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Use Auction Insights to Master the Competitive Landscape

Published: September 30, 2015

Author: Caitlin Halpert

Understanding the competitive landscape and how its changes impact your results is an important piece of paid search account management. Reviewing AdWords Auction Insights at regular intervals – and whenever you’re seeing shifts in CPC or impression share – will help you stay on top of the auction dynamics in your space.

Where to Find Auction Insights

First things first, the Auction Insights report is available in the Campaign, Ad groups, and Keywords tab of AdWords under the Details drop-down.
You can select your entire account or review specific portions to drill down in more detail.
Within the report, you’ll see a list of all the websites bidding on any subset of your target keywords. For each of these advertisers, you can see details on impression share, average position, overlap rate, position above rate, top of page rate, and outranking share. It’s important to remember that all of these metrics are for your keyword set; you will not have any insight into what those advertisers are doing on keywords that do not overlap with yours.

How to Use Auction Insights

Pulling this report for the last 1-3 months is pretty common, but what can you actually learn from this report? Honestly, not too much. That current state of the auction doesn’t matter as much as how it’s changing. Changes to auction dynamics, not the status quo, will impact your results and efficiency.
Given the importance of change, I always segment the report by week or month, depending on the level of data, and export it to Excel. Since we’re trying to review trends, pulling the data into Excel graphs will help you understand the changing landscape. I avoid static competitor graphs like the one found below.
Use a trend line instead. You can show how the number of advertisers in the auction has changed over time:
Or you can show how the top competitors’ impression share has changed over time:
You can then layer in your CPCs to see how your costs have been directly impacted by competitor changes:

Tips & Tricks

A few additional notes when using the Auction Insights report:

-Percent of impressions matters. AdWords will tell you what percent of total impressions across how many keywords was used to generate the report. Keep an eye out for low percentages – that means the report is less likely to depict the overall picture

-Brand and non-brand should be reviewed separately. At the very least, segment your Auction Insights review to brand vs. non-brand. High impression volume keywords can drown out low-volume competitors that are only overlapping with a set of your keywords. It’s especially important to keep up with what advertisers are present on your brand terms.

Now you know how to visualize the data, but what can we infer about competitor advertising from the changes we see in Auction Insights? By reviewing how multiple metrics change over time, we can make a pretty good guess at what an advertiser is doing. Here are a few examples: If the competitor’s impression share skyrocketed and their average position dropped significantly, they likely lowered bids but maintained their budget. If the competitor’s average position improved but impression share was flat, they are likely spending more money and bidding higher so we would expect to see our CPCs rise as well.
The Auction Insight report is easy to overlook, but it holds valuable insights into competitor behavior to help you understand the competitive landscape.

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