Best Practices for Bidding on Competitor Terms in PPC

It’s a long-standing argument in the PPC industry whether you should bid on your competitor’s name or not. Both sides have valid arguments, and if you’re still on the fence, I suggest you check out some solid posts on the pros and cons of each strategy. Rather than debate the ethics of bidding on competitor terms, I wanted to speak directly to those who’ve already chosen to do so. Too many times I’ve seen these campaigns ruin account performance. Below are my best practices for bidding on competitor terms.

Choose Your Competitors Wisely

When opting to bid on competitor terms, it’s imperative you only select those that would benefit you. First off, don’t choose a competitor you have no advantage over. Whether tangible or intangible, you need to have at least one point of differentiation from all competitors’ brands you choose to bid on. Maybe you have a better price or your service center is better. Don’t try to compete against someone you can’t beat. That’s just throwing away your money.

Second, don’t try to compete against everyone. For the sake of time and effort and your budget, choose your top two to four competitors you have an advantage over and nail down those strategies first. Once you’re comfortable and profitable there, then you can add to your list.

Build a Targeted Keyword List

In some industries, your competitors will provide the same product or service you do with only slight variations. Here, it would probably worthwhile to bid on their brand terms alone as long as you’re within the trademark guidelines of Google and Bing. In many other industries, however, your competitors might have only one area of their business where they compete with you. In this instance, it would not be wise to bid on their brand terms alone. A rough example: If I sell desk chairs and I know Walmart sells desk chairs, that doesn’t mean I should bid on “walmart.” That would be a huge waste of money.

In those instances, it would be a better strategy to bid on a competitor’s term plus some type of modifier to narrow down search intent. For the example above, a better choice (though I think bidding against Walmart might be a bad choice in general) would be to bid on terms like “walmart desk chairs.” Be sure you’re only trying to compete in areas where you’re actually in direct competition.

Don’t Attempt to Dominate

Although you’re taking an offensive stance when bidding on competitor terms, that doesn’t mean you should look to crush them on their home field. There are a couple of pieces you need to keep in mind here. First, if you bid for the top of the page, unseating your competitor, you’re going to make them madder than if you simply bid to stay below them. They’ll probably be peeved that you’re bidding on their terms, but they’ll almost certainly complain to the engines and retaliate if you go too far. Staying below your competitor on the SERPs will usually win you some additional traffic with minimal push back.

Second, being on competitor pages puts you at an inherent disadvantage. People are specifically searching for your competitors. Being at the top of the page might guarantee you numerous clicks, but there’s a good chance they’ll bounce. Use compelling ad copy to gain searchers attention while in a lower place on the SERPs and convince them you’re the better choice. Once they land on your page, you’ll have the upper hand. Continue to explain why you’re the better choice.

Be Prepared to Defend Your Turf

One of the most common arguments against bidding on competitor terms is that they will then come and bid on yours. Before you embark on the path above, be sure your own brand efforts are reinforced. Keep an eye on your overall stats and Auction Insights reports to ensure you’re not getting beat by your competitors efforts in retaliation.

Choosing to bid on your competitors’ terms can be a big step. Don’t go in blind and make sure you’re staying above board with trademark regulations. Nothing would be worse than trying to syphon a little extra traffic and getting your account shut down because you couldn’t follow the rules. What strategies have you implemented and used successfully to bid on competitor terms?

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