3 essential tips for spying on your PPC competition

Competitive studies should be part of all marketing/advertisement strategies. The practice of studying your competition is particularly important in the ever-changing and highly competitive world of PPC (pay-per-click). So where do we begin?

In this article we’ll cover how to go about creating a plan to analyze your competition, as well as the tools available and the frequency with which to conduct studies of your PPC competition.

Everyone’s heard the strategy: “Let’s just look at what our competition does and copy that.” It sounds a tad basic, right? Just because your competitors use specific practices does not automatically mean they will be good for your business. Blindly copying the actions of your competition can be dangerous and cost you dearly, especially if you have a different strategy from theirs. So in order to carry out strategic research on the actions of your competitors, let’s start with the first step: creating a plan.

  1. Create strategically competitive analysis and research plans

With all there is to accomplish at the web marketing level, it is wise to have a plan of action regarding how to go about the analysis of your competition. Here is an example of how to compare and identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

It mostly a question of selecting your main competitors and comparing them according to the following criteria:

  • Brand recognition: is the competitor’s brand very well known or easily identifiable? How often is their name entered in a search engine (Google Trends)?
  • Conversion rate: Do your competitors’ image and website inspire confidence? What are the good practices they use? What’s their website loading time like? What is their cost-per-acquisition?
  • The attractiveness of their ads: Do competitors use ad extensions? What about incentives for action/conversions? Are their ads relevant?
  • Marketing conditions: Is the market of your competition a seasonal one? Do your competitors encounter geopolitical problems? Is research into their industry increasing or decreasing? Do they offer diverse products?
  • Purchasing power: What is the average budget of your competition? Do they offer exclusive products?

Put a note between 1 and 4 for each of these criteria. It is better to create sub-criteria so as to be more precise in your analysis. Once each section is rated, compare everything in terms of your customer base, and weight each criterion according to what is most important for your customers.

  1. Learn to use the tools that allow you to better study your competition

There are many online tools you can use to study your competition. Many of these tools are free or cost very little to use. The data provided by the different tools can vary greatly; so do not base your entire analysis on the data from a single tool! These tools should be used as a reference point for future planning. Below is a quick summary of some of the tools available.

Competition study tools:

  • Adwords Auction Insight Tool: this tool is located directly on your Google AdWords account. This free tool will show you your performance as well as the performance of competitors who have bid on the same keywords as you. This is a handy tool for a quick glance. Unfortunately, it does not show the actual ads used by your competition.
  • AdWords Preview & Diagnostic Tool: This tool is great to see if your ads are running correctly or to spy a competitor’s ads in various geographic areas.
  • Spyfu.com: The free version of Spyfu gives an overview of what competitors are spending their budget on and the last time they updated their ad. Spyfu data are only available in the US and UK. Spyfu also offers a paid version that offers more information.
  • SEMrush.com – SEMrush is very similar to Spyfu except that you can also display information from Google AdWords and Bing Ads. SEMrush offers a wider geographic coverage including: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Australia
  • AdGooroo – This tool is probably the most complex of all the competitive study tools listed above. Be careful, as this is not a free tool. AdGooroo offers reports on industry leading data, PPC VS organic campaigns, branding information and much more. If you want a thorough analysis on a specific research area, or if you want to track competition bidding on branding keywords, this tool can be a good option.
  1. When to conduct competitive PPC study?

The perfect moment can vary between companies, but overall it is recommended to start as soon as you can provided you have an action plan; if this is the case, you are already on the right path. Here are some tips to use for determining when you should consider starting a competitive study:

  • When you do not know your customer’s business sector – Immediately become familiar with your competition. Use the tools mentioned above to make an online comparison of your competitors. Analyze all information you get in order to bring fresh ideas to the table.
  • When there is a strong seasonality in your industry – Study what your competitors are offering, the products they are promoting, and make sure your ads and offers are better. If the holiday season is approaching or even various school holidays, it is the right time to start planning a study of your PPC competitors!
  • Quarterly survey – If your account is stable enough and is not affected by seasonal trends, quarterly check-ins are probably a good rule of thumb. This allows you to review past trends and plan strategies for the next quarter.

In conclusion, competitive studies should be part of your entire PPC marketing strategy. You will have many options and tools (free and other) available to you online. Start by creating a strategic plan; familiarize yourself with the tools used in completive studies and regularly analyze actions undertaken by your competitors.

If you liked this article, you might like this one: 3 Steps to Convert Your Visitors to Clients

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3 essential tips for spying on your PPC competition
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