How To Use Google Tools to Analyze Competition in Paid Search
90% of consumers say that ads influence their purchase decisions. Since Google accounts for 84.73% of search engine market share, optimizing your Google paid search campaigns is essential to improving your overall marketing results.

Paid search can help you reach prospects with high purchase intent cost-effectively. But you need competitive insights to inform your strategy. The good news is that Google offers many tools to help advertisers analyze competition when campaign planning.

Let’s look at how you can discover who’s bidding on your keywords, what keywords you may be missing, how much others are bidding on specific keywords, who are showing up at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), and how your competitors’ budgets are shifting.

Why you need competitive insights for paid search planning

One of the burning questions for any marketer is, “what are my competitors doing?”

While you can see your competitors’ paid search ads, it’s much harder to know their reach and response rates. But with Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords,) savvy advertisers can get competitive insights and leverage extensive datasets to paint a picture of their competitive environment.

You can find out who you’re bidding against, get an idea of keyword groupings competitors are targeting, and who’s bidding more for which set of keywords. Google won’t reveal this information by keyword, but if you have a lot of ad groups with smaller keyword lists, you can get a general idea of the competitive landscape. These insights can shorten the learning curve, inform your keyword strategy, help you understand your competitors’ collective behaviors, and identify new competitors in the market.

Understand the complete competitive environment for better insights

Here’s the information you need to find out what your competitors are up to and how effective their advertising strategies are:

1. Your competitors

The most critical data point is who is bidding and who isn’t on which keywords. To inform your approach, you must identify your competitors and which ones are getting the top spots on SERPs. Also, look beyond the obvious (e.g., your direct competition) to uncover new competitors who might not yet be on your radar.

The auction insights report shows who’s who in the competitive landscape. For example, you can see new brands that recently entered the market or companies you were unaware of. These insights can help you stay ahead of the game and pivot your messaging to account for established and new competitors in your planning.

Another important thing to look for is who is not showing ads that should be. Make sure to talk to your strategists about main competitors who are missing from the list. Often there are ways to take advantage of their absence.

2. Saturation metric

Also called impression share (IS), it shows a sample size of the percentage of impressions your ads are getting compared with the total number of impressions they could receive. This metric helps predict how to increase your ads’ reach by adjusting bids or budget, without revealing your competitors’ actual numbers or your performance to your competitors.

This metric shows if a competitor is focusing on the same market as you and what percentage of budget is being spent, and you can see who is rotating in and out of the four spots at the top of a Google SERP. Experienced advertisers can also use this data to predict the size of a competitor’s budget in relation to theirs and what time of the day the ads are showing.

3. Average bid position

Google rates each advertiser based on its quality score and bid. Higher quality ads, keywords, and landing pages typically yield a better position on the SERPs. This information shows if a competitor is aggressive with its ads or scaling back its budget.

A highly trained advertising professional can monitor this metric to identify possible shifts in a competitor’s budget and strategy to adapt their bids and budgets to stay competitive. Our team at Imaginuity leverages these insights regularly to save thousands of dollars for our clients while keeping every bid competitive to optimize their budgets.

Free Google tools for analyzing your competition

You can use these free Google analytics tools to gain insights into your competitors’ campaigns and stay ahead:

Google Ads Keyword Planner

The Keyword Planner helps you estimate a keyword’s search volume, forecast the bid range, and identify search trends. You can also discover new keywords and add relevant ones to your advertising plan for future reference. Insights from the Keyword Planner give you a solid starting point from which you can further experiment to optimize your campaigns.

Google Ads Campaign Target ROAS Simulator

Return on ads spend (ROAS) is one of the most important key metrics to ensure that your campaigns are profitable. The simulator can help you estimate Smart Bidding performance to see how different settings might affect a campaign’s result.

You can use this tool to evaluate your ad spend and compare performance with your competitors to see how you can get ahead by adjusting your budget and bidding strategy. It analyzes historical campaign performance and combines the results with seasonal patterns to provide an industry-wide perspective.

Auction insights report

Google’s auction insights report uses a large sample size allowing you to compare your relative performance with others participating in the same auctions. It shows six metrics for search campaigns: impression share, overlap rate, outranking share, position above rate, top of page rate, and absolute top of the page rate. Use this data to see how your effort stacks up and identify opportunities for improvement.

Get the most out of your PPC spend

Understanding the competitive landscape, measuring the performance of your campaigns, and using data actionable data insights to fine-tune your strategy is the key to optimizing your pay-per-click advertising budget. Measuring irrelevant KPIs or using ineffective tools could lead you down the wrong path and focus your efforts on metrics that aren’t impactful on your bottom line.

About the author:


For over 20 years, Imaginuity has been combining imaginative thinking and innovative technology to create transformative results for our clients, their customers, and our people. Our services and platforms manage complexity to improve marketing outcomes.