Google Ads auction insights: What it is and how to maximise it


  • Understand what Google Ads auction insights is and how to use it
  • Learn about the different metrics offered in auction insights reports
  • Find out how to access and use auction insights data
  • See how auction insights can be used to optimise your PPC campaigns

Paid search advertising is an essential part of many businesses’ marketing strategies. But this is tricky to get right, and one of the biggest challenges is making sure you’re being seen ahead of your competitors.

There’s limited space at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) for ads, so how do you make sure your content is being selected ahead of others? Google chooses its ads through ‘auctions’. These happen every time a user searches for a particular keyword and see marketers bid for the top spots in paid SERPs.

But how do you know what the best strategy is for this? You could simply throw money at the issue by placing maximum bids that outpace everyone else. But this isn’t the only factor Google considers, nor is it a very cost-effective plan. Instead, you need to understand exactly what other bidders are doing so you can respond accordingly. This is where Google Ads auction insights comes in.

What is auction insights for Google Ads?

Auction insights is a set of data reporting tools within the Google Ads platform that lets you compare how your ads are performing against competitors for the same auctions. According to Google, the information offered here can show you what aspects of your campaigns are succeeding and where you may be missing opportunities for improved performance. In turn, this enables you to make better decisions about budgeting, targeting, ad content and future bidding strategies.

Google Ads auction insights are available for campaigns across Google Search, Shopping and Performance Max. Although the tool won’t show you what specific keywords other advertisers are bidding on, it can tell you where they’re prioritising spend. What’s more, it can identify any emerging competitors and let you see who else is bidding on your branded terms.

What metrics are included in auction insights reports?

There are six key metrics available within Google Ads auction insights. These are impression share, overlap rate, outranking share, position above rate, top of page rate and absolute top of page rate. If these sound a little complicated, don’t worry. They’re actually fairly easy to understand, and once you know what they all mean, you’ll quickly see how you can use the data to optimise your campaigns. Here’s what each one involves in a bit more detail. 

Impression share

This refers to the percentage of impressions your ads received compared with the total available. It’s calculated by dividing the number of impressions you receive by the total number you were eligible for based on your ad setting, quality score and other factors. The higher this figure, the more often your ads are winning auctions and being seen by users.

Overlap rate

Overlap rate shows you how often competing advertisers received an impression at the same time as you. For example, if you have an overlap rate of 25 per cent with a particular brand, this means your ads were seen together one in four times. This can show you which competitors are bidding on the same terms as you, allowing you to analyse their ads to see what they’re doing well and how you can improve, or indicate if you should be increasing your maximum bid in order to outrank them.

Outranking share

This metric shows how often competitors’ ads outrank yours in the auction process. This can help you understand how your bids are performing and the overall quality of your ads. If you’re frequently being outranked by competitors, there are a range of steps you can take to improve this, from increasing your maximum bid to focusing on improving the quality score – which takes into account your landing pages as well as the ad copy itself.

Position above rate

Available only for search campaigns, this tells you how often your ads appeared in a higher position in SERPs than competitors where two or more ads were shown together. For example, a figure of 30 per cent for this metric means that your ads appeared above your rival bidders three times out of ten. There are several things you can do to improve this metric, and it’s not just about who has the biggest budget. Optimising your landing page experience, improving relevance and adjusting your scheduling settings can all have an impact on position above rate.

Top of page rate

Also available for search only, this metric tells you how often each advertiser’s ads reach the top paid search positions in SERPs, above organic search results. Comparing your own ads to those that have the best ratings on this metric, you can start to see what they’re doing well in terms of ad copy, targeting and relevance.

Absolute top of page rate

Finally, absolute top of page rate is similar to top of page rate, except it only shows you how often you and your competitors appeared at the very top of search results, in the coveted number one spot.

How to access an auction insights report

These metrics provide vital information to marketers, providing they know how to access and interpret the data. The first step involves actually locating and viewing the information. With this in mind, here’s how to access the Google Ads auction insights reporting:

  • Log in to your Google Ads account from your web browser.
  • Click on the “Campaigns” tab located on the left-hand side of the dashboard.
  • Select the specific campaign you want to view. Auction Insights can also be viewed at the Ad Group or Keyword level.
  • After selecting the campaign, locate the ‘More’ option at the top of the page. Click on it and select ‘Auction Insights’ from the dropdown menu.
  • Select the time range for viewing the Auction Insights in the top right corner to analyse performance over different periods.
  • Once selected, the report will populate with the various metrics, which can be toggled on or off if you want to focus on a certain area. Other filters include the ability to segment data by time or device. 

How to use the data from auction insights

There are a range of options for using the information obtained from Google Ads auction insights. Some of the most common ways in which this data can be acted on include:

  • Keyword insight – The tools can help you identify which keywords offer you the best chance of success, allowing you to prioritise your spending.
  • Competitor awareness – Gather a list of your strongest-performing rivals to determine who they are, what they offer and which audiences they’re targeting.
  • Spot new opportunities – Auction insights can show you which keywords have the lowest levels of competition and those where other brands don’t rank well.
  • Adapt to new trends – The data can show you patterns such as when other companies are ramping up their PPC spending and what they’re doing.

Axonn’s take on auction insights

Auction insights provide invaluable data about the performance of your paid search campaigns and how you stack up against competitors. Analysing these should be something every firm does as part of its ongoing marketing strategy in order to drive improvement and deliver the best possible return on investment.

However, this only works if companies have the knowledge and resources to accurately interpret what the data is telling them – and are then able to turn this insight into real action. This can be especially difficult for small, time-poor marketing teams. Therefore, it can pay to work with an experienced full-service marketing agency to help put the learnings from auction insights into practice.

A partner like Axonn can not only assist you in interpreting what the metrics are telling you, but will be able to apply the results to every aspect of your paid campaigns. This could be creating more compelling ad copy, improving your understanding of target audiences, or optimising your landing pages to increase the chances of turning clicks into conversions.

Get in touch today to find out more about our paid advertising services.  

6 Minute Read

By Iain Pemberton | Updated

Iain is a senior member of Axonn’s editorial team and is an expert in tech. He should be; he’s been writing about the topic for more than 14 years.

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