8 free competitive intelligence tools to spy on your rivals

Psst, let's keep this our secret
8 free competitive intelligence tools to spy on your rivals
This image was generated with the assistance of AI.
Table of Contents
In: Tools

In marketing, keeping a keen eye on the competition—without letting it turn into an obsession—can give you an important edge. Today’s marketers are actually lucky: With most business activity now happening online, it is easier than ever to dig up a wealth of information about the competition.

While it's essential to stay focused on your own goals, keeping an eye on the competition can provide valuable context and inspiration for your next big move.

So let's take a look at eight free competitive intelligence tools you can start using right now.

1. SimilarWeb

SimilarWeb is often where I start whenever I want to check a website. It's simply the best place to quickly check the volume and source of a competitor's traffic with relatively good accuracy.

SimilarWeb gives you detailed metrics on total visits over time, geography, acquisition channels, referring domains and more. It’s like having access to your competitor’s Google Analytics for free.

The reason it's so precise is because SimilarWeb has been constantly scraping the web for over ten years, accumulating analytics data on more than 100 million domains. You can't beat that.

You can even compare multiple sites at once, which is great for quick analysis:

Thermo Fisher is much bigger than Eppendorf in terms of website traffic. They must be doing something right.
Thermo Fisher is much bigger than Eppendorf in terms of website traffic. They must be doing something right.

2. Ubersuggest

When it comes to SEO, Neil Patel is like the Michael Jordan of the field. He's been in the game so long and has helped so many companies get to the top of Google that he even decided to create his own SEO tool, Ubersuggest.

If you’re into SEO, you certainly know that the best tools are SEMrush and Ahrefs, but those can rapidly cost you several thousands per year, and if you’re not a power user, you might be better off with a simpler and free solution.

Ubersuggest is a great alternative as it lets you run three searches per day for free, which is more than enough if you want to check out the competition from time to time.

If you're ready to invest a bit in your SEO toolbox, Ubersuggest's pricing is simply brilliant, as you can buy lifetime access for the ridiculous price of $290. There's simply no other SEO tool that gives you so much value for that price.

3. AnswerThePublic

While we’re talking about Neil Patel, another of his tools, AnswerThePublic, is worth checking out.

This tool lets you enter any keyword and discover all the questions people are asking about that topic on Google, Bing, YouTube, TikTok, and Amazon.

This is of course great for generating ideas for your content marketing, but it’s also a very useful way to check on your competitors’ brands or products:

Doesn’t look good for them…
Doesn’t look good for them…

You can set up alerts and receive an email notification every time a new question appears in search, and if you want more features, Neil Patel also offers lifetime deals with incredible value.

4. BuiltWith

The motto of BuiltWith is simple: “Find out what websites are built with”. With this tool, you can spy on the backend of any website for free. Just type in a URL and you'll get a report of all the technologies that power the sites, including their analytics, web hosting and CMS providers.

Not only that, but you can also use the additional tabs to explore the performance of their website and their referring domains:

The performance report of They could do better.
The performance report of They could do better.

The use case may be a bit niche, but it's a good tool to use if you think your competitors have a better tech stack than yours.

5. Owler

Owler is a great tool for keeping track of your competitors' news, funding, and investments. Just type in the name of the company you want to follow and Owler will give you lots of data and send you alerts whenever something new happens.

The free version can monitor five companies, which I think is more than enough to keep track of your main competitors.

6. Glassdoor

Website data isn't the only thing you might be interested in, and if you're looking for good information about your competitor's culture and hiring activities, look no further than Glassdoor.

The best thing about Glassdoor is that it allows employees to leave reviews about their employers, which gives you a lot of useful information about what's going on at your competitor's company.

You can even easily compare two companies:

The clash of the next-gen sequencers!
The clash of the next-gen sequencers!

What's also incredible is that you can get a good idea of your competitor's salary offer so that you can match or beat it:

7. Octoparse

Octoparse’s mission is to provide “easy web scraping for anyone”without having to code anything.

Web scraping may seem a bit daunting at first if you are not familiar with it, but Octoparse's user interface makes it very easy. Once the software is downloaded to your desktop, all you need to do is visit the site you want to scrap using the built-in browser. The tools will then help you recognize the data on the page and set up a scraper to collect it:

Octoparse's interface. It's not as complicated as it looks.
Octoparse's interface. It's not as complicated as it looks.

What's great about a tool like Octoparse is that you can set up alerts to keep an eye on things like your competitors' prices or the latest content they've produced. The free version is limited, but it allows you to experiment a bit with scraping to see if this is something useful for your marketing tools.

8. WaybackMachine

Sometimes, the past can reveal interesting insights about a company. The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization whose mission is to save everything on the Internet.

As part of this mission, they developed the WaybackMachine, an archive of every website's past. It's like looking at a family photo album, except it's your old website design you can check out again.

Here’s what Medpace’s website looked like on July 23rd, 2020 at 00:48:38:

It reflects the concern of the time
It reflects the concern of the time

And here's what it looks like now:

They've done some light redesigning
They've done some light redesigning

Collect only what you can use

Collecting data for the sake of it won't get your marketing any further than it already is. The real value of competitive intelligence comes from turning that data into actionable insights.

The goal of these tools is to help you identify patterns, understand the implications of competitors' moves, and determine how to use this information to your advantage. That might mean adjusting your pricing strategy, improving your product offerings, or tweaking your marketing campaigns.

But always ask yourself how the information you've gathered can directly benefit your business. If you don't see actionable results from the data you're collecting, stop and focus on your own marketing goals instead.

While a dose of competitive intelligence is essential for any business, there are limits you should not cross. The tools I've listed here are all safe to use because they rely on publicly available data, but despite the funny title of this article, I will never encourage you to actually spy on your competition (lawyers, please take note).

So keep it clean, stay away from shady tools or companies that promise too much. At the end of the day, you have to create value for your customers in your own way, and that's how you'll actually win over your competitors.

Written by
Joachim Eeckhout
Over the past decade, I have specialized in science communication and marketing while building a successful biotech media company. Now, I'm sharing what I've learned with you on The Science Marketer.
More from The Science Marketer

Become a smarter science marketer in 10 minutes per week.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to The Science Marketer.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.