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How to Spy on your Google Ads Competitors

Starting a Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords) campaign is a great way to promote your business online. It can help you reach new potential customers, retain existing customers, improve your search engine rankings, and overall generate more leads and sales.

In addition to this, getting your Google Ads campaign up and running is relatively easy. You just need to make sure your campaign has a strong sense of direction, including a deep understanding of who your target audience is, the kinds of key selling points and messages they best respond to, what is (and is not) currently working for your competition, and how to set yourself apart from the crowd.

If you can nail each of these criteria, you’ll have a stronger chance of generating better results for your Google Ads campaign.

But this begs the question, how do you know what the competition is up to? And how do you translate these findings into actionable insights that can actually influence the performance of your campaign?

Fortunately, that’s where this article can help. Here, you’ll learn how to research your competition, assess the performance of their Google ads campaigns, perform keyword research, and heaps more. With this valuable information, you’ll be able to make informed choices when it comes to creating and managing your campaign, decisions that are based on real data – not guesswork.

First off, you need to determine who your competitors are.

How to find your competitors

Whether you have yet to start a Google Ads campaign, or you’ve already started one, you need to know who you’re up against.

The easiest way to do this is to type some search queries into Google. Type in the kind of keywords and phrases your customers are most likely to use. Don’t worry if the keywords and phrases you use aren’t the most accurate. We’ll be covering keyword research a bit later. The purpose of this exercise is to just get a broad overview of what the competitive landscape looks like. You’ll be able to dive into the deep stuff soon enough.

Once you’ve done this, take a look at the businesses that are running Google Ads campaigns.

Ask yourself: What are their names? Are they small or large businesses? What kind of key selling points are they emphasizing? Are they promising some kind of reward or benefit? Or are they relying on fear to convince potential customers to take action? By asking yourself these questions, it will help give you an idea as to what may work for your campaign.

Now, keep in mind, there are some caveats to this approach.

Firstly, your search queries may not cover the full competitive landscape out there. You may be limited by your region and location. Certain competitors may have exhausted their campaign dollars for the day, so they may not appear at the time you do a search.

Secondly, and most important of all, just because you can see these Google Ads campaigns, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are successful campaigns. For all you know, these campaigns may have been running for several weeks, months, or possibly even years with very little return.

Thirdly, even if the campaigns are returning a profit, you don’t know their average cost per sale. For all you know, there may be a more cost-effective and profitable way to run the same campaigns.

With that being said, you at least now have a general overview of what the competition looks like. But how can you accurately assess the performance of their Google Ads campaigns? Fortunately, there are a few free and paid online tools you can use to spy on your competitors.

Google Ads
Google Ads Listings

The best PPC (Pay-Per-Click) tools to spy on your competitors

These days, you can choose from a lot of PPC tools, which allow you to accurately assess the performance of your competitor’s Google Ads campaigns.

Some of these tools are free-to-use and have fairly basic features like: monthly web traffic, average number of impressions, info on the best performing keywords, how your Google Ads campaign compares to the competition, and heaps more. Other tools let you try out a free trial for a certain number of days, or require you to pay a small fee to access the trial.

Some of the most popular and useful PPC tools out there include:

  • Auction Insights via Google – Offered by Google, Auction Insights lets you compare the performance of your Google Ads campaign to your competitors who are participating in the same auction as you.
  • Ahrefs – Ahrefs is a paid PPC tool that allows you to analyse a website’s link profile, their keyword rankings, and overall SEO health. You can assess the quality of a website’s backlinks, the keywords and phrases they use, and other factors like website loading times and content optimisation.
  • SEMRush – SEMRush is an all-in-one PPC suite that contains a ton of features under the hood. You can analyse a competitor’s strategy (i.e. keywords, ads, and backlinks), manage your social media campaigns, perform keyword research, conduct link building, and heaps more. Most importantly, you can combined all these features and more to help you plan, analyse, and improve your Google Ads campaigns.
  • SpyFu – SpyFu offers you a quick and easy way to determine the top paid keywords of your competitors. It also reveals to you their average CPC (cost per click) and overall monthly cost. By knowing which keywords are the most profitable, you can tailor your strategy to target the same or similar keywords.
  • SimilarWeb – SimilarWeb shows you what the average monthly traffic is for a competitor’s website. It also reveals where the traffic is coming from (i.e. referral sites, social, and keywords), so that you get a deeper understanding of which channels are worth pursuing with your campaign.

Of course, there are many more PPC tools out there. These are just some of the most popular and effective.

The most important part is to only use tools that help contribute to the success of your Google Ads campaign. Try not to get too caught up in unnecessary features that don’t give you the information you need.

Ahrefs Paid Clicks
Ahrefs Paid Clicks

Key takeaways from Google’s Auction Insights

Probably one of the most useful tools you can use is Google’s Auction Insights.

If you’re already running a Google Ads campaign, you can use this tool to see how your campaign is going so far, and how it compares to competitors who are participating in the same auctions as you.

With Auction Insights, there’s a fairly detailed report you can view. You can check it out by clicking on your active ads campaign. Then go to the ‘Auction Insight’ tab. Here, you can gather helpful findings like:

  • Average ad position
  • Impression share (the number of times your ad received an impression)
  • Quality score
  • Overlap rate (the number of times your ad is paired next to a competitors’)
  • Position-above-rate (the number of times your ad appeared higher than a competitor)

With this information, you can decide whether to modify your existing campaign, or shift directions entirely.

For example, if you’re consistently ranking lower than the competition, find out why this is the case. Could it be the key selling points you’re emphasizing? The quality of the offer itself? Or are the keywords you’re targeting simply too difficult to rank for?

You may also discover that your campaign is performing better than expected. In this case, you may want to prioritise the amount of resources you’re devoting to each campaign. You may wish to reduce the spending of less successful campaigns, and then use those extra resources to help retain the momentum of your more profitable campaigns.

Whatever direction you take, it’s vital that the choices you make are based on hard data and not guesswork. And that you can accurately make sense of the data you have in front of you.

Otherwise, you risk making unnecessary changes to your existing Google Ads campaign, or getting your new campaign off on the wrong foot.

How to perform keyword research

As previously stated, there are many tools you can use to perform keyword research. Some of the most popular tools include Ahrefs, SEMRush, and iSpionage.

While most of these tools offer the same features, there are some subtle differences between them. Both Ahref and SEMRush give you a broad overview of the keywords, their monthly search volumes, and the estimated CPC per keyword.

Other tools however like iSpionage dig a little bit deeper. It can help you find profitable keywords based on what the competition is using. iSpionage can even tell you how much your competitors are spending on their PPC campaigns.

To use iSpionage, simply create an account and conduct a URL search. Then, click on the ‘Competitors’ tab to view your competitors in Google Ads and Bing.

You can also look at the various columns for unique keywords and overlapping keywords. iSpionage can also tell you which terms you’re bidding on and the ones your competitors are bidding on.

If they are direct competitors, there’s a good chance you’ll find some profitable keywords for your campaign.


Tips to narrow down the best keywords

There are many factors you have to consider when performing keyword research.

It’s not enough to just go for keywords with the highest search volume or relevance to your brand. You have to determine if the approach your competitors are taking is working for them. If not, you need to figure out what you can do to fulfill a particular need that has yet to be met.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to perform a few search queries. Type in the core keywords you have collected, and view the results that come up.

Do the landing pages you reach manage to answer the questions of the original search query? Is the language used friendly, warm, and engaging, or does it come across as stiff, robotic, and possibly stuffed with keywords.

If the latter is true, then you may have a chance to outperform the competition.

How? By making sure your content does a better job of selling to potential customers. By doing so, you may have a stronger chance of generating more leads and sales, while establishing a more meaningful connection with your customers.

If the content you come across is authoritative, persuasive, and well-written, there’s a strong chance the landing page is doing its job of converting visitors into paying customers.

Therefore, you may have a tougher time trying to compete with these campaigns. That’s not to say it’s impossible. You’ll just have to work harder to perfect your sales pitch and unique selling points, so as to increase the odds of standing out from the competition.


Creating and running a successful Google Ads campaign can be a lot of work, but also incredibly rewarding.

Best of all? If you lack the time, skills, and resources to do all of this yourself, there’s another way to ease the load and ensure your campaign achieves the best results for you.

At Apple Advertising, we work closely with business owners just like you to create Google Ads campaigns that deliver amazing results.

By combining the latest digital tools and methods, with intelligent web design and highly persuasive web copy, we craft campaigns that engage with your customers on a deeper level and help you generate more clicks, leads, and ultimately sales. To learn more about our digital marketing services, contact us today. We’ll be happy to discuss your unique requirements and help prepare your next campaign.

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