When it comes to online advertising, one of the top points of frustration for clients and prospects is the visibility of their chief competitors. Whether the performance of other advertisers in the marketplace is due to skill, luck, or both, there are strategies that can maximize your returns no matter who is sitting at the table. Perception is reality. Perception is the competition showing up "all the time" in the search engine results. The reality is that there are methods to overcome those obstacles despite your market being severely entrenched. What makes you stand out? In sales and marketing, we call this your "unique selling proposition", "USP", or "value props". In the pay-per-click advertising discipline, this ties directly into your ad copy. Assuming your keywords are well chosen, your bids are sound, and other targeted settings are optimized, you now have a potential customer and this is your chance to shine. If you are concerned with keeping up with the Joneses, start mapping your competitors' searches and ads. Examine how they market themselves. How can you use their marketing strategies for your benefit? What common themes do you see? What kinds of value props are they advertising? Short lead times? Low cost? Huge inventory? If you partner with an agency, you will most likely have access to more sophisticated tools for your strategy. You will be able to see the paid keywords and ads your competitor's websites are ranking for. Use this information to make decisions. This is more efficient than manually doing Google searches and recording the results. Keep in mind that playing off of existing ideas seen in ads is a great way to get started and put yourself in the mindset for developing new ad copy for yourself. However, the real win is going to be differentiating yourself from the herd, especially in a case when Google is serving 10 text ads in the same results page. When everyone else in the market is competing on the basis of price, take this as an opportunity to offer value that no one else can. Whether that comes in the form of education, quality, or customer service, you want to take your moment of truth in the search engine results and capitalize on the value that sets you apart. To do some more advanced brainstorming, I would recommend generating a spreadsheet. Begin by mapping out features and corresponding benefits of your products or services. Ask for an outside perspective; it's easy to have tunnel vision when you're so close to your business every day. From there, think about how people might find you on the search engines. What kinds of searches might lead them to your website? How might someone's readiness to contact you or purchase influence the type of messaging they are likely to respond well to? With this information prepared, you are ready to sit down and write ads that are contextual and relevant. Good ads speak to the user at the right moment in the right way based on the keywords they will show for. By taking the time to work through this creative process, you will already be steps ahead of most of your competitors.