So there’s the obvious answer – run auction insights reports. Then there’s the important question: do you do this systematically or haphazardly? One method is to be responsive as to when and where you notice competitor bidding, one step better, however, is to be proactive rather than haphazardly responsive.
We know that it is crucial to understand the market you are operating in, and this is especially the case in search engine marketing, as markets can be volatile depending on your industry and choice of keywords. Fluctuations in price as new competitors enter a market, lost impression share, lost average position, drops in conversions. On the other side, explaining a sudden increase in average position and drop in cost is a good problem to have – even better when you know why.
What I address here is how we can be more proactive to these type of market fluctuations regardless of which keyword market you are in. Although by no means exhaustive, below are my top 3 tips.
1. Set up a competitor trend report
The information you really want to be looking at is how your competitors are behaving in relation to your search activity over time. Unfortunately AdWords doesn’t allow for an auction insights trend report – over let’s say weeks or months – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
This can be a manual process if you segment your auction insights report by a selected time, but if you’ve mastered the art of Excel pivot tables and enjoy organizing your data this option may be for you.
However, if you don’t want to figure your own method of segmenting and digesting this important data (which can be time consuming), someone else has already written a script for you! Daniel Gilbert published an article on Search Engine Land earlier this year supplying us with an excellent script that works with Google documents to see trends over time to help track your competitors search activity on your keywords.
“There are third-party tools that provide some competitor information, but their data on average position, impression share, outranking share, etc., will never be as accurate as the actual AdWords data that you can get from the Auction Insights report” (Gilbert, 2015).
Get on this. Schedule in some regular competitor trend reporting.
2. Know your competitors
This point seems basic, which is also why it is essential to reiterate. Make sure you know who your competitors are – and do so on 2 levels. First, know the competitors who are in market for the same keywords as you are, and second, know the competitors who are not present on these keywords but may be in the future.
Also ask yourself the question – if a key competitor is not appearing on your keywords, where are they appearing, if at all? This is where you may find that there is a gap in your search strategy. So know not only where your competitors sit in relation to your keywords, but also in relation to where you are not. Important is to remain strategic – the last thing you want is a bidding war with a competitor who has twice your search budget.
Working in a competitive PPC market? Read on for 5 Tips for Competitive PPC markets by Reef’s Senior Search Manager Robert Ferguson.
3. Be Alert
Simply being alert to changes in key performance metrics in your account in a good start. Metrics like increases in CPCs, falls in average position, drops in search impression share (also looking into Impression share lost due to budget and rank), are good indicators that something has changed in your search market. Again, this is not something you what to be reactive to following a monthly reporting pattern, you want to be there when it happens. So what do you do? Set up alerts.
You can set these up in AdWords, for example a week on week alert when a campaign falls below a certain % of impression share. You can also set up custom alerts in Google Analytics if you have linked your AdWords and analytics accounts.
What else is out there?
While we can certainly be proactive, there are a multitude of tools out there – both free and paid – that can help with competitor behaviour analysis. See this article for a comprehensive list.