Your competition is gearing up to crush you next year. They’ve spent this year learning your tricks, perfecting their own, and are now ready to unleash everything they have on you. That’s because they know what’s at stake. Profits. 2012 is set to be a record year for many businesses that rely on PPC, but there is only so much room at the top. The competition is going to get tough(er), so you are going to have to be smarter.

Here’s a list of your competitors’ tactics, and how you can turn the tables on them.

They Know Everything About You

As an agency, we’re lucky enough to have an amazing relationship with our Google and Bing reps. This gives us access to reports that tell us how our clients are doing compared to their competitors. These reports include, but are not limited to, the volume of search queries out there compared to what the number of clicks we’re receiving and historical site traffic reports in comparison to our competitors.

You can also purchase reports such as these from Hitwise for a few thousand dollars. Your competitors have learned this and figured out that they are worth every penny. Now, they understand you, sometimes better than you understand yourself. They are using this information to find out where you are weak, determine where you are strong, and formulate their 2012 strategy.

Get your hands on this information, and you can gain the upper hand. You can see what search queries you’re missing out on and pounce before your competition has a chance to drive up the prices. You can identify regions that have a strong interest in what you are selling and geo-target them with specific sales and messaging. And you can create goals based not on hypotheticals, but actionable data.

They Know that They Don’t Know Everything About PPC

Your competition is going to spend 2012 in conferences, at trade shows, and learning new PPC tools online. The PPC industry is changing faster than ever and your competitors know that they can’t afford to be in the dark for even a few months. They’ll be clogging the halls at Ad Tech, SMX, and our very own Hero Conf learning about how to crush you. And if you’re not there, they might succeed.

They Have Already Given in to Best Practices

If you read our blog regularly, you should know all the current PPC best practices by heart. But there’s a chance that even though you know what you should be doing, you haven’t had the time or resources for implementation. Your competition may be in the same boat, or they may have aggressively restructured all their campaigns to lower their CPC as much as possible, and are sending their conversion rates soaring to enviable levels.

2012 is going to bring a lot of changes to PPC. If you start off behind the ball by not implementing best practices, it’s going to be nearly impossible to avoid being beaten by your competition. Spend your last few days in 2011 getting your accounts in line and you can spend next year focusing on other things that will send your business into the stratosphere.

They’ve Established Automated Rules

Most of your competition has been using automated rules to save time and money for months and months. It’s a nifty tool that leaves your hands free to focus on more impactful tasks.

But while Automated rules can be great time saves and performance enhancers, PPC managers have to make sure they are helping and not hurting. I found some keywords just last week that were running at Max CPC bids that were triple the bids I’d prefer. Once I adjusted my automated rules I was able to get this down, and don’t appear to have lost position, clicks or conversions.  You can get a leg up on your competition by staying connected with what’s going on in your accounts. Review your automated rules whenever they run, make sure it’s behaving how you want it to, and if you need to, go back to manual management. Your competition might be costing themselves a lot of money, for very little increase in performance. Don’t fall into that trap.

They’re Addicted to Analytics

You competition has invested in Web Analysts, or switched to an agency that pours over this information for them. That’s because they’ve learned there is tremendous value in optimizing their websites. They’ve learned that every click they get to their site that doesn’t convert is a missed opportunity and they aren’t going to let those slip through their fingers in 2012.

It’s time for you to vigorously optimize your landing pages, microsites, and/or websites. Use Analytics to track where your visitors are going on your site, what they are engaging, how long they stay, and what leads them to convert. Use this information to improve their engagement with your site and see your conversions skyrocket.

These are a few ways your competition is trying to crush you in 2012. Don’t let it happen, be proactive, and never be afraid to ask for help. It could be the difference between 2012 being your best year, and it being your last.