Google Ads logo with two boats competing on the water with one slightly ahead

Google Ads – What Is Your Competition Up To? Let’s Find Out.

Steve Ward

Steve Ward

Study your competition with these 3 advanced techniques.

"Spy" On Your Competition With SpyFu - See Spending, Ads & Keywords

Ever wonder what your competition is doing with paid advertising?  Well SpyFu helps you do just that. 

man on a boat peering through binoculars

SpyFu collects information about websites and therefore your competition.  Despite its name, the site uses publicly available information from the web to show how your competition uses organic and paid tactics on their websites. 

SpyFu has both a free version (limited) and a paid version.  You can look up a handful of websites with the free version but then you’ll run out of searches (at 5 I believe). 

Use it to see how websites rank for organic keywords and which keywords they are bidding on with Google Ads.  You’ll also get a look at the ads they have run.  Additionally, SpyFu provides recommended keywords to target for your own website along with an estimate of the cost per click for these paid keywords.  

Finally, SpyFu also provides estimated spending by websites on Google Ads.  Caution:  in my experience these estimates can be wildly off.  I like to consider the estimates a rough, directional signal – not the whole truth.  

Boating Industry Example

Let’s say you wanted to find out what BoatUS is spending on Google Ads and other details about their marketing.  Hop over to spyfu.com and enter boatus.com and click search.  Note:  SpyFu allows you to search select other countries, but in this example I left the default US setting.  

Image of SpyFu search for BoatUS
Click for larger size. Chart from SpyFu.com showing estimated advertising spend by BoatUS.com, monthly for the past 12 months.

Give it a try here: SpyFu.com.  

Google Transparency

Beautiful young dark skinned woman looking trough the magnifying glass

In 2020 Google began requiring advertisers to “verify” themselves in order to keep advertising.  In the past just an email and a credit card could get you started with Google Ads.  Now advertisers have to verify they are who they say they are with incorporation documents or similar identifying information.  In connection with this effort Google released the Ads Transparency tool to allow the public to see basic information about its advertisers.  

What I find especially useful at Google Transparency is the types of ads an advertiser has run.  For example, when I lookup Defender Industries, Inc. — a marine supplier — I see that they have run image and text ads but no video ads.  You can review several editions of their past ads to get an idea of what they are focused on and the quality their ad creative.  

Google Ads Auction Insights

If you have a Google Ads account, use the competitor information in your Auction Insights tab.  Let’s take a look at how to do this.  

Start by logging into Google Ads as usual.  Choose a campaign and then look for the “Auction Insights” submenu in the “page” menu.  (Note: if you have ever wondered what the official names are of the parts of a Google Ads dashboard, well check out this post by Google).  Below is an example from a client of ours. 

Note that Google Ads provides this information at different levels of your account, including ad group level, campaign level and account level.  

In the Auction Insights report, hover over the column headers for a detailed explanation of each metric.  For instance, Impression share provides this definition:

“Impression share” is the number of impressions you received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive.

Eligibility is based on your current ads’ targeting settings, approval statuses, bids, and Quality Scores. This number is updated once a day.

With this information you can see how well you stack up against your competition, how frequently your ads overlap with them and other measures. 

These definitions get complex, which is beyond the scope of this article.  If you’d like a fuller explanation drop me a note and I may write a future piece on the topic.   

Surprise!

This chart can be enlightening because the data often show competitor names you don’t expect.  Even if you don’t feel like a company is a competitor, if they are bidding on the same keywords as you, then in reality they are a competitor.  A good example of this is Amazon.  I’ve heard it said that “Amazon bids on every word in the dictionary.”  While that might not be literally true, I have seen Amazon in the auction insights for almost every campaign I have run. 

Another instance worth considering is B2C advertisers showing up in your Auction Insights for your B2B company (or vice-versa).  If you sell commercial equipment but you see several consumer brands advertising and competing with you, that might lead you to question your strategy or keywords.  Helpful information for sure.  

Get In Touch

Thanks for reading and following my posts.  If you have suggestions for other topics or a question about this one, drop me a note (steve@stevewardmedia.com) or get in touch via LinkedIn.  

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