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To be successful in any type of advertising, whether it be digital, radio, or out-of-home, you must keep tabs on your competitors and their tactics. If they are advertising on the subway, chances are you should be too. Likewise, if they are targeting a specific keyword in PPC, so should you.
There are a lot of free benchmarks for data available to all Google Ads users. Here are four of my favorite tools for analyzing your Google Ads competition.
The Auction Insights report allows you to look at who else is bidding on your keywords. You can see impression shares, average position, overlap rate, position above rate, and top of page rate that each competitor has on a particular keyword. With this information, you can effectively better manage your own bids in comparison to whomever you deem your highest competition. The below graphic shows which competitors are bidding on the keyword “foam mattress.”
Typically, when people use the Google Ads Keyword Planner, they think of using it to find keyword ideas from their own site and landing pages. Conversely, try plugging a few of your competitors URL’s into the search bar. The results may display keyword ideas you never thought of using. Because these keyword ideas came from the competitor’s site, they are likely already being utilized by your competitors.
There are also many tools that you can pay for if your budget allows for a little wiggle room. Here I’ll highlight one that I frequently use:
One great, affordable tool for paid search marketers to utilize is SEMrush.com. This is a platform that we utilize here at WordStream to help our clients gain a competitive edge in their Google Ads accounts. We are able to pull reasonably accurate data regarding what keywords a client’s competitors are bidding on, how much they are spending, and a sample of what their ads look like.
Let’s say we have a pet supplies business, and we’d like to see which competitors are bidding on the keyword pet supplies. Simply, all I must do is type “pet supplies” into the search tab and voila! The top 15 sites bidding on this particular keyword are:
Another cool way to use SEMrush is to enter the URL of one of your competitors. Going back to the pet supplies business example, we can easily see how much PetSmart spends on their paid search initiative, how much traffic they see, which keywords they are bidding on, and what a sample of their ad text looks like.
Once your Google Ads account is well structured, you can think about optimizing it further with direct competitive advertising. How can you do this? I’ll use possibly the most competitive rivalry in the world as my high-level example. Let’s say we are Coca-Cola. We might consider bidding on the keyword Pepsi. We can gain more brand awareness and potentially convert a Pepsi drinker into a Coke drinker.
In this next screenshot, we can see an example of a competitive campaign that was executed effectively.
Best practice is to not utilize attack tactics. Coca-Cola would not want to launch an ad that directly puts down Pepsi. This could potentially cheapen the Coca-Cola brand. Also remember that businesses must keep in accordance with Google policies, meaning that in Coke’s competitive ad, they could not use the trademarked term Pepsi in their ad text.
Another point is that Quality Score is going to be lower for competitive campaigns, and it is unlikely that your competitive campaign’s ads will show up in the first position. After all, Google’s main focus is to make sure the searcher finds what they are looking for. However, it is important to keep in mind that there is no solid data to prove that a higher position translates into a higher ROI.
As a side note, beware that when a business launches a competitive campaign on another brand, it is only a matter of time until the competitor is likely to launch their own competitive campaigns in return.
My overall conclusion is that competitive campaigns are effective and worthwhile if your budget allows for it. Obviously, it is most important to make sure all the bases are covered around all branded and non-branded terms. If after these campaigns are launched and optimized and there is still leftover paid search budget, then a competitive campaign might be the right direction to steer.
If budget is tight and there is no extra money to fund a competitive PPC campaign, it is not the end of the world. However, it is important to at least make sure you are bidding on the same top non-branded keywords as the competition. You can use the tactics mentioned in this article to help you determine which keywords these are.