How to spy on your competitors online


There is an old Chinese saying, “Know yourself, Know your enemy. A hundred battles, a hundred victories”.   Not only is it critical to understand what your competitors are up to, but it is also useful to get inspiration from your successful competitors.

There are many research tools available. Let me broadly divide them into paid and free tools.


Facebooks Ads Library

You can easily find your competitors’ active ads from the Facebook ads library. Scroll down to the bottom and you can find the oldest active ads. This ad should be performing well as it has been running for the longest time.

Sometimes you may have difficulties finding the official Facebook page in the ads library. You can always pick the other route.  e.g. You are keen to find out more about You can always go to their official Facebook page.  

  • Look for the page transparency section and select “See all”

  • In the page transparency, look for ads from this page and select “Go to Ad library”

By going through all the ads, you have a rough idea of what they are trying to achieve.

This is one of the oldest active ads in the library. Select the CTA “Shop Now” and visit their webpage. 

Using your Facebook pixel helper, you can see that they have actually placed a pixel event there. It is possible that they are collecting the visitors of the page into an audience for future retargeting.

On top of that, I have also installed Tik Tok Pixel helper too. With the alerts, I notice that they have implemented Tik Tok pixel on the same page. They are ready to run Tik Tok ads with this page.


Tik Tok Creative Center

The other social media giant should not be left out. We can visit the Tik Tok Creative
Center for more insight.

Under Industry, you can choose Financial Services and follow up with Cryptocurrencies.

In the ad, you can choose to check out CVR.  CVR is calculated by the number of conversions divided by the number of clicks.

Run the video and look out for the spike. That is the moment when the users click and convert. Try to understand what leads up to this conversion. Extract the lesson and apply it to your scenario.  Without going through the video ad in detail, the video has shared many benefits and drives the users to take action.

The other free tool that you can visit is  It is a great place to check out the past and present Google Display Network (GDN) for big brands.

On the left side, you can see that there are 122 GDN creatives available for your easy

On the right-hand side, you can see related links to further your investigation.  Mouse over one of the ads and you can see more details of the ad. The dates active tell you the active duration of the ads.

Let’s cover some paid tools now.

You have gathered a list of strong competitors’ websites. They have been around in the market for some time and you are sure that they are generating a lot of traffic.  There should be some keywords that are actively been searched by your target audience.  They may have built corresponding web pages that answer these queries.

These pages qualified the visitors as an audience and can be reused for the acquisition funnel (read about the marketing funnel).

Retargeting ads are served to drive them down to take action.  You just need a tool to uncover them all.

Just log in to the competitors’ sites and the tool will reveal some of the high-traffic sites. Visit them and discover if there is any opportunity to do better. If you can answer the searcher’s query better, you have a chance.

Your objective is to lengthen the time spent by the searcher on your web page (read about the benefits of good website UX here). The searcher finds great value in your page over others. On top of that, the searcher’s journey should end on your page. This means that they do not continue searching after visiting your site. These signals tell Google that your page is better suited for the search query and gradually move your site’s ranking in the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) higher.

Take note 1st entry on a SERP gets roughly 30+% of the traffic, 2nd entry gets around 20+%, 3rd entry get around 10+% and the rest is divided between 4th to 10th entries. Normally there is no traffic for page 2 entries.


Sensor Tower

This is a paid tool for mobile app research.  Using app as an example, we can leverage Sensor Tower to find out their activities.

One of the activities that you may want to check is a spike in downloads.
Under Store Intelligence> App Analysis
You may have noticed that there was a spike in Nov 2021 by
They have a surge of downloads from 681K on Sep 2021 to 2M on Nov 2021.

Under Network Analysis, you will find a series of channels that are active during that period of time. Among the many channels found, let’s narrow it down to Facebook channel.  You can visit Creative Gallery and search for the new active ad that was at the start of the surge. This gives you a hint of which creative is responsible for the surge. Through this method, you cannot find out which campaign objective or which audience is targeted. Nevertheless, it already reveals to you the creatives responsible for the surge.

Besides looking out for a surge in downloads, we can reuse the method I shared in the Facebook ads library. Look out for the most extended active ads, this reveals what was working for the competitors.

There are many ways to scout for information. Hope these examples help.

Use these insights to improve your digital marketing efforts.  To learn more about various channels, visit our digital marketing courses page.

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Author: Manfred Shi

About the author

Manfred helps businesses get more leads with a low budget using effective online marketing strategies e.g. Facebook Ads, SEO, SEM, Content Marketing, Lead Generation, Email Marketing etc.