We’ve talked about the basics of PPC over a couple of recent posts. Now that you’ve a got a decent grasp of those basic concepts, I thought it might be fun to get a little more tactical. Ad-blocking is a great tactic for disrupting your competition’s PPC game. The method is simple; analyze your competitors’ PPC strategy, optimize your campaigns for the block, attack their budget. This quick guide will help you get started.
Begin your ad-block by doing a little espionage. Your initial goal is to separate the lightweights from the heavyweights. Identify those who are having the largest direct impact on your PPC traffic so you can target them for the block. Dig deep--your mission is to understand every aspect of your competitors’ PPC efforts. Many PPCers use have a set-and-forget mentality, which you can easily exploit with a little research. Make a spreadsheet containing the following items:
Average Ad Position
You’ll use three primary tools to get useful data about these items. Some extrapolation is necessary, but with a little rooting and a lot of patience you can get a surprising amount of information about your competition. . .here’s how:
Adwords Opportunities Tab
The opportunities tab allows you to comparatively analyze your campaign’s performance against that of other advertisers, using the Analyze Competition area. While this tool only gives you indirect information about your rivals, it is very useful for assessing your performance in each listed category. This is a great place to start when looking to set up your ad-block, because it gives you a handle of the competitiveness of your current campaigns and offers suggested keywords by category.
You can view the following metrics in relation to other advertisers:
You can also filter competitor data by Country and State to get an idea for how your campaigns are performing regionally:
You can use Google Adwords Auction Insights to find the domains of competitors vying for your keyword combinations in Adwords Auctions.
Auction insights gives you the following information:
Percentage of times your, or a competitor’s, ad shows up in search relative to other ads in the same auction.
Position of ad on search results page compared to other similar ads in the same auction.
How often your ad and a competitor’s received an impression in the same auction.
Position Above Rate
Percentage of time a competitor’s ad was displayed at a higher SERP position than yours in the same auction.
Top of Page Rate
Percentage of times an ad was displayed at the top of the SERP above organic search results.
Use Impression Share and Top of Page Rate to extrapolate which keyword combinations may be most important to your competition. Next conduct a series of searches for those keywords and inspect the ads along with their associated landing pages. Don’t just look at the keywords; look at the foundational elements of the pages.
You’ve got your competitor list. You’ve got your metric data. You’ve organized your notes about their landing pages. Just one thing missing: their budget. This is where SpyFu comes in.
SpyFu is a tool that allows you to gather intelligence on your competitors’ Google Adwords campaigns. All you have to do is type in the URL of the competitor you want to profile and SpyFu returns all kinds of information based on their current and past PPC campaigns. A basic report includes their estimated daily budget, a list of their paid keywords, previews of their ads, and more. To get more detailed information, you’ll have to shell out $79.00 a month. Try before you buy, folks.
With SpyFu, your main focus is nailing down the competition’s budget and mining for additional keywords to block. Keep in mind that the cash amount you’re looking at here is an estimated budget. The information is not 100% accurate, so it’s a good idea to use your own Adwords campaign as a control. Just open up a new window and type in your own URL. You can now calibrate their estimated ad spend against your own numbers.
Now it’s time to go through your spreadsheets and start optimizing your campaign for the block.
This step is super important. You want to optimize for conversion and quality score. This means removing unnecessary barriers to entry by:
Omitting form fields that aren’t absolutely essential
Presenting information in bite-sized, easy to interpret chunks
You’ll want to create two sets of ad groups: one set of ad groups targeting the exact keyword phrases your competitors are targeting, and one set targeting around those keyword phrases. Setting up the first ad group should be self-explanatory. What about the second one? What do I mean by targeting around keyword phrases? Simple: start by targeting every possible misspelling of each keyword in your first set of ad groups. Typos are super important, and it’s a safe bet that your competitors aren’t taking advantage of them. The quality score for your typo-targeted ads will be low, but that isn’t the point. You want to build a blockade around your competition; targeting typos ensures that you have every opportunity possible to get your brand in front of potential customers ahead of your competitors.
Next you’ll want to target permutations of your original keyword sets. If your competitor does well with the keyword phrase “vintage red leather jacket,” you should also be targeting “leather jacket vintage red” “vintage red jacket leather,” “vintage leather jacket in red”etc..
Here are some example search results based on the keyword phrases above:
Vintage Red Leather Jacket
Leather Jacket Vintage Red
Vintage Red Jacket Leather
Vintage Leather Jacket in Red
Notice there is some overlap? That’s the point.
Make variations of your competitors' best performing ads. By now you know exactly what is working for your competition; make it work for you instead. Everything short of complete word-for-word copies of your competitors ads is fair game.
If you’ve optimized well, you should have a fantastic quality score; now it’s time to turn up the heat. Attack by making your competitors’ budget work against them. In my own campaigns I like to start by doubling their daily ad spend. If the competition’s budget is $40.00 a day, I’m setting mine at $80.00. Remember how ad rank is calculated?
Ad Rank = Keyword Bid X Quality Score
Ad-blocking allows you to identify successful rival campaigns, target their most profitable keywords, and uncover and exploit their budgetary weaknesses. If you aren’t using this method to cripple your competition, they’re probably doing it to you.Your optimization efforts coupled with high bids will lead to better ad rank, which will lead to better placement, and in many cases will also lead to most of your targeted competitor’s ads not being displayed at all. This strategy will make it incredibly painful for direct threats in your space to compete with you. It’s especially effective because many small businesses running PPC campaigns are afraid to turn the dials once they have a formula that’s working, so their campaigns are essentially on autopilot. By the time they notice something is amiss, you’ve siphoned off a good portion of their impressions and put a nasty dent in their CTR.