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Google's New Keyword Competitor Tools and SEMrush

Phillip Brooks
Google's New Keyword Competitor Tools and SEMrush

Google recently announced that their Keyword Planner tool will now include Google AdWords competitive analysis data alongside their normal reporting.

These enhancements add new two new keyword competitor tools to Google's keyword planner interface and are intended to help the user compare his or her search term coverage to other advertisers.

Specifically, they've added two new metrics by which you can review your relative ad impression share:

Market Leaders: The first metric displays the top five market leaders across all of the user's generated keyword ideas. It looks like this:

Similar Advertisers: The second new metric serves up similar advertisers from various keyword categories. See below:

Okay, so what do they actually do?

In Google's own words, the user is intended rely upon the Market Leaders metric to "prioritize where keyword expansions may be most impactful." The example they provide is that of a user entering a new market space that might need a shallow glimpse into the keyword strategies for leaders who have already invested in the space.

The Similar Advertisers report can help the user find underutilized keywords where "ad impression share is low compared to other advertisers," opening up opportunities for keywords that could be easy wins compared to the more sought-after terms.

There's a lot of great data contained in these reports, but Google's competition metrics only scratch the surface of what you'd need to do a full-scale competitive analysis.

If anything, Google's new tool only serves to show how necessary a tool like SEMrush is to obtaining a more complete picture of your competitive landscape.

When you use Google's new metrics as the jumping off point to begin a deeper dive into competitive analytics, you see where SEMrush truly shines.

Let's look at some of the ways SEMrush differs from and complements these new tools from Google.

Time and Monetary Investment

To take advantage of this competitor data from Google, the user must already have an active AdWords campaign.

Depending on your level of sophistication with these tools, creating an account from scratch might represent a pretty significant investment of time on your part.

Additionally, the AdWords account in question requires an undefined level of historical data from which to mine these suggestions, which means that your account must have an established history of activity to get this feedback.

So, in addition to the time you need to get a truly representative sample, you've also got a monetary investment to contend with before you're able to take advantage of these new reports.

Lack of Context

Because Google's competitor data is based on keywords from a list of proposed ideas, the final results may not be as narrowly focused as expected. For example, the suggested keywords in the Ad Group Ideas List may contain keywords that aren't exactly relevant to your site.

That's why professionals perform so much regular maintenance on their AdWords keyword lists. If PPC management meant simply using the words that Google's Keyword Planner tool suggests, without refinement or testing, anyone could do it. But anyone who has worked with AdWords knows that your account would hemorrhage money with little result if that was your strategy.

Working without the proper context while identifying your competitors could result in a campaign built around similarly spurious logic. That's why SEMrush also shows you our suggested Phrase Match Keywords and Related Keywords for your queried keyword.

SEMrush - Phrase Match Keywords and Related Keywords

Another missing piece in the contextual puzzle for this data is that of historical performance. Google's data shows you the competition right now. But having access to historical data gives a lot more context to the information you're seeing. Could these be seasonal terms? How long has this advertiser been ranking for these terms? These are important questions that can't be answered without historical data.

Transparency and Depth

The data contained in Google's competitor reports lacks both transparency and depth. How are these competitors chosen? What are the criteria? There's little transparency to the process by which the competitor domains are suggested.

As far as depth of data, SEMrush also shows you copies of the ads themselves AND any Product Listing Ads (PLAs) that are related to your competitor's domains and your keyword.

SEMrush - Product Ads Copies and Ads History

The Cost

How many of the keywords in the Suggested Keywords list are Google's supplied competitors bidding on? What's their ad budget? What's the estimated cost-per-click (CPC) for those terms? Is the keyword trending?

The competition metrics from Google's Keyword Planner tool don't show any of this data. SEMrush does:

SEMrush - Paid Search Positions Report

And keep in mind that suggesting these keywords and domains ultimately increases bidding on those same terms, which is advantageous to Google. I'm not saying this in a cynical way, but it is something to consider. It doesn't do Google much good to incentivize bidding wars on keywords that don’t cost much money to bid on in the first place.

The Dynamic Duo

It may sound like I'm saying that the data Google is supplying here is without value.

On the contrary, the data gleaned from Google's Keyword Competitor tool can be extremely useful – it just needs some fleshing out with additional data to make it truly actionable.

SEMrush takes the competitive intelligence that Google's new tools provide and gives it both the context and depth you need to make informed decisions about your digital marketing strategy.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments!

Phillip Brooks

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Phillip Brooks is SEMrush's Content Marketing Manager.
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Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Phillip, I noticed this is one of the most tweeted articles of from the blog that I found. I've been thinking about how great content explodes expontencially as it gets great links. Notice I say links vs. social shares. Why? Because 100 shares is < One link from an authoritative site. Then you get referalls from high ranking. I bet this super important topic got both links and then from vistits twiter shares. my own "related topic" or "semantic related themes" pages rank super will (free tool at tweetphiladelphia.com for finding semantic, related topics).

My theory is this is a piece that has the comprehensive related topics address. You've tied information about google to info about SEMrush in a way is seldom discusssed and ties together the Goolge/SEMrush relationship "thoroughly" which is what google's HummingBird algo looks for.
Gracious Store

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

How do you expect Google to give you every information in comparison to their competitors? Why are they in business? and why do they have competitors to reveal very information to you? Is that how business is done. Transparency? yes! In business when competitors are involved??

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Good piece of article.
What if two firms are targeting same keywords then how could this planner be helpful..??
Phillip Brooks

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Hemanth Malli
Hemanth, that's a great question! In that case, my concern would be that the Google planner could be giving both firms very different lists of keywords to target. It's hard to say since we don't know exactly what criteria go into selecting these competitors to display within Google's tool.
For example, we don't know the necessary age of the campaign or spending limit you need to reach before Google starts getting useful data. This is one of the many reasons we recommend using SEMrush to supplement the information found in AdWords to get a more complete and transparent picture of your competitive landscape.
Michael Striker

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

So much better to use the history of competitors' AdWords use, than to have to pay and wait to test and fail and risk your own! Do you think Google will ever provide competitor data for free?
Phillip Brooks

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Michael Striker
The cynic in me says they'll provide competitor data when it becomes profitable for them to do so. Right now, Google makes a lot of money from people who are running AdWords accounts that are less than "optimized."
Until that becomes a losing strategy, it behooves them to obfuscate their competitive data to at least some degree. It also creates a lot of jobs.

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

great piece Phillip! Your point about transparency in how Google selects competitors... How does SEMrush select competitors?
Phillip Brooks

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Todd Bailey
Hello, Todd. Thank you for reading! SEMrush snapshots data constantly on over 106M keywords and over 45M sites that appear in the top 2 pages on Google for those keywords.
Our competitive analysis is based on the keywords for which the original domain is ranking.
We take that list of keywords and compare it to our list of domains and sort competitors based on how many of those keywords the domains share in common versus the uncommon keywords between them.

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