Sure, you can use Google’s keyword tool — it has its place.
But if you really want to know what’s working — you need real data from competitors that have spent hard earned dollars and hours testing and tweaking their pay-per-click ad campaigns and landing pages.
You need to infiltrate the campaigns of your savviest competitors and find out…
- What keywords they’re bidding on
- How much they’re spending
- What’s working on their landing pages.
You need a spy tool.
An Introduction to Competitive Keyword Research
Competitive keyword research tools like iSpionage and AdGooroo allow you to “spy” on your competition and learn more about their PPC ad campaigns. (Note: I work for iSpionage which means I’m biased and think we have the best tool on the market.) 🙂
It works like this…
Competitive keyword research tools periodically crawl the web to catalog who’s bidding on which keywords and what their average position is for those words. They then compile the data and give marketers like yourself access to that data so you can see the following:
- Which keywords your competitors are bidding on
- What their average ad position is
- What ad copy they’re using
- What their landing pages looks like
- What their average monthly budget is
- When they make changes to their campaigns
Here’s a quick screenshot that shows a summary of the kind of data you would get with competitive keyword research if Phoenix.edu was one of your competitors.
Of course, data is only as good as the insights it leads to so let’s consider a few scenarios to see how this information can help you as a marketer.
Scenario 1 – Building a New Campaign
You’re about to start a brand spankin’ new PPC campaign.
… the ad creative they’re using…
…and a list of the other top competitors you can review.
You download this information into an Excel spreadsheet where you can sort the data as needed, and then you move on.
Once you’ve gathered all of the data you need, you begin to build out your clients campaign using a list of the top keywords your competition is already bidding on. You use these keywords as a starting point for your campaign instead of beginning from scratch, paying close attention to the keyword groups they manage and also the keywords they’re bidding on.
Next, you look at their ad creative to consider how to write your own. You want to be sufficiently different so your ads stand out, but you also learn that your competitors advertise a low price, list important features, and create a sense of urgency with their ads.
Hmmm…those all seem important. Let’s add those features to our ad copy as well.
Now voila, you’re finished. You saved time in building out a new campaign by learning from the hundreds of thousands of dollars your top competition has spent to optimize theirs, which ends up being much better than starting from scratch and sets you up to be successful beginning on day one.
Scenario 2 – Keeping Pace with Competitors
You already have a successful PPC ad campaign, but you want to keep up with the changes your competition makes. To do so, you set up a keyword monitoring project and a competitor alert.
Keyword monitoring projects and competitor alerts allow you to keep up with changes your competition makes and also changes to the most important keyword groups for your business.
Let’s say, for example, that you own an eCommerce store and want to know when your competition makes a change. You set up a competitor alert and get notified as soon as they begin running their special holiday promotion.
This alert for Mormon.org shows what a competitor alert will look like in your inbox…
Right away, you know what offer they’re running for the holiday season and can create a similar offer or do something entirely different to stand out. Either way, you’re in a better position to succeed if you know what special offers your competition is running and when they start a new campaign.
Scenario 3 – Improving Your Landing Pages
When you use competitive keyword research tools, you not only see your competitor’s keywords and ad creative, but you also get to see the landing pages each of the ads links to.
This gives you insight into which best practices your competition is using on their landing pages and allows you to borrow ideas for your own.
Let’s continue looking at Phoenix.edu as an example. If you’re in the for-profit university space, you’ll want to learn what the University of Phoenix and other competitors are doing well. First, you do a competitive URL search for Phoenix.edu.
Next, you look at their top ads to see what’s working for them and click on the destination URL for the nursing program ad group to see what landing page they’re using for this group.
Clicking on the destination URL takes you to the landing page for nursing-program related keywords.
It looks like this…
The first thing you notice by looking at the landing page is that the copy matches the ad, i.e. the page is about nursing and not a general degree program landing page.
Directing searchers to a page that matches their search intent is a best practice for PPC, so you make a note to make sure your landing pages match the program that’s being searched for.
Then, you read the headline, subheadlines and feature/benefit bullets. You take note of the features and benefits they highlight and the “buttons” they push to get a visitor to take action.
Perhaps we should highlight these benefits on our landing page as well.
The next thing you notice is that there’s a “chat live now” box in the upper right-hand corner. This enables visitors to chat with a live person about their questions. You hadn’t thought about using this on your landing page but decide it will be worth testing now that you’ve seen it on the University of Phoenix’s page.
The last thing you notice is that the call to action is in a box on the right which draws attention to the next step Phoenix.edu wants people to take — and there’s a progress bar that shows how far along people are in the process.
You also notice they break the form up into six steps instead of showing one super-long sign-up form. This seems like a good idea, so you make another note to test this against your current long sign-up form that you use on your site.
Interesting — maybe we should put these ideas in the testing queue.
After reviewing the University of Phoenix’s landing page, you’re sufficiently satisfied with what you’ve learned and decide to move on to another competitor. You scroll up to look at the top competitors in Google and see the following.
Wanting to learn more, you click on the devry.edu competitor — rinse and repeat.
You take screenshots along the way until you’ve learned what your competition has spent countless hours and dollars to learn.
Spy tools are a shortcut.
It might take you a year or more to find the juiciest, most lucrative keywords or highlight a “hot button” benefit in your landing page sales copy.
The spy tool reveals these ideas immediately.