Paid Search Track: Competitive Intelligence

Hallie Janssen

Blogosphere SearchFest 2010

Live blogging from Leisa Hall of Anvil Media, a Portland SEM Agency

Speaker: Mike Roberts, SpyFu

  • Know the keywords that your competitors are buying and get to “the best” keywords they have. What happens when a competitor buys a keyword? They are willing to bet their hard earned cash that the keyword is going to make them money.
  • 5 Reasons a keyword might NOT be profitable
  1. The lost money but it didn’t suck
  2. Inconclusive – not enough volume to make a decision
  3. Asleep at the wheel
  4. Vanity buying
  5. Randomness and libel – random people doing random things

Where does this leave us?

  • Antidote – Time: the longer you run a keyword, the better. Eliminates: asleep at the wheel, inconclusive, didn’t suck, randomness (#1, 2, 3, 5)
  • Antidote – Money: Accelerates the effect of time. Eliminates: vanity buying, randomness and libel (#4, 5)
  • Antidote – Activity: Changes in ad copy, adding and removing keywords, managing bids. Eliminates: asleep at the wheel (#3)
  • So, which ARE you competitors best keywords? What would you expect them to be? What are YOUR most profitable keywords – usually branded.
    • “ebay” is THE most profitable keyword for eBay
  • SpyFu helps to gain intelligence about what keywords you should try buying based on what your competitors are doing
    • See which they are buying that you aren’t
    • See where you overlap
    • Identify profitable terms
    • Filter out terms that aren’t universally profitable
    • Tool helps winnow down to the best terms to act on


Speaker: Larry Kim, WordStream

How do we leverage competitive intelligence for both PPC & SEO?

  • Tools
    • Alexa search analytics
    • Compete
    • SpyFu
    • KeywordSpy
  • Types of Data to gather
    • keyword lists
    • estimates (CPC, competition, keyword difficulty)
  • So how do we interpret this?

4 Popular competitive intelligence blunders

  1. Never assume your competitor’s keyword list is relevant to you. If your competitors are idiots, their keyword lists will be idiotic.
  2. Too much analysis, not enough action. Don’t get buried in data; make sure it’s actionable.
  3. Never mistake estimated competitive data for ACTUAL campaign data. The actual CPC’s you see could be lower, for example. Focus on improving Quality Score.
    • Ad rank = Bid x Quality Score
    • How to Improve Quality Score:
      • refine keywords (negatives, etc.)
      • tightly themed ad groups
      • relevant ad copy and landing pages
  4. CI data is an important component of kw research, and should be use in ADDITION to other keyword research tools. Don’t forget to leverage your own web analytics data – this is information that is available only to you. The problem with the free tools is that everyone has access to the same data.

Workflow using Competitive Intelligence for PPC

  • Determine what is working and what isn’t
  • Target more specific, less competitive keyword niches; avoid hyper-competitive spaces

Bonus tip:

  • As your keyword research grows, stop thinking about CI in terms of individual keywords; why?
  • Instead, try to break up your keyword research into categories/subcategories and track CI data on a per-grouping basis

CI is an important component of KW research, but pick KW lists that are relevant to YOUR site first. Be bold; don’t be deterred by competitive landscapes. Try it out, adjust, analyze, act.

Q & A

  • How do you determine a keyword is profitable?
    • Can’t hack data, so use behavior – if an advertiser is consistently bidding on $100 term, it must be profitable
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