There’s a reason why we focus on competitive intelligence. By knowing what the competition is doing, we can adjust our own business models to more accurately reflect our mutual target demographics. This intelligence makes us more competitive, drives in stronger revenues, and is often cheaper than trying to do all of the prospect research on your own. Here are some ways that you can begin a PPC competitive analysis.
1. Simple Observation
There is plenty of information that can be provided to you by a keyword search into any search engine. You’ll be able to see how many ads your competition might be running, how often they are making changes to their ad copy, and how fast they put in new creatives to their active rotation. This can let you know what you are doing right… and what you might be doing wrong.
Inspecting the landing pages that the competition is using is also a key tactic. Take a close look at their call to action and see if their CTA stacks up to yours. Do they refresh their website often? What kind of actual value are you seeing? By comparing this data to your own and seeing how their rankings stack up in comparison, you’ll be able to see what you’re doing right and what you’re doing that isn’t so right.
2. Know Your Tools
There are plenty of research tools that are available to you today that will help you perform a comprehensive PPC competitive analysis. Many of the tools are even free. The numbers are not always 100% accurate in every tool, so take the results with a grain of salt. Use what you find through multiple tools as your measuring stick. Here are some of the best.
Auction Insight. This tool from Google is found in your AdWords account. Its free and it lets you see what your impression percentages are compared to the rest of the competition in your chosen space.
Spyfu. This is another free tool and it lets you see what competitors are spending on their PPC, how often they’re changing their creatives, and what their actual ad copy happens to be. It only reads AdWords for most customers, but is still a decent tool.
Adgooroo. It’s not free, but the complexities of the data that are received are worth strong consideration. Not only do users get industry insights, but organic results can also be compared to PPC results. An added plus: you get to see if there are competitors who are bidding on your trademark terms.
There are numerous tools out there. Select one of these or one you prefer from your own research and you’ll quickly get the added information you need to make the tweaks that will make your own PPC more effective.
3. Practice Forensics
In a perfect world, everyone would be 100% ethical. In the real world, many businesses are willing to violate rules if it means a temporary profit. It is very common to find other businesses using your trademarks, double-serving ads, or discovering that your content has been scraped and posted once again. By examining the behaviors of your competition, you can report the unethical and policy violating practices that you see and this will lessen the impact of your competitor’s PPC.
There’s also a natural benefit: as your competition’s PPC goes down, your PPC is going to go up.
Measuring metrics requires data tracking. There’s no getting around this fact. The way data is being tracked by your competition can help you to determine what metrics are important to them. Are they tracking impressions on ads? Clicks? Are there specific keywords that they seem to be tracking because their placement rates are consistently getting higher?
Although it takes some effort to track your own data and the data from your competitors, the results are worth the time investment. As you examine their data, you will find that their behaviors will begin to become predictable. That works to your advantage… but remember that the competition is likely doing the same thing to you and finding that your moves are predictable as well.
5. Settle Your Ethics Now
Competitive analysis is a good thing, but so is maintaining an ethical presence on the internet. There’s a right way and a wrong way to accomplish these tasks. If you’re clicking on a competitor’s advertisement, would you want a competitor to do the same thing to you? Most people wouldn’t because that would translate into wasted money. You can access landing pages and other competitor content through direct linking instead.
6. Find Your Advantage
What is it that sets you apart from the research that you’ve just accomplished? Every business has something that they do better than any other competitor. Sometimes that means taking the focus away from what resonates well within your industry to put the focus on what you do the best. If the top consideration in the industry you’re in is a high quality product and your competition has the same thing, then emphasizing this won’t give you an advantage.
Maybe you are offering free shipping on orders and your competitor isn’t doing that. Maybe you can compare being small and personal as an advantage if your industry is filled with giants. Whatever the case may be, you’ve got to find an advantage in order to stand out. If you don’t, then all of the PPC competitive analysis in the world isn’t going to help you find more business opportunities.]
Some might see a PPC competitive analysis as spying or unethical, but by knowing what the competition is doing, you’ll know what you should be doing as well. Settle your ethics now and then take a look at what the competition is doing, even if that is from a basic keyword search on your preferred search engine. Any information you gain will let you see your advantage and when you emphasize that, you’ll develop a better overall ROI over time.