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PPC Competitor Analysis Guide: How to Identify, Research and Beat Your Competition

July 27, 2020
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written by Danielle Strouther
Product Marketing Expert
Chess pieces on a board

Knowing who your competitors are in PPC is crucial. In this guide, we look at competitor analysis and how to stay ahead of the game.

PPC is one of the most competitive forms of marketing. You have countless other businesses, all bidding on the same keywords and audience and hoping that their advert comes out on top.

PPC competition is fierce. But it’s a valuable tool that you can use to your advantage. That’s why we’ve created this guide to identifying your competition and using the information to come out on top.

Ready to be the PPC champion? Let’s get started.

Why you need to know your PPC competition

PPC competition is dirty and harsh. But, the good news is that it’s not all based on cost. The person who pays more doesn’t automatically get the best spot, meaning that small businesses can stand a chance against the big leagues.

Across various PPC advertising platforms, including Google and Microsoft, the position of your ad is down to 3 key factors:

  1. Relevance
  2. Quality
  3. Budget

That means that your ads need to be relevant to the keywords or target demographics and that they are quality adverts that don’t deceive or trick the users.

To beat your competitors, you don’t need to outbid them. But, there’s a little more finesse to this. Beating your PPC competition is about gathering information on their tactics, spotting weaknesses and using this data to be one step ahead.

PPC competition isn’t a battle of brute strength, it’s a game of chess.

pugilists
“No, my building work is the best.”

Get inspired by your competitors

There’s a danger that seeing what your competition is doing might set off copycat alarm bells. You might see them do one tactic and immediately question if it’s something you have to implement.

The problem with this is that you’re always going to be one step behind. You shouldn’t ever base your strategy on what your competitors are doing. You need to focus on what makes you different and showcase that to put you ahead.

Looking at your competitors gives you a chance to get a better overview of the market and inspired for your campaigns. When doing competitor analysis, think:

  • Are they offering a better benefit?
  • Are their adverts stronger?
  • How can you beat this?

Then use this to your advantage, creating better and stronger campaigns than before.

How to identify your PPC competitors

Okay, first things first, you need to know who your competitors are. Who’s going after the same keywords as you? Who’s stealing your top position and taking clicks away from your ad?

If you don’t know the answer, then you had better find out. And please, don’t do this by searching for your keywords. Instead, use in-platform tools like Microsoft Advertising’s Competition Tab or Google’s Auction Insights to see who is your biggest threat.

We’ve left some details on both these features and other PPC tools you can use to pull this data at the end of this article.

5 questions to ask about your competitors

Once you’ve got a list of your competitors, there are 5 essential questions you need to answer.

1. Who are your competitors?

This one is more than just naming your competitors. It’s researching the company finding out who they are, what services they offer and who their customers are.

2. Are your competitors a threat?

Just because you’re targeting the same keywords doesn’t necessarily mean that the other company is a threat to yours. That’s why it’s essential to research the company first to evaluate whether they’re a threat to your business or not. In some cases, you might find that suppliers of your product are bidding on your keywords or even relevant blogs if it’s an industry-related keyword.

However, they’re a direct competitor, offering the same services or products, then you can mark them down as a threat.

3. Are your competitors outbidding you?

To answer this question, you’ll need to do some competitor analysis. You want to know what keywords you’re competing on, where they’re ranking higher than you and how often this is happening.

4. Do you need to take action right now?

This step is about prioritising your workload. There’s just not enough hours in the week to work on every aspect of your PPC management. So, you need a place to start.

If any competitors are consistently outperforming you, then you need to take action.

You can put those below you in the rankings on the backburner for now. But remember to keep an eye on them.

5. What action should you take?

If your competitors are outperforming you, you need to find out why. Take a look at their ad creatives, at their keywords and discern the strategy that they’re using.

  • Are their adverts more relevant?
  • Have they got a better offer?
  • Are they pushing a benefit that you’re not using?

Find all you can learn from their adverts and use them to improve your offering.

Looking for some creative inspiration? We’ve got you covered with these unique PPC adverts.

Find keywords your competitors aren’t bidding on

There’s a big opportunity that comes from looking between the lines of your competitor’s keywords. Instead of just looking at what they’re bidding on, you should work out what keywords are missing from their lists.

If there’s a gap that they’re not targeting, you should go for it.

Less competition means a lower cost to get your advert to the top, making your budget go further. It’s like sneaking through a back entrance while everyone else queues at the front door. It’s a handy way to do some keyword research.

Should you bid on a competitor’s keywords?

This is a hotly-debated topic in PPC. The short answer is that it depends.

There are some cases where bidding on a competitor’s keywords can be a great strategy. This meant that when someone searches for a competitor’s name, your advert will come in in place, potentially stealing their customers right from under their nose.

For example, if you search for Adzooma, you might see bids from other companies such as Madgicx promoting their software as an alternative to us.

In this case, Madgicx saw us as a competitor and included our name as a keyword to try and poach some of our customers by saying that they’re better (they’re not).

However, we do agree that great advertising doesn’t have to be expensive. That’s why our entire platform is free. We’ll just wait to see how long it takes for Madgicx to counter that one shall we?

madgicx ad

The problem with this tactic is that it doesn’t always work. People who search for specific brand names may have already made up their mind or have a bias about that company, so your ad won’t change their mind. It’s like bidding on a lost cause.

Bids like this can also be vulnerable to click fraud, as competitors may click on these adverts just to waste your budget.

PPC tools that will help you find your competitors keywords

The great thing about PPC is that there’s a tool to help with nearly every situation. So, when you’re undergoing research on your competitors, these following tools might be a handy place to start.

Microsoft Advertising’s Competition Tab

Microsoft Advertising makes it easy to gather information about your competition in their unique Competition Tab. This feature is a one-stop solution to gather all of your data in a single place.

In the Competition Tab, you can find key performance metrics and compare them directly to your own, both over time (such as the past week, month or year) as well as aggregated metrics for a specific date range. What’s more, you can segment this data into device type, days or even hours within the day.

Auction Insights allow you to see what competitors are competing with you for the same keywords. It will give you metrics such as:

  • Overlap rate, which shows you how often you and a competitor appear in the same results
  • The position above rate, which shows you how often a competitors ad was placed higher than your own.
  • Outranking share, which shows how often you outrank the competition when you appear in the same auction.

It’s an excellent tool for directly comparing how your ads are doing for specific keywords.

Spyfu

Enter a competitors website and have data such as paid keywords, estimated budget, clicks and organic SEO results pulled for you with Spyfu. Although this website does have a free option, you’ll only be able to access the top few keywords and results before hitting a data block and being prompted to upgrade your account.

SEMRush

SEMRush is another platform where you enter a website and reveal information about your biggest competitors including their top keywords and more. It will also give you information about their Facebook pages and Microsoft accounts, making it incredibly useful for those that are advertising on more than one platform.

iSpionage

iSpionage is another site that will give you information about the keywords your competitors are bidding on and ranking information for their running adverts. Some of this data is available for free, but you’ll need to upgrade to their paid version to access it all and use their campaign builder to start planning new campaigns based on this data.

KeywordSpy

KeywordSpy will also show you a competitor’s keywords, domains, ad copy and spend. When it comes to these tools, you’re spoiled for choice. Unlike the others, KeywordSpy also suggests specific keywords and ad combinations based on this data that your company may want to consider. You will need to upgrade to the paid version to access all of this data.

A small part of the bigger picture

A final bit of advice, knowing your PPC competition is an important step to improving your campaigns. But don’t let it consume you.

It’s one to keep an eye on and revisit, but there are times where you’ll be outbid. You can’t win all of them. But using your competition as a strategy will help you improve your campaigns, improve your rankings for specific keywords and improve your overall performance.

Looking for other ways to get the most from your campaigns? You’re in luck.

We’ve got an entire PPC management platform for your Google, Microsoft and Facebook campaigns that’s entirely free to use. That’s one-click optimisations, intelligent reporting and a built-in campaign builder.

It’s everything you need to optimise your campaigns. You can sign up for free here.

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Author
Danielle Strouther

As Adzooma’s Marketing Product Expert, I’m used to writing all the nitty-gritty details about PPC and marketing. You might have seen my work on Search Engine Journal, PPC Hero, Techopedia & more. Away from a screen, you’ll find me drawing all manner of strange monsters and dancing around a pole.

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