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The Competitive World of PPC: 3 Helpful Online Advertising Tools to Help You Win with Search Marketing

Posted on Jan 13th, 2016
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    Like it or not, Paid Search strategies can quickly turn into a game of out maneuvering your opponent. Which is why the team at TopRank Marketing is always integrating online advertising into digital marketing programs with a focus on out messaging, out strategizing and out bidding our client’s competitors.

    Understanding the competitive landscape is the first step in out-smarting the competition. Knowing which tools can help you beat the competition, is also incredibly important.

    If you’re ready to not only survive, but thrive with online advertising, this post can help you uncover opportunities from studying you competition, as well as tools to take your online advertising strategy to the next level.

    The Importance of Competitive Analysis

    Uncover Additional Keyword Opportunities

    It’s important to look at what your competitors are bidding on, especially if you can tell how much money they are investing on certain keywords. This can give you insights into what is working for them. And if it’s working for them it will likely work for you so join the party.

    This also gives you the opportunity to find gaps in their program where can you capitalize on a keyword segment for incremental activity and conversions.

    Take Inspiration From Innovative Ad Copy

    Differentiators in PPC are crucial. It’s been my experience that most of the time advertisers are all saying the same thing or a slight variation of the same thing. Understanding the competitive landscape can be a fantastic opportunity for isolating opportunities to stand-out, say something new and make your mark.

    You can also review their ad extensions, which can be an easy way to make your personal mark on the page.

    Utilize Landing Pages

    From product positioning to layout, look and feel, your competitors landing pages can spark new ideas for design and copy. The landing page is the sales pitch and I often like to make note of the hard or soft sell. The overall tone of the page might be your opportunity to present yourself as either a more aggressive partner that gets it accomplished or the easy-going retailer that simply tells it like it is.

    Determine Your Budget

    What should I be spending? What’s a reasonable budget? These are questions we’re often asked by our clients and being able to have a glimpse into what their primary competitors are spending is great way to either get a reasonable budget or launch a more “scalable” program.

    3 Helpful PPC Tools

    OK, but now how do you get this information? Below are some recommended tools that you can use to uncover information and improve your competitive edge.



    SpyFu is relatively inexpensive and has a number of options for both organic and paid search competitive analysis including: keywords, spend, ad copy and the general items one expects to find with a competitive research tool. So what makes SpyFu special?

    SpyFu’s Kombat tool gives you the option to compare yourself to two other competitors directly which takes the work out of the comparison. You can see which terms you’re all bidding on and where your competitors are bidding but you are not. It also displays the changes those domains have seen over time which can be useful for assessing how your top competitors are trending.

    The basic plan which gives you access to almost everything available besides API pulls and custom reporting comes in at $49 per month.

    SpyFu also has a great tool for keyword expansion and negative keywords for improved campaign performance. It gives users recommendations on keyword level performance.

    Many features of SpyFu are available free to of charge.



    SEMrush is another great tool for both paid and organic search competitive analysis. From a PPC standpoint, the data is substantial and accurate when tested against current clients. A couple of features that make this platform stand out are the ability to see easily see trends regarding spend, keyword population and traffic.

    Being able to see the percentage of traffic and spend by keyword is a big win for SEMrush in my book. It gives the user the opportunity to gage keyword importance and performance to a particular account. It does take a little Excel spreadsheet work to get this information into an easy to understand, useable format.

    Most competitive tools have domain vs. domain comparisons and SEMrush is no exception. Their comparison primarily focuses on position so if you’re looking for specifics regarding cost and traffic you’ll have to look specifically at that domain.

    This tool also offers display and PLA data which many competitive platforms do not.

    Pricing for SEMrush starts at $69.95.



    iSpionage has similar features to SpyFu, but the layout and the way competitive intelligence is displayed makes the data a little easier to digest and understand .

    This tool focuses on user experience, showcasing keyword to ad to landing pages which helps when you’re trying to wrap your head around the big picture. So, putting all of those pieces together doesn’t become a project in itself.

    The keyword and ad effectiveness tool is great for accessing performance. When I compare current client results to the tool, it has a high level of accuracy which is always great to see. You can feel comfortable taking insights into your performance from the tool.

    The cost for iSpionage is pretty low, starting at $39 per month but it doesn’t have all of the duel channel bells and whistles that most other competitive intelligence tools boost for in-depth SEO analysis. However, many of the features are available free of charge!

    BONUS: AdGooroo & The Search Monitor

    AdGooroo and The Search Monitor both offer very robust capabilities. They include features for geo level and Omni channel monitoring, as well as the option to set competitive benchmarks. These tools are best for large scale advertisers who have large investments in PPC that make the platform expenditure palatable, because these tools are more expensive than the previous platforms mentioned. That said, they have greater capabilities and both of these tools are global in their data collection.

    Find The Right Tool(s) For Your Organization

    If you’re looking for a competitive tools that’s user friendly, can easily be translated into understandable, actionable data, iSpoinage is definitely worth the investment. SEMRush and SpyFu are very similar in functionality but not in form. My opinion is that SEMRush has some stronger visuals that help tell a compelling competitive story more so than SpyFu.

    Whatever you do, make sure that you spend time diving into the competitive landscape. An understanding of your competition can lead you down the path to better serving your prospects through an enhanced Online Advertising strategy.

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