The Best Free SEO Tools for Competitive Intelligence

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Knowing what your competitors are doing and how they perform is key to developing a strategy to surpass them in organic search. By doing a bit of digging, one can uncover a great deal of learning from competitors who have already tested different elements of their SEO campaigns.

In previous posts in this series, I examined the best free SEO tools for targeting target keywords and those for identifying and fixing onsite SEO issues. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to the last set of free SEO tools available to every marketer: competitive analysis.

As I explore in a new report, “10 Free, Must-Have SEO Tools,” there are a variety of excellent SEO tools you can use to gain a competitive advantage on competitors to properly analyze and tweak your SEO campaigns without having to invest any money. Here’s an analysis of the four best free tools for competitive SEO intelligence.

Keyword Spy

The first step in gaining competitive intelligence is identifying the top competitors. It may not always be evident as to who these competitors are in regards to SEO, especially because they may differ from competitors in other channels as well as on a per-keyword basis. Keyword Spy offers a free Organic Competitors report that can help identify who the top competitors are for a particular keyword. 

To find the competitors, simply enter a target keyword phrase into the search box, select the radio button for Keywords, click the Search button then, once data is populated, select the Organic Competitors tab.

Using this tool to identify competitors can not only help identify competitors you may not have known about, but also lets you see how competition differs around different keywords. This list of competitors will be helpful when digging deeper into a competitive analysis using the tools described in the following pages.

SEOTools for Excel

SEOTools for Excel is an Excel add-on that offers a great deal of value for many different aspects of SEO, one of those being competitive intelligence. For purposes of identifying what it is that sets a webpage apart from those ranking the best, SEOTools will easily pull together a variety of elements for a quick comparison.

In order to use SEOTools, it must first be downloaded and installed. Detailed instructions are available on the download page. Once installed, the features can be accessed by selecting the “SeoTools” tab at the top of Excel.

For the purpose of competitive intelligence around a certain keyword phrase, the first step is to search the phrase in Google to identify the top-10 results and add each URL as if a page of the site being optimized is already ranking well. If not, simply add a row at the bottom for the URL to compare to the top competitors.

Once the list of pages to compare is complete, both on and off-page factors for each of the URLs can be pulled in to compare.

As an example, by selecting the HTMLTitle metric from the Onpage menu into one of the columns, the title tag of each ranking page will be pulled into the column. This makes it very easy to see how the keyword usage within one’s title tag compares with the top pages.

 There are, of course, many different data points that can be pulled into Excel using SEOTools for a deep competitive analysis.

Site Comparison

In order to take an on-page competitive analysis a bit further, the Site Comparison tool will show various important on-page elements side by side along with some important metrics of two URLs. This provides a deeper look at two pages in regards to how they compare from an SEO standpoint. Some of the elements compared include body text along with the code-to-content ratio, bolding/italicizing of keywords, keyword density, meta tags, headlines, internal links and outgoing links. This can provide great insight as to what page elements a competitor has better optimized for a target keyword.

Open Site Explorer

Understanding the link profiles of top competitors is a good indicator of the types of keywords a site could be successful in targeting. For example, if a site has far less link authority than its competitors, it may not make the most sense to target very competitive keywords because they will be difficult to rank for. In that case, targeting less competitive longtail keywords may be a better strategy. Before deciding on an SEO strategy, it is important to understand the competitive landscape from an authority signal standpoint. Open Site Explorer can help you do just that.

Simply input your domain, in addition to up to four competitor domains, and Open Site Explorer will return a wide range of authority metrics so you can see how your site stacks up.

 open site explorer

Knowing what sites are linking to competitors is also a good way to find potential link partners that will provide good authority value. This is another valuable competitive intelligence report that Open Site Explorer will provide. By downloading and running the Inbound Links report, you will be able to download a list of all the sites linking to a competitor’s site. This list is a great first step in prospecting link opportunities. Start with the sites with the highest Domain Authority and reach out to request link partnerships.

What are your favorite free SEO tools for competitive intelligence? Share your recommendations in the comments.


Marc Purtell

Marc Purtell

VP of Search Marketing at Direct Focus Online
Marc Purtell is VP of Search Marketing at Direct Focus Online, a full service digital marketing agency that employs hundreds of marketing experts worldwide. He... Read Full Bio
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  • zakir hussain

    Thanks for mentioning these great tools!

    I prefer semrush for keywords research, whitespark for citation source, opensitexplorer for competitor’s link analysis and last but not the least link assistant’s Rank tracker for keyword analysis and local keywords tracking.
    But sad to say all these are paid, I bet there are dozens free SEO tools are there but it’s never easy to find the best resources with free ones.


  • Md. Aminur Rahman

    Do you have any free or testing version ???

  • Chandra

    Nice article. 🙂
    I would like to add some tools i know.
    You can use backlinkwatch, or ahrefs to check backlinks from your competitors.

  • Charan Pammi

    Successful and useful points are shorted here. I recommend to use SEMRUSH because it have too many uses which increase DA of the BLog

  • Tahmid

    Cool tools. I use some of these. But ‘SEOTools for Excel’ is new to me. I will use it soon. Thanks for the sharing the tools.

  • Robbee

    I’ve never heard about the keyword spy tool but i’m interested to give it a try. I think it will be very useful if we combine this tool with the keyword analysis tool from adwords. We can get the number of search for a specific keyword and with other tool you can get the list of your competitors. It will helps a lot for the keyword targeting strategy.

  • Rishav

    Thanks for sharing all these important tool, previously i was using Alexa, Woo rank and site explorer. Let me check out how to use “SEOTools for Excel”

  • Vikram Rout

    I like these tools. Some are already in use and some are new tools. Thanks for sharing nice seo tools info with us.

  • Laura

    Being an ex-finance nerd, I’m LOVING the excel tool add-on! Great list.

  • Heath Gross

    Thanks for this article, it provides and interesting perspective on a different kind of ‘competitive intelligence’. I am a former US counterintelligence agent turned competitive intelligence professional, so when I first read this article I thought, ‘this isn’t competitive intelligence.’ Bus as I revisited the broader definition of competitive intelligence I am now convinced that, though it is very different than what my firm specializes in, it still meets the criteria:
    “A broad definition of competitive intelligence is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization.” – wiki

    Your process and purpose definitely fit this definition. Is there a unique designation for this kind of competitive intelligence, such as SEO competitive intelligence, or Web Analytics or something like that?


    Heath Gross
    Managing Partner
    Sedulo Group

  • Julia McCoy

    We really like SEO Profiler. They give you a lot for the money. We are a copywriting agency, and this tool gives us many insights into how we can acquire easy keywords, leads, and low hanging fruit.

  • Andrea Cimatti

    Interesting set of tools, Certainly worh a try before using pro tools like Compete that cost just a little too much for tight budgets.

  • Bart van den Bosch

    Open Site Explorer looks interesting.

    Page rank for Google Chrome does the trick for me.
    It shows:
    indexed pages,
    Google page rank,
    the tools used to make the site,
    social media stats,
    page info like titels, h1s, h2’s etc,
    page speed.

  • Ellena

    That’s a great post Mark! Thank you for the writeup!

    There has also been a new backlink tool recently released by WebMeUp –

    This backlink checker is completely free at the moment, and it is possible to check up to 1000 backlinks immediately and download the rest in Excel.

  • Steven Schultz

    This is a rather unusual compilation of SEO software tools. Site Comparison is new to me.
    By the way, I recently discovered Webmeup backlink tool. It’s free and lets you download a doc of your links.

  • Chris Dill

    Great list, thanks for describing each product. I am currently working with some SEO tools, which did not make the list. First is Traffic Travis, which does quite a gamut of things in this list. There is a free version which is limited. Also do not forget Google Adwords- even the new version can help with SEO. Lastly there is MicroSite Masters, which does 10 keywords on 3 engines with change analysis.

  • anil arora

    great tools for seo but i need more effective tool for overall website referencing if any buddy can help me

  • Thomas Lapperre

    Nice list. I often use Yes it has annoying ads and no it doesn’t show Google links, but otherwise a perfect free tool for checking out a site’s linkprofile.