How to Spy on a Competitor’s Display Ads

Spying on competitors may not be fun but it’s important.  Whether you’re doing SEO, PPC or just looking to see how you fair against them it’s always good to have an eye on the “other guys”.

There are a few tools out there that allow you to check out your competitor’s SEO stats but not too many made specifically for PPC and even less for PPC’s mysterious Content Network. After developing my own snoop routine I’d like to share how to spy on my competitor’s PPC campaigns, in particular how I spy on their display ads in the Content Network.

SpyFu has done a really good job on giving you insider info on what your competitors are doing on the search network, ads, keywords and their position but when it comes the display network Spyfu falls flat. I’ve contacted their customer service asking them if they had any plans to provide display network information and their response wasn’t encouraging.

There are a few businesses that say they provide display network info on your competitors but none of the ones that I found are really worth mentioning. So after some creative thinking I’ve found two helpful ways to find out where your competitors are displaying and what their ads look out.

The first thing that I do to go to Open Site Explorer

Open Site Explorer is a free tool that SEOMoz created to allow users to run link reports on any website in their index. It’s free and really easy to use so when I want to check where a competitor may be advertising I’ll run a report but filter out anything that’s not a no-follow link. No follow links are the standard for advertizing so by only looking at no follow links I can quickly go down a list of sites that they most likely advertise on.

Note:Open Site Explorer has limited amounts of information they have on each website. Using this method also won’t guarantee that you’ll get all of the information that you need but having this kind of link report can get you started.

The second thing that I do is use a competitors remarketing campaign against them.

It’s a bit dubious but I found that using a competitors remarketing campaign allows me to see the variety of image ads that they are running without putting a lot of effort to see them. Simply visit the competitor’s site and if they are running a remarketing campaign their ads will follow you around the Internet. This allows you to see the different ads they are running so you can take screen to save their image ads.

Note: This isn’t really the nicest way to go about spying and remarketing is really new so not a lot of companies have started using it yet but I’ve had a ton of success with this.

These tactics aren’t very ground breaking but in the SEM world where I found these much easier and more effective than just looking at Spyfu and ignoring display ads, especially since they’ve been gaining more ground.

If anyone has a favorite way they spy on competitors PPC ads I’d love to hear them!

  • Melissa

    There’s a bunch of tools you can use. MixRank is my favorite

    • staceyclermont

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check it out.

  • Melissa

    There’s a free version. Definitely better than Spyfu – Spyfu is mainly just good for estimate ad spend. But, it’s only an estimate, making it skewed since you will never know the QS of your competitors’ ads.