Nick Rennard
By Nick Rennard | SEM, Video | July 26, 2016

Keyword Expansion & Competitor Research

Keyword Expansion & Competitor Research

Hello fellow advertisers! Today I will be diving into the world of competitor research. There are a lot of tools you can use out there to spy on other competitors, and the one I’ll be reviewing today is known as Spyfu. My primary use for these tools is keyword expansion for search campaigns, and I’ll be showing you tips & tricks on how I use these to develop campaigns for our clients. Enjoy!

Full Transcript:

Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of my video blog series. I am your host, Nick Renard and today I am going to be talking about keyword expansion. I’m going to be talking about a tool that we use from time to time called Spy Fu. There’s a lot of other programs like this, but we get the question a lot from clients about what our competitors are doing with certain keywords. This is a tool that we use that we can look up what our competitors are doing and get some insights from their campaigns to see how we can apply those to our campaigns.

I currently have a picture of my dogs here, but I’ll bring up an actual browser here and we’ll go to Again, this is a tool that we’ve been using. There are other tools like this that are quite nice. I’m going to be going through a few examples today of how I use this program. I will say that, I already talked a little bit about the pros of this program, but some of the cons of this program is I think that there’s a lot of information that’s not very useful. I’ll go over that as we kind of go through this, but it regurgitates a lot of information at you when you start using a program like this. It’s important to be able to filter through and know what kinds of things are actually actionable, or what can we actually use out of this and being able to pull what’s useful.

I’ll start here. This is just the home screen here. I’m going to go through three examples of just some big name companies. The first one is Nike. If we type in, and you can think about it. Let’s say you’re Reebok and you want to know what Nike’s doing with their paper click campaigns, this is what you would be doing. This is what I tell clients is I tell them to give me a list of, I don’t know, maybe anywhere from 5 to 15 of their competitors and I’ll do this for all of their competitors and look up the keywords that their competitors are bidding on and kind of get an idea of what more we could be doing, what it’s going to cost, stuff like that. Let’s say we’re looking up Nike here. This is the first screen that comes up. You can use this for SCO and organic related keywords and whatnot. We’re not going to be talking about SCO today. We’re just going to be staying focused on PBC, but yes, if you’re curios, yes these programs can be used for that as well. The process is going to be very similar.

What I use this for is, when we come here the first thing that we can see is we can see the estimated monthly ad words budget. What this does is it takes the amount of estimated clicks that this campaign got and then it multiplies it by the average cost per click of those keywords. It gives you an average estimated budget of what Nike is spending per month on ad words. I personally think that this number is highly inflated. It says that Nike’s spending 60k a month and some of the competitors that I look up sometimes, you know, these are like … It’s not always big names like Nike. Sometimes I’ll be looking up a really small time client and it’s say that it’s estimating that they spent like 25k a month on advertising. There’s just no way that that many small time people are consistently spending that much, so take this with a grain of salt.

What I use this number for is as I go through looking at all of the competitors, I look at them comparatively with each other to kind of get an idea of which competitors are spending more. If their estimating that Nike is spending 59.2k here and then we look up another shoe competitor, like Adidas, and it says they’re spending 40k, I worry less about how big those numbers are and more about how big they are with respect to each other. If that makes sense. That way you can kind of get an idea who the top dogs are and whatnot.

Anyways, so we click on this button here, the paid keywords. It’ll take us to the keywords, but before we do that, there’s a bunch of statistics on the side. This is where it starts to get a little bit cute. I generally just jump right into the keywords, but I’ll show you guys this stuff because I was mentioning the cons of this program. If we click on any given one of these, for example here’s the competitor section, it’ll show you what the top competitors are. Which, if you’re looking for more competitors it can be useful just to get a list of who else is kind of bidding on this stuff. Footlocker, Kids Footlocker, Swell, New Balance, Zappos. All these other people that are bidding on similar keywords to what Nike is.

I actually like the competitor one out of all these slides because I don’t like all the slides. This is one of the ones that I do like because one of the things that clients struggle to give me is a good list of all their competitors and if you don’t really know who you’re competing against, and this can be a good resource. What you can do is you can come into here. You can look at the monthly budgets and sort by the largest budgets and just look into the top 10 spenders and see, you know, kind of what their ad word strategy is, maybe get some ideas for keywords. We’ll go into the keyword expansion here in a second. I do like the competitor section just for finding names of competitors.

As we go down, there’s, for example, here’s what they call Kombat with a K. Like Mortal Kombat. They have this thing that shows how much your keywords are overlapping with other competitors. You can set it up however you want, you know, if you’re curious how your rank is weighed against a certain competitor then you can, I guess, “kombat” those. I don’t know what the verb for that is is. It’ll give you a cute little graph like this. I don’t think this is actually all that useful because I mean I’m curious what their keyword lists are, but in terms of making sure that I’m bidding on all of their keywords. I don’t actually care if I’m bidding on all of their keywords. What I want to make sure that I’m doing is compiling a list of all the possible keywords that I could be using, organize them into campaigns and ad groups, and write ads for them, and do that whole process.

The problem is that a keyword that is successful for Nike may not be successful for Reebok. That could be for any number of reasons. It could be that Nike’s website is better or worse or it could be that quality scores are different. It could be that bids are different. There’s all kinds of things that could get in the way of a difference in performance like that. I think that this is more just kind of cute to look at. I don’t think it’s very useful, but some people like this. I don’t know.

Moving on here, it’ll show you top keywords. This is useful, although we’re going to be looking at the full keyword list in a second here so this will be a little redundant. The rest of these things, I don’t actually know how accurate this information is. I’ve tried using it before and I don’t think that there’s a lot of high impact information that you can pull from these super granular ad words reports where it’s showing you exactly where these ads placed and what the percentage top of page. Some of these stats, I think, are just too granular.

I think you should focus more on the kind of message that you want to convey to your clients and focus on what works for your company and the message that you’re trying to get out there and advertise. Instead of trying to figure out what worked for Nike, try to figure out what works for you. The only way you can do that is by testing. When you create a list of keywords and you create ads, test those ads. Test those keywords. Don’t worry about your competitors and see if it works for you. Like I said, there’s going to be a keyword like, “women’s Nike shorts”, that may be insanely successful for Amazon, but not successful for Zappos. It’s not like the keyword changed at all, because it didn’t. Same keyword, but quality scores or whatever variable, you just have to test it to find out. That’s really the end of the story there.

Anyways, moving on. This goes into organic so we’ll skip this and the back links, again organic related. We’re not going over organics today, but if you are an SEO person then yeah, you can use that. Anyways, so we can do that for any given person. Next example I have here. We’ll go through these next two a lot quicker. I just wanted to explain all that. Here’s You can see that their ad words budget is estimated to be much lower, shows their keywords. We’re going to click on this keyword thing because this is what’s going to be the most useful out of this report. Same kind of stuff with the top competitors, the Kombat, and then just kind of the squirrely stuff after that, the vanity metrics. Then one more: You can see their estimated monthly ad words budget of 400k. I’d be surprised if they’re spending $400,000 a month on ad words, but you never know.

Let’s go back to and I’m actually going to dig into the actual keyword list. This, what I’m about to show you now, is what I actually use this program for. Click on these keywords and here we go. What this does, it pulls all of the lists where someone has typed in one of these keywords and Nike’s ad has showed up as a paid ad. It shows you how often it gets searched, so you can know how often it’s searched. It shows you the daily searches. The thing that I like to use the most is the cost per click. A lot of the times, and this happens especially when I’m building up new campaigns for clients that maybe I haven’t advertised in their industry before. Whenever you’re dealing with a new industry you never know what the cost for click’s going to be so something like “men’s shorts” for example. I wouldn’t know if the average cost for click on that keyword on ad words is going to be like $1.84 or if it’s going to be like $14. I have no idea.

I’ll give you a good example. Any keyword containing Cloud or Cloud Software or Cloud anything, insanely expensive. It’s really hard to bid on a keyword that has the word Cloud in it and have it cost less than $20 a click. It’s expensive. Same thing with lawyers. Lawyers are very expensive. Anything with the word lawyer or attorney, it’s going to be hard to find anything below like $15 just because lawyer is really expensive. I had some lawyer clients in the past who would pay upward of $60 for a click because if that leads to a phone call, that can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to them. In this case we’re talking about ecommerce, so it makes sense that someone looking at men’s shorts, that the cost per click would be a lot cheaper because there’s no way that it could be profitable to have $60 for a click.

Anyways, the reason that I use this is, what I’ll do is I’ll take the competitor thing that we were looking at beforehand and I’ll look up these keyword reports for all of the competitors. I’ll scan through these and I’ll pull keywords that maybe I don’t have. Maybe I didn’t think about doing men’s and women’s and kid’s. It’s like, “Oh, I well I could create an ad group for men’s.” What I’ll do is I’ll literally open up a Notepad file like this. As I scan through here I’ll be like, “Men’s, women’s, kid’s,” maybe like going down, “Running, jogging, yoga” is another good one there. Maybe like, “bras” is something that maybe we have a section for bras, so bidding on that keyword.

What we’re doing is we’re compiling all the keywords that we could be potentially using and then what we do, let’s take another person kind of in the same category. Adidas and maybe here, like “hoodies”. I’m going to scroll down a little bit. Maybe like, “hoodies” or “sneakers”. Maybe we’re bidding on shoes but we didn’t have sneakers, or “workout”. Maybe that’s a keyword that we weren’t using. We could add like, “boy’s” to here. “Boy’s, girl’s”. You can see what we’re doing with this. Then we would take just rinse, repeat on this. We would do this for like 10 competitors and eventually we would have this list of all these keywords that we can kind of pair together and create a list out of.

From here what I do, and there’s a lot of they call these keyword list generators. Sometimes it’s like keyword pairing tool. There’s all kinds of names for them, but there’s a lot of these. This is the one that I use. What you can do with this is you can take these lists of keywords, so like running, jogging. We’ll just use these ones and let’s take like shoes, hoodies, sneakers, bra. Let’s just use those ones for now as an example. You take these keywords. Put one there. Take the other keywords, put them here. What this will do is it will automatically pair these keywords together for you. You can use to match types. I generally stay away from broad match and I only do broad match modifiers, phrase match, and exact match. You click generate. Again, if you’re using a different tool, that’s fine. This is just one that I do. What it does is it pairs all these keywords together for you and gives you every combination possible.

Now what we can do is we can copy this list and you can see here. Here’s the full list. We can upload that list into ad words and then we can start organizing it into groups. You know, we could have like a men’s shoe ad group or maybe even like a men’s campaign and put all the men’s stuff in there and then have like a shoes ad group and a hoodies ad group and a sneakers ad group. Then same thing for women’s. Women’s campaign. Men’s bra, who knows? Might be a marketable thing. Men’s workout bras. I like that. Then like boy’s, girl’s, running, jogging, whatever. You can see, this is a very efficient way of creating this list of keywords because rather than trying to think, “Okay what kind of keywords do we want to bid on. Okay, well we’re an apparel site and we sell running shoes, so let’s bid on running shoes. Let’s bid on oh jogging shoes. Yeah, that would work.” It’s going to take you forever to come up with a list like this, especially since this is only two competitors and normally I go through 10 to 15 of these. Much more efficient way of doing keyword expansion.

You can scan through these lists on Spy Fu or whatever tool that you’re using. You can go through here and be like, “Oh we don’t have hoodies as a keyword. Oh, we don’t have boy’s. Maybe we have men’s and women’s, but didn’t have boy’s and girl’s. We should add that. Sporting goods. Genius. Let’s add that. Long sleeve. We do have long sleeve, but we’re not advertising on it.” Again, come up with a list, upload it to a campaign, test it, see if it works for you. Don’t worry about your competitors. If it doesn’t work, then you know you can lower bids or pause it or whatever you want to do from there. If it does work, then you can emphasize the traffic and bid more aggressively for it.

Anyways, that’s really all I wanted to talk about today. I think that keywords, in terms of developing a successful SCM compaign, yes management is a lot of it. Being able to properly manage bids on things is extremely important, but these keyword lists are the foundations of those campaigns. If we don’t have fully fleshed out campaigns with all the possible combinations of keywords that we can find, then we don’t know if we’ve tested everything possible because when we test a huge batch of keywords like this, a lot of them aren’t going to work. A lot of them aren’t going to do anything, but some of them will work. We want to make sure that we’re bidding aggressively on those and we want to make sure that reallocate funds from the under-performers to the ones that are doing well. That’s all I have for today. I hope that this is useful and I will see you guys next week in my next video blog. Happy advertising!

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