If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my six months as a Paid Search analyst, it’s that there are a LOT of moving parts to my job. In addition to all the aspects of my account I can control (such as ad copy testing, demographic testing, bid adjustments), there’s always one outlier in the back of my mind: the competition.
Based on the auction model (which determines ad positioning within the search engine “landscape”), we as paid search analysts have to constantly consider the behavior of our competitors and adjust our bids accordingly. However, we aren’t completely in the dark. Both Bing and Google allow a peek into the behavior of competitors with my personal favorite interface tool: Auction Insights.
The best part about this tool is you have plenty of flexibility. You can access Auction Insights on the campaign, ad group, or keyword level for either an entire group or a specific subset of volume. Additionally, you can adjust the date range to filter down to the exact day or range of days you’d like to analyze. This customizable tool makes it really simple to zero in on the behavior of your competitors on an exact day and on a specific keyword.
In order to access the report, first select the campaign, ad group, or keyword you want to investigate. Under the “Details” tab, select Auction Insights for either the complete listing or selected entities. Make sure to adjust the time frame in the top right corner to your desired date range.
Once you’ve generated the report, you’ll see seven main components:
- Display URL domain: A listing of the URLs competing in the space, with your row highlighted.
- Impression Share: The percentage of times an ad shows. For instance, if there were 100 possible auctions you could’ve appeared in and your ad showed 90 times, your impression share is 90%.
- Average Position: The average position of your ads on the landing page.
- Overlap Rate: Insight into how often you and a competitor show up on the same results page. (Since this is a comparison metric, you won’t see a number on your own row.)
- Position Above Rate: How frequently your competitors show up in a better average position than your ad. Similar to overlap rate, there won’t be a number for your own URL.
- Top of Page Rate: How frequently you and your competitors show up at the top of the results page.
- Outranking Share: How often your own ad appears above a competitor’s ad.
Another important quirk about this report is the lag; you can’t access these insights until the following morning, sometimes even as late as 11:30 AM ET. If you see this message:
“There has not been enough activity for us to generate an Auction insights report. Please select a different range or alter your selection.”
It could mean you’ve either tried to access the data before it was ready or you’ve selected a range with insufficient data. In most cases, you’re just experiencing the lag in reporting time.
So, how are Auction Insights applied in the real paid search world? Every morning after I pull financial data for the previous day, I occasionally see changes in CPCs on particular keyword buckets. The first thing I ask myself is whether or not I made any changes to bids or ad format or anything else that might have affected my costs. If I didn’t make any purposeful bid changes in the past 24 hours, I can assume the competitive landscape must have changed.
The true power of this tool can be harnessed by comparing timeframes. Seeing a daily snapshot of the competitive landscape isn’t nearly as impactful as tracking how a competitor’s movements have changed over time.
My process is to pull the Auction Insights for the previous day, screen shot the results, change the date in accordance to my desired comparison field, and then compare the metrics. I ask myself a few questions: First, has my impression share or average position changed drastically? Second, and more interestingly, has someone else’s metrics changed dramatically? This tool allows coveted insight into when competitors start playing on a keyword, increase their bids, decrease pressure, or leave the landscape entirely.
It’s true there are many moving parts in paid search. However, the Auction Insights tools in both Google and Bing offer crucial information about the behavior and trends of your competitors so that you can make sure you are successful with your strategy regardless of where they stand.
Meaghan graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in economics & sociology in 2014 and earned her Masters of Management Studies from Duke University in 2015. Before joining RV last August, she spent the summer road tripping across the United States with the goal of eating ice cream in every state along the way.