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How Apple Uses AdWords

Apple Inc current logoYou may or may not be aware of this already, but iSpionage makes it possible to take a peek at your competition by giving you access to estimates advertising budgets plus a summary of the actual ad copy, keywords, and landing pages your competitors are using.

Using iSpionage, you can learn about the strategies your competitors’ and pick up insights that will help you with your own campaigns. For example, you’ll know which ads they’ve been running the longest, which in turn let’s you know what ad copy is performing well so. With this information in hand, you can glean some ideas from their most successful copy. You’ll also learn what keywords they’re bidding on which may give you some ideas about some new ad groups you may want to try.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you’re going to love this case study post.

We’re going to walk you through the insights we gleaned from studying Apple’s PPC strategy. In the process, you’ll learn a lot about what Apple’s doing well, and you’ll also learn a lot about how to use iSpionage. Let’s dig into the results now.

An Overview of Apple’s PPC Strategy

iSpionage search box apple

The first thing we see after entering the Apple URL into iSpionage is that Apple spent around $77,000 to $98,000 last month on PPC ads. However, one thing to keep in mind is that this is only an estimate, and the general range can be two to three times whatever the estimate is. This means that Apple probably spent somewhere between $100,000 to $300,000 last month on PPC ads. They also received between 37,000 and 40,000 clicks last month with ads showing up in the third position on average.

Apple Last Month Search Marketing Statistics
Apple’s PPC Estimates – September 2013

When we look at the monthly ad budget estimate, we see that Apple’s monthly budget ranges from $100,000 to as high as $421,000 in December of 2012 with peaks and valleys in between. Take a look at the chart and see if you notice anything interesting about the peaks. Take a little time to review it…
Apple Estimated Search Marketing Budget
If you noticed that the peaks coincide with key sales periods for Apple, then you’re spot on. The December 2012 peak matches perfectly with Christmas, a key period for Apple product sales and an obvious time to increase the ad budget. The peak in March matches the third generation iPad Apple released on March 7. It’s easy to see from the chart that the peaks and valleys correspond to key sales periods and launches for Google.

Taking a Closer Look

When we take a closer look, we learn that Apple has used 6,081 ads for 75,900 keywords. They also rank for 329,709 SEO keywords which means they’re getting a lot of organic traffic as well.

When we click in to learn more about the PPC keywords they’re bidding on, we see the following.
Summary Statistics of Apple's Search Marketing Spend

The keywords are ranked based on the keyword effectiveness index (KEI) which takes into account how long the ad has been running as an indicator of how effective the ad is. A high KEI means that a keyword is performing well.

From this list, we learn that Apple has been bidding on “looking for retail jobs” for that last 273 days as a way to find more employees for their stores. They’re also benefitting from a surprisingly low CPC for keywords such as “discount mac book pro” and “the mac book air.” This is likely due to the fact that not many people are bidding on those terms and because the Apple website is the perfect match for those terms. They are paying significantly more per click for terms like “laptop portable” and “laptop/notebook computer” which have a lot more competition.

If we were a competitor, we could continue reviewing this list to identify which keywords and themes Apple bids on in order to see if there are any opportunities we’re missing out on. A lot of times you’ll learn about themes that can become ad groups for your products and which may points out opportunities you’re not currently taking advantage of. We’d also consider bidding on some of the Apple specific terms to take advantage of the low CPC.

This type of information is especially helpful if you’re much small than your competition. By researching the ads the big guys are using, you’ll gain information that their team of experts have learned through trial and error. You don’t have to spend the same amount on research and can instead implement what you’ve learned right away. It’s a great way to save yourself time and money from trial and error that can take months or even years to pay off.

Reviewing the Competition

Next, we’d like to take a close look at Apple’s competition. Our Top 10 PPC Competitors review shows that Apple’s top 10 PPC competitors are,,,,,,,,, and (More competitors can be viewed by clicking “View More,” and yes, some of these are subsidiaries of Apple.)

The charts below show Apple’s Top 10 competitors and the amount they spend per month on PPC ads and the number of keywords that overlap. Studying this information reveals who Apple is competing against, how much each competitor is spending, and which keywords they’re bidding on.

Top AdWords Competitors


Reviewing Apple’s Ads

In addition to learning more about competitors’ ad budgets and keywords, tools like iSpionage reveal the keyword copy that different companies use. You can use this information to find ad copy ideas you can test and to review your competitors’ landing pages to see what else you can learn.

Apple’s top 5 ads are shown below based on the ads effectiveness index (AEI) that calculates which ads are the most effective. The chart includes the ad copy, the AEI for each ad, the destination URL, the keyword it’s shown for, how many other keywords it’s being used for, the average search volume, the average ad rank, a CPC estimate, the number of days the ads been seen, what date it was first seen, and the date it last was seen.
Summary of Apple's Ads on AdWords
This information is useful for learning which ad copy is performing well and to research your competition’s landing pages without clicking on their ads. For example, when we review Apple’s ads, the brevity of the copy really stands out. Instead of using all of the character spaces available from AdWords, they use short, punchy copy to get their point across (and probably to stand out from the other ads). They also use the product name in the headline for the product ads and direct people to a landing page designed specifically for that product (shown below), not onto their homepage which is a big no-no with PPC advertising.

Air Laptop Landing Page
A sample landing page for the MacBook Air

Wrapping It Up

So what did you learn? Do you learn anything useful about Apple’s PPC strategy or about how to use iSpionage’s search marketing research tools? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or ask a question to let us know what you learned from this article or what questions you have about paid search research tools. You can also take iSpionage for a spin by entering a keyword or domain into the iSpionage homepage and seeing what you can learn about your site and your competition’s. Good luck!


Guest-Author-Joseph-PutnamJoseph Wesley Putnam is the proud owner of 5 North Marketing. He helps startups with copywriting, content marketing, and conversion rate optimization. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+, schedule a call on Clarity, and read more of his posts on the 5 North Marketing Blog.