If you’re running Google Ads campaigns, it is vital to keep a close eye on what your competitors are doing with their advertising activity. Not only can they stand in the way of your impression share, they can be increasing your CPCs without you realising, and sometimes, they can also provide inspiration and opportunities for you to incorporate in your own advertising strategy.

By monitoring your competitors' activity, you can gain valuable insights into their strengths and weaknesses and make informed decisions while optimising your own campaigns.

In this blog we are going to walk through some popular methods of keeping tabs on your competition.

Identify your competitors:

The first step in monitoring your competition in Google Ads is to identify who your competition actually is. To do this, try searching for keywords related to your business and see which companies are advertising for those keywords. You can also use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to identify your competitors.

Or, if you're already running ads in Google - this information will be readily available in your auction insights report.

Use Google Ads Auction Insights:

The Google Ads Auction Insights tool allows you to see how your ads are performing compared to your competitors when competing in the same auction. This is a great way to review who your competitors are for specific keywords, ad groups, or campaigns but also gives insight into your impression share, top of page rate, and overlap rate vs your competitors. This information can then be used to identify areas where you can improve, or perhaps where the competition is too volatile and where to reroute your efforts.

Auction insights hack: we would recommend downloading your auction insights data segmented by week for your selected time period and then upload this into an auction insights visualisation tool for a more digestible snapshot into performance.

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Use Optymyzr's free visualiser tool here!

Spy on your competitors' ads:

There are several paid tools you can use to discover your competitors' ads, including Adbeat, SEMrush, and SpyFu. These tools allow you to see which ads your competitors are running, the keywords they're targeting, and how much they're bidding. You can use this information to identify gaps in your own campaigns and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Alternatively, if you know who your competitors are already, there is a cost-free way to gain an understanding of what content is in their ads, and what their landing pages look like, by following these simple steps:

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  1. Search your keyword
  2. Find your competitors’ ads in the search results at the top and bottom of the results page
  3. Next to the displayed URL of your selected competitors’ ad, you’ll see a button.
  4. Once you click this button you’ll see an option to view more ads from this competitor.
  5. Repeat the process for as many competitors/keywords as you need to!

Look at their ad copy, headlines, and descriptions, and see how they are promoting their products or services. Identify what makes their ads stand out and what could be improved. You can also look at their ad extensions to see if they are using any that you could incorporate into your own ads.

Monitor your competitors' landing pages:

Once you've identified your competitors' ads, take a closer look at their landing pages. Look for elements such as their messaging, call-to-action, and offering. Use this information to improve your own landing pages and make them more competitive.

In this blog we speak about how to create a PPC-friendly landing page.

Keep an eye on your competitors' budget:

While there is not a 100% accurate way to determine how much your competitors are spending on their ads, there are some ways to make an educated guess.

Firstly, if your competitors are constantly showing a higher impression share than you in your auction insights report, it could mean that they are outbidding you. A way to test this would be to gradually increase your bids and monitor auction insights regularly to see if either of your impression shares shift - you’d hope to see yours improve and theirs decrease.

However, many factors play into the impression share metric other than just the keyword bid, one of which being quality score. If your competitor has a stronger quality score than you, it is likely that they will achieve a higher impression share, even if their bid is lower. To improve your quality score, you’ll need to look at the expected CTR of your ads, the relevance of your ads and your landing page experience.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there! Since Google introduced smart bidding strategies, it may be that your competitors aren’t actively monitoring their bids or impression share with the mindset of beating competition. They may have other goals such as a target cost per conversion, a ROAS that needs to be met, or generating as much traffic as they can under a strict CPC. It could be that they are targeting a high impression share at all times for maximum visibility - in which case it could be very costly to you to try and outbid them.

In auction insights, this may appear as impression shares that exhibit minimal variation on a weekly basis, or impression shares that fluctuate massively week on week.

If your competitors' impression share ranges from 70% to 90% one week and drops to 45% the following week, only to rise again and then decrease for no reason, it's possible that their bidding strategy is opting not to participate in certain auctions. This may occur if Google does not predict that the user being served the ad will convert, subsequently leading to a reduction in their impression share.

However, it could be that Google then predicts that the user would convert within the parameters set by your competitor (i.e. a Target CPA of £x) and it would automatically bid higher to achieve this conversion.

If your competitor is on target impression share, that could be why you can’t get their impression share to budge, no matter what you do.

Much of this can only be determined with ongoing testing and since it can become expensive in both time commitments and budget, we suggest only doing such a deep dive on your core keywords.

Test and iterate:

Finally, remember that monitoring your competitors' activity is an ongoing process. Test different strategies and tactics, and keep an eye on how your competitors are responding. By continually monitoring and adapting your campaigns, you can stay ahead of the competition and achieve your advertising goals.

Monitoring your competitors’ behaviour in Google Ads should be an essential part of your advertising strategy. By using the above methods to generate insights into your competition's activity, you can identify areas for improvement and maintain a competitive edge, boosting your own performance in the process.

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Meet the author ...

Maddie Crawford

PPC Manager

Maddie has worked in digital marketing since her apprenticeship in 2017 but quickly realised her true passion was in the PPC side of things! Since then she has worked across ...