3 Key Steps to an effective PPC Competitive Analysis

So you have a business plan, a product, website, maybe even a ppc campaign ready. But, all of these things may not deliver your desired outcome if you haven’t yet considered your competitors. 

It is true that, occasionally, you won’t really learn about who your PPC competitors are until you start running your campaigns. However, analysing the market and its current players may save you a lot of headache and money in the long run. 

There are many methods which you can engage in to help you with ppc competitors’ research. 

In this article we list 3 key steps to an effective PPC competitive analysis. Follow these tips and unlock new paths of marketing your own service or product. 

Classify & Categorise (Types of Competitors)

May seem like an obvious task everyone would do to gain a structured knowledge about types of competitors they face. Unfortunately, very often, this is left behind and in favour of more urgent business ‘to do-s’. 

This task doesn’t narrow down to ppc competitors. It includes the whole universe of competitive landscape from all channels like email, direct or organic.

Classifying and categorising task is important for 2 reasons:

  • it clarifies your own position within the market you target
  • it enables you spot a gap (unfulfilled need or benefit you could add to your product ) 

‘Classify & categorise’ isn’t easy, because you have to come up with your own sets of similarities or parallels between the brands you are analysing.

This is why we have this handy step-by-step guide together with examples of categories below to help you through the process. Here it is.

Brand Visibility Classification

Brand Visibility Classification is a key concept in modern marketing, and an important tool for businesses seeking to gain a competitive edge. By gaining a deeper understanding of the characteristics of this you’ll be better equipped to position your brand for success and achieve your marketing goals. We suggest asking yourself the following questions to increase your brand visibility:

  • identify high visibility, neutral and low visibility competitors in terms of their brand position – online and offline – give them a ranking (1-3) 
  • how many competitors are there in each of the categories? Is there a balanced number in each? Or maybe, there are lots of low visibility competitors and only one each in neutral and high visibility categories? 
  • what do competitors from each category have in common? what are the differences?
  • have you got resources to jump straight into the unoccupied category of neutral or high visibility? 

Direct v Indirect Classification

This classification should help you understand just how unique your own product is.  

Classify a company as a direct competitor if it sells like-for-like goods, or offers exactly the same service.

Assign a company an indirect competitor label if it sells goods not exactly the same to yours, but the outcome is the same. 

For example, 2 online grocery stores – one selling ready meals, the other selling fresh produce will be classified as indirect competitors because they both allow shoppers to buy food and have their lunch or dinner sorted.

Once you have your list of direct vs indirect competitors, assess the size of each list. Again, ask yourself a few questions:

  • can I spot any patterns in each list?
  • are there any obvious similarities or differences between brands in direct / indirect competitors group?
  • which list is longer? what does it say about the market?

Established (high traffic site) vs New (low traffic)

Classification that can tell you a lot about what or who you are up against when launching yourself into a niche. Learning about your competitors organic traffic informs you whether you will be competing against big players, fresh startups or both. 

This task also gives you a benchmark of exactly where you are with your current site traffic and where you need to be to be able to take a part of the market you are after.

Remember though, that if you have zero traffic and every other competitor sits with a website of more than 10k+ visitors per month, don’t get discouraged as long as you can deliver on users’ needs in an innovative or less expensive way.

Spreadsheet Glory

Now that you have a list of competitors and that you have them classified,  transfer these into a spreadsheet and add new columns that will become the focus of the next stage of your competitive analysis.

Here are the things to research next: 

  • competitors website – design & UX 
  • brand strengths & weaknesses
  • unique selling points
  • offers / unique or generic?
  • pricing 
  • what their ads put emphasis on – free shipping; product quality etc

Why are the above important? These additional research categories are crucial when it comes to identifying the strengths of your business. It is also very helpful with writing more compelling ads. Running a scan of promotions for example, will pinpoint exactly what you need to highlight in your headlines. 

PPC competitors analysis tools

Unlike with the 2 previous competitive analysis tasks that research the whole of the competitive universe you want to participate in, this task focuses on ppc competitors.

It may be tempting to jump straight to this task, but, failing to collect more general competitive knowledge first, may result in less powerful and less accurate conclusions at a more detailed level. 

There are many ppc tools to help you scour through the competition. I would try and find one that will give the following data:

  • paid keywords they are using 
  • most profitable keywords 
  • paid ads content – what they are saying in their paid ads
  • landing pages used 
  • networks used (search ; shopping; display)

Not sure what ppc tools to use? Check the list below to discover important features.


SEMRUSH is an SEO, PPC and content research tool that’s packed with useful features. With Semrush, you can uncover the following:

  • keywords competitors bid on
  • competitors’ organic keywords they rank for and bid on 
  • track competitors; websites and their marketing strategies
  • CPC estimations and search volumes
  • most popular paid keywords vs keywords rarely used in paid search
  • competitors’ strategies on mobile and desktop
  • competitors’ seasonal advertising adjustments
  • analyse text ads and image ads

The above are just a few of the ppc competitive analysis features you’ll be empowered with. One great thing about semrush is that it sets a foundation for a kick-ass, data backed ppc strategy for your business.


SpyFu offers detailed ppc competitive analysis features. The results are presented on an easy to read dashboard which supports idea generation for your own ppc campaign.

SpyFu features we really like:

  • competitors’ paid keywords and how many clicks they get
  • ppc keywords recommendations based on competitors’ analysis
  • ppc negative keywords recommendations 
  • competitors’ monitoring feature – helps to spot shifts in strategy
  • ad campaign history insights and more

MOZ is a complete SEO tool but really helpful for ppc research. It allows you to learn about your competitors’ organic traffic (for competitors’ classification stage). If you have gathered data about your ppc competitors, knowing what your ppc competitors’ SEO strategy is, can have a very positive impact on your campaigns’ success.

PPC Competitive excellence 

There is no doubt, ads space on Google search results is limited. New online shops are being launched at a higher rate than ever. Established online retailers are not going anywhere either. 

This is why paying attention to your competitors is really important. Thorough competitive analysis will ensure that you:

  • adapt your ppc marketing efforts in a timely manner and stay flexible as you monitor all competitors’ shifts and changes 
  • create campaigns that fill a marketing gap left by others, rather than just trying to squeeze inside of a crowded bunch of dull offers
  • know your own strengths by comparing your own vs competitors’ data 
  • maximise on opportunities you wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise


There it is,  we talked about ppc online competitors types, step-by-step competitors research and we listed the most useful ppc tools for competitors analysis. 

Be sure to use the tasks we outlined in this guide for your own competitive analysis of the market.

One thing that requires a great deal of attention and a detailed audit, it is your competition. It set you off to a good start, with marketing campaigns planned for success.

If you’d like us to help you with your marketing strategy, SEO, content or PPC, get in touch today. Our team is keen to answer your questions and ready when you are. Let’s talk.

Minty Digital Team
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