Get Ahead With These Tips for PPC Competitor Analysis

Viewing your competitors’ ads has become commonplace in the paid social world, with Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn making advertiser ads available to any user.

When it comes to Search and Display campaigns, competitor analysis is not always quite that easy.

Let’s hop into two of my favorite free tools and one paid option for competitor analysis.

What to Understand Before Beginning a Competitor Analysis:

Back in 2016, I wrote a post about 3 Tips for Competitor Analysis which broke down three key understandings you should have about your account before conducting a competitor analysis.

My tips were:

  1. Understand how your product or service stacks up to competitors: What are its limitations? What does your client offer that is different from its competitors?
  2. Understand the conversion journey: For each tracked conversion (whether a whitepaper download, webinar signup, demo request, phone call, purchase etc.), there is a different journey the potential customer will take. It’s important to understand the steps that will come after the conversion happens on the site.
  3. Don’t forget about social & other channels: Paid social platforms looked a bit different back in 2016, but this still applies. Having an idea of what your competitors are doing in social can help you better interpret competitor PPC efforts.

In my opinion, all of these suggestions are still relevant today. Understanding the product or service you’re marketing, understanding the conversion journey and reviewing paid social efforts will allow you to conduct a more useful PPC competitor analysis.

Let’s jump into my favorite tools.

Auction Insights

When getting started on a competitor analysis, I like to compare my existing list of competitors with what’s in the Auction Insights reports in Google and Microsoft Ads.

Auction insights can tell you if the competitors you think are competing with you are actually appearing alongside of your ads within the search channels. Sometimes what’s in this report can really surprise you!

You can view this report at the keyword, ad group and campaign level, depending on how specific you want the report to be.

Within Google, you can select the campaign, ad group or keyword(s) you want to see insights for. A blue bar will pop up at the top. Click “Auction Insights”.

You’ll get to see the full report breakdown of impression share, overlap rate, position above rate, top of page rate, abs. top of page rate and outranking share.

Within Microsoft, select the item that you want to view the Auction Insights report for. Once you select the items, click “Details” in the navigation bar. Click “Selected”.

Since Microsoft still has the average position metric, you can see this along with impression share, overlap rate, position above rate, top of page rate and outranking share.

In my opinion, Microsoft’s Auction Insights report is more robust and visually appealing than Google’s. It offers a visual report that allows you to see how your ads compared to competitors for all of the available metrics.

Ad Preview Tool

Both Google and Microsoft have this tool available to users. It’s a worthwhile review during your competitor analysis as you can see your competitor’s ads (and potentially extensions) live.

Google Ads

Under Tools & Settings in the top navigation, you’ll see “Ad Preview and Diagnosis”.

Choose the location, language, device, audience type and keyword that you want to see ads for. In addition to seeing if your ads are firing for that keyword, you’ll be able to see competitor ads that are appearing for that same keyword.

Microsoft Ads

You can find this tool under the Tools dropdown in the top navigation bar.

Similar to Google, you choose the language, location, device and keyword. You can also choose the domain you’re interested in viewing.


There are a lot of competitor analysis tools out there, but I happen to really like SpyFu. (Note that while the two previous tools are free, this one does require a subscription.)

You can view competitor data for the US & UK only, so if you’re researching for other European countries, Australia or other countries, you’re out of luck.

SpyFu’s PPC Research tab has a lot to offer advertisers.

I’ll walk you through my favorite 3 tools that SpyFu offers for PPC.

SpyFu Competitors

Let’s start at the Competitors option. Enter your competitor’s URL.

You’ll be able to see the past 6 months, one year, two years, five years and full history of paid keywords your competitors have been bidding on.

The next chart will allow you to toggle on and off other competitors that may not have been selected for the line graph.

You’ll be able to see common keywords, monthly stats and the estimated monthly ad budget. SpyFu’s explanation for how these stats are calculated is that it is an estimate.

For monthly budgets, SpyFu says the following:

By our estimates, this reflects the domain’s AdWords spending on Google during the last month. We take all of the domain’s paid keywords and its ad position for each one to get an idea of how much the domain spent overall. We use the click-through curve to estimate the costs for each click. That leads us with an estimated spending figure shown here in the chart.

SpyFu Kombat

My next favorite tool is the Kombat option (also called “Shared Paid Keywords”), which allows you to see a Venn diagram of how your keyword list compares to 2 other competitors.

In the “Keyword Universe” chart below the Venn diagram, you can see most of the (estimated) metrics for any of the keywords the domains buy.

If you want to see keywords that SpyFu calls “core niche” keywords that are bought by all 3 domains, you can click that. You can also see the keywords that your domain buys but the other two don’t or keywords that SpyFu recommends you buy.

All of this data is able to be exported for use in Excel or Google Sheets.

You can customize the columns and see stats for broad, exact or phrase match keywords. You can also add the individual keywords to project that you can download by clicking the “add” button on the right.

What I normally do is export the keywords to Google Sheets or Excel which allows for pivot tables and manipulation of the data.

SpyFu Ad History

The final SpyFu tool I’ll show you is the Ad History report. With this report, you can see the history of each ad along with the copy, a view of it on the page and the associated metrics (clicks/month, CPC, coverage, average position).

You can see most profitable ads and keywords, least profitable ads and keywords, or keywords in alphabetical order. If there is a specific keyword you are wanting to see ads for, you can also use the filter option.

Similar to the Kombat reports, you can also download these ads to Excel, Google Sheets or as a PDF.

I love this tool, but it’s important to remember that you should take all of this information with a grain of salt.


Competitor analysis for PPC can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it. I hope these tips are useful for the next time you decide to check in on your competition!

What tips for competitor analysis do you have? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!