How To Research Your Competitors' PPC Advertising Campaigns

In my post for Tuesday’s Yankee Blog Swap, I wrote about adopting a new marketing paradigm that pairs your offline marketing efforts with keywords you can own through online search.

Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising through programs like Google’s AdWords or Yahoo! Search Marketing (see Panama Makes It Easy To Yahdvertise) can be a very effective way to quickly get yourself a presence in search results. But, the process of choosing which keywords to bid on can be a little overwhelming, especially to first-time advertisers.

Researching what keywords your competitors are buying can be a great way to jump start the process. I’ve looked at Spyfu (See Searching Real Estate PPC Advertising) in the past and today Rebecca at SEOmoz highlights another site, KeyCompete that can also help you do this.

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KeyCompete lets you search either by domain or by keyword. So you can see what keywords a particular site is bidding on or alternatively you can see what sites are bidding on a particular set of keywords. It returns the top 5 results for free, while extended reports are available for purchase.

The results can be quite revealing.

I purchased the full report on the term “real estate” and it was interesting to see who was bidding on those keywords. Predictably, Internet players like move.com, RealEstate.com and RealtyTrac were all there, as was online discounter BuySide Realty. I was a little surprised to see traditional brokers like Sotheby’s and RE/MAX, but hey, good on ’em.

How about the Real Estate 2.0 Big Three, how are they fairing with their AdWords buys? KeyCompete shows what they are buying and gives them a rating based on their visibility for that keyword (on the site results this is represented by a color bar).

Zillow.com AdWords Search

1. om zillow (KeyCompete Rating: 74.13)
2. real estate bubble (KeyCompete Rating: 60.40)
3. appraisal home zillow (KeyCompete Rating: 51.00)
4. groove radio zilo (KeyCompete Rating: 51.00)
5. map zillow (KeyCompete Rating: 51.00)

Zillow seems to be all over the place. I’d bet it’s because Zillow likely has strong enough organic search results in their keywords that they don’t run much of an AdWords campaign. It’s also possible, that KeyCompete’s data is just horribly inaccurate with this domain.

Redfin.com AdWords Search

1. mls fremont california (KeyCompete Rating: 74.25)
2. san francisco mls (KeyCompete Rating: 70.96)
3. realty seattle wa (KeyCompete Rating: 69.21)
4. redmond real estate (KeyCompete Rating: 60.19)
5. seattle washington realty (KeyCompete Rating: 58.8)

Redfin’s results seem more on target and they appear to be much more geographically focused with their buys. Unfortunately their visibility suffers a little, presumably because they are bidding on some tough keywords.

Trulia.com AdWords Search

1. alligator fl point (KeyCompete Rating: 76.00)
2. alligator point fl (KeyCompete Rating: 76.00)
3. amherst townhouses (KeyCompete Rating: 76.00)
4. az higley (KeyCompete Rating: 76.00)
5. bloomfield michigan (KeyCompete Rating: 76.00)

Of the three, Trulia seems to be pulling of the most consistent results and shows the real value in conducting a successful Long Tail Keyword Strategy. They are buying very specific, very targeted keywords and getting great visibility as a result.

The bottom line is; if you’re on a limited budget, rather than scrap it out for the top level keywords, a Long Tail approach is much more effective.

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To help you better buy your Long Tail keywords, KeyCompete has a sister site at Long Tail Adwords, which allows you to punch in your domain (or a competitor’s) and have it suggest a series of complimentary keywords you might consider buying.

A cautionary reminder with all of this though. Remember that KeyCompete’s data might very well be incomplete and/or totally inaccurate. But I still think it’s reasonably priced – less than $20 for a full-day pass to do all the research you want – and it does provide an interesting place to start to develop your PPC campaign.