Bidding On Competitor Brand Names In Adwords

15 June 2018

Bidding on your competitor’s brand name is a great way to capitalise on traffic that you would never normally be exposed to.

Yes, bidding on competitors’ brand name perfectly okay/legal to do and it’s a strategy that I’d always highly recommend.

When done right, it’s a great source of cheap and highly qualified leads.

And there are some businesses that have just as much search volume for their brand name as your big-hitting non-branded keywords.

Just check out how many searches Orbit Fitness have for their brand name. It dwarfs some of the biggest geo-tagged fitness equipment related keywords.

Search numbers of Orbit Fitness verses non-branded searches

A lot of the time, the people behind these searches are hot, ready to buy customers who aren’t particularly loyal to the company that they’re searching for.

Think of it like how some people will still say that they will “Hoover” the floors (with their Dyson).

If you’re able to present a better deal or a competitive advantage over the business that you’re targeting, you can pull a lot of opportunity your way.

So, competitors’ brand names can be a valuable source for additional traffic, leads and sales. Especially if you’re not currently hitting your daily budget in AdWords.

However, when done wrong, it can waste your budget at best, and land you in some really hot (even legal) water at worst.

Don’t Use Other Brand Names In Ads

Target your competitors’ brand names as keywords, for sure.

But don’t actually write ads where you write their brand name in.

Never. Ever.

Firstly, in your own interest, you’re just going to fool search users who are just going to bounce straight off your website, running up your daily budget with very little return.

Secondly, it’s a real d*ck move. It’s not going to help you get on with everyone in your industry.

Thirdly, there’s always the potential of legal action.

Just steer clear of that “strategy” all together.

Don’t Use Dynamic Keyword Insertions

So (hopefully) you know not to use your competitors’ brand names in your AdWords ads.

But you could end up displaying a competitor’s name in your ad without meaning to.

Despite how sh*t they are, some people are still using Dynamic Keyword Insertions (DKI) in their ads.

(Okay, DKI has it’s place in some large e-Commerce websites. But for most businesses, it’s a lazy way to try to provide relevancy in their ads).

If you don’t know how DKI works, basically, when you’re writing your ads you can use the {Keyword:Example} command.

As long as the Search Term that a search users looks for (and matches with your ad) fits the character limit of your ad, the “Example” part will be replaced with the Search Term.

In the best case scenario, your ads will look pretty stupid like in this example below from Amazon, who would have written their Headline 1 like this:

“Shop {Keyword:Products} on Amazon”

Amazon ad bidding on Door Stop

The {Keyword:Prodcuts} has been replaced by my search term “door stop”, changing the Healine 1 to read:

“Shop Door stop on Amazon”

So you can see how in the worst scenario, one of your broad match keywords could end up matches with a competitor’s brand name.

And the Dynamic Keyword Insertion feature kicks in, displaying that competitor’s brand name loud and proud in your in your ad.

(Whilst I did manage to find an example of doing this, I thought it was best not to show the example and avoid calling someone’s business out).

Setting It Up Right

It’s always ideal to have a seperate Campaign for targeting your competitors.

Firstly, you can use your competitors’ brand names as negative keywords in your other campaigns so that they aren’t indirectly bidding on those terms through broad match keywords.

Then, in your Competitors Campaign, I would have a dedicated AdGroup for each competitor that you plan to target – making it easier to identify which competitor’s keywords are actually working for you.

Having a seperate budget for your Competitors Campaign is also a good way to ensure that your other Campaigns’ budget isn’t chewed up by this new one.

Writing Good Ads

Ensure you’re writing ads that boast a competitive advantage which your targeted competitor doesn’t have.

It’s also a good idea to ensure that your brand name (not your competitor’s) is very obviously stated in the ad copy.

Because if you don’t do that, the only identifier you have for your business is your URL (which a lot of people don’t always glance at).

A good example of an ad that is designed to be used with competitor’s brand names (without tricking or confusing anyone) is this one with Door Stop:

Door Stop Competitor Ads

Door Stop haven’t mentioned their competitor’s name in the ad.

And whilst the word “better” is used, it requires the search user to put two and two together, and doesn’t explicitly state who their quality and prices are better than.

There’s also the opportunity to be a bit cheeky if the competitor’s brand name can be used naturally in a sentence, like Himac Attachments in this example:

Himac Attachment competitor ad with pun

This one just about gets away with murder here as luckily this competitor’s name can be used naturally. The fact that the word “norm” wasn’t capitalised also helps.

If you want to have a bit of fun but don’t have the chance to perform some word play on your competitor’s brand name, you can try something like what The Plumbing And Gas Guys did:

The Plumbing And Gas Guys Targeting Pascoes

Or if you just want to play it safe, use an ad that you would typically use when bidding on your own brand name like so:

Himac Attachments generic ad on competitor keyword

Monitor Performance

Always ensure that you’re tracking conversions with your AdWords campaigns – such as phone calls and enquiry forms filled.

Monitor your Competitors Campaign and its AdGroups closely and ensure that you’re pulling in leads at a reasonable cost.

If things are starting to look expensive, try lower your bids, revise your ads to be more clear and/or look through the Search Terms report to see if there’s any keywords that are causing waste.

If, for whatever reason, you’re not seeing results from bidding on a particular competitor’s brand name – you may have to pause the AdGroup.

Don’t forget to segment data by device types when analysing, too.

Because there’s a chance that people searching on a mobile are looking for an address or phone number rather than researching.

So, you may get poorer results on mobile.

Or you may not.

You’ll have to see for yourself 🙂

The Favour May Be Returned

A potential downside to bidding on your competitors’ brand names are that your competitors might start bidding on your brand name too.

However, the risk is easy to weigh up- especially if your brand is relatively unknown and has very small search volumes in Google compared to your better known competitors with larger search volumes.

Dealing With Confrontation From Competitors

Even if you’re playing by the rules, some competitors may give you a phone call or an e-mail expressing their displeasure over your ads.

It’s always best in these situations to be able to compromise somewhat.

Ask what specifically about the ads is causing an issue and show that you’re happy to revise the ads to keep everything civil.

That way, despite the fact that you’re not taking your ads down, they may feel as if they at least got something from their effort. Especially since they’re likely worked up on making contact and adamant for a result of some sort.

Now, you’re not required to do that by any means but I genuinely believe it’s always better to just get along with your competition if you have the chance.

Can I Stop People From Bidding On My Brand Name

For displaying your brand name, yes.

You can file a request to have your brand name recognised as a trademark in Google which prevents others’ from even creating ads.

However, Google do not investigate or restrict trademarks as keywords.

So, there’s no way to stop it.

The best way that you can combat it is to ensure that you’re also bidding on your own brand name and price your competitors out so that it’s simply not profitable for them to do so.

4 thoughts on “Bidding On Competitor Brand Names In Adwords”

  1. “A lot of the time, the people behind these searches are hot, ready to buy customers who aren’t particularly loyal to the company that they’re searching for.”

    Or because Orbit have 10 stores and a very large presence, people are actually looking for orbit. Using an example of a business that has a large physical footprint I think gives the wrong idea about bidding on competitor keywords.

    1. Well, I’ve certainly bagged a lot of leads for clients through search terms with “bunnings” in there, simply because they offered a better deal or quality than what Bunnings was offering.

      Some people also start their search/research of a product by going straight to the best known retailer – it doesn’t necessarily mean their purchase journey will end there.

      The example of Orbit Fitness was simply to show that there are a lot of searches for fitness equipment that you wouldn’t even have a chance of accessing if you only used non-branded terms such as “gym equipment perth”.

      The fact that they have X amount of stores isn’t always relevant, as people will sacrifice convenience for a better deal. For example, with Dentistry Plus, we target a competitor whose clinics outnumber us HEAVILY – yet, we still pull in conversions from those keywords.

      Again, the emphasis is that you need to have some point of difference over the competitor that you’re bidding on in order to pull them away from the brand they were initially searching for.

      Although yes, there will be a portion of people searching for “Orbit Fitness” that will be looking for their phone number or address.

      This is where, if you were going to target their (Orbit’s) brand name you would:
      A) make it clear that your advert is not Orbit Fitness and…
      B) manage your bids appropriately to anticipate a certain amount of waste as we know that a lot of search users don’t properly read what they click on.

      1. “Well, I’ve certainly bagged a lot of leads for clients through search terms with “bunnings””

        But at what cost? Your going to be paying a premium for a click and likely have a much lower conversion rate so depending on the niche your CPA could be huge, even factoring in the lifetime value of an acquisition. To me it sounds more like vanity result for clients.

        I’m not trying to imply that you don’t have your clients best interests at heart but my point is that for most businesses spending their limited budget on competitor keywords might not be the best strategy

        1. The idea, with a Competitors Campaign, is to get leads as cheap or cheaper than what you’re acquiring for non-branded terms.

          Competitor targeting is not meant to cost a premium. Even in the example shown, the estimated CPC for “orbit fitness” is significantly lower than the CPC for non-branded fitness equipment keywords.

          So, of course, you wouldn’t allow the cost to start getting crazy whilst targeting competitor brand names.

          If that was the case, you would either decrease the bids or abandon the exercise all together (rather than just let it run for vanity).

          You wouldn’t allow your competitor keywords to exhaust your budget and cannibalise opportunity for your non-branded keywords. With a separate Campaign (as recommended in the article) you can dictate a separate budget.

          As with anything in AdWords; you test, measure and assess.

          Whilst there are plenty of cases where this strategy works fantastically, there are also scenarios where it doesn’t.

          It’s just something you have to discover with each Account.

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