Staying Ahead of the Pay Per Click Competition

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “Staying Ahead of the PPC Competition.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What are your thoughts, positive or negative, on the “Analyze Competition” feature within the AdWords Opportunities section?

  • I think the “Analyze Competition” feature provides good insights. – Jonathan Levey (@jlevey)
  • No thoughts on that section, we kind of know which competitors bid on what terms. We’ll use it to clarify what we already know. – Brian Gaspar (@BGaspar)
  • The tool is OK, with most AdWords tools I take it with a grain of salt, but does contain relevant info. – Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
  • It’s a good tool to use for a high level look. Not to mention analyzing the different industries your products/services are in. – Gil Hong (@ghong_af)
  • Useful tool to gain high level insight. Because Adwords is out to make $ though our client’s objective is always priority. – Logical Media Group (@LogicalMediaGr)
  • It’s good as a benchmark. Though sometimes odd with the categories our keywords wind up in. – Dennis Petretti (@Denetti)
  • I use it in combo with looking at SERPs to see comparative messaging. – Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
  • Auction Insights more valuable for explaining shifts/trends to clients. – PPC Associates (@PPCAssociates)
  • Somewhat like Auction Insights, but less useful. Basically Google saying “There are opportunities to spend more!” – Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
  • Also can help identify key localized PPC competition. Eg, hyperlocal service companies like plumbing. – Jennifer Vickery (@JennVick)
  • Like any free Google ‘tool,’ it’s to be used only in the complete absence of other, more accurate information. – Tally Keller (@tallykeller)
  • Y’all are missing that it can provide valuable insight into a lot of those “no click” impressions? – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)

Q2: Do you go to your competitors’ sites and leave just to see if they will remarket to you and what the message will be? If not, what are some unconventional tactics you use to spy on the competition?

  • Usually to look at landing pages, but retargeting is side benefit. – Jeremy Brown
  • Definitely, also review source code for conversion tags, A/B test tools, & custom analytics. Tells us what we are up against. – Andrew Miller (@AndrewCMiller)
  • Don’t go to their site for Remarketing, but we do sign up for their emails to see if they are running similar promos to ours. – Brian Gaspar
  • Create a twitter list of competitors, like ’em on facebook, add their blog feed. Learn what they’re talking about beyond PPC. – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
  • Click lots of PPC competitor ads. Good landing pages usually = bigger competition to pay attention to. Bad LPs = lower comp. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
    • Try to avoid clicking and especially if expensive CPCs. Copy link and remove Google tracking. – Jeremy Brown
      • I like to see the end LP URL. Can tell you if they are split testing as well. – James Svoboda
        • You can still get that from copy and pasting the whole link. There are tools to decode. – Jeremy Brown
  • I usually use the Google Tag Assistant plug in on Chrome to see what kind of tags they’re using. Remarketing, GA, Conversion. – Gil Hong
  • Sometimes search to view their landing pages, especially for lead based clients. – Logical Media Group
  • I use the @Ghostery extension on Chrome to see if competitor sites have retargeting scripts and I use SpyFu. – Jonathan Levey
  • Take screenshots of competitor remarketing ads if they are better (and if they are using dynamic remarketing) to convince client to invest further in remarketing creatives and/or budget. – Matt Umbro
  • Also, set up Google alerts for comp names with negative connotations. Can create copy based on their bad PR. – Aaron Levy
  • is a good way to see competitor display ads. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • Search for your client’s branded terms to see if comp. is 1.bidding on those terms 2. what messaging they’re using. – Jennifer Vickery
  • Part of weekly reports involves taking screenshots of different branded variants to see if any competitors are positioned above us. – Brian Gaspar
  • “Your competitor is doing it” is always a good way to convince an otherwise hesitant client. – Timothy Jensen
  • I use whatrunswhere. Similar to mix rank. – Josiah Colt (@_kingjosiah_)
  • Am I the only one who doesn’t pay much attention to the competition? It’s about what we’re doing…not what they’re doing. – Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
    • No, you’re not. I pay very little attention to the competition. – Theresa Zook
    • Competitors can have big impact. Seen huge fluctuations when looking at Auction Insights data. – Jeremy Brown
      • The only time I ever have to really dig in is when there is a wholesaler, retailer, reseller, counterfeiter issue. – Heather Cooan
        • Agreed, but we want to make sure we’re doing what they’re not. Preaching the same value props can hurt. – Aaron Levy
    • Some industries are definitely more competitive than others. For example: Car Dealerships. – Gil Hong
    • Sometimes you can leverage what your competitors do. Differentiate yourself. Good to keep an eye on them once a while. – Rehan Zaidi (@RehanZaidi)
    • Exactly, there’s no way to know their combination of targeting options to deduce anything concrete. – Andrew Miller
  • We *try* to encourage clients not to focus on competitors’ ad positions for vanity reasons. Doesn’t always sink in though. – Andrew Miller
  • We keep an eye on competition so we can make sure we are alongside them (for the most part) & to see when they make big changes. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)

Q3: What do you believe to be the best tool to gain an edge on the competition? Why?

  • SpyFu – best at estimating competitor spend, and see keywords competitors are using. Clients LOVE this data. – David Szetela (@Szetela)
  • Optimize your own site for conversions – then your competition will become irrelevant. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • Auction Insights for top 10 terms. You or your competitors increasing bids can have major implications. – Jeremy Brown
  • SEMRush. – Steven Cameron (@adventcom)
  • AdGooRoo is a great tool to monitor the competition. It’s not free, though. – Tally Keller
  • Google’s own Ad Preview Tool and SEMRush. – Rehan Zaidi
  • Spyfu. Easy to use, and just enough insight without having to invest money and additional time and resources. – Brian Gaspar
  • Auction Insights report in Adwords. – Jonathan Levey
  • SpyFu is the best of a bad bunch if you ask me. Never been blown away by any competitor analysis tools. – James Clayton (@jamesclayts)
  • Client Internal Query Reports. Competitors do not have that exact query data and you can find new gems to increase targeting. – James Svoboda
  • I tried search monitor for a while and it was pretty decent. – Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
  • Kind of hard to beat Auction Insights. Always good to know the search market share of your best keywords. SpyFu is nice, but I don’t really care what a competitors keywords are if it’s something we can’t sell. – Dennis Petretti
  • Outside of AW, I like to do searches & visit sites (not clicking on ads) to make sure I know the landscape we are working in. – Julie Bacchini

Q4: Do you think it’s too much of a risk to tag your URLs? Why or why not?

  • Usually defer to autotagging, but if you have to you have to. Benefits way outweigh the risks. – Aaron Levy
  • It can be a risk, but you need to be able to attribute performance to spend. Risk worth taking. – James Svoboda
  • I prefer to track everything I can – so I tag everything I can. – Steven Cameron
  • I have to tag my URLs in order for our CRM to accurately attribute leads to PPC. – Jonathan Levey
  • Probably not risky at the low/mid levels of competition. We had seriously complex codes & lookups at a previous job to obscure. – Andrew Miller
  • In other words, competitors (if they really want to) might be able to see your account structure based on your UTM parameters. – Matt Umbro
  • In-House we were careful, because we checked competitor URLs to get ideas around account structure – we knew they did too. – Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
  • But some URL params can’t be obscured, like call tracking triggers. – Andrew Miller
  • In AdWords? No. But elsewhere, the information gained is more important then the information given away. – Dennis Petretti
  • We still tagged URLs but used “coded” params and such so it wasn’t as easy to figure out. – Bryant Garvin
  • For what it’s worth, I don’t find clients’ competitors are that sophisticated. Have never worried abt it. Worry more abt coding errors. – Theresa Zook
  • Spent more time optimizing for $$ rather than worry about competitors trying to figure out.Just let them be a follower. – Vault Labs (@VaultLabs)
  • I don’t see that as all much info. ‘They have keywords, ad groups, and campaigns?!’ Well, duh. – Jeremy Brown
    • Agreed, someone would have to spend hours putting together the structures based upon the UTM codes, but nonetheless. – Matt Umbro
  • It’s not a risk, it’s needed in order to be able to manage your acct performance by actual sales by your ERP & not AW/Bing. – Brian Gaspar
  • If competitors need so much effort to find our account structure, they aren’t good enough to do it themselves & not a concern. – Inside Online (@inside_online)
  • Tagging is important but it’s still funny to see competitor URLs with ?campaignname&adgroup&keyword. – Melissa Mackey
  • Where this becomes a big issues is in hyper competitive markets and huge corporations. – Bryant Garvin
  • Only ‘competitive” research I do regularly is monitoring ads. (Maybe because that’s my own weakness.) – Theresa Zook
  • Best thing to monitor is the inflow $$ and the outflow $$ & deep dive from there to identify the why’s & why not’s. – Vault Labs

Q5: How much weight do you put into the impression share metrics? Why?

  • They are fairly important. Auction Insight data especially. Have seen clients take bit hit when comp. upped bids. – Jeremy Brown
  • It’s a metric that matters in context with others. (I.e., “it depends!”). – Theresa Zook
  • Because our industry is so competitive, I pay a lot of attention to impression share. – Jonathan Levey
  • Will use lost IS due to budget to discuss spend & create projections “if we had $x more we could get 50 more convs!” – Aaron Levy
  • I don’t, although in all honesty I should. – Brian Gaspar
  • Impression Share is great for diagnostics and seeing if you are being competative for what you are targeting, if you have too low of an impression share, then your KW and Ad metrics are only telling you a part of the story. – James Svoboda
  • I am a huge fan of impression share metrics. They help me determine a data driven cadence for budget optimization and query mining. – Chris Haleua
  • IS is important to clients: their own IS and lost IS; also good to gauge competitive landscape. – Melissa Mackey
  • Agree it can signal big shift with competitor(s). Don’t obsess over it though. More to verify hypothesis when seeing shifts. – Julie Bacchini
  • We use IS directionally to find volume, but take the values w/ a grain of salt. Too many target & segment variables to trust it. – Andrew Miller
    • Unless you’re running exact match or have a very well built out negative kw list! – Gil Hong
  • Great for measuring against yourself moving this needle. – Heather Cooan
  • It’s a good tool to use when explaining to clients why their ads are showing up sparsely throughout the day vs. competition. – Gil Hong
  • Context. None of the data we look at means anything without context. – Theresa Zook
  • IS + Google Trend info can be extremely helpful in troubleshooting losses due to query flux. – Heather Cooan
  • Impression share is very important. Always good to know how many more auctions were available. – Dennis Petretti
  • Also good to look at IS when using automated bidding tools as they will often cap budgets and effect visibility. – Heather Cooan
  • Focus on optimizing campaigns with the lowest Impression Share where the missing clicks would be most $$ & time worthy to chase. – Vault Labs

Q6: When beginning a project, do you provide a Competitive Analysis deliverable to the client? If so, how detailed is it?

  • I do a high-level analysis. Provide to client only upon request. – Theresa Zook
  • We have competitives delivered on a quarterly basis. This goes across all media and PPC is included. – Justin Freid (@Justin_Freid)
  • Sometimes if it’s relevant. Other times that comes at a later date. – Jeremy Brown
  • Competitor analysis is usually part of our sales process. Helps identify the starting points and context. – Melissa Mackey
  • Unless they have specific targets, our Competitive Analysis, at start, is summed up in a budget proposal for max effectiveness. – Gil Hong
  • Yes. Not very for initial analysis. Deeper later depending on client & vertical. – James Svoboda
  • Yes. Specific in that we can carve out budget estimates. This usually means measuring competitor’s monthly CPCs, etc. – Logical Media Group
  • I do for audits, just so they know where they stand as a benchmark. – Heather Cooan
  • Value prop matrix to develop copy/LP’s, keyword analysis for ideas. Want to make sure no stone is unturned. – Aaron Levy
  • And that competitor analysis during sales is high-level – usually a 1-pager in a deck. – Melissa Mackey
  • Competitive analysis is an option if client requests – sometimes asked to keep an eye on a specific competitor as well. – Timothy Jensen
  • In ecomm campaigns, I’d say competitive analysis is most important to determine competitor prices and promotions, competitive analysis can mean something different in every industry. – Matt Umbro
  • Helps with expectations – especially CPC. – Steve Cameron
  • We don’t produce a formal competitive analysis unless asked. Usually pull a few observations & examples for pitches, though. – Andrew Miller
  • Also think it depends on how the acct is. Build from scratch yes. More established no but will do so for client insights. – Brian Gaspar
  • Right now, I’m putting more weight on Competitive Analysis while tracking gets sorted out for my client. – Nefer Lopez (@Nefer_L)
  • Inverse relationship between clients’ ability to measure internal conversions & clients’ paranoia about competitors. – Andrew Miller


More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
• Andrew Miller (@AndrewCMiller)
• Brian Gaspar (@BGaspar)
• Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
• Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
• David Szetela (@Szetela)
• Dennis Petretti (@Denetti)
• Gil Hong (@ghong_af)
• Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
• Inside Online (@inside_online)
• James Clayton (@jamesclayts)
• Jennifer Vickery (@JennVick)
• Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
• Jonathan Levey (@jlevey)
• Josiah Colt (@_kingjosiah_)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Justin Freid (@Justin_Freid)
• Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
• Logical Media Group (@LogicalMediaGr)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Nefer Lopez (@Nefer_L)
• PPC Associates (@PPCAssociates)
• Rehan Zaidi (@RehanZaidi)
• Steven Cameron (@adventcom)
• Tally Keller (@tallykeller)
• Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
• Vault Labs (@VaultLabs)

Staying Ahead of the PPCChat Streamcaps

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; WebRanking SEM Manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, SEO Blog Author. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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