Google AdWords Auction Insights: How to Take Your PPC Campaign From Good to Great

gold-gavelAuction Insights launched at the end of May this year, offering advertisers unprecedented keyword data about their competitors. Some awesome things are available, but it’s not obvious exactly how to use it to improve your campaigns.

First, a Quick Recap

For each keyword you can now see the following metric for your own campaign and each of your competitors on that term:

  • Impression share: The proportion of time you spent on the first page. This is crucial for knowing how often you appear to advertisers, because the second page is worth nothing to you. This could be low due to a small budget (relative to the typical cost per click) or a low rank in some auctions (remember, each auction is unique and not all competitors will rank on the first page each time).
  • Average position: Don’t trust this to report your actual positions. It’s a mean, with no standard deviation or skew. That’s not helpful for learning about how often you really appeared in each position. But overall it can prove a useful guide when compared against competitors measured the same way.
  • Overlap rate: When you appeared, how often did this competitor appear at the same time?
  • Position above rate: When you appeared in the same SERP as your competitor, how often were they above you?
  • Top of page rate: The most important metric of all. When the competitor showed, how often were they in the banner positions above the natural results?


Only the Banner Counts

Trust me on this. You can expect your click-through rate (CTR) in banner positions to be 10-15x as high as when you’re on the right side or at the bottom of the page. That’s a 1,400 percent increase!

It doesn’t matter whether your conversion rates are better in different positions. You aren’t getting significant traffic if you aren’t in the banner.

Proportion of time in the banner is the metric that is important for determining how much traffic you’re going to get. No ad you can write will ever improve your CTR and traffic volume more than getting into the banner more often will.

Now Tell Me the Problem…

The inevitable downside. You can only get this data one keyword at a time. It’s not clear why.

The data is available for any keyword with 50+ impressions in the period you’re investigating, so you can just check each keyword in turn to get the same data as you would hope to get in a report. But no. You have to do it the awkward way. Here’s hoping Google change there minds on this and make that a bit easier.

What Do I Do?

The million dollar question. Quite literally, if you’re spending enough. This tool will help. Have no doubt about it.

Things to look for with it include:

  • Competitors/affiliates bidding on your brand. No need to do continual checks, clearing your cookies each time. No need to worry if they might have excluded your IP so you can’t see their ads. Think they’re running ads on your brand overnight? No sweat. Just check the auction insights and you’ll see each competitor’s behavior in detail.
  • Analyze competitors who have high budgets vs those with low budgets. It should be second nature to any search marketer to set their bids so that they just about spend their daily budget and don’t get constrained. But don’t bank on everybody getting that right. Check your highest spend keywords Look for the bidders with the highest average positions, but low impression shares. These are the bidders who are bidding aggressively to reach the top of the page, but don’t have the budget to support that strategy all day. If they disappear at the end of the day they’re likely using “accelerated” delivery. If they appear sporadically, they’re likely using “standard” delivery.
  • Analyze competitors who have high impression shares but low average positions. These guys aren’t limited by budget, and if they’re showing a lot despite a low average rank in the auction they’re probably being buoyed up by pretty good quality scores. Google thinks their ads are going to make a good revenue per search, so they’re being shown regularly. Keep an eye on these guys, their CTRs are probably good. Look at the elements that make their ads compelling and see what you can do to combat that.

Long Term Planning?

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s all very well and I’ve learned things I didn’t know before, but is that actually a real benefit to my campaign?” It is.

Think long term when you’re analyzing this data. You’re not out to tweak bids or change settings. You’re looking to make rapid responses to changes in the market.

You’re looking to have a better understanding of how your competitors are positioned on AdWords. You want to know whether you should be battling to stay at the top or fighting the plucky fight from a position of weakness.

Get the basics right, then add this information. This will help take your campaign from good to great.

What Are My Next Steps?

Use it. Lots. You won’t know what you’re going to learn until you learn it.

You can’t go into this saying “I’m going to investigate which competitor has the best CTRs so I can copy their ads.” That approach won’t work when you don’t know what the data is going to tell you.

Poke about. Fiddle around. Bury yourself in the data and find insights. It’ll be fun, I promise.

Image Credit: Walkn/Flickr

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