Google AdWords Strategies: Targeting Your Competitor’s Keywords

Google AdWords Strategies: Targeting Your Competitor’s Keywords

Well, this is a touchy subject. Not ‘touchy’ like when you’re breaking the awkward news to Cleveland that you’re taking your talents to south beach (and then Los Angeles). Or, ‘touchy’ like you’re telling an entire fan base that you’ve changed your name to ‘Metta World Peace.’

The subject, of course, is competitive conquesting via Google AdWords. Should you bid on your competitor’s brand terms? Is this a black hat strategy?

The bottom line is this: competitive conquesting is not black hat, it’s a business-tactic. In fact, some of the most successful companies in the world employ similar tactics. Good conquesting strategies are tough to execute for several reasons, so keep reading to find out how to target your competitor’s keywords in AdWords, and why the tactic can be so advantageous for your businesses.

Are Your Competitors Protecting Their Brand?

Let’s pretend for a second that you’re the CEO of a multimillion-dollar retail store (unless you’re actually that person, in which case, let’s talk some paid media strategy). You’re doing some competitive research and decide to see what other brands are up to on the west coast. So, you turn to your best friend, Google.

You use an incognito window in Chrome by holding ‘control + shift + N’. On a hunch, you enter the keyword phrase, ‘Home Depot San Diego,’ and see nothing but local, organic results – what an opportunity for you!

Now, there is a word of caution to this tale. While there’s an obvious opportunity to get in front of the San Diego demographic with a Home Depot alternative, there’s also a proper way to bid and structure your keywords to battle against the low-quality scores you’ll obtain on a competitor’s brand terms.

Learn how to create a strategic paid promotion plan that will get your content in the eyes of people that matter. Get the guide!

What’s Happening to Your Brand?

Have you checked your own brand terms lately? You might think that organic rankings are enough to keep you safe, but the truth is, Google makes approximately $100,000,000 in a day from AdWords.

In other words, if you’re neglecting to pay for your own brand terms, Google is happily taking money from a competitor and ranking them first… for your brand term… ahead of your organic ranking… directly in front of your prospects.

That sounds like lost revenue for your company to me.

The Pros and Cons of Bidding on Competitor’s Terms

Like any other equation, there’s a positive and a negative to balancing out bidding on competitor’s brand terms.

The Pros

First, as you and I both know, your competitors aren’t as smart as you – right? They’re probably not even protecting their own brand terms, friggin’ idiots.

There’s a world of free clicks and a 10% conversion rate just waiting for you out there. So often, we see brands successfully create searches with their amazing awareness efforts via radio, social or even display ads, only to miss out on the high-intent search terms that can generate high-quality traffic to your website.

Second, you force your competitors to jump into the paid search game and stop collecting on cheap traffic. If you have to play by the digital rules, so do they. It’s time for you to force your competitors to pay for their brand terms, or their traffic is now yours.

Third, it’s a smart strategy. The truth is, users search Google to find a solution to their problem and are either in the consideration or decision stage of their customer journey. They’ve prequalified themselves and essentially want you to raise your hand to let them know about their options. Provide them with some solutions and highlight your competitive benefits!

Learn how your paid media campaigns should be working in a multi-channel strategy focused on the buyer’s journey to maximize advertising ROI. Start here!

The Cons

This is where legalities jump into the mix. There are certain trademarks and AdWords restrictions that can get you in big trouble if you’re not careful. Consider hiring a professional, or even a consultant, before you rush any paid media strategies that might be encroaching on a competitor’s trademarks.

Second, quality scores. Rightfully so, your quality scores for competitor’s branded terms aren’t going to be pretty. Be sure to monitor traction daily to see which terms are converting. These clicks will be expensive, so don’t let that spend go to waste!

Finally, the fun con. Get ready to battle your competitors! If they’re paying attention to the Audience Insights report, they’ll see you creeping into their overlap rate. If you get too good at it, they’ll be sure to counter back with a conquesting campaign of their own.

But you and I know, the joke’s on them. You’re so smart that your brand campaigns have been well-funded for years and they’ll be lucky to gain any traction at all. Friggin’ idiots.


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Tiger Rensch

Tiger has spent the last few years exploring all aspects of digital marketing. His experience is in programming, PPC, SEO, social media and inbound marketing. As a member of the Paid Media team, he's excited to help customers realize their business goals. His analytical mindset and marketing background is an asset to VM. Yet, his greatest contribution to the team is his ability to make the perfect PB & J, a ‘know how’ that was sorely missed before his arrival.