To Spy or Not to Spy: 3 Reasons Not to Ignore Your AdWords Competitors

February 3, 2017

Should you spy on your AdWords competitors or not? Some people think you should, while others say you should ignore your competitors and just focus on your own business.

It’s really up to you, but I’ve found competitive advertising intelligence to be a great a way to get a leg up on your competitors. Here are the top three reasons why.

Reason #1: It helps you find new keywords

Keywords are the one thing every business needs for a successful PPC campaign. The more profitable keywords you have, the more successful your campaign will be. It’s almost that simple.

But sometimes you run out of keyword ideas. Other times, when you’re building a new campaign from scratch, it can take hours and even days to build out an initial keyword list. These are two prime reasons you should be spying on your PPC competitors.

Why? Because by spying on your competition with a competitive keyword research tool, you can download a complete list of your competitors’ PPC terms with the click of a button. We’re talking about instant access to all of the terms a competing website is bidding on or ranking for.

Here’s an example with 82,294 keywords that Uber is bidding on:


AdWords competition Uber PPC keywords

And here’s a list of 6,113 SEO terms they’re ranking for.


AdWords competition Uber SEO keywords

If you were trying to compete with Uber, You’d be crazy not to take advantage of a keyword research shortcut like that!

Reason #2: You’ll write better ads

The next reason to spy on your PPC competitors is so you can write better AdWords ads.

Ad copy, as most people know, is one of the most important pieces for a PPC campaign’s success. If your ads stand out and get clicked, then your overall campaign results will improve.

The reason for this is that the higher your click-through rate (CTR) is, the higher your Quality Score will be. And the higher your Quality Score is, the lower your cost per click (CPC) will be. In turn, the better your campaign results will be, because you’ll be getting more clicks and conversions at a lower cost for better overall ROI.

So ads have a really big impact on your campaign, and one way to improve your ad copy performance is to spy on your competitors. Here’s how…

The simple way is to do a Google search for your top keywords and then to pay attention to what ad copy the top results use. Maybe they use numbers, or maybe they offer a discount or something else to make their offer more special.

Regardless of the answer, you need to know what ad copy your competition is using in order to write ad copy that stands out from the competition and convinces people to click on your ads.

AdWords competition SERP

If everyone on the SERP has close variations of the same headline, like “Orlando Vacation Homes,” then you might want to use something like “Gorgeous Vacation Homes” in order for your ad copy to stand out. This is just PPC 101.

Reason #3: It will help you improve your conversion funnel

The third reason to spy on your AdWords competitors’ is to improve your conversion funnel. By spying on your competitors’ landing pages, you’ll learn how they’re converting traffic, which in turn can help you improve your own conversion funnel.

For example, by studying the University of Phoenix’s landing page (shown below), we learn the following:

  1. They break up the form into multiple steps instead of including an intimidatingly long form on the landing page.
  2. They offer both chat and a phone number as alternative ways to get in touch.


AdWords competition University of Phoenix example

Both of these learning points are things you can test on your own AdWords landing pages. This can be especially helpful if you’re dealing with bigger competitors with bigger budgets – chances are, they have the resources to figure out what works, so why not take advantage of that?

Final Points

Hopefully, you’ve learned in this post that it’s better to spy on your PPC competitors than it is to just ignore them.

Sure, you don’t want to blindly copy everything they do, and you need to test and monitor anything you learn to make sure it works for your own campaign, but you also don’t want to bury your head in the sand and miss out on learning what clearly is working or not working for one of your competitors.

About the Author

Joe Putnam is the Director of Marketing at iSpionage, a competitive intelligence tool that makes it easy to find new, profitable keywords and to improve AdWords campaigns by giving businesses access to their competitors’ top PPC keywords, SEO terms, ads, and landing pages. As a special offer for WordStream readers, SIGN UP TODAY to save 15% off any iSpionage monthly plan. 

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