monitoring competitor PPC

A lot of search engine marketers assume that their online competitors are the same as their offline competitors. While this assumption is partially true, a lot of the time this isn’t the case. With search engine marketing, people from all over can be your direct competitors if you both happen to be bidding on the same keywords. Let’s take a look at how we can study our competitors’ PPC efforts to improve our own.

Acquire As Much Data As You Can

The best place to start is to get familiar with Google and Bing Ads’ auction insights. Auction insights is a great tool provided by Google and Bing to help search engine marketers see how they are performing compared to their competitors. This tool gives valuable insights into key metrics such as:

  • Impression Share: How often another competitor received an impression in auctions where you were also competing. It is important to note that your impression share is a measurement of the number of impressions you received divided by the number of impressions you were eligible for.
  • Top of Page Rate: This metric shows how often you or your competition is ranking above the organic search results.
  • Outranking Share: This is how often your ad showed in a higher position or when your ad appeared and competitors didn’t.
  • Position Above Rate: This metric shows how often a competitor ranks a position above you when both your ads are showing.

Once you’ve had time to sit down and look over the numbers you’ll find that not all your competitors are the same. Some may have huge budgets they can use to stifle their competition, some may not even be close enough to your impression share to be a considerable threat. Regardless, knowing who your competitors are and taking note of their performance metrics gives you a good idea of who your true competition is.

Study The Ads

Since your competitors are bidding on the same keywords as you, this means that your ads are likely appearing next to each other on the results page. The results page is an easy way to see how your ads stack up against the competition. With the search bar, you’ll be able to search your own keywords to see if your ad shows for the keywords you’re bidding on. You’ll also be able to compare your ads directly against a close competitor who’s bidding on the same thing.

Studying your ads and comparing your ad copy to a competitor’s can give you a good idea of whether your efforts are paying off. If you notice that every time you search your keywords your ad appears at the top, you’re likely winning your auctions against competitors. If you begin to notice your ads don’t even crack the top three, it may be time to reevaluate budget and keywords.

Taking Action

If you spend every waking moment comparing your ads to your competitors you’re going to pull your hair out. Your first goal should be to set up campaigns that give you the best chance possible out of the gate. Once you have a solid baseline then can you start to make changes based around your competitor’s actions. 

Once you begin to make changes around your competition, be sure to take your ego out of it. It’s easy to get frustrated when your paid efforts aren’t going the way you’d hoped. If you do decide to make a change, be sure you’ve thought it through and have weighed the pros and cons with ample research.

The Takeaway

PPC advertising is different for every business. Some may not have any competitors and dominate the results page, and some may have too many competitors that they need to rise above. Regardless, no two ad campaigns are the same. By doing thorough competitor research, making a plan, and taking proper action you can give your campaign a strong chance in the auction and hopefully beat your competition.


written by Jonah Ericksen