The Ultimate Guide to PPC Competitor Analysis: Beat Competitors at Their Own Game (2024)

Unlock the secrets to PPC success with our ultimate 2024 guide on PPC competitor analysis. Discover the best tools and practices to outshine your competition, save time, and maximize your ROAS.

The Ultimate Guide to PPC Competitor Analysis: Beat Competitors at Their Own Game (2024)

Everybody knows that the secret to success in Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns is a lot of research and planning. 

There are so many things that can determine the outcome of your PPC campaign. 

Your audience targeting, keywords, landing page design, Call-To-Action (CTA), ad creative — miscalculations in these areas can have a noticeable, negative impact on your results. 

With competitor analysis, you take guesswork out of the equation. Instead, you're taking a data-driven stance by focusing on strategies that are proven to get positive results for competitors. 

What is PPC Competitor Analysis? 

PPC competitor analysis involves identifying your top competitors, dissecting their tactics, and using your analysis to spot improvement opportunities in your own PPC strategy. The goal is to underline the strengths and weaknesses of their PPC campaign, saving you the trouble of researching what works and what doesn't in your niche. 

Benefits of PPC competitor analysis 

Competitor analysis is one of the most important marketing data research techniques that will help you build a standout brand. 

It leads to the following benefits:

  • Save time from needless trial and error. Competitor PPC analysis lets you skip the number crunching and dive straight into winning advertising tactics.  
  • Build upon what already works. Rather than starting from scratch, you can focus on opportunities and optimizations that even your top competitors missed. 
  • Create better PPC content. Get instant access to the top landing pages, keywords, and ad content that align with your target audience's preferences.
  • Stay ahead of the competition. Analyzing competitors is a great way to keep up with the trends and leverage the latest strategies — not just for PPC, but other types of digital marketing as well.
  • Maximize Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). PPC competitor analysis lets you allocate more of your budget to proven keywords, ad copywriting strategies, and landing page design ideas that get profitable results.

How to identify your competitors

Before you conduct PPC competitor analysis, you must first identify who your top competitors are. 

Of course, you can always run a Google search and look at the ads that appear. 

However, the more efficient way to find competitors is to use a comprehensive SEO and PPC platform like Ahrefs

Start by going to the 'Keywords Explorer' tab and entering your target PPC keywords. 

Click 'Search' to load up the keyword overview report. 

From there, click 'Ads history' from the left menu for a detailed list of the domains, landing pages, and ad campaigns that appear for your keywords. 

Since you're still looking for competitors, only focus on the 'By domain' tab. 

At the top of the list, you'll find the competitors who appear most prominently in paid listings for your keywords. In other words, they're the competitors you should analyze to find strategies that work. 

Bear in mind that, just because these competitors do well in PPC, doesn't mean they're doing great in the SEO space as well. You don't have to conduct deeper analysis on the domains within the Ads history report if you're looking for SEO metrics and keywords. 

Top 4 PPC Competitor Analysis Tools 

Ready to conduct PPC competitor analysis? 

Here are the top four tools that will make the job easier:

1.  Polymer

Polymer is a no-code data analysis and Business Intelligence (BI) platform that can centralize all your marketing, advertising, and competitor analysis PPC data. 

It may not help you look for competitors outright — you'll need some of the tools below for that. But once you've gathered the information you need, Polymer will give you a crystal clear view of all the numbers that matter. 

First, you need to import your competitor's PPC data into your Polymer account. 

From your main dashboard, click the 'Data Manager' (plug icon) button and select 'Add New Data Source.' 

Polymer connects with several external data sources, including PPC platforms like Facebook Ads and Google Ads

You can also manually upload XLS or CSV reports from competitive analysis tools. Just select 'Upload XLS or CSV' from the list of available data connectors.

After uploading your data source, it should now be listed in the Data Manager window. 

You're now ready to use Polymer's robust lineup of data analysis and visualization tools. 

Going back to the main dashboard, click 'New Board.' Select 'Blank Board' if you want to create reports from scratch, or use 'Auto-Generated Board' if you're looking to get competitor analysis insights fast. 

Next, choose the competitor data you imported earlier as your data source. When done, you'll be redirected to Polymer's board editor, where you can turn raw data into interactive data visualizations (or have AI do it for you). 

For example, if you imported your competitor's PPC keyword data. 

Some of the insights you can visualize with Polymer are: 

  • Distribution of paid traffic based on your competitor's ad rankings. 
  • Relationship of keyword difficulty and paid traffic. 
  • Relationship of Cost Per Click (CPC) and keyword difficulty. 
  • Overview of your competitor's PPC campaign performance by keyword. 

With Polymer's drag-and-drop data visualization tool, you can easily create pivot tables, timelines, pie charts, bar graphs, heatmaps, and a variety of other elements for PPC competitor analysis. 

If you want to save time, you can also use AI-powered suggestions or the PolyAI assistant to instantly generate readable insights. 

Other notable features of Polymer

  • Create custom metrics. Automatically calculate your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), and other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by creating custom metrics with Polymer. You can then turn these metrics into scorecards for a quick, bird's-eye view of your marketing campaigns. 
  • Report customization features. In addition to data visualizations, Polymer's board editor also lets you add headers, rich text, popup modals, global filters, and more to build white label reports. Easily resize or reposition your blocks, set theme colors, and add a custom logo to further personalize the experience. 
  • Blend data from multiple sources. Polymer allows multiple data sources to be connected to a single report. This enables you to build advanced competitor analysis boards, covering everything like their Facebook Ads data, SEO performance, and so on. 
  • Kickstart analysis with dashboard templates. Get your analysis up to speed with templates tailored to specific data sources. Choose from a Google Ads reporting template, Shopify sales report, ecommerce business overview, and so on. 

2. Ahrefs

As mentioned earlier, Ahrefs is an SEO and PPC platform that can help you identify your top competitors. 

But that's not all. 

Remember that Ahrefs also lets you analyze the top landing pages for your target PPC keywords. In the Ads history report, just switch to the 'By landing page' tab to find these pages. 

In this report, you can also identify other paid keywords that these landing pages optimized for.

This is a great way to find potential PPC keywords that your competitors already capitalize on. Simply click the down arrow next to the landing page's URL and select 'Paid keywords.'

The paid keywords report contains essential keyword data to help you handpick the perfect targets for your campaign. This includes the PPC keyword's difficulty (for organic rankings), average CPC, traffic, and your competitor's position or ad rankings in paid search. 

Don't forget to export your competitor's PPC keywords list. This allows you to process and analyze your data through Polymer.

The paid keywords report can also show you a sneak peek at your competitor's actual ad. Just hover your mouse over the magnifying glass icon under the "Ad" column to get a preview. 

One more thing: make sure to check the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) features to determine if a keyword is suitable for PPC. 

Under the "SF" column, you'll see numbers that count the different types of search features for each keyword. 

Since you're conducting research for PPC, look for "paid sitelinks," "bottom ads," and "top ads." These indicate that the keyword generates paid results in the SERP.

Other notable features of Ahrefs

  • In-depth keyword research tool. Ahref's Keywords Explorer can reveal invaluable information about your target keywords for both PPC and SEO. You'll find out about its ads position history, parent topic, estimated traffic potential, and traffic share per country.
  • Get engaging content ideas. Use the Content Explorer to quickly scoop up popular content for your topic. Filter content based on relevance, page traffic value, recency, and more. 
  • Side-by-side competitor analysis. Run a side-by-side analysis between your website and competitors to find optimization opportunities. Find gaps in your keyword strategy and backlink sources to get ahead of the curve.

3. SpyFu

As the name suggests, SpyFu is specifically designed to help you "spy" on your competitor's marketing and advertising strategies. 

To use it for PPC competitor analysis, go to the 'PPC Research' tab and enter your competitor's domain or landing page URL. You can also enter a keyword to gather data that isn't limited to a specific competitor. 

SpyFu will instantly refresh the "PPC Overview" report with a set of your competitor's PPC performance metrics. 

We're looking at their most profitable paid keywords, Google Ads history, buy recommendations, and estimated monthly paid traffic. 

You can dig deeper by exploring the other tabs on the PPC Research page. 

Checking the 'PPC Keywords' tab to filter your competitor's keywords and export them into a CSV is highly recommended. After all, this allows you to import your competitor analysis data into Polymer. 

Other notable features of SpyFu

  • Easily find PPC keyword gaps between multiple competitors. Use the "Kombat" tool to reveal missing PPC keywords from your website that competitors already bid for. Of course, this tool also allows you to find keywords that are missing between competitors only. 
  • Run ready-to-use Google Ads campaigns. SpyFu offers pre-built Google Ads campaigns based on a list of popular product and service categories. Simply import the template you need into your Google Ads account and make minor customizations prior to launch. 
  • Build and export Google Ads Advisor Reports. SpyFu's Google Ads Advisor provides buy recommendations based on your competitors' past campaign data. Select keywords based on metrics like CPC and potential monthly clicks — or create filters to narrow down your strategy. 

4. iSpionage  

iSpionage is a free PPC competitor analysis tool with straightforward features. 

To get started, enter a keyword or your competitor's domain name and click 'Search.' 

iSpionage will immediately load the competitor research report, which contains datasets like your competitor's paid keywords, ads, landing pages, and more. 

To view complete datasets, switch to the tab corresponding to the type of data you want to analyze. 

Some reports, like "PPC Keywords" and "Ads," let you export the data as long as you upgrade to the premium version. This allows you to take your data analysis process to a more capable platform like Polymer. 

Just remember that, similar to most PPC keyword analysis tools, iSpionage's features heavily emphasize Google Ads. If you need Facebook Ads reporting tools, consider alternatives like AdEspresso, Metrics Watch, and AdStage. 

Other notable features of iSpionage

  • Get a snapshot of your competitor's PPC funnels. iSpionage's "Landing Pages" report includes a table that summarizes the user's journey. It provides a quick look at your competitor's keyword, ad copy, and landing page — giving you a clear idea of how they designed the PPC experience. 
  • Compare PPC performance side-by-side. Just like other top-tier competitor analysis tools, iSpionage also lets you conduct a side-by-side comparison between different sites. The only drawback with iSpionage's version is, you can only compare up to three domains. 
  • Landing page gallery. Lastly, iSpionage can provide you with design inspiration for your landing pages. They offer hundreds of conversion-optimized landing pages for a variety of niches, including financial products, fashion, travel, health, jewelry, and business software. 

How to do PPC Competitor Analysis: 5 Best Practices

Getting the most out of PPC competitor analysis is 50% picking the right tool and 50% implementing the right practices. 

Let's get to that second half. 

  1. Prioritize top competitors in your analysis. Here's a tip: when doing PPC competitor analysis, you need to focus on the big fish. There's a reason why certain competitors dominate results, so be sure to focus on them to figure out what makes their strategies work.
  2. Set clearly defined advertising goals. Your advertising goals influence everything in your campaign — from your audience targeting to your keyword strategy. To obtain relevant insights through competitor analysis, set well-defined goals like raising brand awareness, increasing ecommerce sales, or stimulating email sign-ups. 
  3. A/B test your ads. One of the primary goals of PPC competitor analysis is to unlock the best version of your campaign. Split testing multiple variations of your ads will help you achieve this objective faster. 
  4. Set automatic reports. Most competitor analysis tools let you schedule automatic reports or alerts via email. This will help you keep up with the competition and remain agile in your decision-making. 
  5. Use direct observation. Lastly, consider clicking your competitors' ads yourself to observe their strategy from a user's perspective. PPC tools may be able to unearth every piece of data there is about your competitors, but they don't always capture the experience delivered to users.

Consolidating Your PPC Competitor Data with Polymer

When it comes to data analysis, using a full-powered dashboarding software like Polymer is always the right option. 

Polymer's drag-and-drop dashboard editor and AI-powered insights make sure your data works with you — not against you. Easily comb through your datasets to find outliers, track critical KPIs, benchmark performance against competitors, and discover the meaning behind the numbers. 

All of this is possible with Polymer's flexible data visualization tools. 

Here are some examples of Polymer visualization setups for specific use cases: 

1. Analyzing which ad positions or ad blocks bring the best results

Block: Pie chart

Column: Ad position/block

Row: Paid traffic

2. Measuring the correlation between CPC and paid keyword volume

Block: Correlation

Y-Axis: Paid traffic/volume

X-Axis: CPC

3. Tracking competitor's paid traffic over time

Block: Time Series

Y-Axis: Paid traffic

X-Axis: Time updated

4. Identifying outliers

Block: Outliers

Metric of Interest: Paid traffic

Influencing Columns: Keyword, CPC, Keyword difficulty

5. Browsing competitor ads using a gallery

Block: Gallery

Column to Aggregate on: Keyword

Headline: Ad title

Description: Ad description

Link: URL/Ad URL

Values Shown on Card (optional): CPC, Volume, Paid traffic

Start Your 7-Day Polymer Trial 

Whatever your PPC analysis goals are, Polymer is sure to have the tools you need to succeed. 

The best part is, you can have a whole week to try it out. 

Click here to start your 7-day Polymer trial!

Posted on
March 29, 2024
under Blog
March 29, 2024
Written by
Saif Akhtar
Growth Manager @ Polymer Search. Passionate about all things Startup, RevOps, and Go-to-Market. Ex-VC and startup accelerator who loves hacking MVPs.

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