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February 1, 2017

PPC Tactics: Should You Bid on a Competitor’s Brand Names?

When brainstorming new keywords for your pay-per-click campaigns, clients often come up with competing brands and product names. But do these make good candidates for your PPC ads?

That’s a good question, and there isn’t a definite answer. Let’s look at both sides of the coin.

The Advantages of Bidding on Competitor Keywords

There are really two good reasons to post PPC ads related to competitor keywords. The first is that someone searching for a particular brand or product probably has a fairly good idea of what they’re looking for, how much it costs, and what their needs are. In other words, they are likely to complete a purchase in the near future, which could make them a very good prospect for you.

Additionally, most brand-based keywords aren’t very competitive. That means you might be able to get a visitor who’s ready to buy over to your website for next to nothing. Visitors looking for an exact brand probably already know what they’re looking for and have made a decision to make that purchase. If the keyword is not extremely competitive, you can generate a lead and possibly a conversion, for a low cost.

The Downsides to Competitor Keywords

If the advantages got you ready to start thinking about which of your competitor’s brand names you can begin bidding on, hold that thought until you’ve considered a few of the (fairly significant) drawbacks.

The first and most obvious is that those who are searching for a competitor’s brand or product may very well have made up their mind. So while they might click on your ad, the chances that they’ll eventually make a purchase might be low. At a minimum, they are probably going to do some comparison shopping, so your product or service will need to have some pretty impressive advantages before you’re going to win the customer. You’ll also want to have a good formula for setting PPC bid prices. Each time a user clicks on your ad, you’re going to be paying per-click, whether the user makes a purchase or not.

Also, click-through rates on an ad based on your competitor’s keyword, but going to your website, are likely to be low. You may also be punished by Google for providing a poor match between the search keyword and resulting landing page unless you use your competitor’s name several times, which could bring other legal and logistical difficulties. That means you could end up with low quality scores and not just pay more for each click, but also sabotage the efficiency of your other ads in the process.

And finally, bidding on a competitor keyword invites other businesses to do the same to you. If you have a particularly aggressive business in your market – or one with a healthy ad budget – your decision to bid on their keywords could end with them taking your customers instead of the other way around.

So, What Should You Do about Competitor Keywords?

Only you can decide whether or not bidding on keywords around someone else’s brands and products makes sense for your company, but for most marketers it simply isn’t worth the time, effort, and expense. However, this all depends on your industry. Learn what your competitors are doing, see what keywords they’re bidding on and targeting in their campaigns. If you think you can bring in new business, then it’s worth testing and adjusting your campaigns based on your research. You may find a profitable niche by bidding on keywords that would normally belong to someone else, but make sure you’re prepared for the risks before you get started.


Paul Stevens is a designer and blogger who loves to share his thoughts on design, development and marketing. He is currently the content manager at Avex Designs, a New York digital agency and web design company. Visit for more information.