3 Important Reasons to Spy on Your AdWords Competitors

6 min

Sometimes companies are hesitant to pay too much attention to their competitors. They say they’d rather focus on making their business better instead of wasting time monitoring and reacting to their competition.

There’s definitely some validity to this approach because you can pay too close of attention to your competition and fall into the trap of copying them instead of coming up with new, innovative solutions on your own.

But there’s also a weakness with this type of philosophy because there’s always something you can learn from your competition that will help your business.

This is especially true for AdWords campaigns, which is why I’m going to explain three important reasons why you should be spying on your AdWords competitors. You shouldn’t just study them and copy everything they do, but you definitely should follow these tips to learn from your competition so you can improve your campaigns and make more money with AdWords.

Reason #1: To find new, profitable keywords

The first reason to study your competitors’ campaigns is to find new, profitable keywords.

Here’s the deal: whether you’re starting a campaign from scratch or building out an existing one, there’s only so many keywords you can get from the Google Keyword Planner. At some point, you’re going to run out of ideas, and when you do, you need to take a look at the terms your competitors, especially bigger advertisers are bidding on.

The good news is that competitive keyword research tools like iSpionage make this really easy to do (disclaimer: I work at iSpionage which is why all my examples will be based around our tool).

To download your competitors’ keywords, simply do a search in iSpionage (something you can do for free from the homepage). Once you’ve done a search, you’ll see a list of your competitors’ keywords like the 59,620 GoDaddy keywords listed below:


Pretty awesome, right?

The good news is that there’s a sorting tool you can use to whittle the keyword list down even further. It lets you use information like cost per click (CPC), search volume, average position, days seen, date first seen, and date last seen to narrow the list from 59,620 to a more manageable list. You can also use iSpionage’s proprietary Keyword Effectivness Index (KEI) to sort the list even further.

For example, I used a KEI score of 80 or above, search volume greater than 100, and average position 5 or above to sort this list from 59,620 keywords to 306 of GoDaddy’s most profitable and highest search volume terms.

Here’s what the sorting feature looks like:


And here’s what the resulting keyword list looks like:


This, my friends, is really, really powerful when it comes to finding new, profitable keywords for PPC campaigns.

Reason #2: To write ad copy that stands out and gets clicked

The next reason why you should be spying on competitors’ ad campaigns is to write ad copy that stands out and gets clicked. This is really important because your ad copy has a big impact on campaign results. The better your ad copy performs, the better your campaign will perform.

Here’s why: if your ad click through rate (CTR) goes up, then your Quality Score goes up, and if you’re Quality Score goes up, then your cost per click (CPC) goes down which means your campaign ROI will go up since you’re paying less per click for the same results.

So your click through rate is really important, and one way to improve it is to study your competitors’ ad copy so you can write copy that stands out and gets clicked.

The first way to do this is simply to conduct a search with one of your top terms in Google. You could search for something like “web hosting” if you happen to be in the hosting space, as seen in the example below:


At this point, you’re looking for things that stand out like “Top 10” Best Web Hosting, “$0.99 Web Hosting,” and “GoDaddy $1 Web Hosting.”

These ads use numbers, symbols, and special offers to get people to click through, which means in order to write an ad that stands out, you’ll need to find a way to use numbers, symbols, and special offers in a way that stands out and steals clicks from these ads. You might even want to try something like “1 Month Free Web Hosting” or “50% Off First Year of Hosting.” But no matter what you do, you definitely need to write something that stands out and is more enticing than the ad copy your competitors are using.

Another way you can do this is by entering a keyword into a tool like iSpionage to study the top ad copy variations being used. I’ve entered “web hosting” in this example to come up with the following results:


All of these ads are sorted by an Ad Effectiveness Index (AEI) that ranks the ads based on how long they’ve been seen, when they were last seen, and the average position for the ad with the underlying theory being the longer an ad has been used, the fact that it’s still being used, and the average position for the ad are all indicators of how effective that particular ad is.

So whether you decide to use a tool like iSpionage that shortcuts your research process or to manually search through AdWords results to study the ad copy variations that show up, you definitely need to be spying on your competitors’ ad copy so you can ensure you write copy that stands out, gets clicked, and improves your overall campaign results.

Reason #3: To uncover your competitors’ conversion strategy

The next reason to spy on your AdWords competitors is to find out how they’re converting their traffic. Many people simply drop traffic on their homepage, but smart advertisers have a savvy landing page strategy which improves their odds of converting their traffic.

In the example below, Geico directs their AdWords traffic onto a super simple landing page that focuses all of the attention on getting a quote. They also break up their form into a multi-step process so they don’t have a super long form that intimidates visitors and causes them to not fill it out. They also focus their headline on saving money which is Geico’s leading value proposition:


In this next example, Wordstream drops their AdWords traffic onto an AdWords performance grader to generate more leads. This ends up being a creative way to generate leads without just saying something like “Sign up for a free quote.” Instead, they offer something of value in return for the visitors’ email address, which is valuable to Wordstream.


To conduct this kind of research, you can either do Google searches and then click on the ads you see, which is slightly unethical since your competitors have to pay for those clicks, or you can use iSpionage to view your competitors’ top landing pages. To do so, simply type in the URL of one of your competitors’, and we’ll show you screenshots of their top landing pages like you see below. This ends up being a great way to shortcut the process of studying your competitors’ landing pages to get insights for your own campaign.


What did you learn?

Did you learn anything new from this blog post, and are you ready to improve AdWords performance by spying on your top competitors? If so, leave a comment to let us know what you learned, or ask a question to get any lingering questions answered.

Good luck!



About the Author: Joe Putnam (@josephputnam) is the Director of Marketing at iSpionage, a competitive intelligence tool that makes it easy for PPC advertisers to find new profitable PPC and SEO terms and to uncover valuable insights from competitor campaigns. iSpionage is currently offering a 15% discount to GetResponse customers and blog readers, which you can take advantage of here.