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SEMrush Toolbox: Advertising Research report




Craig: Hi, and welcome to the SEMrush webinar. Today, we're going to be talking about the Advertising Research tool, and I'm going to be joined by Sam Noble. Sam, hi.

Sam Noble: Hi, Craig.

Craig: Sam, for anyone who doesn't know you, can you just introduce yourself?

Sam Noble: Yeah. I'm Sam, I've been working within PPC for about 14 years now, and I'm currently running my own paid media consultancy called Biddable Moments.

Craig: Do you reckon that was the right move, just to focus on paid, or you know, just getting away from SEO because of all the kind of changes?

Sam Noble: If I'm running anything I like something to have an immediate impact. If I could launch anything on PPC paid social, then literally within a couple of minutes I can see whether something's working or not, so I think that's more the reason.

SEMrush Advertising Research Tool Overview

Craig: Advertising Research tool: the first thing I'm gonna show you is where to find it. On the left-hand side, under the Domain Analytics tab, you'll see Advertising Research here. 

Just click on it and you will see the tool itself. It's a very simple and easy tool to use. There's a number of different options here which I'll talk you through. First of all, you have to put a domain name in. I've just randomly chosen a lawyer in London. 

It's justanswer.com, in fact, they’re not even a lawyer, they just do general answers about a wide range of different niches. I didn't want to do your Amazon's or any of the kind of easy ones because everyone does them. It's nice to kind of change it up. 

It will basically be as simple as putting in "justanswer.com," click Search, and it will pull the data for you down here. You've seven tabs across there and the first one is Positions; it's going to show you your positions. 

It shows you the nice little graph, it shows you estimated traffic, keywords, traffic cost, and the dates and stuff like that. You can actually look back on the usual sequences: one month, six months, a year, two years, or all time. 

Below that, you'll see the paid search positions, which is all the keywords, the traffic they're bringing and all the other percentages and everything that's out there. Above that, you've got Manage Columns, so if you don't want to see some of these columns, for example, someone like Sam who does pay-per-click in a kind of day to day, she might not want to see block or some of these other things.

You can also export this data as well. If you wanted to export that data to show it to a client and you wanted to hide a few columns for one reason or another, then you do also have the ability to do that.  It just basically shows you the positions and the rough idea of the cost. 

There are the usual advanced filters here; filter by keywords, or you can filter all kind of various other options that you have, as per usual, on SEMrush. 

The second tab along is Position Changes...new and lost keywords and whatnot. This particular campaign only has new ones, but normally if you have any lost ones, they would appear here.

Improved or declined: you can see, potentially they're improving on a specific keyword so you might want to up your game on that as well.

It's quite important to see new and lost keywords, because maybe keywords that they're bidding on, they don't convert as well. It gives you the information first-hand so you can make your own decisions. 

Competitors: it gives you a competitive position map and it will give you some of the competition here, paid competitors. It will show you the competitor level, common keywords, paid keywords, paid traffic, paid traffic price, and then it shows you search engine keywords which goes into organic research if you want to do research on the keyword or whatever.

Again, you can export this information, send it over to your client or whatever. Sometimes clients would like to know what the competition is up to, or even if you're trying to talk a client into using the right budget, maybe I need to say "Look, this is what these guys are spending." All of that data's really good. 

The next tab along is "Ad Copies." Ad copy is very, very important. It's good to get a grasp on what your competition is doing. You can filter by product title and there is the usual standard include/exclude product title, description URL. There are different filters there that you can filter all this kind of data down by.

You see here, this particular website, justanswer.com, has 18 different ads. You can have a closer look at them; the title, the URL, the ad copy. If you're looking for ideas on what your ad copy should be, you can get inspiration from these and tweak it, add to it, mix it all up, do whatever fits you. 

Ad History is the next tab along. You'll be able to see the ad history here, and it will show you last month and it will show you the volumes for the particular keyword there, and it will show you September, August, September, October, November, December 2018. It does give you a whole bunch of information this year as well in terms of, you know, there may be certain times of the year where people are bidding on certain keywords. 

It will give you a nice little bunch of options here if you want to click on, say, March, for example, in that particular search term, and it will give you the kind of ad copy, the volume and stuff like that as well. That's quite a cool thing as well if you want to kind of go back and people may have changed their ads in the copy and stuff like that, they may have been doing a bit of testing. 

Next one along is Paid Pages, again just more of an informational page. You can see the home page, what traffic it gets, what percentage of its traffic and what keywords are used on here. It's probably quite important to be able to see people's landing pages and what they've got on there. 

You can simply click on the little arrow there and it will take you to that landing page and you can see exactly the landing page they've got there and, whether it's good and you want to take inspiration from it or not.

That is me, Sam's going to be giving her presentation now. 

Why PPC Competitor Analysis is Important

Sam Noble: Thank you. What I want to do is talk you through some ways of actually using SEMrush as well as Google ads to understand who you're actually competing with, and I think competitor analysis is super, super important. 

There are so many times that I look at PPC accounts and you speak to certain individuals and they're like "Yeah, we looked at some competitor research right back when we first started the campaigns, but we've really not done anything with it since. I think that's a real mistake when it comes to PPC campaigns, because the landscape changes so, so rapidly. 

Why is competitor analysis important? I think there's a number of different reasons, and I think one of the things that we really need to understand is whether we as an advertiser are spending enough to compete in the marketplace that we're playing in.


We also need to understand whether we're missing out on any keywords. Google came out with a study a couple of years back where they said around 15-16 percent of search queries that they see on Google, every single day, are brand new.


It's because people are searching in such different ways and we've got lots of different devices and ways that we're actually using search now, that the keyword research tools can only be as good as the data that is being plugged into them. If Google is saying that they're actually seeing 16% of new search queries coming in every single day, that's a lot of potential volumes that we could be missing out on if we're not continuously looking at what competitors are doing.

We also need to know whether our ads are as compelling as the competitors. I've worked with numerous different brands over the years and there's one particular example where I can remember, where we had set everything up correctly, everything was running, we were getting clicks on the ads, and when you actually looked at whether things were actually performing they weren't actually getting the sales.


When we were then looking at what the competitors were writing in the adverts, they had a lot of different messaging in there and they were actually offering free things and discounts and different things in there. So we needed to completely revamp everything that we were doing because the competitors had completely taken over the space in that place. 

We also need to make sure, in a similar example here that the offer that we have got is either similar, better, or worse than the competition. It could be that your client or your business that you're working for has launched something new, we think it's all brilliant. But when we actually look at who we're competing with and the offering that they've got and the product, whether the product that we have or the service that we're offering is better, worse, or similar to what the competitors are doing.



We need to make sure that if the competitors are offering a discount, and it's the exact same type of product, then we need to try to compete with that. I'm not saying that we have to go out and replicate exactly what the competition is doing, but we do need to be aware that if a competitor is offering something, it could mean that you're going to see a slight decrease in your performance if you're not offering something similar.


It needs to be done on a regular basis, as I was saying previously. If you're not looking at who you're competing with on a monthly or quarterly basis, you are going to be missing out on so much potential data and the landscape changes so, so quickly. We need to be aware of who we're competing with and we need to keep track of that.


Identifying Your PPC Competitors: 3 Types of Competitors

I think, whenever I'm working with a business, the one thing that I ask them, to begin with, is: "Who do you class as your competition? Who is it that you think that you're competing with?" Let's say for example it's an eCom business or a retail business, nine times out of ten, everybody will tell me who their direct competitors are. The ones that they think are offering a similar product. There are actually three types of competitors in my eyes. 

We've got the Direct Competitors, we've got Aspirational Competitors, and we've got Online Competitors, and they're all really, really different.


Let's take SilkFred as an example. They're a UK fashion retailer online and the direct competition that they've got, I think, are brands such as PrettyLittleThing, In The Style, Boohoo, Missguided; all of these online retailers that are offering similar products at similar prices. 

But then they've also got the competitors that they're looking to aspire to. You've got the likes of ASOS, H&M, Zara, New Look, it's the ones that are offering a similar product offering, but they've kind of got that extra edge. They've either got the kind of brick-and-mortar shops, such as New Look, Zara, H&M, or they've just really coined that marketplace in terms of online, such as ASOS.

We also have Online Competitors, which are Amazon and eBay. If anyone is selling anything online, they are the people that you are also competing against. I think it's really important to understand the competitor landscape so that when you are doing this analysis, you are looking at the ones that are directly competing with you as well as the ones that you're aspiring to compete with. But also be very, very aware that you've got a lot of competition when it comes to Amazon and eBay.

Using Google’s Auction Insights Report

How do I go about finding who the competitors are? When you start looking at PPC competition, it can massively vary, and that can vary by campaign, it can vary by keyword, by ad group, by account. Google, a few years back, released a tool called the Auction Insights Report, which I think is still really widely underutilized by a lot of people that are running PPC campaigns, but you can get so much valuable information out of this tool.


It allows us to look at who we're competing against at account level. We can say "Right, okay, for my overall PPC account, who are my main competitors in the PPC auction?" We can see who we're competing against at our Campaign Type, so search and shopping. We can see by campaign, so we might be selling dresses and shoes and handbags, who's our competition when it comes to dresses, who's the competition when it comes to shoes, and who's the competition when it comes to handbags? 

Likewise, we can also see this at the ad group and keyword level. The competition could vary massively based on the keywords that we're bidding on and the campaigns that we're using, but the auctioning site's report will show us all of this information.

Here is a copy of an Auction Insights Report that I pulled from Google. We can see here that our competition is Amazon, Wayfair, Dunelm, Marks & Spencer, Argos, John Lewis, eBay, so there's a whole host of different brands and businesses in there that we are competing against in the auction that I've exported from here. 

Some of the main things that we want to look at: The first thing's Impression Share. Here on the left side, we can see the display URL so we can see who we're competing against. If we sort this by Impression Share, we can see, for that particular auction, Amazon are capturing 45% of the overall impressions that are available to us. We've got 33% and then next up we've got Wayfair, then Dunelm, then Mark & Spencer, so that's telling us how many impressions out of the available 100% a particular URL is achieving.

We've then got average position, so average position will tell us the average position that that particular domain is sitting at, in that particular auction. We see Amazon in 2.3, us in 1.7, Wayfair 2.9. Just to give you a feel for, okay we're competing against this particular domain, but how often are we competing against them, and in what position are they currently sitting in?

Then we've got the Overlap Rate. The overlap rate is the one that's really, really important, for me personally, because I tend to come into this report, I sort it by Overlap Rate, and then I can see who I'm overlapping within that auction for the majority of the time.


If we're looking at this on a keyword level, we can see Amazon is competing against us, they are appearing alongside us within that auction and overlapping with us nearly 50% of the time. I know that for that particular set of products or keywords or campaigns, Amazon has got a really strong presence in that particular area. The main one that I use is Overlap Rate, followed by Impression Share, and Average Position.

Monitoring Competitor Ads and Trends

Once I've got this information, what do I do with it? That's when I start to use the SEMrush Advertising Toolkit. I'm constantly monitoring who we're competing against in an auction, and doing that campaign by campaign, ad group by ad group, and seeing if there's anybody new that's coming into the marketplace or whether someone's decided to drop out. 

You can start to see peaks and trends when advertisers are competing against you the most. Let's say we've come across a new competitor in the auction or we've come across one that's started to really ramp up their spend and therefore they're overlapping with us more, we can take that domain and we can put it into the SEMrush tool. 

If we head over here, as Craig was explaining, the Advertising Toolkit sits underneath the Advertising Toolkit menu, and if you come into there and click on Domain Overview, you'll be asked to pop in a URL, so I've put in wayfair.co.uk, because we were competing against them 30 odd percent of the time in the example that we've used.


I've plugged in the domain, if we click on Search, you then get returns with the Domain Overview. But what we're particularly looking at today is the paid search side of it and how I then use this data to inform my PPC strategy. 

If we click over on the left-hand side into Advertising Research, we then start to see a completely different screen to the Domain Overview, so this is the one that Craig was walking us through earlier where we can look at the seven different tabs. I'm just going to talk you through what I do within these tabs and how I use them for my research.

The first one I want to talk about is the fact that we can actually track changes that are made within a particular domain. In the example here I've put in wayfair.co.uk, if you click on the "Notify Me" tab you will be alerted anytime something major happens within that person's PPC data that SEMrush is recording, which is super, super useful.

Let's have a look at the different sections, so in the Positions area, we've got three different tabs. First of all, we've got estimated traffic, we've also got keywords and we've got traffic cost. The estimated traffic one, we can change that, so over on the right-hand side of the screen, we can see all-time, two years, one year, six months, or one month. 

I've currently got that set to two years so that I can see how much estimated traffic SEMrush thinks this particular website is getting off the back of their PPC campaigns. We can see the trends that are happening in here. 

As with any tool that isn't hooked up to someone's Google Ads account, it is impossible to know this completely accurately, but SEMrush do a really good job of being able to kind of estimate based on how many times people are having ads appear within the search results and the average positions that they're getting and the estimated search volume that a keyword's got. 

Then they're able to put together a trend analysis on how often they think those ads are showing and then how much traffic they've got coming, though. 

We can also see the Traffic Cost, and this is one that I used really, really regularly, and especially if I'm really working with a brand, and they're like "How much do we need to spend on PPC, can we tell how much our competitors are spending?"


Again, like I said earlier, this gives us a trend, it just gives us an estimation of how much that particular advertiser is spending. It isn't by any means completely accurate, but it just gives us an estimation of how much we think they might be spending so we can see what those trend lines look like and whether there are any peaks at certain times of the year for a particular advertiser in terms of what they're spending and whether somebody has completely stopped running their PPC and they're not showing ads anymore at all.

Next up is the Position Changes one. I really like this report as well because it gives me an idea of how active an advertiser is when it comes to optimizing their campaigns. Click on those, so we've clicked on one of the little blue bars, we can actually see what keywords they've added or removed on a regular monthly basis. 

On the flip of that, you could also do the same for the lost keywords as well. You could click into the keywords that they're no longer appearing for, or that SEMrush hasn't seen them appearing for, and we can say, "Well, have they stopped selling a particular product line? It might be that they've completely removed everything to do with radiator covers."

In that instance we could then go to the business that we're working for and say "Look, it looks like Wayfair has stopped selling radiator covers, is this a potential opportunity for us as a business? Can we go after that as a niche that we might not be currently offering?" 

I think you can use this in two ways, not just PPC, but you can also highlight any potential growth opportunities in terms of new products or any potential opportunities in terms of products that somebody's added that you may not have actually been using so far. 

Next up we have the Competitor Positioning Map. This gives me some more ideas in terms of competitors that I can go after. In the example that I was looking at with regards to the Auctions Insight Report, that was showing me a number of different competitors for the brand that I'm working with, but what it doesn't show me is who Wayfair are competing against. 

It might give you some other competitors to start looking at, it might just give you some other examples.

When you scroll down on that screen you can also see a load of other competitors, so the map that we saw previously just gives you the really top-level ones. If you then scroll down you get a whole host of other potential advertisers that you might want to look into. It tells you what keywords you've got in common with them.

The Ad Copy is something that I spent quite a lot of time in, and I think that if you are new to doing PPC, one of the most daunting things is trying to get ad copies written. People try and write individual ads for every single little thing and it can get really, really time-consuming, and then people often don't know where to start.

I think getting inspiration from other people, other advertisers that appear within the auction is a really, really useful place to start. One thing that I tend to do in here, rather than just coming in and just trawling through a whole load of ads for ideas, I click through, look through the different ads, and then I try and pick out some of the key messages that they're using. 

You can start to pick out trends that people are using in their ads because if that's the ads that are appearing in the auction that are against you, then you want to be offering something similar, or something better. 

The Pages report, as Craig was mentioning earlier. I do use this quite frequently but more so it comes into its own if you start to see businesses or competitors that are using specific landing pages for their ads. 

What you will find is certain advertisers, when you plug the domain in there, will be using standalone landing pages, things that they might have created in Unbounce or Leadpages. Just having an idea of where your competitors are sending traffic to is super, super important. 

Using this report to see the landing pages and having a look at how those pages are laid out is really, really important, because it could be that somebody on their landing page has got a specific offer, a specific thing to deliver the product, they might be using certain colors or imagery that you might not have thought of.

The next report I want to show you is... there's a Charts option over on the left-hand side underneath Advertising Research and if you click into there, it gives you the ability to add in multiple competitors, multiple domains into the box at the top, and you can choose what you want to chart. 

If you click on "Plot Chart," you can see this. You can see the report broken down in either a bar chart or a line graph, and this for me just gives me so much more information on a visual level that I can send over to a client that I'm working with.

The main takeaway I'd like to give you today is; utilize the Auctions Insight Report and keep a tab on who it is that you're competing against. Keep coming back to that, revisiting it, so that you can continuously come back and reanalyze competitors. If you're changing your ads on a regular basis, I'm sure your competitors will be doing the same, so it's important to just keep your eye on that and just keep refreshing your research.


Craig: Annie was asking, she still doesn't understand the average position. Can you explain what that means?

Sam Noble: What the average position kind of indicates is, if you're sitting at an average position of one, then most of the time, that particular advertiser, in that particular auction, has got their ad in position one of the auction results, then you kind of move down and so forth from there. 

Using Google Data Studio

Craig: Someone was asking "What are the main things that can be automated using Google Data Studio?"

Sam Noble: Everything. Data Studio will allow you to. I think Google created that as a platform so that you can pull in data from all of the different Google advertising platforms, not even just advertising. 

You can pull in data from Google Analytics, Google Ads, Search Ads 360, Display Ads 360, Google Search Console, all of the different products that you can think of that Google offer, you can pull in data from those automatically. 

One of the ways that I've used it recently for businesses is the Search Console data is super valuable when it comes to PPC campaigns because it's useful to see, "Okay, what are we ranking for organically and what's the traffic coming in from?" We can pull that in and say "Well, where are we actually seeing keywords that we're ranking organically for and are we missing any that we could potentially bid on, from pay perspective, and vice versa, can we remove that?" 

It's completely free to use all of the Google-owned platforms and Data Studio. The time that there becomes a cost is if you want to pull in data from other sources. You can pull in data from Facebook ads, Instagram Insights, we can use Bing Ads, we've got Quora. 

The way around using Data Studio as well is, if you've got any data that, let's say you're using Facebook ads but you don't want to pay for the connector for that, then you could export all the data from Facebook ads and put it into Google Sheets, and Google Sheets does work with Data Studio.

Looking at Local PPC Competitors

Craig: The next question is from Laura McAdams, who's asking "Any suggestions on how to look at local level competitors?"

Sam Noble: No. My honest answer is, because, unless you have got your campaign structured in such a way that you're targeting certain locations, so let's say that you're targeting the whole of the UK, you've got no way of breaking down who you're competing within a certain area of the UK. 

Whereas if your campaigns are structured in such a way as saying "Right, we're going to group our southern parts of the UK together, we're going to put, we're breaking it down by different, say, counties." If you've got all of your campaigns broken down like that, then you would be able to see a kind of location level, who you're competing against, but that will really depend on how you've got your current campaign structured.

How Often to A/B Test Ads

Craig: Cool. The next question, though, is "How often are you doing A/B testing on your ads?"

Sam Noble: As often as the data tells me. If I'm working within an industry where they've got a lot of traffic coming into the campaigns, then the split testing can happen as frequently as every few days. It depends on how much traffic an ad is seeing, so I tend to run three ads parallel to each other. 

Google will try and push you to change your setting to, say, optimize ads based on their own data. I always, when I first start out running campaigns I will have everything to rotate indefinitely so that I can control that split test.

Then as I've got enough data in my campaigns over those three ads, whether that is, I don't know, let's say we're looking at 100 impressions, 100 clicks, or 100 conversions... on each of those ads, I've then got some statistical numbers to say "Well, this ad looks like it's performing better for reasons X, Y, and Z." 

I then pause the poorest performer, create a copy of the best performer, and then let those ones fight against each other. It's only once I've been doing that for enough time that I'm kind of confident in the ads that I've got in there that I kind of switch the ad rotation over to optimize.

Craig: Sadly that is us out of time for today's webinar, but we have but a link to your course in the YouTube chat, so anyone who wants to look at Sam's course, the link is in the YouTube chat, also your Twitter and everything's on there as well. Thank you very much for that, and thank you, everyone, who came along. We will see you in a couple of weeks time on the next toolbox webinar.

Sam Noble: Thank you.

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