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Competitor research for SEO

SEO tools for nonprofits
Last update: Dec 23, 2022

In this guide, you will learn how to do SEO competitor research. First, we explain why โ€˜spyingโ€™ on other websites is useful for activists. Then we review free and affordable tools for nonprofits.

Why do competitor research?

Activism is all about working together. So something like โ€˜competitorโ€™ research might not sound ethical to you. There are two reasons why it is useful for nonprofits and activist movements to do SEO competitor research:

Learn from other activists

The best way to get better at SEO is by learning what works for others. Find out what keywords and content work well for your peers.

Of course, you could use that information to compete with them. But you can also take a more collaborative approach. Find out what sets your organisation apart, and become better at reaching your specific audience.

For example, analyse the website of another nonprofit to find out who links to that website. You can then use this data to map stakeholders (both allies and opponents).

Target your opponents using SEO

There are many tools out there that allow you to โ€˜spyโ€™ on the search traffic of other websites. Your opponents might already be using those to analyse your website.

They may have a bigger budget than you. But we activists are creative. And by combining several free & affordable tools, we can actually use SEO as a tactic to target our opponents.

For example, if you are organising a campaign against fossil fuel companies, you could write articles targeted at search queries such as โ€œis shell greenโ€.

Criteria for comparing tools

This is what we are looking for in the tools for SEO competitor research that we recommend:


These are the features you are looking for:

  • Traffic estimation: Usually not very accurate, but useful for comparisons and gaining an understanding of the channels that your competitor uses for attracting website visitors.
    • Organic search traffic
    • Paid search traffic
    • Other channels: social, direct, referral, mail, display ads
  • Keywords: Useful for getting keyword inspiration and finding out how well your competitor does for particular keywords.
    • List of keywords and the position of their top-scoring article for that keyword
    • Position distribution: a graph that shows at what search ranks the keywords are positioned (for example: 2% at positions 1-3, 5% at positions 4-10, etc.)
    • Keyword intent
  • Backlinks: Having an overview of all websites that link to the website you are analysing is useful for mapping stakeholders (both allies and opponents).
    • Number of backlinks
    • List of pages and domains
    • Backlinks for a specific page: this feature is often reserved for paid plans
  • Competitors: Based on the similarity in keywords, backlinks and other data, many tools provide a list of similar websites to the one you are analysing.

Every tool provides different levels of detail. And often, you will need to use a combination of tools to get all the data. For each of the features listed above, these statistics are good to look out for:

  • Total number
  • Geography filter: global or specific country
  • Trend over time
  • Gap research/comparisons (with your website and others)


Activists do not have a lot of money lying around usually, so we only include free and affordable SEO tools for competitor research.

Unlike many other comparison websites, we do not earn money if you start using the tools we recommend. This article is written by activists like you (feel free to improve it!).

Make a small donation to help keep us independent.

Tools for competitor research


The free version of Semrush allows you to make 10 queries per day. You use a query every time you look up info about a certain domain or keyword.

Data returned is often limited to about 10 results (for example, the 10 most popular keywords for your competitor's website). The free Semrush version is especially useful for getting aggregated insights.


Similarweb is useful for getting a wide spectrum of insights about another website. But while it provides a diverse set of insights, little detailed data is returned for each (e.g. only the 5 most popular keywords).

For example, it provides data about estimated visit duration, pages per session, and bounce rate. In addition, it provides some details about the website's audience, marketing channels and technology used. Note that all of these are aggregated data, and there is no way of knowing how accurate they are.

SEO PowerSuite (app)

SEO PowerSuite is an application you need to install on your computer before you can use it.

It returns much more data than alternative tools. The downside is that the app is built so you can not export or copy data with a free plan. In addition, it provides little transparency about the datasets that are used, so it is hard to determine the accuracy of the data returned.

How to use these tools

Ok, so now you have access to lots of data. But what to do with that data? In this section, you will learn how you can use the features offered by these SEO tools to help you achieve the goals of your nonprofit.

As a reminder, this article is about how to analyse the website of your competitors. You can definitely use the tools discussed below to analyse your own website as well. But often, there are better tools available for that - read our more general SEO for nonprofits guide to learn more.

Tools you can use for this:

Tools you can use for this:

Tools you can use for this:

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