SMX replay: Visualizing Auction Insights data for competitive intelligence

SMX replay: Visualizing Auction Insights data for competitive intelligence


Understanding the metrics in Google’s Auction Insights and visualizing the data can give a clearer view of your account’s performance. James Hebdon, co-founder and CTO of Paid Search Magic, shared techniques for using Google Sheets and Scripts to transform Google Ads’ Auction Insights data into a clearer and more compelling report to your boss or clients.

Listen to Hebdon’s full Insights session talk from SMX Advanced last month, above and continue reading for his tips on how to handle your Auction Insights data. The full transcript is also available below.

Bonus tips. When analyzing Auction Insights or communicating your findings with clients, Hebdon suggests that you keep the following in mind:

  • Auction Insights only provides data on the intersection of auctions that you and your competitors are participating in. Even pro marketers can find it tricky to understand, so be cautious with the conclusions you draw.
  • Observing competitor behavior can drive marketers and clients to irrational bidding and budgeting. Use caution when communicating competitive insights to clients or they can wind up focusing on the wrong things.
  • Both Google and Bing have improved the usefulness of auction insights within their respective interfaces, but by building automated templates with Google Sheets you extract even more useful information and create compelling, client-friendly visualizations.
  • You can use this template as a starting place to build your own Auction Insights template.

More Insights. During Insights sessions, experts deliver actionable tips and useful information for digital marketers. Here are a few more sessions you can stream right now:

If you found these sessions informative, consider attending them live on November 13-14, at SMX East in New York.

The full transcript.

Introduction by George Nguyen:

Auction Insights tools in Google and Bing can provide valuable competitive intelligence and bidding insights, but it can also be easy to misconstrue what the reports are telling you if you don’t know exactly how they’re designed to work . By understanding the metrics provided under Google’s Auction Insights and visualizing the data, you can gain a clearer view of your account’s performance.

Welcome to the Search Engine Land podcast, I’m George Nguyen and, on this edition, James Hebdon, co-founder and CTO of Paid Search Magic is going to share his techniques for using Google Sheets and Scripts to transform the information from Google Ads’ Auction Insights into something that’s easier to understand, and is more useful and more compelling to your boss or clients.

Before I hand it off to James though, I’d like to encourage you to check out our other SMX replays — we’ve got another one with tips on improving your YouTube ad performance — you can find that on the Marketing Land SoundCloud stream or as a link in the article that accompanies this episode.

Here is James now, with his Insights session from SMX Advanced.

James Hebdon:

Hey everybody, my name’s James Hebdon and I am the CTO and co-founder of a boutique paid media agency called Paid Search Magic. And today I am talking to you about a tool called Auction Insights, which is a free Google tool that they provide to give you some limited insights into some competitive behavior.

Now, the reason why I wanted to talk about this is that it’s a broadly misunderstood tool. A lot of people have used it; if you go and do a search on YouTube, you’ll get lots of really flashy images that talk about, you know, spying on your competitors. It’s a much more limited tool than that. But if you know how it works and you know how to treat it right, it can give you a lot of insights into your competitors.

Now, early on in internet marketing, there were a lot of academic journals that started getting published about auction theory, applying game theory to auctions, bidding techniques, things like that. And, one of these earlier papers, the researchers were surprised to find out that, unlike a lot of traditional auctions or auctions like eBay, people that were working within Google Ads . . . didn’t exhibit the same type of irrational behavior that people did in other areas; it’s called, you know, “the joy of winning,” or “auction fever.” And they speculated that this was because, unlike these other auctions, the bidders are secret, the bids are secret and you don’t know who the winner is. But they didn’t really drill into it more than that because it wasn’t the focus.

But, a more recent paper that was released by Princeton, they got a bunch of volunteers together and they sat them down in front of a computer terminal and they instructed them on how to deal with auctions, like the best way to do an auction. And, when these people thought that they were competing against the computer, they took the instructions, they did it properly and they managed to not overpay, which is kind of the metric that was used in the study.

However, when they were told that they were competing against humans, almost without exception, the volunteers — even though they had been instructed in how to do it right — they almost all found it impossible to behave rationally. And, that’s just part of the human condition, right, is that we have a difficult time with that.

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