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.

Published: March 20, 2010 by Eric Covino in marketing


March 20, 2010 - 9:35am

Nicely detailed review, man. With newer entrants like SEMrush now available and newer features in some tools e.g. SpyFu's Kombat, it's good that a few people are doing some critical comparisons.

I think that one of SpyFu's core strengths remains one of the areas that's been there since the Classic version, their estimates for competing PPC spend volumes. While I tend to error in favor of KeywordSpy in terms of depth of keywords intelligence, in terms of accuracy on the competitive PPC budgeting considerations I've found SpyFu's estimates tend to be more accurate (I've tested on a few instances of my own).

All that said, I've been enjoying SEMrush's ease and lower price-point on recent projects... and in any case SpyFu remains a regular component within a larger context of using multiple tools in parallel and then examining what mutual corroborations are evident in their outputs.

Sidra Condron
March 23, 2010 - 3:53pm

I have to echo sreyns regarding the detailed review. We at SpyFu appreciate your candor as well as the praise. Our interface does need improvement, and while we are consulting others about what should be changed, we are more eager to hear from users about what they would like to see.

I especially liked your observation that we do not rely on in-house metrics in place of strong and actionable data. We find that when you're doing research, you want clear information you can act on immediately.

Thanks again for taking the time to give a thorough review.

George Coem
August 15, 2016 - 10:17am

Such a nice tool but how can I lookup what competitors I have in other regions?
Is there a feature similar to this: http://i.imgur.com/Sed8fIc.jpg
It shows if the subject is popular in other countries, I'd like to use something like this for my blog. I have a paid account but I didn't find it. Sent an email to the support too.

August 16, 2016 - 3:35pm

...they primarily target the US and UK markets, as those are the most saturated with advertiser demand. Some other competitive research tools also target other international markets. I think SEMrush targets something like a couple dozen markets, SearchMetrics has many markets in it & there really are a ton of different competitive research tools with their own unique data sets & features.

A couple of the features I like most with SpyFu are the snapshot pictures of old search results on a keyword (and the ability to scroll through a keyword over time) & last I checked they by default allow you to download all the data for a competing site, which can be helpful if a competing site has a rather large search footprint.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.