Spyfu: Spying on the competition

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Spyfu is a company that lets you spy on your competitors site - you can find out how much they are spending on paid advertising per day. You go to their website and enter a domain name, and you get back the online advertising budget numbers for the site, along with the tool clicks per day and the average cost per click.

The free site provides limited content, but the subscription site promises tools to track and analyze a site’s paid keywords, average rank, number of clicks per day, number of CPC ads etc.

spyfuHere are daily budgets of some high rollers in the online advertising world, from the Spyfu site.

Geico.com $124k - $452k
Orbitz.com $12k - $362k
Progressive.com $84k - $336k

The spread in the numbers is rather large. To make this more useful, the site needs to publish the numbers within some tighter tolerances.

In general, when advertisers sign on to place paid ads on a search engine, most of the click and keyword average pricing data are made available to them. It is possible to get statistics on the number of times a particular keyword is being searched, and how many clicks you are likely to get at a particular cost per click (CPC), so Spyfu is probably just aggregating data, and presenting it conveniently in one place, along with some estimates.

Overture (Yahoo) freely publishes click costs and traffic estimates, but Google adwords has a strict policy of not allowing advertisers to see what other merchants are bidding on a particular keyword. So it is not clear if Spyfu is getting any data from Google at all, or just making educated guesses based upon Yahoo cost estimates.

Here are the most expensive keywords - yes that is the max price the merchants have bid for every click to their site, for those keywords!
spyfu top 100 most expensive keywords

We tried Spyfu on some domains and the results were reasonable. However, for domains that did not advertise on the big three search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN), we could not get any advertising numbers even though the sites are advertising on several smaller search engines.

At first pass, this seems like a very useful tool for online merchants to use. Here are some of the features Spyfu needs to add to its offerings.

1. Add tier II search engines into its estimates
2. Use better filtering for their search terms (they list words such as “a”, “www” etc. which google and other search engines remove as they are very common terms)
3. Get a faster server - the queries are very slow 50% of the time
4. Either get more precise numbers for the ad budgets, or label the numbers as “estimates”.

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