Do you know how much your competitors spend on paid search every month? Curious what keywords they buy and what their landing pages look like? Nowadays there is a long list of competitor research tools that provide insight into paid search activity for any URL. SEM Rush, KeywordSpy, and are a few of my favorites. They all use bid simulators and keyword data to generate estimated monthly spend, keyword lists, and tons of other juicy details about your competitors’ paid search efforts. What are you waiting for? Follow these three simple steps to unlock the key to your competitors’ biggest PPC secrets.

1. Plan your attack

At emagine, our preferred weapon of choice is The paid version allows you to download a full list of paid keywords, landing page URLs, ad copy, and just about any other piece of PPC information. Before you start tying in URLs first generate a competitors list. Need to refresh your list of competitors? Try looking at auction insight reports, search results, and LinkedIn. If you’re like most B2B online marketing teams, you’ll need to divide the list by vertical.

2. Sharpen your tools

Next, decide exactly what data is important to your audience. While it is tempting and more time efficient to use the auto generated reports I recommend avoiding them. Don’t just hurl data at someone; deliver a meaningful tailored report that justifies or supports your argument. For example, if you want to justify increasing your PPC budget, compile a high-level overview of each competitors’ estimated monthly spend. Here’s a common way we like to present the information.

3. Channel your inner Sherlock

We run detailed analyses for ongoing clients every 60-90 days, and on occasion well provide a watered down version for potential clients interested in working with us. As mentioned above, most tools provide loads of PPC information…more than most of us even care about (and I like data). For this reason I always create custom reports based on the data these tools graciously afford. My typical competitive analysis includes keywords, avg CPC, position, advertisers, and landing page URL. I also include a screen shot of the monthly spend history, so we can easily keep tabs on your competitors spending habits. It looks something like this:

In short, these sneaky tools can make you look like a marketing wizard, but make sure to deliver the most important data in a format that’s easily digestible or your efforts will go unnoticed. Interested in other ways to stay ahead of the curve? Read about additional tactics for maintaining a competitive PPC account.