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What is ‘Auction Insights’?

For those of you who have not used Auction Insights before, you can find it within the Google Adwords interface under the keywords tab by clicking on ‘Details’:

AdWords’ Auction InsightsGoogle’s Auction Insights basically allows you to see how your keywords are performing in relation to other pay per click (PPC) advertisers. It highlights a range of performance statistics between you and your competitors.

What’s changed with Auction Insights?

The data available through Auction Insights remains the same in terms of what you can find out about your competitors; however the way you can now do this has changed. Previously you could only do this one keyword at a time which made it hard to see the bigger picture and led to a very time consuming competitor analysis – it also goes someway to explaining why many advertisers were either not aware of this tool or chose not to use it.

With Google’s new updates the tool now becomes much more user friendly and informative. You can now run an Auction Insights report in three different ways:

1) Keywords – You can still run the report for individual keywords but you can now also filter out particular keywords and run it for a group of selected keywords. This could be particularly useful if you wanted to know the performance of all keywords featuring a brand term for example.

2) Ad Groups – Assuming your Ad Groups are tightly themed and house-relevant keywords, you can benefit by running the report at ad group level for all associated keywords. You can even select multiple ad groups from different campaigns if you have reason to do so.

3) Campaigns – Finally you can run the report for all keywords within a particular campaign or group of campaigns. When you want to gain insight into the competitive landscape at a higher level this method is particularly useful to identify your major competitors.

AdWords’ Auction Insights

What does all the data mean?

The data Google provides you with includes a display URL, impression share, average ad position, overlap rate, position above rate and top of page rate. At first all of these percentages may seem a bit confusing so I will explain these terms in more detail:

Display URL domain : This is self-explanatory but it is worth pointing out this URL is likely to differ from the actual display URLs your competitors are using as they may be optimising with’keyword’ for example to improve ad rank.

Impression share: This represents the percentage of ad impressions you and your competitors received in proportion to all of the impressions you were eligible to receive. A competitor scoring close to 100% will have good coverage whereas those with shares closer to 0% are less likely to pose a threat.

Average position: This is the average ad position you and your competitors achieved in all the ad listings you received impressions for.

Overlap rate: This percentage represents how often a competitor received an ad impression in the same auction that you received an ad impression. You can identify the key competitors that are bidding on similar terms at similar times of the day with this metric – they will be the ones closest to 100%.

Position above rate: This shows the percentage of times that each competitor’s ad appeared above yours. Bear in mind this only relates to times when both yours and their ads appeared in the search results. Ideally, you would want to see all competitors with 0% in this column, although it’s highly unlikely!

Top of page rate: This shows the percentage of times when you and your competitors received an impression that was positioned in the top three. This metric can help you identify who is dominating the top positions.

AdWords’ Auction Insights

How can I use the data to fight off my competitors?

Now that you are armed with all of this data you may be wondering what to do with it! I have listed a few ways how you can draw information from the data and use it to your benefit to fight off the competition: Here are my pro tips

Pro tip 1: Identify the major competitors that have a high ‘position above rate’, however if they are large companies likely to have big budgets that you cannot compete with, instead of increasing bids, consider analysing their ad copy, their promotions, calls to action and landing pages. There may be gaps in their offering that you can seize upon.

Pro tip 2: You may start to notice a particular advertiser cropping up for a certain set of terms or product area but not in others that you advertise for. This may suggest the competitor is putting more effort into this area and aggressively bidding on such keywords. You can try and combat this through testing new ad copy with standout promotions or boasting key differentiating factors between you and the competitors offering to try and win the user’s click.

Pro tip 3: Try to identify which competitors have high budgets and which have limited budgets. You can do this by looking at impression share and average position, if the competitor has a high position but a low impression share it suggests they may be using ‘accelerated’ ad delivery and running out of budget early on. You could consider using ‘increased bid adjustments’ early on in the day to try and claim their space if you really want to fight off one competitor in particular.

Pro tip 4: If you are testing new keywords you aren’t sure about, review Auction Insights and see who else is bidding on them. If the competitors listed are unheard of in comparison to the competitors you usually see on your Auction Insights reports it may signal that these keywords are not profitable. Alternatively, you may have found an untapped market but be sure to monitor its performance, there may be a reason others aren’t bidding in it!

Pro tip 5: If you bid on competitors’ brand names you can use Auction Insights to find additional competitors to bid on and potentially steer traffic away from.

Pro tip 6: If Auction Insights identifies your competitors as having a high ‘overlap’ and ‘position above’ rate compared to you for brand terms it would be worth raising bids in these areas as they are key terms that you should be dominating in. Reviewing brand activity this way is also a more accurate way of finding out who has been bidding on your brand terms as doing manual checks could miss a competitor bidding through the night for example.

Pro tip 7: You can use Auction Insights to identify if you are bidding too much in certain areas. If you notice your impression share is low but you’re still achieving a
high po
sition, it may indicate there is room to reduce your bids without damaging your ad position. This would then allow for more clicks and potentially more conversions within the same budget.

Pro tip 8: If you have time to run the Auction Insight report for different time periods, say the first 5 days of the month, last 5 days and each week in between you can then use a pivot table in Microsoft Excel to identify if certain competitors’ impression share falls or drops off completely towards the end of the month. This would signal they are not managing their budgets effectively and bearing this in mind, you could save some of your budget to bid more aggressively towards the end of the month and benefit from their missed traffic.

In summary, the new features of the Auction Insights tool certainly makes it more useable and pulling useful competitor data is now far quicker. What you do with this data is key and if you make the most of it using some of the tips above it can undoubtedly help you to fend off the competition and compete more aggressively. Good luck!


Over time, Google has continued to make more data available to help advertisers get smarter about their business. I think this is one of the best attempts yet, with so much direct data where competitors are identified by name.

With this data, you can really help benchmark your own performance. The one warning I would give to everyone, however, is to not overreact based on your competitors.  You can’t manage your business purely based on what someone else is doing.

However, having a reference point for what is happening around you can only help to make you a smarter paid search marketer.

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