Learn from a competitors’ ad copy failures

Stop me if you heard this “Dad joke.” Two guys walk into a bar…

… the third one sees it and ducks.

Dad wisdom teaches us to learn from our failures. Dad jokes teach us to learn from other people’s failures.

We couldn’t agree more, Dad. On that note, here’s HOW TO research a competitor’s ad copy misses:

Start with Ad History in SpyFu. There are easy-to-read signs that point to places where advertisers dropped their weaker ad copy variations. Learn what they did wrong, and steer clear from the same mistakes.

Learn from ad copy that performed poorly

1. Search their domain

Enter a competitor’s domain into the main search bar.  When you get the results page, scroll down to the domain’s “AdWords History” section. OR using the tabs at the top, go directly to PPC Research>AdHistory

Since the tool helps you see the best of their ad copy and their most trusted keywords, it starts with the most trusted keywords sorted to the top. However, this tool also uncovers helpful details about the ad copy this advertiser left behind.

What makes a keyword profitable? The final answer lies with the on-site conversions. None of us can know if a keyword is profitable for sure. The same way, we also don’t know with certainty if ad copy is profitable. However, we can look at signs that tell us that certain keywords and ad copy are trusted and relied upon nearly every time the advertiser goes to bat.

That lets us connect the dots that those trusted and relied upon ads are high-performers. Anyone can waste money on the wrong keywords, but they’re not going to waste money on the same mistakes for months at a time. We’re going to use the same principle to spot the weaker ad copy that they dropped.

Knowing your competitor’s worst performing ads can help you make stronger decisions. It teaches you what to avoid, especially when you can compare it to variations that worked really well.

Special offers fell short? Maybe free shipping was the winner. All of that becomes clear when you see patterns in the advertiser’s history.

Watch for Frequency — Or Lack of It

When you’re in the Ad History tool, look for “Top Ads” on the far right.

This section ranks the most frequently run ads based on the keywords that are currently shown on the chart. 

That last part is an important note because the “top ads” change depending on the set of keywords shown. If you filter the keywords in the list, we’ll update the side section to show you the top ads for those filtered keywords.

2. Scroll to the bottom of the “top ads” list.

If top ads (the most dominant message) are at the top, the bottom of the list shows you ad copy that hasn’t been used much. Especially in cases where they’ve stopped testing and stuck with a winner, you can learn from the competitor’s ad copy mistakes they rejected after the test.

2b. Try this variation: 

Use the sort at the top to load a domain’s “worst keywords.” This automatically brings up keywords that they dropped.

A word of caution: you might learn more from ad copy that was tested over time on still-standing keywords vs. ad copy that ran on very weak keywords.

Things to keep in mind

Some domains go into variation-overdrive. It seems that they test their copy often or create hyper-focused copy. When this happens, you will see a top ad, but it won’t necessarily be their “top ad.” It will be just another ad in their long list of ads, all served up a couple of times over thousands of hundreds of variations.
If they change the variations multiple times, you might see the top ad being a low-frequency ad. Something has to be the top.  One of the things we’ve included to help you watch for this is the “% of ads served” stat.

Why “% of ads served” is important

If the domain ran the same ad 15 times out of 100 different slots, you’ll see this ad as 15% of ads served. In my searches on customink.com, I’m seeing 1% of ads served, even when I filter the ads. This domain is changing up their ads frequently, so there isn’t a true winner (or loser) standing out. Proceed with caution.