Lastly, from a tool standpoint, I would give google trends a shot. They break out volume by town/city but I would still test that heavily in Adwords.

My next step would be to type in some keywords, since the difference is not huge and trying to target both might be a good move

Note the local box on the more niche, local search. Also, note how some sites target both car/auto. From a relevancy standpoint, Mary's site should be able to do pretty well in these SERPS as a local resource guide, a local insurance agency, and a site which is not essentially a lead generation site. If Mary can create content which is valuable to the local community, earn local links, promote the site in local communities, etc.. she should do pretty well when compared to either thinner affiliate sites or one page off-shoots on a large lead generation domain.

Georgia Auto Insurance

Georgia Car Insurance

Atlanta Auto Insurance

Atlanta Car Insurance

The best way to figure out local keyword volume, or really any keyword's volume in most cases, is to set up an adwords campaign. I like to set up 2 PPC campaigns:

  • Campaign 1 - no radius targeting, targeting keywords with specific geo-local modifiers (georgia auto insurance, car insurance in atlanta, etc)
  • Campaign 2 - targeting by maps (state of Georgia and specific zip codes) with no geo-local modifiers (auto insurance quotes, car insurance quotes) etc.

So that second option will probably be fairly pricey but the long term payoffs of making sure you or your client are optimized for the correct keyword variations in your market are much bigger than any nominal PPC campaign costs.


So the volume might not be huge but keep in mind this is a local insurance agency. They may not be able to scale their operation with a huge firehose of traffic (say the 10's of thousands places like Geico and Progressive receive per day), it is all relative.
You might proceed as follows:

  • Go with the state level keywords on the home page and try and grab the exact match if possible (either GeorgiaAutoInsurance.Com or GeorgiaCarInsurance.Com depending on what your PPC campaign tells you has the higher volume)
  • Target towns/cities on individual pages like

Most of the time local SERPS are ripe if you can figure out which angle you want to pursue, be able to execute it, and have a client willing to spend some capital

Must have resources, for me, when launching an SEO campaign is to browse through the local search ranking factors and see how I can apply them to my client's site. Also, I am a big fan of Andrew Shotland's Local SEO Guide & understanding Google maps & local search.