Competitor Analysis: Turning Insights Into Actions

Much has been discussed in this week’s series on competitor analysis. This post will go into more detail about how to use the tactics and tools to drive meaningful action, as well as looking at bidding on competitive brand terms and the trademark issues associated with this tactic.


Take Action On Competitor Messaging

It’s easy to identify your top pay-per-click competitors using the AdWords Auction Insights Report. Once you have this list, take a look at their ad messaging. Consider these factors and assess how you measure up:

  • Use of unique selling proposition?
  • Time sensitive offers?
  • Use of all thirty five characters one each description line?
  • Use of intercapitalization? (Every Word Capitalized)
  • Use of social proof? — “Over 5,000 satisfied customers”, etc.
  • Strong Call-to-Action?
  • Copyright or Trademark symbols used?
  • Discounts added?


Doing a quick A/B of your competitor’s messaging against your own will not only give you ideas for ad text optimizations, it will also provide context into your own performance trends. Why are your click-thru-rates steadily dropping? Perhaps the answer lies in the messaging of a specific competitor who’s offering the same item at a lower price, winning the auction via higher Ad Rank, or attracting more users via create messaging.


Visit Competitor Sites

Your business is unique. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from your top competitors and make improvements based on what they’re doing right. Visit and engage with their websites. Try adding a product to their shopping cart. Assess how they’re arranging their inventory. This can be extremely helpful in identifying weaknesses in competitor site functionality and providing the solutions on your own site. It can also be helpful in identifying your own site’s weaknesses.

Additionally, visiting your competitor’s sites will give you the opportunity to check out their Remarketing efforts, since they’ll then be remarketing to you. You can analyse this messaging as well, and identify opportunities to up-level your own Remarketing strategy.


Use Competitor Performance Data Only To Inform Your Own

This is true at every level of your advertising effort. Always be sure to put your own business goals first, not chase those of your competitor’s. Specifically, do not:

  • Engage in bidding wars with competitors for the top spot. This is known as “vanity bidding”. Your optimal ad position will often not be the top position because of the increased cost-per-clicks associated with that spot. Find the right position for your target return.
  • Copy your competitor’s messaging outright. For example, don’t create a nearly identical ad with a shipping offer that’s one dollar lower than your competitors. Even text ads are branding opportunities. Make yours unique.


Bidding On Competitor’s Brand Terms

One crafty and popular AdWords strategy is to bid on your competitor’s brand terms. While you can’t actually feature their trademarked brand terms in your ad text, you can bid on the keywords. This is often a smart thing to do because users searching for brand terms are often in a lower phase of the buying funnel and it can be extremely effective to provide an alternative just as they’re navigating to the competitor’s site to buy.

Some things to keep in mind when bidding on brand terms:

  • Don’t try to trick users into clicking on your ads. You may find creative ways to infuse competitor’s brand(ish) terms into your ads without technically violating AdWords policy. This may even help Quality Scores because of increased keyword to ad text relevance but be very careful with this. Not only is it often a grey area in terms of policy, it’s not a good idea to get users to think they’re going to your competitor’s site and reaching yours instead. They will likely not reward you for this messaging cleverness, and it’ll cost you money!
  • Experiment with multiple match types for brand terms. Modified broad and phrase match types can be useful for identifying longer tail competitor terms that might be more effective than simple exact matches of their brand name.
  • Use data to assess effectiveness. On one hand, brand terms usually indicate a lower stage of the buying funnel. On the other, they indicate a specific interest in your competitor and not you. Let the data guide your determination of the efficacy of bidding on competitor brand terms.


Google AdWords Trademark Policy Guidelines


Find Less Competitive Auctions

Use insights from both internal AdWords and third party tools to identify low competition opportunities. This could mean:

  • Specific devices — look are your performance data across all device types. For example, you may find less competition on mobile for some of your high performing terms
  • Specific regions – look at your performance by location and try to find high performing areas will lower competition
  • Specific times of day — Some hours of the day will be less competitive than others. Use this data to set the right bid modifier for times of the day with less competition.
  • Use Impression Share reports — identify keywords with great performance but low impression share. Raise bids for these terms.
  • Use Impression Share reports — identify keywords with high impression share and poor performance. Lower bids for these terms.
  • Longtail keywords — Longer keywords are usually less competitive because they’re more specific. Use data from search query reports to build out your longtail keyword lists
  • Hunt for cheap, but high performing placements — (Google Display Network). Mine your placements reports.
  • Do video advertising for branding – AdWords For Video is still much less competitive than the Google Display Network in terms of what you pay for exposure. Cost-per-views still hover around $.10.



  • Take action on insights from competitive intelligence tools and tactics
  • Use Auction Insights Report to make a list of top competitors
  • Assess competitor messaging
  • Assess competitor website and other web presences
  • Use competitor data to inform your own, not determine strategy
  • Don’t engage in bidding wars — base strategy on your own business goals
  • Make your ads unique — consider the branding effect of your ads
  • Identify weaknesses in competitor website functionality and provide the solution on your site
  • Bidding on competitor brand terms can be very effective, but be careful
  • Find less competitive auctions using AdWords tools

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