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27 Nov 2023

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A guide to auction insight analysis
Part 3: Final tips and tricks

Now we’ve looked at accessing the data and analysing the output, our final post in our three-part guide to auction insight analysis will run through some tips and tricks to keep in mind when working with auction insights data.

Auction insight analysis: Tips and Tricks

Always keep in mind changes in your account that might impact your performance in the auction, to help avoid erroneous findings.

This could be, for example, a Target Return on Ad Spend (tROAS) change resulting in a drop in ad rank that opens the gate to competitors. Rather than competitors becoming more aggressive, you have become less competitive.

You can quickly check this by cross-referencing the change history tab with your analysis dates. Reviewing the full range performance metrics alongside your auction data also helps provide context. Keep in mind the total impressions you’re seeing, your Cost Per Click (CPC) etc.

Lastly, don’t forget to consider the impact of external factors such as holidays or events on competitor behaviour (obvious ones include Black Friday or Christmas, but also be concious of vertical specific events like university clearing or half term).

Don’t forget that Google provides a device segment. This can help spot where a competitor’s strategy involves focusing on a specific device.

This insight will lean heavily into competitor research as a next step. If you discover a competitor opting out of desktop and focusing on mobile, look into why that might be.

Please note, if you include device split in an export for Sheets or Excel, the metrics provided will be a percentage specific to each device. Combining them to work out an average or total will not, therefore, represent the average across all devices, and any calculation will be inaccurate.

Auction insights only gives you data for auctions where your ads were eligible to be displayed, not an absolute total.

Your best bet for an accurate view are campaigns without budget caps (or keywords in these campaigns) and a competitive impression share across the day, otherwise you may just be looking at a slice of the landscape:

The below charts highlight this pitfall – this particular campaign was hit by a delivery issue that resulted in very few impressions being served at the start of the month. We can see once resolved, we started to get an accurate view of the competitive landscape:

Be conscious of the data thresholds in place for URL domains to appear in the report.

While you may see a smaller competitor over the last seven days, they may disappear when looking at the same view over the last 30 days.

This is particularly important for analysis over longer time frames – looking at a 6-12 month period may mean you miss out on a new competitor who has only just entered the auction but is making serious waves.

In the same vein, you may see more competitors in the auction when looking at ad group level vs. campaign level.

Across your Impression Share, valid values range from <10% through to 100%

<10% is difficult range to work with as there is no way of knowing if this competitor is at 1.9% or 9.9% impression share. Keep in mind if working in Sheets or Excel, this will impact your sorting as <10% will be recognised as a text value rather than a number (see example below using TYPE formula).

No detail is provided on how a competitor entered the auction, just that they were present.

With an increased use of broad match across accounts, those who appear to be running competitor campaigns on your brand could be matched via generic keywords, rather than an intentional move to target your brand.

If you want some additional detail, you may be able to get this from their landing page query string if campaign names are exposed through human-readable parameters, such as UTMs:

https://www.mycompetitordomain.com/landing-page?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=competitor

Auction insights can be used to support analysis through third party competitor research tools, such as SEMRush or Adthena.

Auction insights data is inherently more reliable as it is backend data Google is sharing with advertisers, the main drawback is the limited scope of what we can access.

Try using auction insights to inform what competitors you should be looking at (for example, those who appear in the aggressive segment in your competitive matrix discussed in part two), and take those domains into these third-party tools to get a broader (but less accurate) view of their tactics.

You may see some URL abbreviations, especially if special characters are used in a URL.

By default, your domain will come through as You under the display URL domain column. For example, my-test.com would come through as test.com.

Lastly, use tools such Google Ad Transparency Center to bring your competitor analysis to life.

It’s a great way to quick get sight on the range of messaging a competitor is using, and it’s completely free to use.

Get analysing

And that’s it for this three part series. Hopefully this has been helpful in providing some structure when getting started with auction insights analysis. Please get in touch if you have any questions.