Find Competitor Keywords and Other AdWords Tactics To Understand Your Competition

Find Competitor Keywords and Other AdWords Tactics To Understand Your Competition

Your competitors are advertising, that’s a fact. So if you want to know what your AdWords competitor keywords are and other strategies to win in your market space, dive in. We’ll cover reports, ideas, and even tools that can help you stay competitive.

For many businesses when it comes to competition we either play nice and shake hands, or we don’t even encounter them. We wouldn’t run into them or go mystery shop at their store. But are your competitors so hands-off? Probably not! In every market, local or online, at least one of your competitors is taking digital marketing seriously and is in it to win it. So how should you approach competition when navigating the online space?

Because you are bidding on AdWords every day, competitive intelligence helps craft competitive campaigns. As a rule of thumb, becoming familiar with your competition is extremely valuable for marketing, especially for those in niche markets. When it comes to AdWords, there is always something to learn, or at least inspiring. So take a peek at your competition.

Benefits of Understanding the Competitor Keywords

So other than being “better” why should you look at your competition? In AdWords, it is going to help the keyword selection and bidding process. Maybe they are targeting keywords you haven’t thought to include? Or you may discover keywords that are low in competition. However, let’s not ignore the fact that AdWords is an area where we do get close to our competition every time we bid against them for top page positions.

The goal of understanding the competition is to enhance your AdWords campaigns and to understand the local AdWords landscape. Know how you can improve on messaging of your ads. You may also discover that your competition provides something to their customers that you don’t. It is also possible to discover areas in which your competitions is taking up large market share. At the end of that day, competitor information is simply data to improve your AdWords experience.

Competition is always a good thing. It forces us to do our best. A monopoly renders people complacent and satisfied with mediocrity.

– Nancy Pearcey

One of our favorite benefits of knowing competitor keywords is differentiation. If you know what your competitors are all advertising on, you can then learn how to stand out from the crowd and create a niche. Even in simple ways. If the competitor keywords advertise around standard services, you can find low-cost specializations on which to bid.

Monitor Your Competitors With The Auction Insights Reports

The easiest way to peek-a-boo at your competition is through Auction Insights. This is a report that shows how the bidding performed, which you can narrow down by campaign, ad groups, and keywords. These are the metrics you’ll find in the report and what they mean.

Search Impression Share

How many impressions you were able to get compared to the number of estimated number of impressions you were eligible for. In a nutshell, this number tells you how many searches you showed up for, in relation to the searches you could have shown up for. In other words, if your impression share is 70%, that means you didn’t show up 30% of the time you could have. Improving this metric can be done by raising your budget, improving your quality score or bidding higher on that keyword. 

Average position

This metric describes how your ads are ranking compared to other advertisers competition in the same auction. Your average position is how high up on the page your ad displays. Position 1 and 2 are highly coveted. If your average position is 2.5 and lower (remember, position 1 is the best spot), you’re in a good place. If your position is higher than 2.5, then you’ll need to take steps to improve this. Finding the solution can be simple. If your Quality Score is low, then fix that ASAP. If your quality score is good, then you’ll probably need to increase your max cost-per-click.

Overlap rate

The overlap rate is how often you and your competitor both received an impression on the same search. Used in conjunction with metrics like Average Position and Position Above Rate, it gives you a definite idea regarding how competitive a keyword you’re currently bidding on is. Again, if your quality score is 6 and up, this frequently indicates a need to increase your bid. 

Position Above Rate

This show how often the other advertiser’s ad was shown in a higher position than yours when your ads were displayed at the same time. 

Top of Page Rate

Want to know how often your ad was shown at the top of the page? Here’s your answer. If you’re looking to improve this metric, first make sure you have ad extensions added to your campaign. This can often give your ad rank the boost needed to get you over the top. However, quality score and bid massively impact this. 

Outranking Share

This is a percentage that is made up by how many times your ad ranked higher than competitor keywords in the auction. To be candid, this is a vanity metric. Ranking higher than others only really matters if you’re following through and getting clicks and conversions. Don’t let this competitive metric go to your head.

How to find the Auction Insights report:

  1. Open AdWords
  2. Select Campaigns, Ad Groups, or Keywords
  3. Find Details on the statistics table
  4. All or Selected under auction insights.
  5. Ta Da! Then there is your report.

With this information, you will understand where you need to bid more or even less, where you are doing well and where to improve your campaign for future auctions. You may discover competitors are more aggressive in their bids and budgets than you are.

Once you know how you’re performing relative to others, you can start improving your results with focus.

How Keyword Planner Helps With Competitive Keyword Research

Probably the most useful tool to scope out competitor keywords is the keyword planner. This is where you can discover new keywords for your campaigns. You can copy and paste your URL into this tools and get keyword ideas based on your website. That also means you could also do the same for your competition’s website. Cool! This will help you find keywords that they are probably using that you may not have thought of yet. Ideas anyone?

At the very least, you’ll get clear indications of what keywords competitors are using on their website. Is their positioning similar to yours? Do they market their service differently? If so, there are new marketing opportunities for you out there!

    1. Open AdWords
    2. Go to Keyword Planner
    3. Click “Find New Keywords”
    4. Click “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”
    5. Paste competitors landing page or site URL
    6. Get ideas!
    7. Click “Keyword ideas”
    8. Then view the keywords of your competition

In the Keyword Planner, you will also be able to get estimates on likely costs related to specific keywords. In the estimates, you will be able to do some targeting as well,  by country, language and search network. This will certainly help with your budgeting and bids. 

Note that the estimates are quite rough. With a good quality score and some luck, you can keep your costs even lower. We’ve seen Teacup clients pay less than half of the estimated costs as shown in Keyword Planner. But sometimes, if competition is high, cost-per-click can be higher too.

Competitor Keyword Research Tools Available

You also have a few other keyword discovery options that are not native to AdWords. However, they are quite specific to scoping out info on competitions and other useful perks. You may need to spend a few bucks, but often these tools have a free version that is a good starting point.


The most popular tool for both paid and organic keyword research is SEMrush. With this tool, you will be able to find out what keywords competitors are ranking for organically, as well as the keywords they’re bidding on in AdWords (and even discover how much they are spending). You can either search by keyword and discover up to 4 million related search terms and phrases, or explore your competitors’ domains. The Keyword Gap tool shows you the keywords targeted by your competition but not you, this helps quickly find relevant search terms to add to your AdWords campaign. You can compare average organic position, approximate search volume, average CPC, costs, competitive density and more! Another exclusive feature of SEMrush is its local CPC and search volume data – you can check how much you should invest if you’re going to target a particular city, region or state.

When it comes to SEO, the top feature of SEMrush is Organic Research. This shows you how your competitors rank organically and what their best keywords are.

Here is a more in-depth review of SEM Rush.

SEMRush Competitor Keyword Research

SEMRush pricing starts at $99.95 per month.


SpyFu is a Teacup Team favorite and is focused on competitor keywords research. Here you’ll be able to pull lots of data on search volume, CTR, historical ranking, Ad Groups, ad spend. Giving you a window into your competitors AdWords strategies. Again, you will be able to enter you or your competitor’s URL to know what keywords you both are using. Spyfu also has organic search capability and can show paid keywords as well.

Check out this full review.

SpyFu Competitor Keyword Research

SpyFu pricing starts at $39 per month with larger plans at $79 and $299 per month for agencies and teams.


Another player in the competitor keyword research tool space is Ispionage. You will be able to do keyword and domain research, where you can see which keywords competitors are bidding on, their ad copy, and the landing pages to which they are directing visitors. This makes competitors’ entire online ads strategy transparent. They also provide campaign monitoring that helps customers to Optimize top to bottom of their marketing funnel.

iSpionage Competitor Keyword Research

Click here for an Ispionage review.

Ispionage pricing is the lowest, starting at $29 per month with more comprehensive plans ranging from $59 to $299.

You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”

– Christy Cook

How Can The Competition Help You?

Understanding the competition is not always about beating them in the race, it is about making your customer experience better. If you do the correct research through Auction Insights, Keyword Planner, or online tools you be able to identify what keywords your competitors are using.  Not only that, you will be able to gain insight into their online ad strategy. Insights which help you improve your campaigns. It takes a bit of work, so if you would rather give the sneaky intelligence testing to someone else, we got you covered.  

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