Written by Sam Yadegar on Sep 9 , 2020

Because once you know your competition, you can be better prepared to beat them.

Here, you’ll find: 

  • The five Ws of competitor analysis for PPC
  • How to use data to improve your PPC campaign
  • Tools you can use for competitor analysis
  • Key metrics to consider during your analysis

We’ve seen over and over how pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is effective for increasing visibility on search engines. With PPC (or paid search), there’s reportedly a 50% higher chance for the visitor to purchase compared to organic visitors.  

But, as French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre put it, “In football, everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team.”

This can also apply to PPC advertising. Competitors can shape the way you pay for your ads and how (or if) they’re shown. That’s why it’s critical to keep an eye on your PPC competition through conducting an analysis, just as you would conduct a competitor analysis for SEO

Here, we’ve laid out everything you need for an effective and actionable analysis of your PPC competition. 

Who is your competition? 

In most cases, your offline competition isn’t the same as your online competition. That’s why it’s helpful to start your analysis by determining who your PPC competition is, meaning those bidding on the same keywords as you.

The “Details” section on the Google Ads and Microsoft Ads dropdown menus should have the answers you need. Some metrics to look at here include: 

  • Impression share: The frequency of the times both you and your competitors received impressions. Your impression share is the number of impressions you received vs. what you were eligible to receive. 
  • Overlap rate: How often a competitor’s ad and your ad both received an impression.
  • Position above rate: How often an advertiser’s ad is shown at a higher position than yours when both ads were shown simultaneously.
  • Top of the page rate: The number of times your competitor’s ad is shown at the top of the page. 
  • Outranking share: How often your ad ranked higher in the auction than the competitor’s.

These visualization tools can help generate graphs that illustrate the metrics from your competitors. They can also show your trending CPCs so you can come up with a plan of action on areas you need to improve.

competitor analysis for PPC tips

You need to be frugal but effective with your analysis to get the most vital KPIs. (Image via Unsplash)

What kind of competitors are they? 

Competitors are rarely created equal. Some have big budgets, some are barely breaking through, and some are simply overlapping you on a few keywords. While these competitors could pose a significant threat to your success, others cannot be considered serious competition.

Understanding the types of competition can better inform your action plan. The different types of PPC competitors often include: 

  • Affiliates 
  • Comparison Shopping Engine (CSE) 
  • Online Travel Agency (OTA) 
  • Marketing partners 
  • Search arbitrage 
  • Reseller 
  • No trademark 

It can be difficult to compete with non-approved trademark users and resellers. If an advertiser runs your trademark unapproved, the best way to handle it is to escalate the complaint through AdWords’ trademark policy channels.

You can use tools like AdGooroo and SEMrush to monitor and track your (and your competition’s) top branded PPC keyword trends. You can also run a direct channel activity comparison between your domain and a competitor’s domain to glean more insights.  

Where are they competing with you? 

You can’t pull and track every impression share and ad positioning for an entire account. However, you need to be frugal but effective with your analysis to get the most vital KPIs. This way, you can better identify where you should focus your time to optimize your PPC. 

Here are the easiest ways to determine where the competition is coming from: 

  • Label your top-performing keywords: You can use labels within the third-party or publishers’ bidding tools to monitor any major changes on your best performing keywords. These will notify you if a competitor starts to push you out. You can also use the data to look for changes and adjust accordingly. 
  • Set up reports, alerts, and automated bidding rules: For your top-performing campaigns, ad groups, and keywords, set up automated Search Impression Share (SIS) reports that are sent to your email. You can also prevent keywords slipping from their positions with tools like Target Search Page Location or Microsoft Advertising’s automated rules.
ppc competition

It’s imperative to review your competitors’ strategies and develop an action plan around what you learn. (Image via Unsplash)

Why are they competing? 

The final step of identifying and understanding your PPC competition is to unveil why they’re competing with you. Once in a while, you’ll run into a competitor domain that bids on your keywords simply to try to price you out of the running. 

However, in most cases, your competitors have the same intentions you do. That means you might not succeed through bidding alone. Because of this, it’s imperative to review your competitors’ strategies and develop an action plan around what you learn. Yes, we’re talking about tools once again. 

Top competitive tools to use for your PPC competitor analysis:

  • SEMRush: This is actually a slew of tools, including an excellent competitive analysis feature. It allows you to generate competitive analysis reports and download the reports as PDFs, saving your serious time.
  • SpyFu: Spare yourself the trouble of building your PPC account by duplicating your competitors’ campaign. With SpyFu, you can download your competitors’ most profitable keywords and ads for organic and paid searches. 
  • Brandverity: This is an excellent tool for monitoring, identifying, and removing harmful ads from appearing on your most popular branded keywords.
  • Ispionage: As a play on “espionage,” this tool gives you access to 7 years’ worth of PPC and SEO keywords data for the top three search engines for your competitors. You can use this data to set up your campaign better and improve your results.  

The takeaway

The main purpose of running a PPC competitor analysis is to identify your competition and come up with a strategy to improve your campaigns. 

When you know who your competitors are and how they operate, you’ll be in a better position to outrank them on the search engine results page.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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