3 Reasons You Should Be Spying on Your AdWords Competitors

This is a guest post from Joe Putnam, Director of Marketing at iSpionage

Get a better view of what is and isn't working.

Get a better view of what is and isn’t working.

AdWords is more competitive than most advertising mediums.

If you choose to put up a billboard, for example, you don’t have to worry about someone else stealing your placement if you don’t pay more than they do. As long as you’re willing to pay the amount the billboard company asks, your ad will continue to be shown.

But AdWords is different. The minute someone offers to pay more than you do, your ad gets pushed down. Your ad can also get pushed down if someone else has a higher click through rate (CTR) or a higher Quality Score (QS).

The point here is that AdWords and PPC advertising is more competitive than most traditional forms of advertising. You can show up in the first position one week and get dropped down to the fifth position the next.

That’s why competitive intelligence is so important for AdWords campaigns. You don’t necessarily need a competitive intelligence tool for running billboard or print ads, but it sure comes in handy for AdWords campaigns.

It also makes a lot of sense to “spy” on your competitors so you know what they’re up to. This is helpful when you start a campaign, and it’s also useful as your campaign continues to run.

In this post, I’m going to cover three reasons why you should be spying on your AdWords competitors while also explaining how to gather the best insights.

Reason #1: To find new, profitable keywords

The first reason is so you can find new, profitable keywords for your campaigns.

When you first start building out your campaign, you’ll probably use a tool like KWFinder or Google’s Keyword Planner.

You enter a term, look at the results, and then start adding campaigns to your campaign that match your initial term. This is the standard operating procedure for PPC advertisers the world over.

But what most people don’t realize is that you can use a PPC competitive keyword research tool like iSpionage (disclosure: I work at iSpionage) to find out what terms your competitors are bidding on so you can add their top terms to your campaign.

To do so, simply conduct a search with a competitive keyword research tool for one of your top competitors. I’m going to use GoDaddy for this example.

Once you’ve completed the search, you’ll see a result like the one below that shows how many keywords GoDaddy is bidding on, what ads they’re using, who they’re top competitors are, what organic keywords they rank for, etc.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.12.18 PM

From here you can click into the PPC keywords tab to look at all of the keywords GoDaddy is bidding on. Here’s what that looks like:

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.12.30 PM

As you can see, GoDaddy is bidding on 62,812 Google keywords.

At this point, you can click the “Export” button to cross reference these keywords with the terms you’re bidding on in order to find new, profitable terms for your campaign that you won’t be able to find any other way. Our customers describe it as a “keyword research shortcut” which I’m sure you’ll appreciate the first time you use it.

One thing I’d like to add is that it’s really important to sort competitor terms since 62,812 keywords is a lot of terms to work through. However, since that goes beyond the scope of this post, you may want to check out this article from the iSpionage blog that provides an in-depth guide to competitive keyword research.

Reason #2: To write ad copy that stands out and gets clicked

The next reason why you should be spying on your competitors’ ad campaigns is to write ad copy that stands out and gets clicked.

Think about it this way: your Quality Score effects your ad position and how much you pay per click. Your Quality Score is always significantly affected by your CTR. Thus, if you improve your CTR, you Quality Score goes up, your ad position goes up, and your cost per click goes down.

This means a lot is riding on how well you write your ads in order to convince people to click through to your site.

So what can you do to get more clicks?

The short answer is to write ad copy that stands out and leaves people no other option than to click on your ad.

To do that, you desperately need to know what ads you copy is up against. If you’re competition uses numbers in your ad, you might need to make sure you’re using numbers. Or if a competitor mentions their price in their ad but your price is cheaper, then you may want to advertise your lower price to convince people to click through.


Now in order to carry this out, you need to know what ads your competitors are using.

One way to do this is to look at competitor ads in a tool like iSpionage. The screenshot below demonstrates how you can study your competitors’ ads with the right competitive intelligence tool for search marketing.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.12.40 PM

Another option is simply to conduct a search in Google with a term you’re bidding on and taking note of the ads that show up. This option isn’t foolproof, but it will give you an idea of what ad copy you’re up against even though it won’t catch all of the variations.

But no matter how you decide to spy on your competitors’ ad copy, you definitely need to be doing it because that’s the only way to write ad copy that stands out, gets clicked, and improves your Quality Score.

Reason #3: To improve your landing pages

The third and final reason to spy on your competitors’ is to improve your landing pages.


Because landing pages are incredibly important. If you double your conversion rate with a strong landing page, you will either cut your cost per acquisition in half or you can double your bids to acquire customers for the same amount of cost.

So conversion rates are huge. And one way to improve your conversion rates is to study what type of pages your top competitors are using. You may learn, as we do in the example below, that a competitor like SalesForce offers a video demo in exchange for contact information.


Or you may learn something else that will help you improve your landing page conversion rates. No matter what, spying on your competitors’ landing pages is a great place to start to get ideas on how you can improve your own landing pages.