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Top 6 tools to spy on your PPC competitors

Top 6 tools to spy on your PPC competitors

If you are anything like me, you have imagined yourself living the spy life at some point. Dressed like James Bond in a sharp tuxedo and sipping Martinis whilst surrounded by super villains, the most beautiful women in the world and coolest gadgets you could possibly imagine. But alas, for most of us this has and never will become a reality, so we have to settle for the next best thing…being a PPC ninja.

But what if I told you that your dreams of being a super spy could be realised whilst developing your skills in the pay per click marketing space? I bet I have your attention now, right? As with most spying these days, this type of espionage happens purely online, but does use some super cool gadgets (software) to collect information that will help your business grow.

Also known as competitor analysis (not quite as sexy sounding as ‘spying’) in this article we will give you a rundown of the best tools and tricks out there to help you find out what your competitors are up to, what is working for them and their general position of strength in regards to their PPC strategy and success.

With this type of spying there is no need to dust off your passport, spend thousands on a fancy watch or to wear a tuxedo…although you are welcome to do all of these if you really want.

Google it 

Let’s kick this off with the very obvious. Simply using Google search will give you a wealth of information on which companies are competing for the keywords which you are interested in or are already pursuing. Simply by systematically typing in your preferred keywords into Google you will get a good sense of those that are competing for those terms as well as those businesses that are being most successful in their bidding strategies.

In cases where your keywords are returning little in the way of paid results then it is worth doing further research on them to ensure that they are commercially viable. Your competitors may be avoiding these terms for a reason, or they may be a hidden gem that is worth perusing.

Google AdWords 

Next up on the list is another fairly obvious place to look for information on PPC marketing – the Google AdWords platform.


However, many users do not actually realise that they can find a good level of data on your competitors straight through the AdWords platform for no extra cost at all. It is recommended that you always use this go to tool to start with as there is no need to spend additional and unrequired budget on a tool if you can find all that information for free in one place.

The most useful tool on AdWords for assessing your competition is a feature called Auction Insights.  You can use this tool by simply logging into your Google AdWords account, selecting either Campaigns, Ad Groups or Keywords depending on which level you want to find information on your competitors. You can then select the Details box at the top of the statistics table and that will give you the option to select Auction Insights – click this and you will be taken to your report. The report will show you a range of information on your top competitors including their impression share, overlap rate, position above rate, average position, outranking share and top of page rate.

This information will let you asses their position in relation to yours and make decisions based on your findings. This will allow you to increase your ranking with those particular keywords or reassess and pursue a different strategy altogether.


This tool is one of the greatest weapons in your PPC spy arsenal and well worth the investment to help you to keep an eye on your PPC competitors. This particular platform lets you do a lot in one place including undertaking keyword research, competitor research, site audit and backlink analysis.

In terms of ‘spying’, SEMrush lets you look at some very specific information about your competitors. By typing in your competitors website URL into their search bar it will return results based on the organic, advertising, PLA, Display Ad research and backlinks. In addition to this by selecting ‘positions’ under Organic Research will allow you to see which keywords your competitors are ranking for organically.

By understanding these key pieces of information you will be able to better understand your position in relation to theirs, therefore allowing you to make intelligent decisions on your overarching PPC strategy moving forwards.


Probably the best named tool on our list for budding PPC spy masters. But it doesn’t make the list purely based on its awesome name, but because of the great features that let you gather a lot of intel about your competitors. iSpionage claim to be the number one AdWords spy tool and this is not a title they give themselves lightly.

By typing your competitors URL into their search engine they give you vast amount of information both on their paid and organic positioning on search engines results. This includes details on their tops performing PPC keywords, which you can use to understand how best to tap into some of their success. The report will also allow you to see how much budget your competitors are spending on AdWords on a monthly basis allowing you to align your budget or expectations accordingly.

The information that iSpionage provides goes beyond simple data on which keywords competitors are using and their performance. They also help you leverage those terms better to your advantage by providing the text that is being used for competitors most successful ads. This useful info allows you to draw their best ideas into your own copywriting strategy. It also lets you uncover their landing pages for each of their ads, meaning you can build a good idea of the customer journey they are using and adopt the best parts. 


Another close contender for the best spy-related name on the list is SpyFu. This tools gives you loads of great insight into your competitors  PPC campaigns and use their advertising history to help you separate their strongest ads from those that haven’t performed so well.

At a top level the tool lets you discover your competitors top keyword groups and see how much they are spending on their AdWords campaigns. However there are two really smart tools that make SpyFu a worthy addition to this list. First up is the fact that it lets you see competitors campaign history including images of the PPC ads, so you can see exactly what has worked best for them and ‘borrow’ the best bits to make your campaigns work better. Secondly, it offers a neat little function that shows you a graphical representation of where your keywords overlap with those of competitor websites. This is useful for understanding your competitive position within the market and how you may be able to improve it based on your findings. 



Last but not least is a tool that we fully recommend adding to your PPC spy toolkit, Serpstat. The reason we love this tool so much is because of the fact that it gives you the ability to combine real time keyword trends with competitor PPC analysis. This allows you to gain a competitive advantage over those other businesses that operate in your specialist area by understanding the current competitive PPC landscape and jump onto keywords that are growing in popularity in those spaces, benefiting from them before your competitors even realise they are there.

This platform also lets you take competitor research one step forward by provide a cool keyword map that lets you discover what position key terms take on what pages across the web.

In this guide we have walked you through six of the best tools out there for undertaking smart espionage on your competitors pay per click campaigns. These platforms have ranged from the very basic utilisation of Google search to see which ads are being returned for your top keywords right through to really smart tools such as SEMrush, iSpionage, SpyFu and Serpstat that can give you a deep and thorough understanding of competitors PPC strategies. These platforms can also tell you exactly how your strategy fits into the wider competitive landscape and even provide you with insight into the best ways to write your ads and gear your landing pages to out class the competition. If you want to take PPC seriously and get out ahead of those you are competing against then these tools are an indispensable addition to your toolbox.

So brush off your tuxedo, shake yourself a martini and start the engine of your Aston Martin, everything you have read in this guide has positioned you perfectly to take on the role of a PPC master spy.

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Peter Johnson
Peter is a Google AdWords specialist, with associated skills in Bing Ads, Twitter Ads and Facebook Advertising.