Research is the cornerstone of any successful PPC marketing campaign. It gives you lucrative keywords, an understanding of your target audience, and optimized ad copy. A competitive PPC analysis is a crucial part of that research. It’s like a sneak peek into your competitors’ paid search strategies, giving you valuable insights to inform your own campaigns.
Below, I’ll discuss all you need to know about how to run a competitive PPC analysis and suggest some valuable tools to help in your research.
What Is a Competitive PPC Analysis?
A PPC competitor analysis looks at how your business rivals handle various aspects of paid search marketing and provides insights into their keywords, ad copy, landing pages, budgets and bidding, geographical targeting, audience segmenting, ad performance metrics, and ad formats and extensions.
A competitor PPC analysis can also help you find market gaps that competitors missed. These opportunities let you carve out your own position in saturated markets.
Why Is a Competitive PPC Analysis Important?
Digital marketing requires constant performance review and optimization. If you look at competitor PPC strategies — especially those of bigger rivals — there’s a lot you can learn about the market, your audience, and changes within your niche.
Of course, there are also many other benefits to this type of analysis, including:
- Improved Keyword Performance: Choosing the correct keywords ensures your ads receive lots of impressions and that the people who see them are interested in what you’re offering. While you won’t always target the exact keywords of your competitors, looking at the terms they prioritize can still enhance your strategy. You may even find new related or long-tail keywords.
- Enhanced Ad Copy and Landing Pages: Engaging ad copy is the lifeblood of your campaign. Although you’ll still need to optimize the content of your ads and landing pages for your specific audience, you can learn much about what works through rivals.
- Better Targeting: What locations and demographics do your competitors target? In many cases, your rivals have already done the legwork needed to find the most lucrative audiences for their products and services.
- More Efficient Bidding: If you look at how your competitors allocate their marketing budget, you can optimize where you spend your own funds. It also lets you avoid targeting highly competitive areas, maximizing your ROI.
- Higher Adaptability: As the market changes, your campaign needs to pivot in response. Looking at how your rivals handle shifts in what their audience wants can help improve your adaptability.
- Less Risk: Your competitors’ failures also offer helpful information. Look at strategies they utilized that didn’t work to know what to avoid yourself.
How To Conduct a Competitor PPC Analysis
Competitive PPC analysis offers an incredibly effective way to optimize and plan your paid search campaigns to promote your blog, but how do you conduct this analysis? Ultimately, it boils down to a few simple steps.
1. Identify Your Paid Search Competitors
Before you can analyze what your competitors are doing, you need to figure out who they are. While there are many ways to do this, a tool such as Semrush or Auction Insights in Google Ads to make things easier.
Using your preferred PPC marketing tool, start by searching for keywords you’re targeting to get an idea of who else is bidding on each term. You can also check sponsored posts on social media and look at industry-specific forums, magazines, and newsletters to learn more about companies active within your niche.
Once you have a list of competitors, segment them to get a better idea of where they sit in the market. Here are a few things to look at to ensure you’re analyzing relevant competitors:
- Size and Budget: Much larger competitors may not be relevant to your strategy.
- Geography: Who are your closest competitors geographically if you’re targeting a local market?
- Product Lines: Which companies sell the most similar products and services?
- Target Audience: Rivals targeting similar customers will typically offer the most valuable insights.
Next, you’ll also need to discover what makes these companies your competitors. Why are they competing with you, and where are their efforts focused? There are a few ways to do this, including:
- Checking keyword overlap with PPC tools.
- Looking at market positioning.
- Analyzing seasonal trends.
- Examining whether competitors have similar objectives, such as brand awareness or lead generation.
2. Analyze Competitor Keywords
PPC competitor research typically looks at keywords first, as these are what generate traffic for your ads and landing pages. You’ll want to examine the search volume of each keyword your competitors are using, as well as the cost-per-click (CPC) and any other metrics you can get your hands on, such as click-through rates (CTR).
Comparing your top keywords with your competitors, what do you note? Consider whether they use exact, phrase, broad, or partial matches. Do they use any negative keywords to improve overall targeting? What about long-tail keywords to reach a wider audience? Finally, check how much they bid as part of your keyword research.
3. Find Competitor PPC Ads
If you’ve already examined the keywords your rivals are using earlier in your PPC competitive analysis, this should give you all the information you need to find their ads. However, there are a few ways you can go about this.
The easiest method is to use tools such as SpyFu and Semrush. These platforms let you enter keywords to find relevant ads.
However, a few free alternatives exist, such as the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool within Google Ads. You can also type keywords directly into Google and Bing to find ads manually.
4. Look at Competitor Ad Copy
Now that you can see your competitors’ ads, your analysis should shift to breaking down the individual features that drive their success. In particular, you should examine how they handle the following things:
- Ad structure and language
- Keyword and product alignment
- Call-to-action style and placement
- Visual elements
- Ad extensions
- Audience targeting
By examining these major ad features, you can learn a lot to inform your strategy. However, it’s crucial to evaluate any changes using A/B testing because subtle differences in market dynamics may mean that not everything can translate to your own campaign.
5. Check Out Competitor Landing Pages
Landing page and ad copy analyses are very similar. However, landing pages contain more content, so you’ll need to devote more time to them during your PPC competitor research.
As part of your analysis, always check the following things:
- Page Design: How do competitors structure their content? How do they use multimedia and other features to enhance the user experience?
- Keywords: How do your competitors incorporate keywords into the content? Check sections such as the headings, body, and even image alt text.
- Language and Content: How does the landing page persuade visitors to do something? What is their call-to-action request, and how is it positioned on the page?
- Visual Elements: How do your competitors use media to enhance the content? Where do they position images and videos?
These page elements are part of the conversion funnel that guides visitors toward a desired action. Analyzing how your competitors drive these conversions allows you to improve the performance of your own landing pages.
6. Compare Competitor Website Performance
No one likes websites that load slowly or lack stability. In fact, 47% of visitors will leave your site if it takes longer than three seconds to load, according to statistics compiled by Forbes.
Website performance is crucial to both SEO and PPC because it affects traffic from all sources. Whenever possible, you want your pages to load faster than your competitors and for users to experience less layout shift.
Fortunately, there are many ways to check page load times and other performance metrics. For example, the Chrome browser gives you access to this information through DevTools and Lighthouse. You can also use external tools such as GTmetrix or PageSpeed Insights.
7. Use Insights To Set New Goals
When you complete your competitive PPC history and analysis, you’ll have lots of information to sort through. To benefit from this information, do the following:
- Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and note areas where you can improve or beat them. Pinpoint gaps in their strategy, too.
- Benchmark your current performance against your competitors using metrics such as CTR and conversion rates.
- Set realistic KPIs based on tangible metrics and goals to help you reach them.
The most important part of this process is selecting KPIs that make sense for your business. For example, if a rival has just a 1% higher conversion rate, you can realistically match or beat this using your competitive PPC research data. However, gaining more market share than a larger competitor in a short period wouldn’t be realistic.
Overall, KPIs and goals should follow conventional SMART principles, meaning they should be:
Competitor PPC Analysis Tools To Try
So how can you find competition PPC data? Lots of tools help with this, including these popular options.
Semrush is one of the most comprehensive digital marketing tools available, allowing you to manage most aspects of SEO and SEM. The platform’s PPC features even integrate with SEO and social media metrics.
- One of the largest keyword databases
- Extensive competition data, including ad copy, keyword, and spending analysis
- Lets you view your rival’s ads easily
- Helps you find the landing pages competitors are using
- Features lots of historical data
SpyFu is another of the most popular competitor analysis PPC tools on the market. As the name suggests, the bulk of its features reveal the strategic moves of your competitors, such as how they structure ad copy, what keywords they use, and how they bid.
- In-depth data to inform every aspect of your competitive PPC analysis
- Competitor spending estimates help you budget
- Lets you track ad rankings
- Gives you ad recommendations based on competitive insights
- Identifies keyword gaps
Google Ads Auction Insights
Auction Insights is a free tool within Google Ads. To use it, navigate to the ‘Campaigns’ section within the dashboard and select either ‘Ad Groups’ or ‘Keywords,’ depending on the level you want to work at. Check the box next to a group or keyword, then click ‘Auction Insights’ for relevant data.
- Offers direct competitor insights
- Compares several metrics
- Impression share data lets you gauge your overall visibility
- Position metrics tell you how often your ads outrank competitors
Ahrefs is primarily an SEO tool but offers several features to help with PPC. In some ways, this is one of its strengths compared to other tools because it lets you see how your SEO and PPC campaigns work together. The platform’s SERP research data can also help you check which keywords tend to trigger specific ad extensions.
- Provides detailed content gap analysis
- Backlink analysis features help you see how competitors supplement PPC with SEO
- Extensive keyword research and traffic analysis
Facebook Ad Library
Facebook Ad Library lets you see all ads running on the platform, including those of your competitors. All you need to do is type a business name into the search bar to access this information. You can also filter the search results for more targeted data.
- Lets you see the different ad types and formats your competitors use
- Provides historical data to help with seasonal planning
- Shows you how often competitors update their ad strategies
- Helps you find new opportunities or ways to differentiate your brand
PPC Shouldn’t Stand Alone
If your PPC is siloed from your SEO efforts, you may be missing out on valuable insights. Combining the two into a search-first strategy can help you maximize your results while reducing the duplication of effort. For example, learning how to source competitor keywords can help simplify your keyword research for SEO and PPC.
Have more questions about SEO and how it can work in tandem with PPC to improve your search visibility? Schedule a call today.