Google's Ad Planner is less a competitive intelligence tool and more a tool that gives fantastic insights into understanding behavior of visitors to your website in context of the broader ecosystem.
It also helps answer critical questions that have thus far stymied Online Marketers of all shapes and sizes (especially those in charge of acquisition).
For example, ever wondered not just how many Unique Visitors your competitor got but also if there is any overlap between their visitors and those that visit your website?
Or what are the demographic and psychographic attributes of those visitors?
Or you need to boost revenue by 900% in one week and what websites should you target in terms of purchasing ads so you can find the right audience and get those relevant conversions?
Or compute the amount of potential exposure your ads can get across a complex media plan (which you have created and saved for future reference in a free tool)?
If the answer to any of the above questions is yes then my dear dear friend the missing ingredient from your life is the Google Ad Planner! :)
This is the second post in our recent Competitive Intelligence series. The first one was on Google Trends for Websites , check that out for awesome true CI insights.
As in that case my hope here is to share with you the unique data and functionality that the Ad Planner provides, but more than that I hope to teach you how to think uniquely.
The Basics: Research Your Website / Your Competitor's.
So this is the nice stuff, click on the Begin Research button in the Ad Planner and you are all set to go when it comes to understanding the basics of what the tool can offer.
Google's Ad Planner is currently in a Beta program and you have to apply to get access to it. The wonderful folks on the team tell me that access is provided to anyone who applies, and the process takes just a few days. This week they'll try to be extra diligent and get everyone in as soon as they can – and we will send warm hugs to them for helping readers of this blog.
In the left nav type in the name of the website and hit Add and boom (!) you have your first taste of data representing metrics for the last 30 days. . . .
Here's how to read that data:
www.omniture.com was visited by 150k Unique Visitors who were from the United States
This audience represented a 0.1% reach of the US audience (not bad for web analytics!)
This audience also represents consumption of approximately 210 million page views from all their browsing behavior (obviously not just on omniture.com, though I am sure that would make Omniture very happy! :)).
In the right frame of the page (which is a lot more useful later in your analysis) the data is represented thusly. . . .
Now you also have a feel for Omniture's page views there.
Next up the wonderful feature where you can get a much better understanding of the demographic and psychographic attributes of the Visitors to Omniture's website. Simply click on the icon above next to the website's name, and you get this. . . .
So these kinds of people like to pay lots for web analytics. :^) Just kidding!
One important thing to note is that it would cost you lots of money to get this kind of data with any degree of confidence, it is now free. So use it.
The wonderful thing about this is you can start to form the basics of a persona of the kind of people who visit Omniture's website. I was for example really surprised about how many were there from the lower household income ranges.
Perhaps they are there to learn from Omniture (validating Mr. Funk's strategy of having quality educational content on the website).
Perhaps it also indicates that people who actually sign large sized chq's could not be bothered with learning anything themselves. Zing! : )
But it is in the contrast that this data shines.
For example visitors to coremetrics.com are a lot more likely to be highly educated (by almost 18%) and with far far higher incomes (by atleast 20%)! That can give you a pause, if you owned omniture.com, and see if your marketing programs are actually driving the right kind of traffic to your website. The hypothesis being that people with higher income profiles and higher education will, supposedly, cut bigger chq's!
Or why is it that when almost every good Web Analyst I know is a female that there is a grand canyon sized gap between the male-female ratio for www.webtrends.com? Wrong targeting?
You catch my drift about all the things you can do, remember: contrast gives context which gives insights.
Finally you can compare and contrast site traffic data quite easily, just punch 'em into the left navigation and boom!
Guess which one is CoreMetrics, Kaushik.net and WebTrends?
Yeah baby, www.kaushik.net/avinash, is #2! [Sure a little braggy, but you will indulge me just this once right?]
WebTrends is at 84k worldwide in the last 30 days (I just need another 20k! :)). To get the worldwide data you'll simply green "graph icon" next to the site's name in the results.
Again food for thought if you are running those websites and want to get context to your performance against a random blogger.
Quick update post post posting :), here are links about Ad Planner data:
How is the data in Google Ad Planner generated?
The Advanced: Research Ecosystem, Customer Behavior, "Related Sites".
One of the core drivers behind creation of the Ad Planner was to:
Empower Advertisers and Marketers to identify related websites and audiences that they are interested in.
Here is an example, I wanted to compare my own performance, for www.kaushik.net, with the various web analytics vendors, with a eye towards understanding audience differences. Here's what it looks like [for the US traffic]. . . .
Notice an interesting thing that the Google Ad Planner Tool does. When I typed in the first five websites listed above the Ad Planner it will also bring forth "related websites" based on the audience persona (or technically: demographic and psychographic attributes). The last three above.
So even as you go about your merry business the delightful tool will highlight to you others you might not be thinking of, WAA for example. They were not top of mind, but now I see them there and I can dig in and compare traffic stats and the types of personas etc.
The website's you notice are sorted by Comp Index. Here's the definition: The composition index shows how concentrated your audience is on a specific site relative to internet users within the country you have specified.
The higher the number the more overlap in the kind of audience you have chosen.
What the analysis above shows is that audiences who visit kaushik.net are significantly likely to visit the web analytics vendors websites (indextools especially, Dennis you owe me something!). Those visiting the WAA are likely as well, but a lot less.
Let's apply this to a real world example, after a while web analytics is a boring. :)
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a august audience at the P&G headquarters in lovely Cincinnati. Wanting to brush up on them a bit (and what better way to do that then use CI tools – free tip for you all), I used the Ad Planner to understand www.pampers.com.
If you type that in you get this nice bit of data. . . .
You get a very fast snapshot of the core metrics of the Pampers website. But more than that I also get a really wonderful understanding of the websites that its audience visit and just looking from the names I can get a feel for the persona of that audience (free stuff 4 baby, freebiecountry :).
The next thing I did was to click on that "green graph" icon next to the site's name and get the demographic attributes of the audience.
Of course waaaay lop sided towards females (what is up with that, I made all the diaper decisions for our family!). But I was not sure of the context so I compared that data with the one for huggies (the biggest competitor).
It turns out that Pampers gets a lot more traffic than the main huggies website (which seriously could use the touch of a decently qualified UI and UX person), but the demographics show that the persona of the visitors to the huggies website is that of slightly younger women who might have slightly less education and have a slightly less household income.
If I am recalling correctly that is also an audience where the birth rate is higher and growing per the latest US census. So as the highly paid Brand Manager of Pampers I would like to be in front of that audience, and possibly sell lots more diapers.
So what to do? Throw up more tv ads and indulge in other "faith based initiatives"?
Go back into the ad planner and create a media plan that you can hold vastly more accountable.
I go back and choose the attributes of the audience that I want to target with my advertising. . . .
And as soon as I hit that last check box I get a list of websites that are visited by the customer profile I have created (approximated 13 million Unique Visitors in the US!).
Perfect for me both in terms of figuring out the unique persona I am interested in. . . .
Nice ain't it?
I understand my website better as a part of the ecosystem. I understand a specific competitor and their strengths. I can then go in and find the audience that is their strength. All for free. :)
The Awesome: Identify Advertising Available, Create Your Media Plan.
The Ad Planner will not only help you identify the optimal targets for your advertising opportunities (along with key data such as unique visitors and all that nice candy), it also helps you get key data, where available, about options for actual ads you can run.
For the websites above (perfect for the Brand Manager for Pampers). . . .
The last two columns show if advertising is available on those sites through Google and if so then approximately how many impressions and what kinds of ad formats. Text ads, image ads, video ads and gadget ads.
For many sites Google does not have ads to sell (like on cafemom.com or forever21.com above). Nonetheless this data is still very helpful to you in then going and buying that ad inventory elsewhere, while silently thanking Uncle Google for helping you get access to this delightful data! :)
And it goes without saying that you can save your media plan, you can create as many of them as you would like to (say you are a advertising agency with many clients) and yes you can even export all this data into Excel.
This post started by mentioning that the Google Ad Planner product is less a competitive intelligence tool and more a tool that provides you free access to some absolutely delightful demographic and psychographic data that is useful and actionable. Hopefully by walking through the cases above you'll see exactly how it does that.
Regardless of your use of the Ad Planner I hope that you'll be a lot more aware of the data that is available to you and exactly how you could use it.
Finally, if you want to learn more about the "unreliable world of online marketing and analytics" then might I recommend my good friend Ian Thomas's blog Lies, Damned Lies… He has recently switched from a Analytics role at Microsoft to a Advertising role, I think you'll appreciate his insights and, perhaps even more, his distinct sense of humor.
Ok your turn now.
What do you think of all this? Surprised to find it on a "web analytics blog"? No? Yes? Why? Have you used the Ad Planner? What do you think of it? Tried some other tools? What do you think of them? Notice my distinct lack of encouragement for you to use demographic data in a silo and just on your site?
Please share your feedback, ideas, critique and love.
Couple other related posts you might find interesting:
- Competitive Analysis: A Podcast & A Competency Model
- Competitive Intelligence Analysis: Why, What & How to Choose
- Competitive Intelligence Analysis: Metrics, Tips & Best Practices
- Competitive Intelligence Analysis: Google Trends for Websites
Ad Planner Help: