Jim Yaghi

Keyword Research: Shall I Spy On My PPC Competitors?

Keyword Spy Tools are supposed to be able to allow you to plugin in the website of your competitors and then they retrieve for you all the keywords they're bidding on, along with their corresponding ads, and estimated bids. Sounds pretty useful doesn't it? Yet I'm gonna go ahead and tell you NOT to use these tools. I think your money is better spent on your PPC ads.

I’ve had more than a few questions about keyword research tools that claim to help you “spy” on your competition. (Don’t get too excited & click just yet) Examples are Spyfu, Keyword Spy, and most recently, PPC Web Spy.

Brad Callens PPC Web Spy

Brad Callen's "PPC Web Spy"

The tools are supposed to be able to allow you to plug in the address of your competitions’ websites to retrieve all the keywords they’re bidding on in sponsored search. Also included, is usually a copy of the corresponding ads and estimated bids. Sounds pretty useful doesn’t it?

Not really.

I’m gonna tell you NOT to research like this. There are better ways to spend your money (like on your PPC ads). And more effective ways to beat competitors to the top of the search page.

Am I saying this because it’s immoral to spy and steal the campaigns of others? No.

It’s because Spy tools don’t deliver on their claims.

To non-technical folks, computer programmers are like magicians. They create magic with their computer code and do amazing nearly miraculous things. But another programmer looking in from the outside can still see the thin string that pulls cards into the magician’s sleeve. They can see that the magic is nothing but an illusion.

Spy tools are an illusion. A marketing gimmick. There is a market for them because people are lazy. I mean, sure it would be nice to just find a successful affiliate promoting the same offer as us and then steal their campaign for ourselves…right?

Except that Spy tools generally return untargeted keywords that no one in their right mind is bidding on. Their bid estimates are WAY off. And they don’t tell you the REAL secrets of why someone else’s ads are working.

For example, they won’t tell you:

  • How the advertiser organises his/her account.
  • Or the negative keywords they include in their keyword lists.
  • Or the way they group their keywords.
  • Or the way they monetize their clicks.

That’s the real stuff worth paying for. And I’m pretty sure if a tool could tell you all of that, it would cost a lot more than $96 a month.

I buy and test just about every PPC tool you’ve ever come across.

Spy tools work by “guessing” keywords, monitoring which ads show up, and then adding them into a database they do lookups on when you use the tool’s search.

They definitely don’t have a way to go into people’s accounts and steal their keywords. There are keywords left out, quite often the money keywords! Also, there are many keywords returned by the spy tool that don’t actually trigger those ads. The bid estimates are wayyyy off. The click estimates are always wrong.

It’s a big collection of unrelated information, gathered from god knows where, and combined in a way to look authoritative. All of it designed to trick you into believing you’ve seen into the inner workings of your competitors’ ad campaigns. When all you’ve done is fallen for an illusion.

Read the small print on keyword spy tools, you’ll find they have disclaimers reflecting their anticipated unreliability.

PPC Bully

PPC Bully

The only real way to beat up your competition and take their spot in the sponsored results, is to monitor them over time, identify the winners, learn from them, and then do it better.

If you insist on spending your money on a Keyword Spy tool, then save your dollars for this next one:

I am at the moment in the process of testing a tool called PPC Bully. This is different because it’s not framed as a “spy” tool–it simply automates studying the competition before you start spending your own money bidding on an expensive keyword.

A couple of years ago, I got bored of manually checking the competition by hand. So I wrote a very simple program to make my job easier:

The way it worked was, I’d give it a bunch of keywords I was considering bidding on. And at a defined interval throughout the day, this little program would go out and simulate searches on all those keywords. It would then retrieve all the sponsored ads that are returned and log them for me to study later.

Here’s the theory:

An advertiser who is losing money with their ad+keyword+landing page combination is going to do one of two things:

  • They’re gonna be savvy enough to take their ad down, modify it, and try a new combination
  • Or, they’re gonna leave it till Google slides it down in position and probably slaps it to hell so it won’t show up in sponsored ads any more

Either way, the end result, is that over time, the ads that don’t work stop showing.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for advertisers that are probably making money, all you need to do is find the ad+keyword+landing page combinations that show up EVERY time the program simulates the search for those keywords over an extended period of time. That could be a day, a week, or even a month depending on how competitive the keyword is.

PPC Bully tests your competitors like this.

It isn’t my program. Some bright marketers hired programmers and turned the idea into a commercial service.

Now, if you’re thinking about bidding on some expensive keywords, it’s easy to avoid risking your own money. Just run PPC Bully with that keyword and monitor the competition for a week or so. Find the winning combination of keyword+ad+landing page, and then try to do something similar without violating copyrights.

All I know is that out of all the spy tools I’ve seen so far, the $49 investment in PPC Bully is the only one worth exploring.


To learn more of Jim’s PPC advertising techniques, check out PPC Domination.

     

     

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      14 Responses to Keyword Research: Shall I Spy On My PPC Competitors?

    1. Nod

      I tend to agree with you assessment here. I've spent a bit on spy tools and the thing is…..if you don't know how to incorporate and filter the information you get from them, they will lead you down rabbit holes where you can lose lots of $$.

      My fav keyword tool now is actually a keyword multiplier tool (excel) where i brainstorm and come up with different variations of buying words.

    2. Nod

      I tend to agree with you assessment here. I've spent a bit on spy tools and the thing is…..if you don't know how to incorporate and filter the information you get from them, they will lead you down rabbit holes where you can lose lots of $$.

      My fav keyword tool now is actually a keyword multiplier tool (excel) where i brainstorm and come up with different variations of buying words.

    3. Nod

      WOW Jim! I was having a conversation earlier today with someone who suggested one of the programs that you made mention earlier. Funny thing is, the suggestion wasn't as helpful as what you are suggesting and it appears that the research that you do is definitely done by you. Thanks for all of the great advice!!!
      I always find that you lead us by doing first and then let us follow. You rock!

    4. Nod

      WOW Jim! I was having a conversation earlier today with someone who suggested one of the programs that you made mention earlier. Funny thing is, the suggestion wasn't as helpful as what you are suggesting and it appears that the research that you do is definitely done by you. Thanks for all of the great advice!!!

      I always find that you lead us by doing first and then let us follow. You rock!

    5. Drew Jensen
      Nod

      Hi Jim,

      I've been working through your training on PPC Domination. The course is great, and I've learned a ton, but so far not getting great CTR on my campaigns. It seems like the methods you are teaching take a lot of trial-and-error. Granted, your techniques have helped me avoid spending a ton of money, but still seems to take time to develop the experience to get the right keywords and ad copy.

      I've been looking at tools like you mentioned to evaluate competition and expedite my conversions. I came across something called Google Cash Detective 2, which is launching tomorrow. Here is direct link so you can check it out without opting-in: http://www.gcdetective.com/blog/?p=468

      Have you heard of this? It seems very different from some of the other tools you have mentioned (and is also considerably more costly: $2K). I was considering purchasing this tool, but now having second thoughts after reading this blog article. Just wondering your thoughts about this tool, and if it is a gimmick, or perhaps a more compressive monitoring tool.

      Thanks,

      Drew Jensen

    6. Drew Jensen
      Nod

      Hi Jim,

      I've been working through your training on PPC Domination. The course is great, and I've learned a ton, but so far not getting great CTR on my campaigns. It seems like the methods you are teaching take a lot of trial-and-error. Granted, your techniques have helped me avoid spending a ton of money, but still seems to take time to develop the experience to get the right keywords and ad copy.

      I've been looking at tools like you mentioned to evaluate competition and expedite my conversions. I came across something called Google Cash Detective 2, which is launching tomorrow. Here is direct link so you can check it out without opting-in: http://www.gcdetective.com/blog/?p=468

      Have you heard of this? It seems very different from some of the other tools you have mentioned (and is also considerably more costly: $2K). I was considering purchasing this tool, but now having second thoughts after reading this blog article. Just wondering your thoughts about this tool, and if it is a gimmick, or perhaps a more compressive monitoring tool.

      Thanks,
      Drew Jensen

    7. Nod

      Hey Drew,

      Chris' stuff was awesome when it came out years ago. I haven't bought Google Cash Detective so I can only speak in general terms here.

      Google Cash Detective was the original "Spy" system! It used to be more like PPC Bully but it seems one of their new feature is "no wait time" which means they're using some data-base driven approach now like some of the other tools.

      The traffic game's gotten a lot harder than it used to be. Google in particular changes the rules so frequently that most of the "system" type products i've been seeing lately can't even keep up. A whole bunch of internet marketers are now selling stuff for doing the same cheesy "get rich" crap on content network because it USED to be easier. And even stuff that came out two weeks ago is out of date!

      What's more is they're just making it even harder for the real advertisers because Google has in the last few weeks been cracking down even there on replicated advertising.

      So from looking at the general description of what Google Cash Detective does and what i know about it from a few years back, it looks like another way that will facilitate lazy affiliates to get around creating their own unique experience for their customers.

      I recommend this program only as a research tool. It should not be your entire business plan.

      If you think you're going to buy the program, use it to find a profitable affiliate product, copy the top affiliate's ad, and then get instant riches, you'd be mistaken.

      Although if i remember correctly about Chris, he is pretty clear about the amount of work you need to do yourself.

      Each affiliate who wants to survive with the ever-changing Google policies, MUST create their own unique landing pages and give a value added experience to their visitors. DO NOT forget that.

      Jim

    8. Nod

      Hey Drew,

      Chris' stuff was awesome when it came out years ago. I haven't bought Google Cash Detective so I can only speak in general terms here.

      Google Cash Detective was the original “Spy” system! It used to be more like PPC Bully but it seems one of their new feature is “no wait time” which means they're using some data-base driven approach now like some of the other tools.

      The traffic game's gotten a lot harder than it used to be. Google in particular changes the rules so frequently that most of the “system” type products i've been seeing lately can't even keep up. A whole bunch of internet marketers are now selling stuff for doing the same cheesy “get rich” crap on content network because it USED to be easier. And even stuff that came out two weeks ago is out of date!

      What's more is they're just making it even harder for the real advertisers because Google has in the last few weeks been cracking down even there on replicated advertising.

      So from looking at the general description of what Google Cash Detective does and what i know about it from a few years back, it looks like another way that will facilitate lazy affiliates to get around creating their own unique experience for their customers.

      I recommend this program only as a research tool. It should not be your entire business plan.

      If you think you're going to buy the program, use it to find a profitable affiliate product, copy the top affiliate's ad, and then get instant riches, you'd be mistaken.

      Although if i remember correctly about Chris, he is pretty clear about the amount of work you need to do yourself.

      Each affiliate who wants to survive with the ever-changing Google policies, MUST create their own unique landing pages and give a value added experience to their visitors. DO NOT forget that.

      Jim

    9. Rebecca
      Nod

      I always love your honesty. Thanks for letting us know what you think and the truth with benefits!
      hugs!

    10. Rebecca
      Nod

      I always love your honesty. Thanks for letting us know what you think and the truth with benefits!

      hugs!

    11. Nick
      Nod

      I have used many keywords in past such like Yahoo, google tool for keyword research. I was disheartened after using them as they were showing broad results. It was fortunate that i was using a keyword tool from serp analytics. i think i would also give a try to the tool mentioed in your post. This will mame me sure to have a keyword selection to a greater extent..

      Nice writing skills anyways..

    12. Nick
      Nod

      I have used many keywords in past such like Yahoo, google tool for keyword research. I was disheartened after using them as they were showing broad results. It was fortunate that i was using a keyword tool from serp analytics. i think i would also give a try to the tool mentioed in your post. This will mame me sure to have a keyword selection to a greater extent..

      Nice writing skills anyways..

    13. Steve
      Nod

      Well, I am going to cancel my GCD 2 account based on your assessment , thanks
      for giving such great insight to what these tools are really good for, not what
      their creators claim, i.e. the answer to all your PPC marketing woes.

      It sounds like the 2K this program cost would be lost over time because of
      Google slaps and or the fact that you really can't duplicate someone's campaign
      and expect to profit like they supposedly are. If it were only that easy, then
      everyone would be super successful…lol

      Steve

    14. Steve
      Nod

      Well, I am going to cancel my GCD 2 account based on your assessment , thanks

      for giving such great insight to what these tools are really good for, not what

      their creators claim, i.e. the answer to all your PPC marketing woes.

      It sounds like the 2K this program cost would be lost over time because of

      Google slaps and or the fact that you really can't duplicate someone's campaign

      and expect to profit like they supposedly are. If it were only that easy, then

      everyone would be super successful…lol

      Steve

    About Jim Yaghi

    Jim Yaghi is an advertising consultant and traffic expert, with a background in Artificial Intelligence.
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