The ROI Revolution Blog

Keeping an Eye on the Competition

August 18, 2009

iStock_000006874244XSmall.jpgThere's an old saying that goes something like: "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer". While PPC marketing is a highly competitive industry by nature, keeping your competitors close to you may be easier than you think. Performing a simple competitive analysis on a routine basis will help you uncover your competitors' deepest secrets and provide you with insights into your own marketing efforts as well.


Paid search offers a wealth of opportunity to monitor your competition's every move. With traditional media, such as print, you may have had to scour through thousands of pages in magazines to find one competitor's ad. With PPC marketing, you simply have to perform a search on one of your keywords to see exactly who is in your space and determine how aggressively they are competing.

Follow these three simple steps and you will reveal more about your competitors than you ever thought possible.

Step 1: Find your top performing keywords

Obviously you can't monitor the competition on every single keyword in your account, but you can keep an eye on your top performers. Identify the top 10 to 15 keywords in your search campaigns over an extended date range and use these as the basis for your competitive analysis. Chances are that your competition has identified these 10 to 15 keywords as their top performers as well.

Step 2: Identify your biggest competitors

While there are probably many advertisers bidding on each of your keywords, it is important to identify the ones that are the most relevant to you and your product offering. After performing a few searches and visiting the websites from the top ads, you will begin to gain an understanding of who is the most similar to you. Keep a spreadsheet of every domain that appears in the paid search listings and make a note of what products they have to offer.

Once you have performed a search on all of your top keywords, figure out which competitors show up the most often and offer the most similar products/service to you. These are your biggest competitors.

Step 3: Learn from competitor ad text

It is extremely important to monitor what your competitors are communicating in their ad text on a regular basis. Ultimately, good ad writing comes down to clearly stating what you have to offer in the most enticing way possible. If you see the same message being communicated repeatedly in a competitor's ads, they have probably had success with this copy.

Keep an ongoing list of competitor ad text and look for similarities between each of their ads. If you are able to identify a message that is consistently repeated, see if you can offer something better. If you can't beat their offer, look for ways to differentiate yourself from them.

Be sure to keep track of competitor ads that are no longer active as well. Your competitor may have realized that a particular message wasn't working well and decided it was time to test something else. By keeping track of this, you essentially get ad test results on your search traffic without spending a dime!

Final Thoughts

Having a good understanding of what your competitors are doing will enable you to make more informed decisions in future ad testing. Learn what does and doesn't work from your competitors and your own ad testing. Always pay close attention to competitor changes and always be on the lookout for someone new.

Perform this competitive analysis on a routine basis and you will be well on your way to dominating your paid search market!

Take the next step. Ecommerce retailers spending at least $500/mo. in AdWords qualify for a free 20-minute Google AdWords account review.

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