Beat your competitors at Google Ads: The art of the targeted tango

By Mike McNeaney | 2 min read

Success doesn’t always come with a higher price tag. Don’t fall into the trap of expensive bidding frenzies just to make an appearance in search results. Instead, rise above your competitors by staying strategic, targeted, and, most importantly, relevant.

In our world, success hinges on finding the right balance between visibility and precision. It’s a delicate dance of grabbing attention while staying true to your brand’s core focus. Here’s a  story that shows what happens when you stray too far from your target audience. Prepare to learn from the mishaps of a certain competitor we’ll call “X”.

The beginning

In our efforts to optimize Google Ads performance for a client, we stumbled upon an interesting revelation. While we held a respectable 27% of the impression share for our industry in the city, X, the largest brand in our space, boasted a commanding 52%. Intrigued, we dove deeper into the data.

The overlap

We discovered X’s “overlap rate” was a staggering 59%. Translation: 59% of the time, X was paying to show up when users searched for our client and our other competitors in the industry. Our instincts told us this might not be the smartest strategy.

Size doesn’t always matter

Surprisingly, our research showed that despite X’s higher budget and impression share, our client still held the top spot on Google search results 81.5% of the time. X wasn’t outbidding us on our own branded terms. So, how did we manage to stay ahead? The delicate dance.

The magic of relevancy

While they thrashed on the dance floor, we began to tango. Instead of stooping to X’s level and engaging in a bidding war for their brand name, we opted for a more delicate approach that didn’t involve stepping on toes. We selectively hijacked a few of their keywords relevant to our brand, ensuring that we showed up when it made sense while they were off spending money to show up elsewhere.

Quality over quantity

X’s approach taught us a valuable lesson: impression share alone does not guarantee success. As mentioned before, we held 81.5% of the impression share in our industry. They had 87%, however, by casting a wide net (overlap rate), X gained visibility but likely sacrificed their conversion rates. After all, showing up when users are searching for someone else rarely leads to fruitful outcomes. It’s kind of annoying actually.

The art of targeting

In the end, we realized that achieving a 30% impression share aligned perfectly with our goal of remaining focused on our clients’ industry. It’s not about being everywhere, it’s about being in the right place at the right time. Our higher top-of-page rate in comparison to our impression share validated this approach, setting us apart from X’s broad strategy.

Dear marketers, don’t be lured into a bidding frenzy just to “show up.” Instead, be strategic, be targeted, and most importantly, be relevant. In doing so, you’ll optimize your advertising efforts and increase your conversion rates. Be the guy doing the tango on the dance floor while heavy metal is playing.

Mike McNeany, Google and Facebook Ad Specialist.

Mike McNeaney

Mike is a data junky. He manages Facebook and Google pay-per-click advertising for Story Digital clients as well managing and interpreting information in Google Data Studio.