Blindness in paid search and why data quality is so important

Pat Hong Posted by Pat Hong


Mistakes happen. Things break. And even the biggest brands, those with huge PPC budgets, can inadvertently turn off their page search visibility for a large segment of their audience as one Adthena client recently discovered…


For Adthena’s enterprise clients, managing paid search spend can be a complicated business. Mobile, geo-targeting, and retargeting options mean that optimising overall spend requires continuous adjustment and testing. In more competitive verticals, tactics are aggressive, reactive, and require constant monitoring.

As brands seek a competitive edge, they constantly refine spend, making adjustments in order to maintain the most competitive bid strategies.

The consequence is that the chances of making an error are high. Mistakes are costly, and ultimately, it is crucial for businesses to build their paid search efforts around data quality which can be relied upon to ensure that when problems do occur — they can be swiftly resolved.

What is competitive blindness?

Competitive blindness refers to the fact that a large number of brands operating paid search, and surprisingly even those with a considerable investment in the discipline, are quite simply operating blind.

It is likely not a unique case, but one Adthena client recently discovered after onboarding with Adthena, that they had no paid search visibility for a large number of branded head-terms.

Some background: As soon as a domain is indexed, Adthena is able to immediately identify any missed search term opportunities, across both brand and generic keywords. Users are presented with a dashboard similar to the one below:


“Missing brand opportunities” account for search terms containing any brand keywords, that our machine-learned tech has seen a competitor serving an ad for, but where the brand itself appears to be absent. For consumer-facing brands, any terms here should almost always be a significant cause for concern.

A high number of missing brand terms effectively means that competitors are ‘hijacking’ consumers who were already indicating strong intent to engage with your brand.

This particular competitor did not expect to see any missing brand opportunities. They were of the belief that their bid strategy was set to serve a brand ad 100% of the time a branded search term was used.

Not only did this brand have no paid search visibility on the missing terms, but they were completely unaware that this was the case.

In fact, because of competitive blindness, this is a fairly common problem in paid search.

The key to fixing competitive blindness? Data quality.

When issues do arise, it’s crucial to know you can rely on the data. Data quality provides a foundation which removes uncertainty and sets a benchmark which teams can rally around. In this case, screenshots of Adthena’s historic crawl data was able to prove with certainty that these were not anomalies or inaccuracies in the data. In a practical context:

  • Adthena’s data collection, which updates up to 24 times a day and surfaces frequency data (the % of time an ad is visible), gives competitors a much more accurate understanding of their competitive landscape. A lower frequency of crawls may not identify such absences in paid search visibility.
  • Once the search term opportunity dashboard identified missing brand opportunities on the client’s branded search terms, it was possible to confirm that Adthena’s data was accurate using the recorded screenshots.
  • If Adthena did not have rigorous data quality and assurance protocols, there would not have been certainty around the absence of ads, potentially delaying a solution by weeks or even months.
  • Data quality empowers employees. Having access to CI monitoring tools, allows paid search managers to develop the processes needed so that the same mistakes won’t be repeated, and best practices can be developed.

Find out more about data quality, and how it is making a difference for Adthena’s clients.

About the author

Pat Hong
Pat Hong
Pat is the Digital Content Strategist at Adthena. He works on Adthena's content projects, covering adtech news, trends, and insights. He studied Film and Television at the University of West London.