Competitive PPC Analysis: How to Outperform the Competition

10 min

With over 7 million advertisers using PPC ads to drive on-page conversions, the PPC competition is real and can be very difficult.

Paid search traffic is not easy to direct, and the click-through rate (CTR) for paid search campaigns can be low. Have a look at these PPC ads numbers:

  • Ad position #1 has an average CTR of

  • 2.1%. Ad position #2 has an average CTR of 1.6%.

So, the ad ranked higher generates 33% more clicks than the 2nd place ad. Clearly, outranking your competition is going to make your business more profitable so let’s get started to understand how to create an effective PPC competitor analysis.

Percentage of generated CTR numbers of the top position pages in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

That doesn't mean competitors are a threat to your business. Your competitors can inspire you, give you direction, and stop you from committing deadly advertising mistakes.

All you need to do is keep an eye on what they are doing.

Here is a definitive guide to conducting a PPC competitor analysis and improving your PPC strategies.

Who Are Your PPC Competitors?

Even before you start a paid search competitor analysis, spend some time defining who your competitors really are. Suppose you are a new eCommerce business selling pet food and accessories in London.

Your competitors won't be Amazon or eBay.

Since you're a local supplier, your competitors will be other pet eCommerce sites based in the UK. Monster Pet Supplies and PetShop UK are some examples. If you were selling worldwide, your competitors would be,, etc.

Competitors are mainly of two types:

  • Direct Competitors: companies or businesses that sell similar products to the same audience in the same market.

  • Indirect Competitors: Companies that sell the same products but operate in a different market or sales channel.

What Is Competitor Analysis and Why Is it Important?

Competitor PPC analysis, also known as competitive analysis or competitive research, is a strategic approach to identify your competitors and their products and marketing strategies. The purpose of competitor analysis is to compare your business and marketing strategies with your competitors and determine the scope for improvement in your paid traffic.

PPC competitor analysis is the cornerstone of an effective PPC campaign or marketing strategy. Analysing your competitors helps you know what's working in the market and how you can align yourself with the market trends.

Let's look at how competitor analysis can help improve your PPC campaigns.

The competitive landscape is constantly changing as new trends continue to appear. These trends can be short term, lasting for a few weeks/months or long term lasting for years. For instance, the effect of COVID-19 on eCommerce is a long-term trend that has lasted for over 1.5 years.

Specific changes you’ll want to monitor include:

  • Dramatic or prolonged changes in search volume for a relevant keyword.

  • Changes in keyword groups that work together, such as when a term takes on new meaning following a big market shift.

  • Updates to how any search engine functions, such as a Google core update.

In the eCommerce space, first movers always get an edge. Competitor research enables you to find new trends, jump on them before others, and get a first mover advantage.

Learn from Your Competitors

Your competitors aren't necessarily a threat to your business. Sometimes, they can help you ‌make brilliant decisions.

Here are some things you can learn from the competitor ads you find:

  • Look at what is and isn’t being advertised. If your competitor’s ads aren’t running for a certain keyword, it may be the keyword is not profitable or has a low search volume or CTR.

  • Review your auction insights, especially with Google Ads, to see the competitors who ranked above you or whose ads were shown more often. Try to discern what makes their top ads better or more effective.

  • When you are looking at the competitive landscape, try to see which triggers your competition is using to generate visitors. Are they using fear, reward, envy, or luxury triggers to get people to click on their ads?

You can look for these in reverse, too. Look at the poorest performing ads in your competitor analysis and don’t do whatever they are doing.

Knowing which ecommerce KPIs to follow and investigate during your analysis is important, too. Check out our guide to the most important ecommerce KPI metrics.

Improve Your Google Ads Campaigns

If your competitors are targeting specific paid keywords and getting positive results, you can include them in your marketing mix as well. With a good Google Ads competitor analysis, you can review and upgrade your Google Ads campaign based on insights from your competition.

There are a few things you can do to make improvements:

  • Of course, you can change your ad copy to be more attractive. If you have no ideas about this, then hire a copywriter or Google Ads management agency.

  • Use or tweak your automated bidding rules. Sometimes spending a little more money can really improve your ad share.

  • Use a keyword tracking tool to compile accurate keyword data for your primary and associated keywords. This will help you respond quickly to any changes that occur.

Review Your Marketing Strategy

A marketing strategy is good if it works. To know what's working, you need to know what your competitors are doing. By analysing your competitors, you can know what other strategies they are using to increase sales. Are they using email marketing? Are they investing in content marketing?

A clear competitors report will show you their SEO strategy, the competitor’s keywords being targeted, how this compares to your own campaigns, and what you might change in your strategy to create the most traffic.

Claim Your Free Audit to Uncover Hidden Opportunities

A Step-By-Step Guide to Conducting Competitive PPC Analysis

Following a proper structure is vital to extract in-depth, actionable PPC competitor intelligence and insights. Here is a step-by-step process of performing competitor analysis and improving your paid search strategy.

Clearly Define Your Market and Competitors

An often overlooked aspect of successful competitive research is identifying your competitors. As discussed in the first section, not every business that sells similar products or targets the same audience is a competitor. Therefore, you must ensure you're examining the right business.

Competitors can be of multiple types, including:

  • Primary or direct competitors

  • Secondary or indirect competitors

  • Future competitors

  • Replacement competitors

Let's stick to primary PPC competition for now, as you'll be competing with them, mostly.

Look for these characteristics to identify a direct competitor:

  • They sell the same/similar products.

  • They target the same audience.

  • They are based in the same location.

  • Their pricing is the same or similar.

You can consider a business your primary competitor if it ticks all four boxes.

Analyse the Goal, Budgeting, and Intent of Each Competitor

Once you find your competitors, begin with the analysis part. The first thing you need to analyse is their marketing budget and what portion they allocate to PPC ad spend.

The only way to get an accurate answer to this question is by asking your competitors how much they spend on their PPC strategy. Since most businesses won't answer that, you may never know how much a business spends on PPC. However, you can get a rough estimate of their PPC spend by closely monitoring their campaigns and advertising activities.

Check Competitor Domain Authority and Quality Scores

Ahrefs domain rating graph showing Facebook’s increase in authority since 2014

Though domain authority is more significant for organic search results, it plays a pivotal role in PPC ads as well. If a competitor's domain authority is high, they are more likely to rank for highly competitive keywords. In such cases, it's better to avoid competing for high-volume keywords and look for keyword gaps (more about it in the next section).

Another important element to consider, along with domain authority, is the Quality Score. Google defines Quality Score as the rating of the overall user experience of your ads and landing pages. The score is given on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest. Google gives priority to ads with higher quality scores.

You can combine domain authority and Quality Score to determine how difficult it is to compete with a business. If your competitor has a high-Quality Score and Domain Authority, you'll have to work harder to get ads, ranked higher.

Identify Paid Keywords and Keyword Gaps

Keywords are arguably the most important aspect of PPC advertising. Therefore, it's essential to find your competitor’s PPC keywords that are active or ranking. If you do PPC bidding on Google AdWords, you can head to Auction Insights under Campaigns or Ad Groups to see where your competitors show up and their impression share.

Contrarily, you can use keyword tools like BuzzSumo and SEMRush to find the top competitor keywords and analyse their marketing efforts.

Here's a secret. When conducting keyword analysis, focus on identifying the keyword gap. If your competitor's keyword rankings, domain authority, and Quality Scores are high, competing with them can be challenging. The safer approach is to look for keywords that your competitors have missed.

These could be long-tail variations of the keywords your competitors are ranking for or keywords similar to them. By optimising your own PPC campaign for these keywords, you can achieve better results and even outperform your competitors' search engines or display advertising campaigns.

Evaluate PPC Campaigns, Offers, and Calls to Action

Once you have identified the keywords your competitors are and aren't ranking for, you need to examine their ads, ad groups, and offers. This includes evaluating their ad copy variations and the headlines and banners they use for each offer.

A few questions to answer are:

  • What calls to action (CTAs) are they using?

  • Do all their ad copies highlight a discount?

  • Are they offering a 100% refund?

  • What about the target search page location?

Now, compare their ad version with your advertiser's ad, and see if you can improve it. Try changing the ad copy or headline to see if it performs better.

Determine the Ad Platforms Used

The next step is to check the advertising platforms your competitors use. Many new business owners limit themselves to Google Ads only. However, other online advertising channels can also produce amazing results.

Apart from Google Ads, your competitors could be using Microsoft Ads, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Twitter Ads, or LinkedIn ads. Many companies prefer less popular advertising networks like Bidvertiser and BuySellAds as they offer ad spots at a lower CPC.

Determine how many paid ads your competitors run on each network. By diversifying your PPC marketing strategy across various networks, you can reach a broader audience and get more sales.

Dive Into the Conversion Funnel

Finding competitors organic keywords and evaluating their ad copies is not enough. You need to delve deep into your competitor's conversion funnel and compare it with yours.

Click on a competitor's ad and visit their landing page. Look for the CTA on the landing page, and see what actions are your competitors asking consumers to take.

  • Are they using a direct sales approach by asking users to buy?

  • Or are they using a lead nurturing approach by collecting their users’ email addresses?

If they're using the lead nurturing approach, you can even join their email list to see how their digital marketers use emails to nurture and convert their leads.

Analyse the Landing Page and Website Experience

Analysing the conversion funnel isn't enough. Check your biggest competitors' websites and landing pages and compare them with yours.

There are some specific questions you can ask:

  • How is the navigation on their website?

  • Are their websites and landing pages mobile-friendly?

  • What visual and design elements are they using to entice the customers?

Landing pages should match their ad copy to user intent and buying triggers. If one of your biggest competitors uses a different approach on their landing pages, try to decide if it is more effective than yours and learn from it.

Look for Other Marketing Tactics

Finally, find which marketing strategies apart from PPC do advertisers use. Some common marketing strategies used in combination with PPC advertising are:

  • Publishing blogs to rank for profitable keywords and get organic traffic

  • Actively using social media and engage readily with their audience

  • Partnering with influencers on social media

Conducting a digital marketing review of your competitors will help you find what other marketing tactics work well for them.

Use the Right PPC Competitor Analysis Tools

Thanks to cutting-edge tools, you don't need to be an advertising expert to analyse your competitors. With the right tools, you can find how many PPC ads your competitors are running and what's working for them.

Let's look at a few tools that will help you conduct a thorough competitive analysis without the need for any technical knowledge.

  • iSpionage: This tool helps you find the number of ads your competitors are running, for how long, and the keywords they're bidding on.

  • Search Monitor: The "Competitive Insights" version of Search Monitor provides data on brand bidding, product listing ads (PLAs), SERP, SEO, and PPC benchmarks of your competitors.

  • SEMRush: SEMRush allows you to discover your competitor's top-performing keywords. You can also conduct site audits and generate custom reports.

  • Ahrefs: With Afrefs, you can analyse the landing page experience and search performance of your competitors.

  • Campaign Watch: This tool provides insights into your competitors' search visibility, new ads, landing pages, and average position.

Competitive Analysis Complete, Now What?

After conducting proper competitive analysis, you'll have a significant amount of data to act upon. Evaluate the data to find key areas where your competitors have performed better than you. You can now revamp your marketing strategy based on those insights.

During your competitor research, you'll also come across some mistakes your competitors are making that you may have unknowingly made in the past. For example, they might be failing to respond to customer questions, not responding to emerging demands, or creating ads that generate negative reviews. When you spot these mistakes, it’s good to make a note of them. Then you can plan your strategy for avoiding these mistakes and targeting the customers your competitors are losing.

After you’ve collected all this data about your top competitors, it’s time to do something about it. If you are unsure about how to get started, get in touch with one of our experts here at Optimum Click.

Our team knows how to look beyond the auto-generated reports and keyword lists and see right into the strategy your competitors are using. Then, we can help you do better.

Claim Your Free Audit to Uncover Hidden Opportunities

Share this article!

Copy the link of this page
Copy URL to Clipboard
Share to Twitter
Share it on Twitter
Share to Facebook
Share it on Facebook
Share to LinkedIn
Share it on LinkedIn
Share to Email
Share it via email

Author of the article


PPC Expert

A PPC specialist since 2016, Patrik’s Tarantino-like passions are PPC, motorcycles and martial arts - fortunately not always at the same time.

A broad and deep expertise across digital marketing his specialisms include Event Planning, Startup marketing, SME Marketing, Ecommerce marketing, CRO, Social media marketing, Market research and WordPress.

  • 7 years of experience in Marketing

  • 7 years experience in Google Ads

  • Digital analytics

  • WordPress website creation

  • Facebook and Instagram campaigns

  • SME marketing

Serious online marketing for serious online sales