award play watch

Lesson 10: How to Dissect Your Competitors’ Paid Traffic

Imagine how useful it would be to know what your competitors are doing to attract paid traffic, to quickly and easily uncover:

  • What keywords they’re bidding on
  • The landing pages they send traffic to
  • The actual copy they use in their search ads

With Ahrefs, you can gather all this information in roughly a minute.

Why care about paid search traffic?

If you know whether your competitors are doing paid search advertising and how they’re doing it, it can help you in a number of ways.

  1. They might be paying for the keywords you rank for at the top of the SERPs. If so, they’re essentially "stealing" search traffic from you, since paid ads display above the organic search results and, thus, attract a fair share of clicks.
    Even when searching Ahrefs’ site directly, I find competitor ads at the top of the results.
  2. If your competitors are investing in paid traffic, they’re likely getting a good ROI on it. After all, it doesn't make sense to pay for traffic that doesn't convert into customers and sales. So you can assume the keywords your competitors are paying for have a high conversion rate and, therefore, good monetary value.
  3. They might be running some "secret" promotions that you wouldn't otherwise know about without "spying" on their paid search ads. The more intel you have, the easier it is to come up with your own winning strategy!

The bottom line is this: even if you're not planning to invest money in paid search ads, it still makes sense to investigate what your competitors are doing.

Your secret weapon: the "Paid search" reports in Ahrefs

You can see exactly what your competitors are doing and gather all the information you need by reviewing a collection of reports in the Paid search section of Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. (To find them, look near the bottom of the reports menu in the sidebar.)

Use the “Paid Search” reports to dissect your competitors’ paid traffic.

Here's what you'll get from each of these reports:

PPC keywords. Get a list of all the keywords we see your competitor using in paid search ads. (PPC = “pay per click” which refers to paid search advertising.)

From this report, you can get an idea of how many keywords they’re bidding on and what kind of budget they’re allocating for paid search advertising.

Ads. See the actual ads we see your competitor using in the search results.

This is very useful if you're struggling to come up with good copy for your own ads. You can simply use their ads as your starting point and improve on them.

Landing pages. See all the pages your competitor sends their ad traffic to.

Most marketers experiment with landing pages to see if they can squeeze better conversion rates from them. They run all sorts of A/B tests on their landing pages and experiment with copy. So if you're looking to create some effective landing pages for your own website, reviewing the landing pages your competitors are sending paid traffic to is a good place to start.

Which report should you use? Well, they give you pretty much the same information, just organized differently. Use the ones that focus on the information you need. Most likely, you’ll use them all together. That’s the best way to get deep insights into your competitors’ paid advertising strategies and patterns—which will give you great ideas for your own marketing.

Further reading:

For more information about using PPC to improve your SEO, read this article from our blog: SEO vs. PPC: Why Not Both?

Step 1: Check out their paid keywords

Type a competitor’s URL into Site Explorer and open the PPC keywords report.

In this report, the keywords are ranked according to the amount of traffic they pull. You’ll also see the URL to that keyword’s landing page.

The “PPC keywords” report gives you details about the keywords a site is bidding on.

Your goal is to find the keywords your competitor is bidding on. As mentioned above, if they’re paying for these keywords, it’s likely because they bring in customers, so you can use this list to generate your own list of keywords.

Now you

  1. Enter a competitor’s URL into Site Explorer.
  2. Open the PPC keywords report.
  3. Identify the keywords that are driving the most traffic for them.
  4. Add these terms to your own list of keywords.

Step 2: Find your competitor’s top-performing landing pages

Now open the Top landing pages report. You’ll get a list of your competitor’s top landing pages, sorted by the amount of paid traffic that page gets.

See your competitor’s top-performing landing pages in the “Top Landing Pages” report.

Click the “Keywords” button to see the keywords they’re using to drive traffic to that landing page.

Click “Keywords” to see the keywords they’re bidding on.

Then click “Ads” to see the actual ads they’re running, sorted by the traffic they drive. The URL in the ad will take you to that ad’s landing page. This lets you easily dissect their strategy for both their landing pages and ads.

Click “Ads” to see the ad copy they’re using and a link to their landing pages.

Now you

  1. Open the Top landing pages report.
  2. Review your competitor’s best landing pages, the ad they’re using to drive traffic to that page, and the keywords they’re bidding on for that ad.

Step 3: Dissect their strategy

When researching a competitor’s PPC strategy, you want to evaluate:

  • The exact landing pages your competitors use to drive traffic from paid Google ads
  • The keywords they’re using
  • The actual ad copy

So if you decide you don’t want to wait for a page to rank organically for your keyword and, instead, test paid traffic, you can adopt a similar strategy and piggyback on their best landing pages, keywords, and even the ad copy they use.

That’s going to give you a huge headstart to effectively compete with them in paid search results.

But if you only want to use this information to improve your SEO, by all means, do that as well. If your competitors are paying for the keyword, it likely generates traffic (and conversions) and is worth trying to rank for.

Now you

  1. Evaluate your competitor’s landing page to see what content it includes, the messaging, etc.
  2. Take note of the keywords they’re focusing on. Are you optimizing for that keyword?
  3. Review the ad copy to see what people are clicking on. Use this as a starting point for your own ad, or use it to optimize your own content and meta-descriptions.

More intel = better strategy

Whether you’re trying to optimize your organic search results (knowing your competitors are paying to siphon off some of your traffic) or trying to win paid traffic right out of the starting gate, it helps to study what your competition is doing before you start.

The more you know about what your competitors are doing to rank well and draw tons of traffic to their site, the more strategic you can be with your own SEO and PPC.

So make paid traffic research part of your planning process. And enjoy the head start it gives you with your campaigns.

Further reading

Learn more about how to do competitive research by reading our article:
How To Carry Out A Detailed Competitive Analysis (With Only 2 Tools)