How to tell if your competition is spending more than you on online campaigns?

It’s fun to see how sensitive every business owner, marketer and, at times even a general employee is to the activities of the competition of his company. In this article I will introduce you a great tip that will either delight you, make you angry or give you a reason to start paying closer attention to your competitors. In any case, you will want to use it!

Are you obsessed with your competition?

We all know the feeling. Occasionally, we get caught up in a feeling of awe when scrolling through a competitor’s website. We admire billboards, are astonished about the creativity of their newly launched video campaign, or spend hours reading through their blog posts with a glass of wine in the evening. If such competitor is more skilled and holds more market share we are often overcome with a feeling of frustration.
I have seen it many times that when I mention a competitor’s name during a meeting, suddenly all people start to listen, even those who previously were busy fiddling around with their phones.

We have all kinds of thoughts about our competition
How did we work in the era before FinStat? We often had misconceptions about our competitors. Finding out the turnover of our competitor? Today this is very simple and can only be complicated in cases when the competitor owns multiple LLCs. If a competitor owes the social or tax office, he is shamelessly “outed” online.

How much is your competition spending?

Know how much competition is investing into marketing activities…You can easily and inexpensively find out how much money your competitors put into marketing from various market research firms. The downside is that you get the information after the fact (historical data of previous periods) and mostly for offline marketing activities (billboards, citylights, print, etc.). We use this type of information in particular as a starting point for our sales team.

It would however be more practical, to have this kind of data right away during the peak season.

We can help ourselves with the Google’s advertising system AdWords. In case you and your competitor use a search ad, you are often fighting for the first position in paid results. It’s logical that there will sometimes be a bigger and sometimes a smaller overlay of competitive keywords, depending on your business and services that you are advertising for.

Google will happily provide you with plenty of competitor information.

Graph 1: What percentage of potential impressions have you (black) or your competitors (main competitor in this example is red) reached? The data represents a 14 month period.

Graph 1 shows you historical data. It tells you, how many times your ad showed when it was eligible to be shown compared to your competitors. You should note that this graph only shows you data for keywords that you have in common with your competitors. You can choose whether you do this analysis on a broad level such as on a campaign level or drill down on specific ad groups or even specific keywords.

The search impression share report gives you a good indication of what budget your competitor has allocated towards his AdWords campaign. If a competitor offers very similar services or products to yours, you can fairly accurately tell whether you are spending the same amount as your competitor or whether he is using budgets that is far bigger or smaller than yours.

A shorter time interval of the same metric can give you a much better picture, as it lets you see whether a competitor has reacted to you entering the advertising marketplace. (see how the tails of the graphs all point up toward the end of the period)

Graph 2: Same data as on graph 1, but only for the period of 2017 (4 months) segmented by weeks (the black firm increased, the competition reacted shortly afterwards)

The same data will tell you which competitors have started spending more to counter your activities and which one have gave up on their online advertising efforts.

Graph 3: The red competitor and orange competitor are fighting for the biggest share of impressions. The blue competitor has crashed and likely stopped advertising on the shared querries.

Some competitors may use the auction system as a bullying tactic and throw around with money, regardless of the ROI that they are achieving to drive people out of the auction. The auction insight data from Google AdWords will help you identify such players easily.

Graph 4: The red competitor is slowly but surely inching in front of us. The data shows, how often the competitors rank above us in the search results.

How do I get the data about my competitors?

A prerequisite for being able to acquire this sort of data is having an active Google AdWords search campaign. If you have one up and running, it is enough to click on this link to get the script and follow the instructions to ensure a proper setup.

What do I do with the data once I have it?

If you are the type, who enjoys to keep an eye on the competition you will now be armed with actionable data. It is not deep “business intelligence”, but surely you will be among the most informed players within your business segment and have data available that many of your competitors are not making use of.

You will find out which competitors of yours are actively investing in online advertising, which ones are increasing their spends, which ones are running out of steam.

The resulting graphs will be appealing during team meetings or senior management presentations. Surely, you will notice that these kind of insights about competitors will get everyone to start paying attention and think about activities on how to counteract.