Playing Fair With Competitor Keywords in Google AdWords

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This is a guest post by Michael Wiegand. Michael is a Pay Per Click Analyst (and Social Media dabbler) with Portent Interactive, a Full Service Internet Marketing Agency in Seattle, WA. When he’s not making bid changes and writing ad text, Michael writes for the PiBlog.

In this realm of pay-per-click advertising two things are inevitable (think death and taxes): first, you have to spend money, and second, you’ll face some level, however small, of competition. In search engine marketing, your competition depends largely on your keyword semantics.

Find Your Competition

For starters, to assess your competition, run a few searches. See who comes up against you on several of your most important terms. Who appears for several of those terms? How do they stack up against you in average position?

Here’s where the great moral quandary comes into play. Are these competitors bidding on their own names/products? This can vary by industry, but in most cases an opportunity presents itself to capture the attention of your competitors’ audience.

There’s a right way and wrong way to go about bidding on competitor keywords.

DON’T…

Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion. Unfortunately, I see this mistake far more than I should. Advertisers will try to skirt Google’s rules not to include a competitor’s name in the headline/ad text by dynamically feeding in their whole keyword list. If you do this, it will get you a lot of angry phone calls, and probably a “Cease and Desist” letter or two.

Make Any Claims You Can’t Back Up. “We’re better because we’re awesome!” won’t cut it with AdWords. Any claims you make over a competitor need to be supported by a competitive analysis proving your claim on the landing page.

DO…

Differentiate Yourself. This is always the key to PPC competition in general, but especially when bidding on competitors’ keywords. You can craft a more appealing message without even mentioning your competitor’s name.

Show (Verifiable) Lower Prices. There’s nothing saying you can’t undercut your competition. But again, like in all circumstances where you list a price in your ad, it has to be confirmed on your lander.

If you work these methods right, you can create a new paid search traffic source by tapping competitor terms.

Keep These Things In Mind

Product Name, Not Brand Names. Sometimes a more specific approach may benefit you more. Instead of bidding on a competitor’s name, try bidding on a specific product name – maybe a product that you’re offering that has been directly compared to theirs by a third-party site/publication, or even better, a product name you can make a beneficial comparative claim against.

Copyright Infringement. If you’re playing against the big boys (say, a Fortune 500 company), despite your best efforts and all supportable claims, your ads might get punted by AdWords anyway. Why? Google has a great many copyrighted and trademarked terms in their editorial library. You could always file an exception, but in those circumstances, get back to basics and just make a better claim without using the trademark.

When In Doubt, Check The Rulebook. When you feel like the waters are being muddied in your endeavors to compete, check the AdWords Editorial Guidelines. And always, always err on the side of caution. Getting an extra bump in traffic is not worth doing anything that could be construed as rule-bending and get you sued, or worse, banned from advertising.

So, until next time, research your competition thoroughly, keep your tactics above board, and make the best of the opportunities AdWords will give you.

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