How to Compare Your PPC Performance to Your Competitors’

by Joseph Kerschbaum

Director of Client Services, Clix Marketing

Month-over-month you should be increasing your impressions, clicks, and sales, but finding new keywords, distribution channels, and audience targeting methods can be challenging. Let’s explore how to bolster your PPC volume in the Opportunities tab within Google AdWords.

The Opportunities tab can be an easily neglected resource for ideas (and opportunities) in your PPC campaign. In this area of your AdWords account, you will find keyword expansion ideas and bid adjustment suggestions.

‘Analyze Competition’

Before we dive into the expansion elements, let’s discuss a new addition to the Opportunities tab, which was just announced last week: “Analyze competition.”

Within the “Analyze competition” section, Google AdWords reviews your account’s traffic over the past two weeks and determines general categories in which the products and services your advertising may fit. According to Google, categories are based on actual search queries that match your keywords, ad text, and landing page text. All data presented here is aggregated so no single competitor’s information is displayed directly (neither is yours).

You can use the “Analyze competition” information to see how your account’s performance compares to other advertisers in your niche. This competitive information can help you:

  • Gain insight as to how your performance compares to your general advertiser category.
  • Understand where you may be falling short in comparison in your competitive category.
  • Prioritize where you should focus you expansion and optimization efforts. For example, you may find that your CTR is average for your category but your impressions and clicks are much lower.

To review the information, simply follow this process:

  1. Log in to your AdWords account.
  2. Click on the Opportunities tab.
  3. If you have access to the “Analyze competition” information, it will appear in the upper left hand corner of the screen as seen below. Remember, this feature isn’t available to all advertisers just yet, so if you don’t see it you should check on a regular basis.

Analyze competition

Choosing a Category

When you access the “Analyze competition” information, you’ll see a high-level category. For example, the account I’m using for this article displays “Business & Industrial.” However, when I click on this category, I can drill down to more specific categories such as:

  • Building Construction & Maintenance
  • Business Management
  • Industrial Goods & Manufacturing
  • Office
  • Retail

For this example, I’m going to choose “Office.” Selecting this category presented a few more detailed verticals. From here, I can start reviewing different metrics of my performance as compared to my competitors in these categories.

Choosing Metrics

There are a few different metrics you can review. Below, you can see once you’ve selected a targeted category (you can see the bread crumbs at the top for how I navigated my way to this information):

Targeted Category

When reviewing the performance data, remember to focus on the metrics that are most important to your business. You can view these different metrics and how you compare to the average advertiser:

  • Clicks
  • Impressions
  • CTR
  • Average position

Aside from the bar graphs on the right measuring how you stack up against the competition, you will also see where you fall into the competitive range for a particular category. The range of performance is broken into five segments, so you’ll see if you perform in the top portion of advertisers in the category, the bottom portion, or some range in between.

Below, you can see that my client is in the 99 to 100 percent range of impressions for the “Business Cards, Stationery & Forms” category.

Targeted Category

In regards to impressions, my campaign is stacking up strongly. However, looking at the CTR metric, this is where the campaign falls a little short in a few categories, as seen here:

Compare with similar advertisers

Filter Your Data

You should filter the competitive information. Right now, the only filtering option is by geographic location, and even this isn’t very targeted.

You can choose “All Countries” or “United States.” If you target only a U.S. audience, you should choose to see only U.S. competitors.

Bonus Tip!

If you want to get deeper insight into how you stack up against your general competition, you can combine what you learn in the “Analyze competition” section of the Opportunities tab in AdWords with the information presented in the Benchmarking section of your Google Analytics account. To access this information, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics account.
  2. Click on the Visitors link in the left-side navigation.
  3. Click on the Benchmarking link.

Within Benchmarking, you can view these performance metrics in Google Analytics as compared to a category of your choosing:

  • Visits
  • Bounce rate
  • Pageviews
  • Average time on site
  • Pages per visit
  • Percent of new visits

The metrics are presented in a slightly different manner than AdWords. You can gleam how your website stacks up against your competition in regards to amount of traffic, depth of user interaction, and percentage of new users.

Compare with similar advertisers

Neither AdWords nor Analytics reporting present conversion data, so you should assume that your competitors are doing better than you. Plus, your landing pages always have room for improvement.

All of this information can be quite useful. Successful PPC management is like a game of golf: the best way to win is to focus on your own rate of play and achieve the best score possible. In golf, there is no defensive strategy aside from outplaying the competition. But it also doesn’t hurt to look at the competition’s score sheet.

This article was originally posted June 23, 2010 on