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Hacks to Hone Your Competitive PPC Edge

Eric Couch
Hacks to Hone Your Competitive PPC Edge

In PPC, competition is everything. Quite literally, in this case – the competitive auction that takes place on the Google and Bing results page is one of the foundations upon which our industry is based. With that kind of pedigree, it makes perfect sense that the SERP can be a cutthroat, savage world for the unprepared, especially as more and more advertisers opt in to advertising on these networks.

With the competition mounting to an all-time high, it can be easy to get frustrated and worry about how your rivals may be getting the best of you. To help you out, I’m planning to discuss a few hacks in my upcoming SEMrush webinar that you can use to regain your competitive edge. Namely, a little art of war, the creative application of free and paid competitive tools, plus a little bit of Excel.

Teaser #1: “Be where your enemy is not.”

A professor of mine once told me that using quotes from famous authors in my work gives it a sense of gravitas that is entirely unearned. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a compliment or not. Regardless, I’m hoping it’s worked here. If you’re feeling sufficient gravitas, please feel free to comment below.

Unearned gravitas aside, the wisdom remains sound. The Google AdWords is a well-established, mature marketplace. It’s effective, but everyone knows that it’s effective… that’s why people do it. Whether we’re talking about new advertising platforms, or new features within existing platforms, there’s value in being an early adopter – namely, the idea that you get to operate with a competitive freedom that search marketers rarely get to experience. Can you imagine being the first person to try out Remarketing, or a Shopping Campaign? With that kind of opportunity, there’s nothing but upside.

Obviously, I’m going to have some preferences about where those advertising dollars are best spent, but this advice is platform agnostic. Be quick to jump in to new formats, new tools, and new platforms- in my experience few are willing to do so, and you can absolutely take advantage of that.

Teaser #2: Get creative with your free tools.

Speaking as someone now on the inside, a ton of time and effort goes in to the development of the free tools that I, as an advertiser, tended to neglect. Specifically, I’m talking about tools like Auction Insights and the Campaign Planner.

While great at their primary functions (competitive snapshots of your current keyword base for Auction Insights, and the Campaign Planner for… planning campaigns), with a little Excel wizardry I’ll show you how you can create some truly insightful reports that can educate you about your competition and industry.

For instance:

This is a pivot table and graph utilizing the Auction Insights report Overlap Rate by month. We’ve charted how often (and how aggressively) our competitors are appearing relative to our own advertising efforts – company #3 took a major dive going in to Q4, while #1 and #6 picked up the slack. This won’t give you exact metrics like spend, or their specific keywords, but it’s a start… and it’s free.

Teaser #3: Ask for a helping hand.

Speaking again as someone now on the inside, we also dedicate a lot of time and effort in to providing you with some ad hoc competitive insights – you just have to ask. Insights like campaign feature adoption across anonymized competitors:

Or vertical-specific device trends that can help inform your Campaign and device targeting strategies as a business:

There are entire departments dedicated to helping advertisers better understand their audience (both at Microsoft and at Google), and it’s on us to leverage those resources to benefit our advertising campaigns. Because if you don’t, your competitors definitely will.

Taking advantage of these little-used resources: free tools, untapped platforms / features, and competitive insights from your friends at Google, Bing, and elsewhere can provide a huge boost to your advertising efforts. Winning against the competition is all about outmaneuvering your opponent, and that means using everything to your advantage. I’ll be talking about how to do that and more in an upcoming webinar with SEMrush on Tuesday, May 26, so join us, and join in in the comments below!

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Eric Couch is an Account Manager for Bing Ads at Microsoft specializing in agency growth and development. He’s a frequent digital marketing writer featured on Search Engine Land, PPC Hero and the Bing Ads Blog, as well as an industry conference speaker at SMX and Hero Conf. Prior to joining Microsoft, he worked as a Senior Account Manager and Head of Training & Education at Hanapin Marketing.
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