SpyFu, which begins at $33 per month (billed annually) for the Basic plan, is a search engine optimization (SEO) tool that strikes a impressive balance by offering a deep toolset and delivering it in a well-designed user experience (UX) that’s intuitive for SEO experts and average business users. Although Moz Pro, another Editors’ Choice winner, may have bested SpyFu due to the amount of optimization features, metrics, and tools it delivers, SpyFu is still a solid choice for growing small to midsize businesses (SMB).
Pricing and Plans
SpyFu’s Basic plan begins at $33 per month when billed annually (or $39 month-to-month). Though, unlike other tools in this roundup such as Moz Pro and KWFinder, SpyFu doesn’t price by search results. All plans come with an unlimited number of domain, keyword, keyword group, backlink, and competitor/domain comparison search results along with unlimited data export. The functionality you get with SpyFu for the price is an important factor in why we gave it an Editors’ Choice, and the unlimited search volumes make the tool even more appealing for ad hoc keyword research.
That’s not to say SpyFu doesn’t cap anything. The Basic plan gives you a capacity of 250 sales leads and domain contacts, and 5,000 weekly tracked keyword rankings, along with 10 domain reports and 10 pay-per-click (PPC) reports through SpyFu’s AdWords Advisor tool. The $78-per-month Professional plan (also $58 per month when billed annually) bumps leads and contacts to 500 and weekly tracked keyword rankings to 15,000, along with custom-branded reports and access to SpyFu’s application programming interface (API). The Professional plan is available month to month for $99 per month.
Finally, SpyFu has added a $199 per month Team plan (billed annually, or $299 month-to-month) with 2,000 sales leads and domain contacts, 40,000 weekly tracked keyword rankings, and five user logins. SpyFu also includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. Overall the company has actually slashed its pricing since our original review, which makes it all the more attractive to SMBs.
Keyword Search and User Experience
The SpyFu dashboard is smartly laid out with a navigation bar across the top with tabs for SEO Research, PPC Research, Keyword Research, Backlinks, the List Builder, Tracking, and Reports. There’s a lot SpyFu can do across the spectrum of SEO tooling, but for this review we’re focusing primarily on its ad hoc keyword research capabilities. When a business is looking to identifying the best possible search engine results pages (SERP) to target with an optimization strategy, keyword-driven investigation is the legwork to get pages to rank higher. Keyword recommendations and management capabilities are built in throughout SpyFu, but I started in the Keyword Research tab.
When testing each tool, I used the same set of five keywords to see how results differed between each of my competitors. The five keywords I used were pcmag, digital marketing, online shopping, IT consultant, and small business accounting. I chose this combination to simulate real-world terms that businesses might search for (including publishers like PCMag) as well as to find related search results and vulnerable competitor sites.
After running searches on my five test terms, I found that SpyFu creates and structures its keyword results and metrics somewhat differently than Moz Pro, KWFinder, or Ahrefs. Rather than populating a table of related keywords with Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) metrics along with stats on cost per click (CPC) and keyword difficulty, SpyFu draws a far more apparent correlation with exactly how much money a keyword is worth. After searching “digital marketing,” for instance, another navigation bar appeared across the top of the results page further breaking down the search results. You can then drill down into keyword overview, related keywords, advertiser history, ranking history, backlinks, keyword grouping, and SERP analysis. That’s just for one keyword query, showing how SpyFu does arguably the most granular deep-dive investigation into keyword data of all the tools I tested.
Atop the main results, SpyFu gave me not only CPC for the keyword, but a daily and monthly cost breakdown as well as how many unique advertisers had appeared on the keyword in the past year. I got the same level of cost breakdown when I clicked on the Related Keywords tab, which also allowed me to narrow results using a left-hand filter menu to a specific cost per day, daily search volume, difficulty score, and more.
At the bottom of the keyword results was the SERP analysis. This broke down each URL in the search results page, though KWFinder and Moz Pro both offer a much more detailed breakdown in this respect. SpyFu focuses on monthly cost, which may or may not be important to your business. Results like the Advertiser History graph, a long list and complicated diagram of the ads appearing on that search page over time, was a bit too in the weeds for me as a novice SEO tool user. But for digital marketers and advertisers, SpyFu can be a gold mine.
Keyword Management and Reports
Keyword management is baked into SpyFu throughout the platform. Within each of its three main research tabs—SEO, PPC, and Keyword—there are options in the drop-down menus for SEO and PPC-specific keywords, and Keyword Groups. The Keyword Groups features in each tab are fairly similar, populating a table with monthly search volume, CPC, difficulty score, and monthly cost. These are SpyFu’s four main metrics where keyword research is concerned. On the left of the table are either the keyword you’ve researched and grouped yourself, or top keyword group suggestions from SpyFu. On the top right of the table you can then add selected keywords to lists, or export your selected keyword as an Excel file, CSV, or PDF. This basic keyword grouping functionality is similar to SEMrush and executed better in Moz Pro and KWFinder.
Where SpyFu’s keyword management capabilities really stand out are in its List Builder and Tracking tabs. This is also where SpyFu makes its deep connection between SEO and customer relationship management (CRM). In the List Builder tab, there’s a Top Lists section with targeted lists of domains and keywords like “Domains That Spend the Most On AdWords,” keywords with the highest CPC. There’s also a list of the most expensive keywords, which you can then filter by state, industry, or a specific web-based technology: Ad buying platform, affiliate marketing, email marketing, and online shopping cart are some of the options.
Next to Top Lists, there’s a dedicated Business Leads tab. This essentially acts the same way as a keyword search: You enter keywords and industries, a location, and refine results using filters like AdWords budget and SEO clicks. The search then returns a list of URL leads with that site’s monthly ad budget and available contact information that can then be exported to your CRM or lead management system. I’d like to see SpyFu go a step further with this and integrate its SEO lead lists directly with a platform like Salesforce, but the tool is already ahead of the curve. SEMrush has a beta lead generation tool, but that’s the closest any other optimization product I tested comes to what SpyFu offers.
However, SpyFu recently incorporated AdWords Templates as part of a Google AdWords campaign. The templates consist of prewritten ads for keyword groups in hundreds of industries. Users can download the templates from the SpyFu website and then upload to an AdWords account.
The platform also includes deeper SEO campaign management with its My SpyFu Project Manager tool. SpyFu designed this as a project management (PM) feature within the SEO platform for overseeing integrated keyword research and rank tracking within a campaign. My SpyFu is only available in paid plans (not the free trial), but it lets you set up multiple projects tracking grouped keywords plotted against SEO rank, traffic value, ROI, and a number of other metrics. All you have to do is open the My SpyFu menu and add a new project. It’s the best and only example in this roundup of built-in, SEO-focused PM.
There’s also the Tracking tab, which lets you take keywords you’ve identified and start ongoing monitoring that reports back with weekly domain rankings and keyword position changes. Using the tab, I was also able to set up custom SEO reports in a few simple steps: Enter a domain name and then choose whether or not to run a report on SpyFu’s suggested domain keywords or custom keywords. I entered my five custom keywords in a field, chose up to five competitors’ URLs, and then was given the option to run either a one-off report or a recurring monthly report.
That sort of competitive analysis is another area in which SpyFu stands out, as it also has a tool called “Kombat” that’s available in the SEO and PPC Research tabs. In Kombat, I typed in PCMag’s domain and the tool quickly built an interactive data visualization that showed where PCMag’s top keywords overlapped with our competitors. There’s also what SpyFu calls a “keyword universe,” listing CPC, CTR, monthly cost, and monthly clicks for core keywords and recommended keywords. This research breakdown is another feature that helps unearth ways for you to gain an SEO edge on your competitors.
All-in-One SEO Value in a Sleek Package
SpyFu goes the furthest of all the SEO optimization tools we tested in tying SEO value directly to sales, marketing, and the business’ bottom line. The platform is smartly designed and easy to navigate, and SpyFu is also one of the more affordably priced tools in this roundup.
For the average SEO user who’s looking to simply identify and sort targeted keywords, SpyFu’s emphasis on keyword monetary value and its detailed search advertising breakdowns may be overkill. But for more and more businesses that are working to integrate their SEO research into a more holistic strategy encompassing marketing, advertising, and sales, SpyFu earns an Editors’ Choice. Moz Pro is our overall Editors’ Choice on the strength of its complete suite of traditional SEO tools including deeper crawling capabilities, but for integrated digital marketing teams, SpyFu is the tool you want.