Having a website entitles you to no privacy, leaving every company on the Internet equally vulnerable to their enemies. Now, this sounds like a bad thing, but there is an advantage to this openness and I have already said it. EVERY company is equally open to scrutiny, meaning you have the same chance as everyone else to spy on the competition.

There is always a rival, in every line of work you do. Everybody is in competition with everybody else. Using tools already provided on the web can help you build a competitive database and show you where improvements within your website need to be made.

Without further ado, the short list of great ways to sniff out the competition:

1) Spyfu – This is a great site allowing you to input keywords and see who is ranking for them, what other terms they are targeting and how much they are paying to bid on the term. It’s free and a great preliminary way to discover who your basic competitors are. If your keywords are locally targeted, you may even find some of your rivals in the building next door. If you pay for Spyfu’s services, you will get more information, it just depends on how much spying you intend to do.

2) NicheWatch – This is a nifty little site that I stumbled upon in my quest for competition tools. By entering your targeted keywords (or your URL—optional) NicheWatch quickly pulls together a slurry of information not only about your site, but who your top 10, 15 or 20 competitors are, their site’s PageRank, backlinks, Yahoo! indexed pages and a few other commands. It’s free, all you have to do is create a login name and password and the information is yours.

3) URL Trends – This site lets you perform basically the same functions as NicheWatch but you can compare up to 100 competitors for free and export the results as an Excel file. Theres’s also a really neat tool called reverse keyword lookup, which takes your URL and your competition’s and finds the target keywords. You are provided with a nice little chart displaying those results, along with some extra goodies.

4) Quantcast – If you have ever wondered the demographics for your site or others, this is the tool to use. You can find out the general target audience your campaign is reaching, things such as gender, ethnicity, household income and age, amongst other things. What’s a little scary is how do they know that stuff? Anyway it’s certainly an interesting tool, although if you and your competition are not listed in Dmoz, it won’t really help.

5) Google Alerts – Just type in keywords and keep track of anything that shows up in Google.