Adapting to Your PPC Competition – Simbound Part 4

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Let’s face it, competition sucks. Wouldn’t it be nice to just have your ad only be displayed for a keyword? Instead, our ad usually becomes just another one in a group of ads all vying for a click on the page.

In Simbound, I’ve had the luxury of only competing against 2 other human players. My two colleagues, Troy and Jemar. Together, we’ve been battling it out for the past three weeks in the Simbound virtual markets. As we become more and more competent in creating and optimizing campaign, the competition for valuable keywords has become fierce!

From bidding wars to boost our ads to the first position, to copying competitor ad copies and running split tests, there have been many interesting strategies employed by all of us in order to get the ahead.

Do Your Research

Before I start any new campaign, I always look at the keywords that I will be specifically targeting. I simply type the keywords into the search engine, and see what ads show up. This gives me a quick overview on the level of competition for this keyword. What are they promoting for this keyword?  How does it compare to my ads?

I also get to have a much better picture on what my competitors are targetting overall. Are they focusing more on the US market? Are they targetting only a few select brands? Why?

Dissect The Competition’s Ads

The next step I do is dissecting the ads my competitors are using. I can say with good reason that after four weeks of running ad campaigns, my competitor’s ad copies are probably tried and tested. They have all probably gone through a fair amount of A/B split tests and if I consistently see them sticking with a particular Ad headline or CTA, it must be working well for them.

So, what I like to do is to take apart my competitor’s ad copies and use them as A/B split test material, with my ads acting as the control group and the test group being a slight variation using a part of my competitor’s ads. It’s a great and easy way to bring fresh ideas to your ad copies and boost your CTR.

Keyword Research
A quick check on Sony tablets shows that it’s quite the competitive keyword.

Account For Quality Score And Bids

In Simbound, your ad was ranked based on a simple formula of quality score x set bid. Obviously it would be much beneficial to have a great quality score, so you’ll be able to save more money while still ranking higher above the competition. However it turned out that between the three of us, our quality scores remained near the same levels. This meant that the key differential factor was what you set your bid too.

This meant that literally, you could “pay” for that crucial first place rank if you wanted to for any given ad. Of course, that wasn’t always the optimal strategy since a high bid price means a higher cost per conversion. And so there was always these small “bidding wars” going around on the valuable keywords, where everyone would try to play chicken on how high they actually wanted to set their bid on. I found that sometimes even if it was a very valuable keyword (high volume and great conversion rate), the added costs of competition made it less attractive and there were many instances were I pulled out my ad or severely decreased it’s budget.

Week 4

I entered this week just a couple hundred dollars behind the first place spot. Hopes were high for this week to be the one where I finally take the lead.

I spent most of time just optimizing my campaign, and did not make any significant changes. Most of it consisted of analyzing past results, seeing who the top performers were and trying to allocate more budget to them. I put some more research in and added a handful of new keywords into the campaign that showed a lot of promise (high volume, none of my competitors were in on it, low CPC).


SimboundResultsSuccess! I’m now ranked one in profits.  Overall, I owe my success to the huge conversions coming from a few key ads along with substantial amount coming from a handful of smaller ads. I think the key came from all of the ads having a great cost per conversion rate, which helped stretch my budget for far more than my other competitors.

Also, if you’d like to read more about me learning PPC by playing Simbound, here are the first three posts in the series:

Part 1-How I’m Learning PPC Strategy
Part 2-How To Make A Killer PPC Landing Page
Part 3-The 80/20 Rule in PPC

What are some other ways to adapt and beat your PPC competition? Let me know in the comments!