How to Analyze a Competitor's Advertising Strategy Workflow

If you’re stuck trying to plan your advertising strategy, a competitive analysis goes a long way by giving you real insight into what works and doesn’t in your market. SEMrush has the perfect tools to help. The steps in this workflow include analyzing your competitor's activity on Google Ads, Google Shopping, and the Google Display Network and creating a PDF report.

For this workflow, we identify competitors of zappos.com and perform competitive analysis on the websites eastbay.com and macys.com (in Display Advertising).

Step 1. Identify Your Competitors in Paid Search

  • If you already know your competitors, you can skip this step and start with step 2. If you need help identifying your competitors, there is an Advertising Competitors report that shows you the websites that compete the most with your pre-existing Google Ads campaigns (if you run any) for paid keyword rankings.
    advertising-competitors
  • If your website has never run any Google Ads in the past, there is also an Organic Research Competitors report. This report shows the domains competing with your website for organic keyword rankings. If you discover that any of the competitors from this report also use Google Ads, they could be a good site to analyze.

Either of the reports above can help you identify other websites competing in your niche for traffic. 

Step 2. Google Ads Competitive Analysis

  • Go to the Advertising Research Positions report and query your competitor’s domain in the search bar. This shows you all of the keywords SEMrush found their ads showing up on over the past year.

    ad-positions
  • Use the Ad Copies report to see the actual ads run by your competitor. Look at their headlines and descriptions for insight into their positioning. You can also use the search bar to filter for ads that include a word or phrase.

    ad-copies
  • Use the Advertising Research Pages report to identify the landing pages on their site that they’re driving their ad traffic to. You can click on the pages and get a sense of the goals of their campaign based on the CTAs on their landing pages.
     
  • The Ad History report will show you the month by month record of keywords and ad rankings in your competitor’s advertising campaign over the past 12 months. So if there is any seasonality or trends in a competitor’s strategy, you’ll see it here. For example, in the image below we can see that swimmingpool.com stopped advertising from the month of November to February, then started again in March.

Step 3. Compare Keyword Profiles

Comparing keyword profiles between multiple competitors is a great way to see gaps and opportunities in your market.

To compare a competitor’s keyword strategy directly to yours, go to the Keyword Gap tool and enter the name of your competitor’s domain next to yours. You can compare up to 5 domains side by side in this tool. Selecting which type of keyword (organic, paid, or PLA) to compare between websites will show you gaps where you can plan your advertising strategy.
keyword-gap

  • Compare paid keywords between you and your competitors and use the venn diagram to choose “unique to the first domain” to find the keywords your competition is advertising on but you’re not.
    unique-to-first
  • Compare a competitor’s organic keywords to their paid keywords to see if they pay for advertising on some of the keywords that they have top rankings for.
    paid-to-organic
  • In the table, apply filters to look for keywords with low CPC, high volume, low Competitive Density and select any keywords that you want to add to your strategy and hit “add to Export Manager.”

Step 4. Google Display Network Analysis

Next, to analyze their Display Advertising campaigns, go to the Display Advertising Tool and enter your competitor’s domain in the search bar. This tool will tell you how much your competitor uses media display ads, HTML display ads, and text display ads.
display-advertising

  • Go to the Ads tab to see actual copies of their ads. (1)
  • Go to the Landing Pages tab to see the pages on their website that they directed traffic to with display campaigns. (2)
  • Go to the Publishers tab to see a list of websites where their ads were seen. (3)
  • Export the Ads report or Publishers report to save your research. (4)

Step 5. Google Shopping Competitive Analysis

Lastly you can take a look into your competitor’s use of Google Shopping with SEMrush’s PLA Research. (Please note: these reports are only available with an SEMrush Business level subscription).

  • Go to PLA Research and enter your competitor’s domain in the search bar. There are 3 reports in this section: PLA Positions, PLA Competitors, and PLA Copies.
    PLA-research
  • Use the Positions report to see all of the keywords that triggered your competitor’s Google Shopping Ads.
     
  • Use the Copies report to see actual copies of your competitor’s Product Listing Ads. You’ll see the number of keywords that triggered each ad and the price of the listed product. Both of these reports can be exported to save your research.

Step 6. Create a PDF report of your Competitive Analysis

Once you’ve gathered all of your data, you might want to put everything together into a single cohesive report. If so, go to our easy report builder, My Reports, and create a new report.

  • Drag the widgets from Advertising Research into the report builder and enter your competitor’s domain and the database to add the info to your PDF. (1)
     
  • To include data on their use of PLAs or Display Advertising, take screenshots from steps 4 and 5 of this workflow. Then drag the “image widget” from the report builder into your PDF and drag your screenshot into the image widget. (2)

pdf-report

There is no limit to the number of images you can add to a report, and everything can be added by a simply drag and drop.

For more ways to analyze your competitor’s PPC strategies, read 5 Key Things Worth Analyzing in your Competitors’ PPC Strategies from our blog.