Discover how to spy on competitors’ Google Ads the right way. Find actionable steps to create a winning Google Ads strategy.

You put together the most beautiful Google Ads campaign – great keywords, relevant ad copy, and a seamless landing page. Yet Google ranks a competitor over you in the search results. So what do you do?

Competitor analysis is a crucial step in creating your Google Ads strategy.

Doing Google Ads competitor analysis will help you determine:

  • Your Google Ad budget
  • Best keywords for Google Ads
  • Industry trends
  • Which competitors are advertising on Google Ads
  • Which keywords your competitors are targeting
  • How much traffic your competitors get
  • Best approach to optimize Google Ads

On average, 41% of clicks in Google Ads go to the top 3 paid ads on the search results page.

This statistic highlights the importance of optimizing Google Ads campaigns to ensure they display in the top 3 positions.

This complete guide gives you actionable steps on how to spy on competitors’ Google Ads and maximize your Ad strategy.

How to Spy on Competitors’ Google Ads (5 Easy Steps)

Ever wonder what’s up your competitor’s sleeve in the Google Ads arena? Think of it like a magic show—everyone’s got their tricks. But with the proper techniques, you can peek behind the curtain.

Unlock the secrets to understanding your rivals’ moves and turn their ad strategies into your strengths. Discover how to spy on competitors’ Google Ads with these five actionable steps:

1. Find Your Competitor Ads on Google

Start with you who you already know, whether or not you know about their online presence.

Most brands who run Google Ads will use a “Branded” keywords campaign. This means they bid on their trademarked name and products. This approach ensures the top spot in Google’s search results, even when a user is searching for them specifically.

In other circumstances, your competitors could be different on Google Ads than in other spheres. There may be other competitors you’ve never heard of that are also bidding on the same keywords you plan on targeting.

Start Googling a few keywords you want to target for your brand. For example, if you have a business that makes organic peanut butter, Google that exact term and see who else comes up under sponsored listings. It could be someone completely different or new that you hadn’t expected to be competing against.

2. Use the Google Ads Transparency Center

Google Ads Transparency Center helps you quickly and easily learn more about the ads you see on Search, YouTube, and Display. This is a game-changer. If you’ve ever used Meta’s Ad Library – it’s very similar.

Beyond seeing one or two ads based on your Google searches, you can quickly search your competitor’s business. It will pull up a collection of their most recent ads across Google-owned platforms. This includes text ads, Google display, and YouTube.

You can also access the Google Ads Transparency Center once you see a competitor’s ad in the search results. Click the three dots, and choose the option to “See more ads this advertiser has shown using Google.”

 google ad center example about the advertiser to help Spy on Competitors Google Ads


Pro Tip: Include high-value keywords in your Google Ad headlines to increase the quality score. Because of this, your competitors are likely to include the keywords they’re bidding on in their headlines.

If there are certain buzzwords you’re noticing often in their ad copy (specifically their headlines) take note of them.

3. Conduct Keyword Research to Forecast Your Google Ads Budget

Now that we know who the competitors are and what space they’re occupying, we need to make decisions based on these findings.

The top question asked by clients is “How much do I need to spend on Google Ads?” This is hard to give a static answer for depending on the industry and who the key players are.

Within Google Ads, there’s a free tool that is incredibly handy called the Keyword Planner. There are a million uses for the Keyword Planner. But for our purposes, we’re going to use it to focus on determining the right spend against competitors.

  1. Within the Google Ads interface, navigate to Tools & SettingsPlanning
  2. Click Discover new keywords and type in the keywords you want to add to your campaign
  3. At the top, ensure the region is accurate for where you’re going to target ads
  4. View the Competition column. The Low to High ranges indicate whether a keyword is hard or expensive to rank.
  5. View the Top of page columns. This shows the range of what other advertisers have historically bid to secure the top position for that keyword. To add that keyword to your strategy, set your goal cost-per-click to align with those metrics. This allows you to bid competitively in that particular auction.
google ads keyword forecast chart


Pro Tip: On top of making sure your bid is competitive, frequently stay up-to-date on Google’s recommendations for your ads and campaigns.

As mentioned earlier, keeping those optimization scores and ad quality scores high can be the difference between your ad showing at the top versus your competitor.

4. Use Google’s Internal Tools to Audit Performance

Once your ads have been running, Google will provide some reports for you to check in on where your rank versus others in your auctions.

One card you’ll often see and want to take a look at in the overview tab is your Search auction insights.

In a nutshell, this gives you a quick visual of your performance compared to others competing in the same auctions as you. It may include your known competitors, but it may include some others you haven’t considered yet.

google auction insights chart

This card gives you a quick insight into where you tend to land versus competitors. It’s also great for seeing who exactly is showing up next to you in the search results.

5. Repeat!

Google Ads competitor analysis is complete! Well, not quite.

As amazing as these tools and tricks are, the downside is all your competitors can use them to spy on you too. This means it’s important to regularly check in on what your competitors are doing, and look for a few things:

  • Are there any new competitors in the space?
  • Is there new messaging among my competitors that I should pay attention to?
  • How is my impression share trending? Is it improving or declining?
  • Are there new keywords that I should tap into?

This is an ongoing process. It’s good to be in the habit of checking these monthly, quarterly, and yearly to stay ahead of the competition.

Also Read: What Are Google Ads Keyword Match Types

Why Is Google Ads Competitor Analysis Important?

Google Ads competitor analysis reveals market gaps, guides budget allocation, and refines ad strategies. By understanding competitors, you can make informed decisions, craft standout ad copy, and optimize landing pages, ensuring effective campaigns and higher ROI.

Also, competitor analysis in Google Ads isn’t about copying. It’s about gathering insights, learning, and charting a course that aligns with your brand. You can play the game more effectively when you’re aware of the moves on the board.

Here’s why Google Ads competitor analysis is paramount:

1. Knowledge is Power

Understanding what your competitors are doing helps you make informed decisions. For example, you’ll be better equipped to strategize your campaigns by knowing the keywords they target or the ad copy they use.

2. Ad Budget Efficiency

Knowing where your competitors invest can guide you in allocating resources. This way, you avoid bidding wars on overly competitive keywords and can focus on more lucrative opportunities.

3. Discover New Ad Opportunities

Competitive PPC analysis can reveal gaps in the market. For example, your competitors may have overlooked a keyword or audience segment. This opportunity offers you a chance to swoop in and capture that audience.

4. Refine Your Ad Copy

By examining competitors’ ad texts, you can craft stand-out messages. For example, look for their unique selling proposition (USP). Can you say it better or highlight a different USP of your own?

5. Improve Landing Page Experience

If your competitors have higher conversion rates, it may be due to their landing page design or user experience. Taking a sneak peek can inspire improvements on your end.

6. Stay Competitive

The online marketplace is fluid. Spy on competitors’ ads regularly to ensure you remain at the forefront. Then adjust your ad strategies based on new entrants or shifts in competitor tactics.

Also Read: How Does PPC Work?

Important Google Ads Metrics to Watch & How to Measure Success

Google Ads dashboards provide a ton of information to better understand what’s happening with your ads. When it comes to the lens of competitor analysis, here are the most important Google Ads metrics to watch:

  • Google Ads Impression Share
  • Top of Page Rate in Google Ads
  • Absolute Top Impression Share in Google Ads (Search abs. top IS)
  • Position above Rate in Google Ads

What is impression share in Google Ads?

Impression share (IS) is a metric in Google Ads that indicates the percentage of impressions your ads have received compared to the total number of impressions they were eligible to receive. It provides insights into how often your ad shows out of the total available opportunities seen.

Impression share is an excellent way to understand if your ads could potentially reach more people if you increase your bids, improve your quality scores, or both.

You’ll also see where you rank in impression share versus competitors in similar ad auctions.

To increase impression share, pay attention to:

  • Optimization/quality scores
  • Budget/bid
  • Targeting

What is top of page rate in Google Ads?

Top of page rate is a Google Ads metric that shows how often your ad appeared at the top of the paid search rankings. It helps advertisers understand how often their ad displays in a prominent position, above the organic listings.

What is search absolute top impression share?

Search absolute top impression share (Search abs. top IS) in Google Ads is the percentage of ad impressions appearing in the first position above all ads on the search results page. It gauges an ad’s visibility at the highest spot.

What is position above rate in Google Ads?

Position above rate is how often a competitor ad showed in a higher position than yours when you both appeared within search results. This metric helps gain insights into how your ad performs compared to your competitors and identify areas for improvement.

However, position above rate is not an ideal metric to set bids, as higher bids may allow you to enter more competitive auctions in a worse location.

3 Top Google Ads Spy Tools (We Recommend)

Having the right ads spy tools is your secret weapon. But with so many tools available, which ones truly deliver?

Don’t fret; we’ve done the legwork for you. Equip yourself with any of these competitor analysis tools, and start strategizing with confidence.

1. SEMRush

SEMRush offers a whole dashboard of additional reports specifically for PPC monitoring. This is a platform to easily spend hours in – including reports that show traffic based on source, keyword estimates, and competitive map positioning.

If you’ve got some money in your budget, a SEMRush plan is a great tool for deeper planning and analysis.

2. Ahrefs

Similarly, Ahrefs is a great tool to dive into keyword estimates and traffic. This suite of tools gives great insight into keywords that are trending.

For example, you can enter competitors’ URLs to get a breakdown of estimated keywords they are bidding on, their average ranking, and the landing pages they are using for those keywords.

3. Wappalyzer

This super handy plugin gives you quick insights into what competitors are tracking on their sites. It’s one of the first tools we use when peeking into competitors.

Simply click the Wappalyzer plugin once viewing a website, and it will give you a quick rundown of active apps and plugins within their script.

Get Ahead of Your Competition

Staying on top of competitors and ever-changing Google interfaces is a daunting yet crucial task for winning Google Ads strategies.

But, why start from scratch when you can spy on competitors’ Google Ads? Competitor ads analysis helps you quickly identify what’s already working and makes it easier to optimize your approach.

Don’t have the time to constantly keep all these tabs open while maintaining the rest of your business? No worries – regular Google Ads competitor analysis is something we love here at Gravitate. We do the deep dives so you don’t have to.

Gain customers, boost revenue, and grow your business with Gravitate. Ready to accelerate your business growth?

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