Paid Media
4 min

Dissecting Your Competitors’ Paid Search Strategy (Part I)

Sergio Cano

In this age of digital campaigns, keyword tracking, management, and search tactics have become more sophisticated. As a result, all search advertisers need to stay on their toes or else face being outpaced by their competition. Simple tactics that worked extremely well in the past may not work as well today. While there are reasons for that to be the case, one fact is true: more advertisers are adopting the same tactics that have proven to be successful. Whether it’s a competitive industry with ten advertisers on top keywords or an industry with just two or three advertisers, knowing what your competition is up to has become more crucial than ever before.

The Ad Copy & Search Queries:

Ad copy and search queries

A lot can be gleaned from just about any search, but let’s examine the search result above to better understand a few missed opportunities and best practices. Depending on what a user searched for, the search engine will only bold the words in ads that the search box matches to the advertisers’ AdWords keywords (excluding the headlines).

This provides some insight on your competitor’s keyword strategy. The entire search query “business software solutions” could be a keyword, but clearly only one of these advertisers used it in their account. Here’s how we can tell…

By examining the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) I can deduct the following:

  • – Is probably using “software solutions” in phrase match
  • – Most likely using “business software” in phrase match
  • – Could be using“+business +software +solutions,” [business software solutions], or “business software solutions”’
  • – This one is the trickiest one of the bunch, but I cheated and looked at the URL string (we will discuss this later). It turns out this one is broad match of bmc solutions.

Next, let’s look at their ad headlines. The industry best practice for ad copy writing is to include the keyword in the ad headline. This generally will result in average or above average ad relevance quality score. From this SERP, we can see that this is the case for only 2 advertisers:


The other advertisers used their brand name + “software” in lieu of the keyword headline. This may not be a bad thing depending on the industry and users’ familiarity with the company or brand, but the searcher is probably less likely to click on those ads because the ad doesn’t directly resemble their searched phrase. This will result in a below average expected clickthrough rate.

Search results

Now, let’s examine the ad formats. Depending on the characters used for the description lines, we can figure out what ad format they are using. Epicor and Tibco are using standard text ads and a run-on sentence for their description 1 and 2 lines. The other two are using expanded text ads. You can see this by looking at the headline and seeing that they are utilizing headline 2 and the description is longer than 70 characters. This could provide some insight on whether advertisers jump on the latest releases and trends. However, for all we can deduct, the advertisers still using the standard text ads could just be testing out the ad format.

Moving on to look at ad extensions, while this could provide some insight, it hardly tells us if they aren’t using them. Examining the last advertiser’s ad (, we see that none of the ad extensions showed up on this search result (unlike the other 3). This could mean that they aren’t using them, but it’s very unlikely to be the case for all ad extensions. What I believe it to mean is that AdWords did not serve it this time on the search.

Lastly, if you hover over an advertiser’s ad and view the browser URL, you will notice what looks like a bunch of gibberish. In my follow up blog post we will dive into what kind of information can be extracted post click and look at the source code of landing pages.

example of source code

Paid Media Paid Search Strategy


Write a response…

Related Posts

Think Like A Challenger

Subscribe to keep up to date on the latest innovations in digital marketing and strategies our Challenger Brands leverage for success.