How Google lets you spy on your competition

Author: Steffen Meyer, Mobile Marketing Content Specialist

Marketers, watch out: Google launched its new Ads Transparency Center and grants insights into all ads that are distributed via Google Search and Display as well as YouTube. 

With the new tool, anyone can

  • search for brands and see their ads
  • filter by region and format
  • see the last date the ad ran

According to Google, this should “help our users make informed decisions”. For marketers however, it offers the nifty opportunity to spy on competitors.

Don’t pretend to be shocked.

Meta allows scanning competitors on Instagram and Facebook via its Ads Library since 2019 and many marketers use it for their research. If you haven’t taken advantage of it, you should definitely do so.

How to use Google’s Ad Transparency Center

Google’s new transparency tool works similarly to Meta’s library: After searching for and selecting a brand, all its ads are listed. By clicking on one of them, you can play videos and look at different variations of images. 

The insights on search ads, however, aren’t as detailed as you may have hoped: While the actual ads are composed of different headlines which the algorithm mixes together for best performance, you don’t see these variations in the Ads Transparency Centre. Most of the time, just the title of the Website is shown, barring the copywriting magic from your sight.

Contrary to Meta’s Ad Library you can’t search for keywords either. Entering “sportswear” won’t get you any results, forcing you to look for certain brands in this sector and evaluating their ads piece by piece. You can however search for websites and find out what ads link to them.

Important note: You have to deactivate your adblocker to see image or text ads. Otherwise you will just stare at gray thumbnails.

I spy with my little eye

Now that we cleared up the technical part, let’s get to the strategic possibilities and see what you can do with tool to improve your marketing efforts:

  • Competitor analysis: When mapping out your ad strategy you should keep an eye on what others in your industry are doing. Are they advertising mostly with video, image or text? Can you spot a gap in their strategy you may fill? What do their creatives look like? Are they actually running any ads at the moment? And in which region?

    If you know what your competitors are up to, you can better adjust your advertising efforts and come out on top.
  • Creative inspiration: There are infinite possibilities to craft engaging ads and marketers all around the world come up with new ideas every minute. With the Ads Transparency Centre, you can delve into this wealth of creativity.

    Don’t just look up your competitors but spy on brands you personally like or agencies which are famous for their original advertisements.

    You may as well dip into the political arena: Here, both Google and Meta offer more insights like the amount of impressions, the targeted groups and the money spent. Even if this doesn’t help you immediately with your business research, it can give you interesting talking points for discussions at the diner table. Never underestimate this soft feat.

Look behind the ad, see the funnel: As digital marketer know, the ad is just the beginning of the customer journey. What happens after the user clicks on an ad? Is there a web page or a customized app store page? What’s the next call-to-action that guides the prospect into becoming a buyer?

It’s always wise to dig deeper, as the ad is just the tip of the marketing iceberg.

Don’t just imitate, be one step ahead

While spying on your competitors certainly is valuable, you have to be aware that the other side has the same tools at their disposal as you. It isn’t called a transparency center for nothing.

So in the end, you need to be one step ahead of your competitors. To do so, get our Marketing Master Map for free and develop a winning strategy. And make sure others don’t spy on it. 

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