If your PPC campaign isn't moving forward, it's moving backward. There's always room to improve your campaign, and one of the easiest ways you can do so is by analyzing what your competitors are doing—and using that information to your advantage. Before you start, you should assess your current online advertising if you haven’t already done so. Dig through your own data and find out what is working and what isn’t, look for places to cut spending as well as opportunities for growth.

Assess your budgets and review cost-per-clicks, click-through-rates, search traffic and overall traffic generated from online advertising. Once you've reviewed your current strategy you can unleash your inner James Bond. And like any decent Bond film, yours should start by pulling together the tools for the job—whether that means an exploding pen or an Audience Insights Report. Here are three tools to get you started in your competitive analysis.

 

Auction Insights Reports

Auction Insights Screenshot

The Auction Insights Report, which lives right in your AdWords interface, is the best place to start. It allows you to compare your performance against any competitors entering the same ad auction that you are. You can review auction data account wide, by campaign, ad group or keyword. To find the report:

  1. Click on "details."
  2. Click "all," or select specific categories you want to review.

From this report, you can review impression share, average position, how often ads overlap, how often other ads are shown above yours, the percentage of times your ad appears top of the page and outranking share. Not only is this information very useful, it’s free.

SEMrush

Is a great third-party tool for competitive analysis, especially if you don’t know who all of your competitors are. Plug your URL into the top of your page and choose a location, on the left you will see competition under advertising research. SEMrush shows many of your biggest online advertising competitors based on the number of common keywords you both bid on. From there you can view the number of total keywords they are bidding on, how much traffic their paid search brings in and an estimated budget. I have included one of my favorite retailers, Eddie Bauer, in the example below. Eddie Bauer’s top online competitors are The North Face, Lands’ End and Columbia.

SEMrush Screenshot 

Click on a specific competitor to see more information about their strategy. After clicking, you can view a lot of information, including their top paid keywords, keyword positions and sample ads. There is also a tremendous amount of SEO data such as how many backlinks, referred pages and indexed pages they have. When you combine all of this information it paints a pretty clear on how successful they are online.

SpyFu

My favorite tool for looking for new keyword opportunities is SpyFu. SpyFu is fairly similar to SEMrush, but the best differentiator is Kombat. Kombat allows you to compare the keywords that you bid directly against one or two competitors. Once I enter in URLs, I like to choose "keywords both competitors buy, but not your website." This allows you to review numerous keyword opportunities along with important information on the keywords. If you want to use a tool that merges SEMrush and SpyFu features, use a tool called iSpinage. If you advertise in Bing Ads, then this is especially a good tool because it also included data from Bing and Yahoo.

SpyFu - Kombat Screenshot 

Putting Your Analysis Into Action

Now that you have all the data at your fingertips, it’s time to take a step back and put together a strategy. Your online advertising strategy should be aligned with your overall marketing strategy by highlighting your differentiators and using the data from the tools above to exploit it online.

Review Landing Pages:

Upgrading your landing page is one of the best ways to convert more and gain a higher quality score than your competition. Usually the closer aligned your keywords, ads and landing pages are, the higher your quality score will be, which can give you higher ad positions at a cheaper price. Review the landing pages of your competitors and look for ways to stand out. Ideally, you should have a landing page for at least each ad group. Have landing pages that are highly relevant, have clear call to actions and are easy to navigate.

Pick Your Battles : 

If you are going against a large competitor with a massive budget you might have to let them win a few keywords. If you're competing with The North Face, trying to out muscle them in the ad auction for "backpacks" might not be cost efficient. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't bid on "backpacks," continue to bid on the keyword and differentiate yourself with highly specific ad copy.

Differentiate Yourself :

If backpacks are your core competency and you need that top spot there are a few things you can do. Use SEMrush and SpyFu to review all the competitor ads associated with the keyword you want to show for. Differentiate your ad copy to call out features you offer that your competition may not be addressing. Test different calls-to-action and ad extensions. Niche Keywords: Identify niche keywords your competitors have a low average position for or low cost-per-click. If the keywords are relevant to your business, then you could steal traffic away, at a relatively low cost. Create specific ads and landing pages for these keywords in order to increase your quality score and decrease costs even more.

Keep Moving Forward

The world of online advertising is a fast paced, ever-changing and highly competitive environment. As online advertising technology changes, so will the tools you can use. Regularly using the tools above, as well as the different strategies, can give you a huge competitive advantage. If you're interested in boosting your campaign performance further, you should review your negative keyword strategy. Find out more in the guide below. 

Don't pay for clicks that aren't qualified. Learn how to find and use negative keywords to improve your PPC campaign's success and ROI.