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How to handle your competitors buying your brand terms in PPC.

Olivia Craig

May 8th, 2018

If you’re a player in the paid search game, you’re most likely not afraid of a little healthy competition. You’ve spent a sizable amount of time and money trying to generate quality leads with the help of brand keywords and you know that when it comes to branded bidding wars on Google paid search, competition is fierce.

No big deal, you’re ready for it. Unfortunately, a little healthy competition in the world of paid search can quickly escalate to your competitor’s funneling in your highly valuable traffic, bumping you right out of the number 1 position for your own brand name. How? Why? And what can you do about it? Let’s talk.

If the thought of your ideal potential or even existing customer running a Google search for your company’s name and instead, finding your competitor’s name in that number 1 position is keeping you up at night, we can’t blame you. Highly valuable, hard-won traffic scooped up by your direct competition – what could be worse? Better yet, what can be done? Since Google lifted the ban on bidding on competitor brand keywords back in 2008, businesses have had to accept the idea that as long as they don’t mention their trademark name within their ad copy, competitors can – and absolutely will – bid against you for your own brand keywords. In Google’s eyes, this practice is fair game. Below, we’ve broken down a course of action to take to beat your competitor’s to punch, plus a course of action to take if it’s too late.

1. Beat Them On Your Own Your Brand Name

It’s time to start bidding on your own brand terms. While doing so sounds completely counterproductive, remember that it protects your brand name and puts the power back in your hands – and ads. Once you’ve bought your own brand name, you will be able to take charge of the messaging, giving you an opportunity to test ads for optimal success. Don’t stop with Google, check Bing and other search partners like Yahoo. Remember that those searches belong to you, so you need to make sure your business is in the first position. Branded PPC ads are a must for your business. If you don’t see the need to bid on your own branded terms, keep in mind that your competitor’s certainly do. Having multiple listings in Google on both the paid and organic side can and will greatly improve your click through rates, as well. A surprising amount of businesses forget – or choose not to – buy their branded keywords until they see a competitor has scooped them up, taking advantage of the opportunity to gather up your valuable leads. Keep in mind that when a competitor buys your brand name, they aren’t going to be singing your praises or unique qualities. Outbidding any potential competitor for your brand name ensures you can maintain control over messaging and your hard-earned leads.

  • Once you’ve claimed position 1 on your brand terms, your quality score should be at a 9 or 10
  • This will result in a lower CPC than your competitors but if you don’t have a quality score of 9 or 10, you will want to focus on improving that
  • Doing so will reduce your CPC and ensure that you stay in position one

If your competitor has already beat you to the punch, it’s best to first acknowledge that unless they’re using your trademark name in their ad copy, they have no reason to remove their ads. If you’ve find yourself on the receiving end of competitor bidding, let’s talk course of action.

2. Appeal to Your Competitor with an Email

A polite email sent your competitor’s way asking them to take the ad down in interest of fair play won’t always help, but it certainly can’t hurt. Giving them an opportunity to remove their ads – specifically considering that many PPC agencies set ads like this up without the company’s awareness or even permission, is considered best practice. You should do so assuming that your competitor will simply never remove their ads, but this step is worth a shot given that a potential all out ‘bidding war’ may be something they’re hoping to avoid.

3. Target Your Competitor’s Branded Keywords

This is ultimately a last – and at times effective – resort. Consider targeting your competitor’s branded terms with a new ad campaign of your own. If everyone searching for your competitor’s brand is in the market for what you offer, this strategy could ultimately help you syphon off their qualified leads. This strategy is also typically cheaper due to lower competition and can ultimately lead to increased brand awareness for your company, capitalizing on their searches. If you choose to do this, be sure to monitor performance closely. Targeting your competitor’s branded keywords isn’t typically the highest performing strategy due to a lower conversion rate that could potentially impact your Quality Score, so we suggest that if you decide to go this route, you keep a close eye. 

  • Make sure you are bidding against competitors you are actually competing with. What company is taking business away from you? Don’t try to bid against big name companies if they aren’t your direct competitors
  • Avoid bidding aggressively on mobile as most likely, when someone is searching a store name on their mobile device, they’re looking for the nearest location, not competitors
  • Do not use competitor’s trademarked brand name in your ad text. This is an illegal practice that will get reported and could lead to Google restricting your ads, removing them, or even high penalties

Conclusion

Ultimately, all is fair in the game of PPC. Competitors can bid on your brand terms, you can bid on theirs. To ensure your brand stays on top, do your best to dominate your brand term ad space, beating them to the punch to maintain control. Keep in mind that it’s in both your and your competitor’s best interest to avoid an all out brand bid war.