How to Spy On Your Competitor’s Digital Ads

Posted by WhatRunsWhere on March 12, 2021

American soccer player Brian McBride said, “Competition helps people figure it out.” It’s just as true in business as in sports, and you can rely on your competitor’s digital marketing strategy to help you figure out your next move too. Monitor your competition and the digital landscape to ensure that you always have a good vantage point on what’s happening with marketing in your industry. 

Tips and Tools for Spying on Your Biggest Competition

There are many ways to access hard data about your competitor’s marketing campaigns. Although you might follow them on social media and see their ads, you’re not just a consumer in the industry. 

Top tips include:

  • Start with broad searches, then narrow down. 
  • Use your SEO and SEM research to help identify your biggest competitors. 
  • Rely on tools that focus on engagement rather than SERP ranking. 

The best tip we can provide is to continue to monitor your performance against your competition after you’ve started bringing together reliable data. It’s easy to collect digital ad data, and you can use it to help optimize and improve your ad campaigns in the future.  

To find the right tools for spying, start with WhatRunsWhere. This online tool allows you to easily search for your competitors by category, site, and even individual ads. 

You might already use some of the other top spy tools such as Majestic, SEMrush, Pro Rank Tracker, and Ubersuggest. These are all common SEO tools, but Majestic and Pro Rank Tracker are well-known for giving useful insight into who is competing for similar keywords and where they’re using their strategy online, whether for ads or landing pages. 

Step One: Find Your Keyword Competitors

When using WhatRunsWhere you can easily begin your search broadly through keywords, cast a wide net to start assessing possible competition. From the WhatRunsWhere starting page, you can search for top ads by keywords and then filter them down by network, location, and time frame. 

If your keyword is “computers,” you probably expected Best Buy and Acer but might not have thought about FlexShopper. Starting here will help you identify likely and unlikely competitors. Then, you can begin drilling into each one and finding out where they experience success in digital marketing. 

Step Two: Search for Direct Competitors 

When searching directly for a competitor, you can easily see:

  • Which ad types (mobile, Facebook, desktop, etc.) are performing best
  • Where they see the best traffic 
  • Which ads are performing best
  • What landing pages see the most impressions
  • What network types they use 

When creating ads, you must consider your ad type, network, placement, and traffic. Knowing how your competitors manage their strategy can help you pick apart what makes it effective or ineffective. 

You can also compare your competitors. For example, the top performers in the keyword search for “computers” showed Best Buy closely followed by Acer. Using WhatRunsWhere’s Advertiser Comparison tool, you can evaluate their digital ads side-by-side. 

Step Three: Review Isolate Trends in Your Category 

Surface-level information can get you started, but isolating trends can help your marketing team make difficult decisions with confidence. Acer and Best Buy overlap on many traffic sources and use proportionally similar ad type distributions but have extremely different results. 

From this comparison, we see that Acer outperforms Best Buy on sites such as NexusMods and GamePedia. Meanwhile, Best Buy sees upwards of 92 million impressions through Accuweather. 

Context is almost as important as the content itself. Acer outperforms Best Buy in niche sites like NexusMods because they focus on a smaller target audience relating to gaming and PC building. Best Buy may have substantially more impressions, but those ads don’t have much context when appearing on Accuweather. 

A competitor may use this information to determine that they need to double-down on their niche audiences or as a guide to distribute their ad types similarly. Easy-to-use tools such as What Runs Where can deliver meaningful information with little effort. 

Topics: Online Marketing


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