Guidelines for Running a Successful Competitor Brand Name Campaign

rock-em-sock-emBidding on competitor-based keywords is often a highly debated topic when it comes to paid search strategy. While some SEM account managers may frown on this, this tactic can work very well if implemented correctly.

Let’s outline the necessary items to look at when considering this tactic.

Why Does it Make Sense to Bid on Competitor Keywords?

Two reasons:

  • Low Cost: Competitor brand terms often present a great opportunity because there is less overall competition on search engine results pages (SERPs). This can lead to lower costs per click (CPCs) and less competition to compete for the click. With only a few advertisers bidding on competitor brand terms, your ads are more likely to stand out and each click should cost much less standard industry terms.
  • Increase Consideration For Your Brand: Presenting your brand next to your competitor’s brand, you will be able to increase awareness and consideration for your brand. Those who aren’t aware of your brand will be exposed to your advertisement and become aware of your product offering. Thus, you’re increasing the awareness of your brand and the potential for a customer to consider your brand. If your competitor happens to be deemed as an upper echelon product, presenting your product on the same SERP can have a positive effect on your brand’s perception.

Quality of Competitor Traffic

qualityThe traffic that is sent from competitor-based terms usually ends up being high quality traffic. If someone is ready to buy and has already done their research, they are using a branded query to go make that final purchase. That last second click you receive is to give your brand a chance to steal the sale.

If someone is looking to log into their customer or self-service section of your competitors website, they have no reason to click on you ad, thus resulting in less unqualified traffic. Of course, negative matching keywords related to customer service is always a good tactic to use.

Tactics to Keep in Mind When Implementing

When building out campaigns for your competitor’s brand terms, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Don’t Use Competitor Brand Names Within Ad Text: Utilizing trademarked brand names within your ad text will throw up a red flag to Google and get your ads disapproved. For your competitor-based campaigns and ad groups make sure to stay away from dynamic keyword insertion as you may end up with a few cease and desist letters in your mailbox.
  • Don’t Be Too Aggressive: When creating these campaigns, you may not want to bid on the exact match version of your competitors. For example, if you manage a health insurance provider’s account, you may not want to bid on “Aetna” but should definitely be bidding on “Aetna dental plans” and “Aetna health insurance”.
  • Low Quality Scores: One thing to expect when implementing this into your campaign is you will have low quality scores across all of these keywords. Don’t use quality score as a metric to judge if it is successful or not. You must judge this campaign on results and what your cost per sale is. You may end up with very low quality scores and a low click-through rate (CTR) but if you convert and have a low CPA, then it can be deemed successful.
  • Expect Competitors to Follow Suit: Don’t think other SEM managers won’t notice you bidding on their terms. As soon as the smart ones understand what you’re doing, you may see a few pop up bidding on your brand terms. As mentioned above, by not being too aggressive, and only bidding on extended brand terms, you may be able to fool them that you’re actually only bidding on phrase and broad match terms and getting matched to their branded queries.


Bidding on competitor-based search terms may not work for every account. There are pros and cons of implementing this tactic. Regardless, there is plenty of low-hanging fruit available if this is done correctly and you can truly improve the results of your campaign.

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