With recent news breaking that Google will be opening up keyword bidding policies on trademarked terms, it is time to reconsider whether this is a valid and cost-effective tactic to consider.
On its face, bidding on a competitor’s name or key product seems to be a money-losing proposition. After all, in pay-per-click advertising, we seek relevant traffic that is likely to convert into customers or leads. Someone looking for a direct competitor would seem to be the exact opposite of a likely customer – they are in fact searching, specifically, for your competitor.
But when you reconsider, you realize that a user searching on a competitor’s brand name is clearly in the market for your competitor’s product or service, and, further, that you provide the same or a similar product or service. What’s the situation then? Here’s a searcher, a potential customer, somebody probably nearing the end of the decision cycle, and you’re effectively ignoring them.
With that in mind, here are some keys to successful advertising on a competitor’s branded name:
Don’t misrepresent yourself. Don’t pose as the competitor. This tactic will leave your first-time customer disillusioned, and it is the only tactic that might result in legally enforceable repercussions. From either perspective, it’s not worth the risk. Stand behind your company’s name, and be confident in bidding for your competitor’s customers.
Emphasize what makes your company special, unique, and better. In a competitive marketplace, your brand must stand for something different from and better than your competitor. Bid on your competitor’s name, and then use your 140 characters of ad text to make these differences clear. Examples could include superior customer service, the best prices in the marketplace, or longstanding experience online or in-store beyond what your competitors have. (If you don’t have something special, unique, or better, it is time to reconsider whether you should be in business at all…)
Consider responding to your competitor’s claims. Look at what your competitors are claiming, either through their ad text or through their general online messaging, and attack it. Presumably, a user searching on a specific competitor’s name is attracted to these claims, and by emphasizing your superiority in their area of strength, you are more likely to draw clicks and potential purchases from these new users.
Prepare for an increase in cost-per-click. In my experience, the only downside to bidding on a competitor’s name is the cost-per-click. But make sure to get past the sticker shock, and analyze whether the keywords are working. Monitor the cost-per-acquisition or ROI on these new keywords, and let the raw numbers determine whether they are effective keywords. I suspect that they will be. (If you are with a PPC agency, arm yourself with the numbers to support this tactic to your clients.)
With that in mind, if you have not been bidding on your own company name and your own trademarked terms, stop reading, open up your AdWords accounts, and add these keywords right now. These are, have been, and always will be your cheapest and best-converting keywords.
With more competitors drawn in due to the new policy, it is likely that you will see a more competitive landscape. Prepare to stand behind the strength of your brand, and reap the benefits.