Do a search on Google for a well known brand, and you will find competitors muscling in on the action by advertising their own brand by targeting and bidding on their competitors’ brands keywords.
Known as Brand Bidding, there are 3 main benefits to buying your way to the top of the search results in the race for branded searches:

  • Cheap clicks – Brand keywords (in some circumstances) generate relatively cheap clicks, since many less advertisers will have included these terms into their keyword targeting mix. Be mindful though, that if your competitor is bidding on their own brand, you will need to pay a higher price.
  • High quality traffic – Although the volume of clicks you attract may be limited, the traffic you gain will be very well qualified. The majority of clicks acquired this way will consist of people looking for a product or service provided by the competitor, therefore (assuming you provide a similar product/service) will have high intent and is likely to convert.
  • Brand exposure – If people are searching for a competitor within your industry, they are in the market for something they provide. Using the competitor’s name as a keyword, and advertising for their terms, you can start to make these potential customers aware of your brand name and what you offer.

An example of competitors bidding on branded terms

In the example below, we find 4 advertisers when searching for the well known drains clearing company Dyno Rod.
Dyno Rod has itself secured position 2 in the advertising competition- outranked by one local competitor who clearly feels it is worth the cost to be securing that valuable top spot.  
With Dyno Rod securing the second slot, the other businesses in positions 3 and 4 are also competitors, leveraging Dyno Rod’s  dominant market position to raise their own brand awareness and acquire relevant traffic.
competitor brand bidding
Remember… it isn’t always worth paying the price to be in the top position. Read out guide to the best position  when it comes to getting traffic and drive conversions.

Is it legal to use competitors names in your keywords?

In a nutshell, yes.
Google has quite a simple set of search advertising guidelines that cover issues including trademarks, and it is the protection offered by trademarks that is key to this discussion. Google respects the protection offered by a trademark, but in general, this does not extend to the selection of the keywords you are bidding for. 
So, in the above example, the three advertisers are acting legally in bidding for the phrase ‘Dyno Rod’, provided that:

  • Trademarked text is not included in the advert copy.
  • Advertising copy does not confuse the user as to the origin of the goods or services.

At the same time, be sure to follow best practice if you want to dominate the search results with your own brand.

Top tips for using competitor names in keywords

Let’s get down to the practicalities of bidding on your competitors’ brands and keyphrases.

Highlight your unique proposition in the ad copy.

This is good practice for any Google Ads activity, but it is even more important for targeting competitor’s keywords. Think about it, the potential customer is searching specifically for a competitor of yours. This indicates that they are already aware of that company and it will take something unique and eye catching to potentially draw them away. Decide whether your USP offers more convenience, is less expensive, higher quality, etc, and run with it.

Don’t be silly with your bids.

The aim of this campaign is not necessarily to dominate the number one spot in the Google results page. Consider how profitable this type of campaign is to your business and bid an amount which you’d be happy to pay to generate clicks. For example, you could argue that if your ad sits beneath the competitor’s listing, you will receive clicks from people that are possibly looking for an alternative company to the one they searched for.

Do not include the competitors keyword in your ad.

Not only is this bad practice and misleading to visitors it is against Google’s trademark policy, as mentioned above. With this in mind, you would also want to avoid dynamic keyword insertion techniques in your ad copy for this campaign – which is a powerful technique used to improve ad relevance and quality scores for non-branded queries.

Do not start a bidding war.

To put it simply, starting a bidding war will only result in one loser and that is you. I have occasionally seen people use the theory that bidding a greater amount on these keywords will force competitors to pay more to advertise on their own brand keywords. Whilst this is true, the repercussions to your campaign are far superior than any damage you think you are doing to your competitors. If your competitors are bidding for their own terms, then their AdRank will be significantly better than yours, given that their entire domain revolves around these branded terms. Hence you would need to bid disproportionate amounts to attempt to do this – it’s not a profitable tactic!
The possibilities of Google Ads targeting are endless and this is but one strategy of many, that you can implement into your targeting mix. If you’d like to discuss brand bidding, or any other forms of PPC advertising, then drop a comment below or get in touch with us.