10 ways to find what’s working for your competition

By  •  Updated: 10/26/22 •  4 min read

“I don’t read books on marketing. I read spy tools”

This is the advice I heard from Peter Kell, one of the best Video Sales Letter copywriters on the planet.

He’s the man behind the VSL’s of ProActiv – the billion dollar skincare brand, and Mindvalley, the course publishing giant.

So what does he mean?

Spy tools are sites that expose your customer’s ads and websites so you can model what’s working.

Pick 10 ads with big spend behind them, get the transcriptions and list out what’s going on in each one, you’ll soon have a formula for your VSL’s

[Spoiler: Here’s the formula that Peter presented in Dubai earlier this year]

It definitely works, but you need to focus on big sites that get enough traffic to get noticed.

Here’s 10 sites I use regularly to get inspiration on new projects


See where your competitors get their traffic from across social, paid search, ad networks and referring sites/ See some of the ad creatives and posts sending them traffic.

Use Similarweb on news sites and you’ll find offers they’re sending traffic to as well. This is where you should start looking for patterns in the style of ads, regardless what market they’re for.

(Russell Brunson told me this is how he finds new markets to approach.)

Swipe files

If you’re serious about your copy you should be taking screen grabs of every ad you click on and every sales page you even think about buying from.

A few sites have done the work for you:

swipefiles.com and swiped.co are both good, if a little heavy on vintage ads.


See what tech is used on a website.

Also good for looking the other way – who uses what tech.

Want to target course owners? See who is using Teachable, Thinkific etc.

Tip: Look for sites that spend a lot on testing tools. They’re a safer bet to copy than ones who take punts all day

Facebook ad library

See what ads your competitors are running, what copy angles they’re using, and how long each ad has been running – a good predictor of whether it’s profitable or not.



Hear me out.

Set up a mailbox purely for signing up to email newsletters and you’ll have a swipe file of inspiration any time you need it.

Mine currently has 21,000 unread emails in it!


One for your social content on Twitter.

See the overlap between the biggest accounts in your niche so you can see who the top players are and follow them.

Then use:


See your favourite accounts best tweets in order of likes and retweets’s so you can model the very best formula


See what paid and organic keywords your competitors appear for, and see ads they’ve run in the past


The biggest spy of them all.

Learn to use advanced search operators lie:




You’ll soon know everything that Google knows about a website, which is a lot.


This is Peter’s secret weapon – a library of Youtube ads with traffic data.

Find ones with big spend behind them, and especially if they’ve been up for more than about 3 months and you’ll definitely find an angle your customers will love.

Remember, you want to use tools that show someone has been spending a lot on a strategy for a long time. Don’t model fads, model what works for years.

Stephen Pratley

I build email lists, that grow into one-man businesses.