Help! My Competition Is Bidding on My Brand!
We all do it. We want to know that typing our company name into a search engine will let us see the visible fruits of our online marketing activities, from the ads on top to the organic results just below. So we search for our company name and… wait, what’s this? Not only are three of our competitors showing ads with ours, our ad isn’t even on top!
In this scenario, your first thoughts might be: a) This is clearly illegal or against the rules, and I am going to report this immediately, b) my marketing person or firm is not doing their job if I’m not showing at the top for my own company name, or c) I’ll show them! While these are all valid reactions to what you might observe as an injustice or failure, they are also all incorrect.
Bidding on Your Terms Is Within the Rules
Since 2008, Google has allowed search advertisers to bid on keywords for competitor terms. Google considers this a gray area, as targeting your business name as a keyword does not fall under the same jurisdiction as trademark infringement. That being said, if your company or firm name is protected under trademark law, an advertiser using your name in their ad copy does violate Google’s terms of service and can be grounds for penalties or possibly even legal action. So, while seeing your competitors’ ads pop up when you search for your company is not a violation, seeing your company name in your competitors’ ads is definitely something worth reporting.
This Is Not a Failure of Your Marketing Team
It is reasonable to want your ads targeted to your business or firm name to show on the top of the paid search results. It is also fair to question your marketing person or firm if this is not the result you are seeing. One thing you have to keep in mind, though, is that a good marketer is looking to get you new business and increase your revenue in the most cost-effective manner. Branded keywords typically bring in traffic and clicks from existing customers, so their return on investment is lower and getting into a bidding war on that type of keyword is often ill-advised.
Bidding Wars Help No One in the End
Speaking of bidding wars, another natural instinct to seeing your competitors bid on your brand is to outbid them and/or start bidding on their brand names as well. That is fine and good if you have an infinite budget and don’t mind overspending on low yield keywords, but a savvier marketer will look to other strategies to make sure your ad is the most enticing one that shows on the search results. And you absolutely can bid on their branded terms as well, but understand that the end result is still likely going to be spending more than you should on keywords that are less relevant and less likely to convert new business for you.
So What Can I Do?
There are some things you or your marketing team can do to combat this practice.
- Defending your terms and the firm name may be the most important factor to you and your brand. Fortunately, this objective is in your favor. Having good, relevant ad copy can help increase your quality scores and raise your ad rank, resulting in better positions at lower costs. Your competitors, who cannot use your company name directly in their ad copy and thus cannot improve their quality scores, will have to consistently overpay to match these results.
- Using relevant ad extensions and including qualities of your business that set you apart are other ways to help ensure your ads are the ones that get clicked. If you know a weakness of your competitor’s business, include in your ad how you are better (without using their name, of course).
- If you see your company or firm name in a competitor’s ad copy or display URL, report it immediately. Google does not allow libelous or trademark-infringing text in ad copy or display URLs, so ads containing your brand name in a negative light would violate their policies. Contact your Google representative or marketing firm if you see this type of activity.
- Finally, consider a truce. If you are on speaking terms with the competitor(s) you see targeting your brand, it might be worth a shot to politely ask them to stop and let them know you are willing to do the same. Driving up each other’s cost helps neither of you in the long run.