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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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 19 , 2020

In business, competition always gets in the way — in SEO, your competitors are your best friends.  

Here you’ll learn:

  • Who your SEO competition is
  • How to learn from your competitors
  • Ways to capitalize on your competition’s mistakes
  • Which tools to use to conduct a top-notch competitor analysis

While focusing on your own brand’s mission is key, not keeping an eye on your competitors is a risky move. After all, if you can’t see how fast your competition is going, they’re more likely to lap you in the race.

That’s where a competitor analysis comes in. By learning how to analyze what your competition is doing, you can adjust your marketing campaign to beat them.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what competitor analysis for SEO is and how it can help you stay on top of your game.

Who is your SEO competition?

It’s likely that you already have an excellent idea of who your business competitors are. But these are hardly the only companies you need to consider when fighting for the coveted top spots of Google search results. During your SEO campaign, you may be facing competitors who don’t belong in your niche.

For example, if you want to rank high for the “best flowers in LA,” you aren’t just competing with the local florists. You could be fighting against designers and review sites, making your climb to the top spot twice as tough.

The truth about SEO competitors is simple: They’re the companies that rank high for the keywords you’re targeting — even if they aren’t your business competitors.

hawksem: Competitor Analysis for SEO

While analyzing your competition, look for weaknesses or gaps you could fill. (Image via Unsplash)

Luckily, finding your competitors is easy. All you need to do is enter your keywords into the search field and see what pops up on the first few pages.

You want to analyze the competition so you can:

  • Strengthen your keyword search
  • Improve your content
  • Capitalize on your competition’s weaknesses
  • Find out what works and what doesn’t in your industry

All’s fair in love, war, and SEO, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about finding inspiration in your competitors’ campaigns.

While analyzing your competition, look for weaknesses or gaps you could fill. If the competitor ranks high for the same keyword, find out where they make mistakes or seem to come up short. Improve your efforts in those sectors, and you could come out on top. Here’s how to do it.

1. Identify their keywords

To strengthen your keyword search, you need to figure out which keywords your competitors rank for. This can help you find keywords with high search volume that they aren’t using enough. It can also help you understand what works in your specific industry.

Doing all that is fairly easy, thanks to numerous tools that help you analyze another website and see which keywords it ranks for. 

You can use these same tools on your website to see how good your keyword efforts are:

These programs also allow you to see how well your website ranks for some keywords compared to the competition. You could discover money keywords that you’ve overlooked.   

2. Analyze their content

Since content is the pillar of SEO, you need top-notch ideas. An excellent place to get them is to analyze what the competition is doing.

How do you figure out how well their content is working? Find out which content got the competitor the most links. Achieving high-quality backlinks is imperative to ranking high with search engines. 

Some link checker tools to help you include:

Once you find the competitor’s top content, check it for flaws. Maybe the word count is too low, the info is outdated, or their imagery is low-quality. 

Take advantage of the information you’ve gathered to create similar content, only better. Your goal is to come up with the content that offers significantly more value to the target audience.

You don’t always need to go deep into content analysis. By using the above tools, you can simply get inspiration for tweaking your content strategy.

Pro tip: While it’s natural to cover similar topics to your competition through content, don’t simply imitate. You don’t want to look like a mere copycat (or dip into plagiarism territory), so make sure the content you publish follows your brand’s own voice and tone.

3. Find dead pages

Seeking out dead pages is a time-consuming yet highly effective way to take advantage of your competitor’s mistakes. This part of the competitor analysis involves finding dead pages on your competition’s website that other companies have linked to. 

Once you find it, you can reach out to those who have linked to this content, show them the page isn’t working, and provide them with a link to your content instead. (If you already have a relevant article, great! If not, write one up and publish it, then send away.)

Links to dead pages can lower the website’s rankings. That’s why people are more than happy to replace them with live alternatives.

  • Find the 404 pages on the competitor’s website by using Ahref’s Site Explorer or ScreamingFrog.
  • Use Dead Link Checker to verify that the links to this page aren’t working.
  • Recreate content and offer the website owner to link to your article instead of your competitor’s 404 page.
HawkSEM: SEO Competitor Analysis

Analyzing your SEO competition can help you gain valuable insight into what works in your industry. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Analyze their website

If your competition is ranking high for your favorite keywords, see if you can find some flaws in their website design. From there, you can focus on making your website better and nullifying your competition’s efforts. Things to pay attention during a competitor audit include:

  • Site structure — How the content is organized on the website (subdomains, internal links, etc.)
  • Site speed — How fast do pages load? Can you make your website’s loading speed better?
  • Mobile-friendliness — How good does the website look on mobile devices? Are all the necessary features available to mobile users?
  • User interface — Is the site easy to navigate? What about hreflang (which, as SEMrush explains, tells search engines the relationship between pages in different languages on your site)?

You can crawl the entire site to find out how your competitors structure subfolders, use internal links, and take advantage of on-page SEO. These tools can help:

5. Look at their Google My Business page

For local companies, a Google My Business page can be a highly important SEO tool. Ask yourself: What is our competition doing to look appealing on this page?

  • Do they update the page regularly?
  • Do they use images?
  • Are there reviews?
  • How many people are following the page?

If any of these components are lacking, you can capitalize on mistakes and hone your Google My Business page accordingly. If they do a great job maintaining this page, see what you can do to mirror them.

The takeaway

Analyzing your SEO competition through a competitor analysis can help you gain valuable insight into what works in your industry. It’s win-win: You can see what they’re doing right and determine ways to follow suit, and you can also capitalize on their mistakes or areas where they fall short.

Looking at what your competition is doing isn’t just a smart trick: It’s an integral part of a solid search engine optimization strategy.

Want to learn more about analyzing your SEO competition? Let’s talk.

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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