What to Learn from Your Competition

“You don’t have to go to the dark side and cut your competitor’s phone lines or go into a bathroom and write, “For a good time, call [insert competitor’s CEO’s name here].” But if you believe you’re Luke Skywalker and that your rival makes Darth Vader seem like a stand-up guy, then grab your light saber and get ready to destroy the Death Star.” (Geoff Williams, Get in the Ring, Competition in Business).

There are important things to learn when monitoring your competition in the pay-per-click advertising industry. I’m going to outline a few basic principles, and show you how to gain a competitive edge against your competition.

First things first, get to know your competition!

  • Like the quote mentioned above, you don’t have to slam your competition in your ads, but you do need to gain a competitive edge in order to ‘steal’ customers away from them.
  • Gaining a Competitive Edge: It’s good to know who the big players are in your industry. This can help you gain an advantage against the competition by finding strengths in your company that the competition doesn’t have.
  • Ask yourself these questions below and write down the answers on a sheet of paper.
  1. What does my company have to offer that my competitors do not? Guaranteed low prices, no hassle returns, special offers, discounts, coupons, or free shipping are just a few of the examples you can use.
  2. What are my competitors’ weaknesses?
  3. How can I build upon my competitors weaknesses?
  4. What are my competitors’ strengths that could potentially take customers away from me, or already are?
  • There’s no harm in stealing customers away from your competitors. They won’t feel badly about it when they steal your customers away from you!

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  • As far as pay per click analysis is concerned, take a close look at competitors’ ads. What are their average positions? Take a look at the headlines and copy. See if you can learn anything from them then write your own copy to attack their headlines and copy directly. (Chris Lee, Pay Per Click Competition Analysis)
  • Don’t follow suit to your competitor’s ads. Offer your customers something different. Something they can get from you and no one else. You can do this by giving your ads a different angle or feeling than your competitors’ ads.
  • I will attest that it is much easier said than done when it comes to putting that ‘competitive edge’ in 70 characters or less. So get creative! Remember that you have written down your answers to the questions above. So you should now have a list of your competitive edge advantages. Keep that list at your computer, and every time you enter ad text into your ad group, refer back to this list. This way, you’ll never lose track of showing off your strengths versus slamming the competition.
  • Remember, competitors allow you to strengthen your product or service. Don’t focus solely on crushing your competition. Rather than on improving your own brand.


  • Bidding against your competition can be very complex since we don’t know what their bids actually are. With the new algorithm changes Google, Yahoo! and MSN have implemented, the best practice to getting a higher ranking than your competition is to have a better quality score. That should be your main goal, not bidding higher than your competition!
  • You don’t want to end up in an ‘auction like strategy of keyword bidding’. Example, you bid $0.50 per click, your competition bids $0.55 per click. The more you increase your bids, the more they’ll increase theirs. In the end you’ll both be paying outrageous amounts for your clicks and potentially not get anything in return.
  • For tips on enhancing your quality score, click here.


  • DO be sure to bid on your competitors keywords. You can bet they’re bidding on your companies keywords.
  • Note that Google & Yahoo! may give your ads a lower quality score by bidding on competitors keywords. This is mainly because you’re not going to have your competitors’ company names in your ad title, text, URL or landing page, which at times will result in a lower quality score.

“IT WAS 1933. CHARLES GUTH, PRESIDENT of a candy company, was desperately trying to get rid of a long-unprofitable product. He approached his nemesis, rival candy company president Ernest Woodruff, held up the white flag and offered to sell. Woodruff probably laughed. Guth was hawking a lousy brand with no future. So Woodruff refused, and the product lived on.

And that’s why we’re still drinking Pepsi.

“Competition can be your friend. But if you were to find a spiritual medium and contact Ernest Woodruff’s soul, the former Coca-Cola CEO would probably own up that he made a colossal mistake in not crushing Pepsi when he had the chance. How early you detect those threats may make the difference between whether you hang on to your customers or lose them to the competition.” (Geoff Williams, Get in the Ring – Competition in Business).


  • These are just a couple of strategies that you need to think about in order to compete in today’s pay per click environment. Clearly all markets are getting more competitive. Keyword research, campaigns and who has the best ad position no longer holds up in the battle against your competition.
  • Focus on your companies’ strengths and competitive edge. Focus on what you have that they don’t, and don’t hesitate to use your competitions weaknesses to your advantage.