A guide to targeting your competitor’s keywords

Mar 20, 2020 by
A guide to targeting your competitor’s keywords

Targeting the direct competition has always been a popular advertising tactic and today, that tactic has evolved. It’s become common practice for brands to use their competitors as keywords, essentially bringing in potential custom by association.

It might seem like a sneaky tactic on paper, but there are obviously rules that need to be adhered to, otherwise, we’d all be using the marketing equivalent of “Sega does what Nintendon’t” and the Pepsi Challenge. So, here we’ll be taking you through the pros and cons of bidding on a competitor’s terms.

The benefits of brand bidding

If you do any search for a reputable brand you are bound to turn up just as many competitors trying to muscle in on their territory.

These competitors will have bought their way into those results by brand bidding. There are three primary benefits here:

  1. Brand keywords will usually generate quite cheap clicks as fewer marketers will use these terms. However, if the brand in question is bidding on itself then the price will be steeper.
  2. You might attract fewer clicks with brand keywords but the clicks you do get will be of greater value as they will be from consumers actively looking for a brand’s direct competition.
  3. By aligning your online marketing with this competitor you’re attracting customers who will see your name in the same light as the more popular brand. This is the kind of exposure that can make or break a company.

Brand terms

The most important thing to figure out is whether or not the competing brand in your sights has protected their own brand terms.

You would be amazed how frequently brands can focus so many resources on marketing without understanding how valuable their own high-intent search terms are.

If they are not using their own brand terms, what’s stopping you from swooping in and raising your hand when somebody that’s probably already on the consideration or decision stage of their consumer journey is searching for a solution to their problem?

There are, however, legalities to consider in this scenario. Certain trademarks and AdWords restrictions can lead you into a dark corner if you don’t tread carefully.

If this is a path you are seriously considering heading down, we’d recommend consulting an SEO specialist before pulling the trigger on any paid media strategies that might be infringing on trademarks.

Though it’s important to understand that whilst the waters are slightly murky where SEO is concerned, in pay per click (PPC) advertising, it’s always legal to target the keywords of your competitors, as long as they are not used in advertising copy.

Even if you’re given the all-clear, however, there are still some significant cons to the practice that should be considered.

For one, your quality scores will suffer and more importantly, your competitor will eventually notice what you’re up to and could end up returning the favour.

It’s very much a case of weighing up whether or not you think it’s worth the battle. Because there probably will be a battle.

Choosing the words that matter

If you’re going to be targeting your competitor’s keywords, you might as well make sure you choose the right ones! You don’t want to simply be targeting the brand name, of course, but the kind of searches that followers of that brand might be making.

For example, if you are in the business of selling handmade bath bombs and aromatic gifts, you don’t want to simply focus on the keyword “Lush.”

That might be your most obvious competitor, but not only is it a generic word and search term, it’s also not quite specific enough for our purposes. You might instead want to focus on the search terms “Lush bath bombs” or “Lush gift sets.”

More top tips

Finally, there are a few practical tips you might want to take into account before embarking on your journey into the great unknown.

  • Focus on the USP of your brand – whether that’s price, quality or something more oblique.
  • Don’t go overboard with your bids. You don’t need to be above the competitor, just (literally) on the same page.
  • Don’t include the competitor’s keywords in your actual ad. This is just misleading.
  • Finally, never start a bidding war. Your competitor most likely has more resources than you and you should never start a war that you’re definitely going to lose.