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Improve Your Ad Campaigns: Leverage Competitors’ Keywords and Ads

Rocco Alberto Baldassarre
Improve Your Ad Campaigns: Leverage Competitors’ Keywords and Ads

While I have found that focusing on what you are doing instead of on what your competitors are doing always pays off, there are two scenarios in online advertising where keeping close tabs on your competitors’ keywords is extremely helpful. The first scenario is if you are a startup and the second one is if you have at least one competitor that is crushing it online.

It is always interesting to learn what your competitors are doing in terms of keywords but when you know that at least one of them has experienced significant growth because of paid search, it is not only tempting to steal a piece of that pie but it is essential for your own business growth. The good thing is that you can actually find out exactly what keywords and ads your competitors are using.

Here is a step by step guide on how to find your competitors’ keywords and how to leverage this information for your Google AdWords or Microsoft adCenter accounts.

We will also briefly touch upon how to get two birds with one stone and use SEMrush to improve Facebook Ads.

1. Learn and Research

Use the free or paid version of SEMrush to get a list of keywords your competitors are using. Start by inserting the URL of a competitor.

SEMrush Competitor Research

You will get the overview of all available statistics. Click on the number below “Paid Search.”

Paid Search in SEMrush

You will then see insights SEMrush retrieved on the competitor’s Google AdWords’ efforts including but not limited to the following:

SEMrush Dashboard

SEMrush Dashboard

2. Distill Your Data: What Do You Really Need?

You can download the keywords in a spreadsheet. Add the ones from your existing AdWords or Bing account and highlight each source in a different color. Find the duplicates and remove the ones you already had in your campaigns.This leaves you with a list of new keywords you aren’t targeting yet.

Now that you have the list, it’s time to remove anything that is unrelated to the products or services you are offering. Depending on how many keywords are on your list, you can first sort them in topics and then in ad groups or right away in ad groups. Add a column for match types so you can upload the list later via the AdWords Editor or Bing Editor.

The handiest columns for keywords for both editors are from left to right:

Campaign Name, Ad Group Name, Keyword, Match Type, Max CPC Bid (optional)

You can then go ahead and create ads in Excel (or the respective editor depending on how many ads you need.)

The handiest columns for ads for the AdWords Editor are from left to right:

Campaign Name, Ad Group Name, Headline, Description Line 1, Description Line 2, Display URL, Final URL

The handiest columns for ads for the Bing Editor are from left to right:

Campaign Name, Ad Group Name, Headline, Description, Display URL, Destination URL

3. Make Your Ads More Competitive

If you are interested in seeing competitors’ ads, use SEMrush to get a sneak peek of what the competition is up to. You can type in a keyword and see ads that are shown for that keyword. You can also use Google AdWords’ Ad Preview Tool to see ads that are triggered by a specific search query.

Naturally, you have to keep the Quality Score in mind. Some competitors might simply have an extremely high bid to get their ads showing up in high positions which results in a high cost-per-click. Ideally, you want to show up in high positions paying the least amount necessary which means you need a high Quality Score.

While you cannot calculate the average position you will be getting ahead of time, you can calculate the so-called ad rank which gives you an idea of where your ad will show. The larger the ad rank, the higher the position.

The ad rank is calculated the following way:

Quality Score * Maximum CPC = Ad Rank

This means that someone with a low quality score and a high bid can show up in the exact same position as someone with a high quality score and a low bid.

Take these example for instance:

Quality Score of 4/10 * Maximum CPC of $10 = Ad Rank 40

Quality Score of 10/10 * Maximum CPC of $4 = Ad Rank 40

Now let’s look at how you can beat your competitor if you are bidding the same and have a higher quality score:

Quality Score of 4/10 * Maximum CPC of $10 = Ad Rank 40

Quality Score of 10/10 * Maximum CPC of $10 = Ad Rank 100

Ad Rank 100 is larger than ad rank 40 so it shows up in a higher position.

4. Take it Beyond Google & Bing with Facebook

Something else you can do is to make a list of competitors that came up during the search and use it to target followers of your competitors on Facebook. By using custom audiences, you can show ads to people who like specific Facebook pages such as the Facebook pages of your competitors.

Should this campaign turn out to be profitable for you, you can take it even further and significantly scale up the volume of your Facebook campaigns by targeting lookalike audiences. This means you can reach people who are similar to people who like your competitor’s Facebook pages or your own Facebook page and even people who are similar to people that visited specific pages on your website or bought a specific product or service.

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Rocco Alberto Baldassarre is the Founder and CEO of Zebra Advertisement, a results-oriented SEM consulting firm. Rocco consults companies with up to $5 million in PPC advertisement budgets, speaks three languages and was shortlisted as a Young Search Professional of the Year by the 2014 U.S. Search Awards.
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