Even though we have a seemingly large surplus of data at our fingertips (it is the era of Big Data after all), we’re always clamoring for more as marketers. One of the most common requests is competitive insights. While the question “what are my competitors doing?” won’t always have a perfect answer, we do have some limited views to help us out in Adwords and Bing.
This mostly comes to us in the form of an Auction Insights report. This report is an absolute must for understanding what’s happening in the auction landscape and can help to better identify what competitors are doing, and why certain metrics are trending the way they are. It is, however, an incredibly easy report to misunderstand or misinterpret. The metrics and data in this report are not straightforward, and without a good foundational understanding of what you’re looking at, it can be easy to conduct bad analyses.
Here, we’ll guide you through each of the main metrics that you can review in the Auction Insights report, but first, an important item to keep in mind.
Know What Data You’re Reviewing
When looking at the Auction Insights report, it’s critical to remember that your data is only representative of what is in your account, or what you selected to see. If you selected all of your campaigns or keywords, then the report will only show you data for those terms. This becomes important when you’re looking at large numbers of keywords. In aggregate, you may not notice that there’s any movement or change in competitive behaviors, but when you dive in, you’ll find that a competitor significantly ramped up spend on one of your main keywords. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you look at this data in segregated chunks. For example, brand and non-brand, or top head terms versus long-tail terms, or category/product terms, etc. Yes, this may mean you’ll have to pull multiple reports, but sometimes that is the only way to see this data.
It’s also essential to know that the report is not going to show any data for terms that are not in your account. Meaning, you’re not going to see impression share, or any metrics, on a competitor’s full account.
Now, let’s dive in.
This is the most common, and arguably most important, metric. It’s also pretty simple. Impression Share is just a calculation of the impressions earned, divided by the total impressions, or the percentage of time that a competitor’s ad shows up when a search is done. It’s important to note though, that it’s not a signal of aggressiveness, just how often an ad shows. Even so, if you’re seeing impression share increase notably, then the competitor is either increasing their keywords they’re bidding on (that you’re also bidding on, remember), or they’re increasing bids to show up more often.
This showcases how often your ad and a competitor’s ad show up at the same time. This can be particularly useful to see if there is more direct head-to-head competition for particular keywords. It could also be utilized to learn how much overlap you have on certain keywords. This is probably one of the lesser-used metrics, though, as other metrics are better at revealing changes in competitor behavior over time.
Position Above Rate
This is the first metric in this list that offers hints as to where a competitor is showing up (versus if they’re showing up at all). It also informs you if you’re outranked for your terms, and which competitors are winning the top spots. But, it’s also a percentage, and will only tell you if the competitor is above or below you when BOTH ads are in the auction. Regardless, if that number is increasing over time, then it’s a good indicator that a competitor is getting more aggressive on the selected terms.
Top of Page Rate
This is another metric that helps to understand where a competitor is ranking in the auction. Top of Page means just what it sounds like – they appear at the top of search results (which is generally the top 3-4 positions). The rate, though, is only based on the number of impressions shown. Meaning, if a competitor were to have 100 impressions for a term, but only shows up at the top 10 times, then the Top of Page rate would be 10%. It’s not based on overall possible impressions, nor is it based on any of your competitor’s other terms. If this number is high, but impression share is low, it’s possible that they are bidding heavily on a smaller number of keywords.
Absolute Top of Page Rate
This is very similar to Top of Page rate. The only difference, in this case, is that it’s specific to the #1 spot. Use this metric in the same way as the Top of Page rate metric, but as an additional guide to how aggressive certain domains are in the auction.
Your Outrank Share is very similar to Position Above Rate, but with a key difference. For Outranking, the times your competitor, or yourself doesn’t show will be considered. For example, if your ad shows, but a competitor doesn’t, then that counts as outranking. The reverse also applies. Because of this, this metric can be sometimes more useful than Position Above Rate, especially when impression shares are low.
In Summary – Don’t look at just one Metric
It’s impossible to have a good understanding of what different competitors are doing if you’re only looking at one of these metrics. For example, if impression share increases, is that because they increased bids or because they increased the keywords they are bidding on? Or, did they start a new landing page that increased their quality score (and therefore ad rank)? Combining a selection of these metrics will give much better insights as opposed to simply analyzing one piece at a time.