Using AdWords Auction Insights To Find Out Who’s Winning On Mobile


In an auction-based ecosystem, it’s only natural to think about the competition.  They’re the ones that play a big part in determining what the auction looks like for you and your keywords.

Luckily, there are lots of ways to learn about your competition in paid search — the important step is turning those lessons into something actionable in your account.

Since the Auction Insights report was released in 2012, you’ve had the ability to see what’s going on with competitors that are appearing in the same auctions as your ads.

Auction Insights is an underused report, in my opinion, especially considering how helpful it can be when it comes time to optimize.

Today, I want to focus on something specific that you can learn about how your competitors are doing when it comes to mobile advertising. With how things are trending, if you’re ahead on mobile then the future is bright for you. And if you’re falling behind, you’ll know what you need to work on to get back into good position.

Reminders About Auction Insights

Before we dive into today’s analysis — just a few reminders about Auction Insights.


  • You can run this report at the keyword, ad group or campaign level (and run it across groups of those, as well).
  • Auction Insights covers Google search only (i.e., search partner data isn’t included).
  • This data reflects performance across the auctions that you appear in. Other advertisers don’t need to be using the same keywords or match types — they just need to be eligible for that same auction.
  • Google isn’t giving you guys anything that wouldn’t be publicly available. You’ll just see how often and where someone else is appearing.

It’s a great report. Detailed reconnaissance with just a couple of clicks. So, what to do with that reconnaissance?

Comparing Top Of Page Rate Across Devices

Auction Insights got even better earlier this year when the ability to segment by time and device was added.Auction insights full screen

And since search result pages on mobile have much less real estate than those on desktop/tablet, it’s imperative that you appear on top of the results for your crucial keywords. So how are you doing at winning the top of the page? And how are you competitors doing at that very same task?

Download your segmented data into a spreadsheet and manipulate it so that you can make it into a nice chart. You have a couple of options to turn your downloaded sheet into a more chart-friendly version:

  • Use either VLOOKUP or a quick IF function to get Computers/Mobile/Tablet into columns on the same row to align with display URLs.
  • Use a pivot table with your domains as the row, device as your column and top of page rate as your value. (Be sure to omit the “Grand Total” column when making a chart off of this data.)

The end result of this analysis is going to be a chart. I’ve always found that charts are much more convincing than hard numbers (at least when they’re part of a presentation).

If you just want this for your own analysis you might be able to stop at the raw numbers; but, if you’re going to be sending this to anyone else, be it a client or a boss, you really should turn it into a more visually appealing form.

This is getting close to ready, but it’s still pretty busy. I’d recommend filtering out a lot of the noise from this report to make the actionable stuff that much clearer.

Focus on advertisers with a high top-of-page rate on a device, and also include any advertisers that you or your bosses have a particular interest in. Focus the takeaways for your audience.

Of the biggest competitors here, four have turned mobile off entirely (it’s not just that they aren’t on the top of the page — I verified elsewhere in the data). The others, those that are bidding on mobile, are seeing a much higher top-of-page rate than on desktop.

If that doesn’t scream opportunity to you, then maybe it at least says opportunity to you in an inside voice. Your account could have that same mobile benefit — if only you were trying to get there. (The account in this example is basically never on top of the page, which is a separate issue.)

Depending on the results of this analysis, you can revisit your mobile targeting settings and bid adjustments. Other advertisers are appearing above the results — and, with a bit more effort, you could be, too.

Using Double Segmentation For Even Deeper Insights

Segments are a beautiful thing in your reports. You know what’s even more beautiful?  Double segments.

So What?

I’m not going to go into this full analysis today; but, you can also download your data segmented by device and month to actually track how certain advertisers are adjusting their mobile targeting. If you feel like having a really deep dive on your competition, this might be a fun one to do.

If you decide to run one of these analyses, you will most likely find something worth acting on. In a best case scenario, you’re the industry leader, which is still something that you can at least brag about (and make plans to keep yourself in that position). If you identify something that needs fixing then this could inspire improvements to your mobile advertising.

I don’t want to get into all of the steps to mobile advertising, especially when others have covered it so well in recent months.

Just few thoughts for your consideration:

  • If your competitors are much more aggressive than you are when it comes to bidding, what are they doing on their sites that might give them better conversion rates and allow for those higher bids? (Shameless plug: they might be following some of Google’s principles of mobile site design.)
  • Are there different conversion types that they have which you might be overlooking? Cross-device conversions, calls — even store visits? What are all the ways that can contribute to the lifetime value of a customer?
  • Are you thinking about mobile utility on your ads? Good ads and extensions are imperative, especially with recent changes to mobile ads. Drive relevance and increase your Ad Rank so that you can start moving your ads to the top of the page.


The report I presented here is meant to serve as inspiration for you or your decision makers. I think by now everyone has beaten the mobile advertising drum long enough that you get it (especially if you’re reading Search Engine Land).

But if you still know someone (or are someone) that needs a bit more convincing to fully commit to  mobile advertising, this might be the report that makes a breakthrough.

The post Using AdWords Auction Insights To Find Out Who’s Winning On Mobile appeared first on Search Engine Land.