While there are many reasons why companies advertise, growing their market share is often one of those. There are many ways of doing this but an aggressive strategy can sometimes be the answer. In paid search, this often translates by the following question: Should you bid on your competitors’ brand terms?

There is no exact answer to this question but if you go down this road, make sure you know what you’re doing. There are things you need to be aware of and things you should not do from a legal or ethical perspective.

Is bidding on competitor brand terms legal?

Yes, there are no legal restrictions in doing so, just a couple things to know. Search engines, while they are not advising it, won’t take action unless the competitor brand has already expressed concerns and filed a trademark protection request to Adwords’ legal team. Remember that search engines are always looking to provide the most relevant results and the best user experience. In the USA for example, trademark protection has been completely removed which may seem unfair if a competitor is bidding aggressively on your brand. In Australia, you can still file that complaint and we we’ll show you how to do this further down.

Is bidding on competitor brand terms ethical?

You already know the answer to this question! No, it is not ethical. But if you are willing to adopt an aggressive strategy, then ethics come in second place. Plus, it is wrong to mislead the user, but totally fine to offer an alternative to their product/service if you’re providing something similar.

How should I proceed?

Well, the first step is to protect your own brand terms. File your own trademark protection, which can be done here.
The second step is to identify if your competitors have protected their brand terms. This can be easily checked by looking if other advertisers are already bidding on their terms or if you see your ads disapproved by Google for that same reason.

If the road is clear, then proceed to the next step.

Create a separate campaign where you will have full control over how much money you can invest in competitor terms. This will also facilitate reporting further down the line.

You can begin by creating one adgroup per competitor and expand later to increase relevancy: Why not target long tail searches that may be cheaper? Have a look at the keyword tool to give you ideas on what other keywords you can bid on.

Once you have your campaign, adgroups and keywords set up, you need to write the ad copies. This is the tricky part.

Why? Because users are actively looking for your competitor and have their brand in mind. That also mean they have already made their decision on where to buy, or that they could not have any awareness of your own brand.

What should I write in my ads?

The key to bidding on competitor brand terms is to tell those users that you offer an alternative product or service that may be of their interest.

Therefore the message to be communicated in your text ads should focus on your key competitive advantages and what differentiates yourself from them. This is very important, otherwise your chances of receiving clicks will be low. And a low CTR means low quality scores (QS) resulting in high cost per clicks (CPC) . But no matter how hard you try, chances are you will be paying high CPCs.

Also, note that despite {KeyWord:insertion} being a great function in Adwords, never use it in your competitor campaign. Otherwise, you will end up with your competitor brand in your ad copy headline, which is both misleading and wrong.

Conclusion

Paid search is always about testing and learning. Try bidding on some of your competitors if you think you can get something out of it, but don’t base your whole paid search strategy on this. If you already have a good brand recognition, why not try the display network for your competitors campaign?

Remember, always be as ethical as you can and focus on your key selling points, what you have and what your competitors don’t.

If bidding on competitors doesn’t work for you, even after a few optimizations, then give it up. There is no point in trying to pursue something that does not give you any results when there are many other options in paid search that will perform much better.

Tell us what your best practice is when bidding on competitor terms. Have you experienced good results? Don’t be shy and share with us!

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