What to do when someone bids on your company name, where to get information on your rights and how to target your competitors keywords
As a savvy business owner, it’s only natural (and we would argue smart), to search your own business name in Google to keep an eye on the search results. You want to know where you’re ranking, and who your competition is. Imagine your upset when you see a paid Google Ad for a close and perhaps local competitor, pop up under a search of your company name?
While it might seem shocking to some, competitor targeting isn’t a new tactic in marketing more broadly, and it is certainly isn’t new to Google Ads. In this article we explore this concept in detail, and show you how you can turn an otherwise upsetting discovery into a marketing win for yourself.
What is a Google ad?
First, let’s start out by explaining the basics on Google Ads themselves. Most of us will be extremely familiar with the Ads that appear on the first page of search results when we’re looking for something online. One way that Google makes income as a search engine is by offering businesses virtual advertising space. By opening a Google My Business account, you can access a full suite of useful tools, education and yes – advertising options.
Google Ads is a function of Google that allows companies to pay for advertising in a number of different contexts. Their ads could be displayed as brief descriptions of services or sales. They could also be paying for videos, or product offerings to be displayed as an ad.
For example, instead of paying for ad to be displayed that details their product range in a text based form, a company may choose only to pay for a single product to be displayed visually as an image.
How do Google Ads work?
These paid Google Ads will appear at the top of any search results, uniquely generated by the user who is searching – the keywords or keyword phrases that the user types in are also keywords that companies have paid to target in their advertising.
If you search for “rubber backed blue curtains Newcastle” – it is likely that the paid Google Ads you will see at the top of your search results will display companies who have paid to target keywords such as “Rubber backed”, “curtains Newcastle” or “blue curtains”.
There are many other things that can affect your search results however, including things like browser search history, uncleared cookies, location signal, and saved details. Browsing in ‘incognito’ mode is the best way to get the least biased search results.
Google Ads can be worth the investment – here’s why
While Google Ads should by no means be relied upon as your only advertising avenue, they are a smart choice as an accessory in an overall marketing plan.
It is helpful to think about Google Ads as online billboards or newspaper advertisements – it’s virtual advertising real estate that may not be essential to business success, but is certainly nice to have. It signals to your customers that you are successful enough to be able to afford advertising in the first place, and that increases your credibility and trust rating with them.
It can also help to keep your existing organic customers engaged with you – If they’re searching for a product they would normally buy from you and see your paid ad, it may remind them to buy from someone they already know and trust.
If your marketing budget is particularly tight, there are strategies that will provide a better and more measureable return on investment than a Google Ads campaign, but they are certainly not to be overlooked once your budget has a little more breathing room.
There are now two main ways of handling Google Ads:
· Manual Google Ads bidding & adjustment
As the title suggests, these are Google Ads where a company has taken complete control over what content and keywords are included and targeted in their campaign. This is the way that a competitor might run a Google Ad with YOUR company name as a targeted keyword. While this gives the user ultimate control, it also means they must manually check and update their Google Ads regularly to keep them competitive and up to date.
· Automated Google Ads Smart Bidding
Google have now introduced the option to use the systems they call Smart Bidding and Smart Creatives. These are automated systems whereby the company will enter all their initial information and content, and then allow the system to do the work. These systems use machine learning and access to mountains of data to show your ads at optimal times, in the right formats for ideal keywords. Follow the link for more information on Google automated bidding.
Why a competitor is bidding on your company name
‘Competitor targeting’ is the tactic used by a company to try to steal the business of another competing business, by making sure their advertisement is visible when a customer searches for the specific brand or business name of the company they are hoping to steal from.
For example, perhaps Hungry Jack’s has decided to pay for Google Ads that will appear when a customer searches for McDonalds. This means that the keyword ‘McDonalds’ has been included in the Google Ads campaign being run by Hungry Jack’s.
While some might be utterly confused as to why any company would do that, others don’t see why they shouldn’t. It makes some real sense to be trying to position yourself in front of a customer who is already searching for a service you provide. While they might be searching for a specific brand, the small chance that they might be tempted away by your ad to try someone new is considered worth the marketing expense to some businesses.
Very few people who search for a specific brand or company will be lured away by a competitor ad in that moment, but simply being visible in the space can leave a psychological trace that has the potential to turn into future investment returns. If you’re floating around in their head as an option, they might think of you when the company they are currently loyal to does something disappointing.
Brand-specific keywords are also often considered less competitive, and therefore less expensive to bid on. For example, the keyword “burger” is likely to be much more expensive and competitive to bid on that the keyword “McDonalds”.
So if your business name is being targeted by another company, rest assured that you will lose very little business because of it and be flattered that you’re considered successful enough to try competing with. Keep providing great service and doing good business and you will keep your clients.
For those that want to target the business name of a competitor, you might not see too much of a financial return but the visibility can be worth it. There are however, some majorly important things to remember if you decide to embark on this course of action and want to avoid being embroiled in potential legal disputes.
The basic rules of competitor keyword targeting
In some senses, competitor targeting with Google Ads is a slightly risky venture. It’s easy to avoid the pitfalls if you do your research, but it can be equally easy to go very wrong if you decide to skip it and charge ahead into the unknown. Here are the main things to remember when embarking down the path of competitor targeting:
· Understand trademarking rules –
If you decide to target a competitor and their company name is trademarked, you may not use that name in any part of your Ad which includes both the text and the URL pathway. For example, Hungry Jack’s cannot run an Ad that says “better burgers than McDonalds” and neither can they have the URL: www.hungryjacks.com/better-burgers-than-mcdonalds. It is entirely legal for them to bid on the trademarked name “McDonalds” however. For the full Google rules on trademarks and advertising, read this guide by Google.
If you haven’t trademarked your company name, this means that your competitors can legally use your name in the text and URL pathways of their ads – and this is not a good thing. Trademarking does take some time on your part to go through the process, but is well worth it not just to protect you in this context, but to protect you against many other brand and intellectual property violations that might occur in the future. Follow this link for more information on registering a trademark for an Australian business.
· Don’t display the competitor name in your Ads
If you write an Ad that includes the name of the company you are targeting, you can either open yourself up to a Trademark infringement or the possibility that potential customers are turned off by what they see as an under-handed tactic. Australian consumers are especially sensitive to perceived unfairness and ‘dodgy’ behaviour by companies, and are already suspicious of paid Google Ads to begin with.
· Avoid unintentional slander
Carrying on from the last point, using the company name that you are targeting in an Ad can lead to legal accusations of slander that can get very messy and expensive. For example, if we pretend that the name ‘McDonalds’ isn’t trademarked – you wouldn’t ever see Hungry Jack’s run an Ad that says anything like: “McDonalds rated the worst burgers in town”. This would undoubtedly lead to Hungry Jack’s being served by McDonalds with a legal notice.
· Choosing the right competitors to bid on
Considering that return on investment from Google Ads is limited, and even more limited in terms of competitor targeting – choosing the right competitor names to bid on in the first place seems sensible. Do you research, and make sure the companies you think you’re competing with are really your competition. Don’t bid on a competitor name who is far more successful than you – their customer loyalty is far too high to ever divert to you through an Ad. Compete in your weight class, and ideally target competitors who you know that you can out do on service and pricing.
· Acknowledge the potential for a bidding war
The more people who bid on a keyword, the more expensive it becomes per click. Usually company and brand names are relatively cheap to bid on, as we covered earlier in the article. But just like any supply and demand situation, if two competing companies decide to start a bidding war on a formerly niche keyword – it’s going to inflate the price tag far beyond what it should. This kind of situation can get very expensive, with no real return for such expenditure.
· Don’t expect a huge result
Be realistic about the kind of marketing context this strategy belongs in – peripheral. This kind of tactic is useful and serves a purpose, as we have thoroughly outlined – but it has a limited effect on your immediate budget bottom line. Only spend the time and the money when you’re in the position to pay for extras.
What to do when things go wrong
Whether you’re on the receiving end of a competitor Ads campaign, or you’re the one engaging in competitor bidding – the advice is the same:
· Contact your solicitor and get legal advice
· Consult with your digital marketing agency if you have one
· Lodge a complaint or support request with Google
· Keep screenshots of any Ads or activity that could be later deleted
· Write down dates and details, and keep a chronological timeline of events
Effective tips for targeting competitor ads
There are a number of ways to get the best out of your Google Ads campaign when engaging in competitor targeting, some of which include:
· Beat their discounts –
If you’re in a position to advertise a discount big enough to undercut your competition – do it! This could be targeted to particular keywords to make it specific, and minimise the impact of a broad discount.
· Present a better alternative –
Phrase your Ad in a way that makes your product or service seem like a better alternative to what they were originally searching for. Hungry Jack’s might run an Ad that reads “Sick of your standard cheeseburger? Try our local paddock-raised beef range today!”
· Use Ad extensions cleverly –
Ads extensions are things that you can plug-in to your Ad without taking away any text copy. A great example would be including Google user reviews as star ratings, or sitelink extensions, helping users click on a specific page on your website they might be interested in.
· Pose great questions –
Asking the questions that customers might be thinking, or be hooked by are great to include in your Ads campaign. Some examples would be questions like: why overpay? Why pay more? Why wait? Who wouldn’t?
· Stick to the competitive points –
Squeezing as many value propositions into your Ads copy is ideal. Value propositions are what your customer values your company for, which could be things like: Free delivery, same day shipping, 24-hour call outs, 1 hour guarantee, no lock-in contracts, associated with professional bodies, or manufacturing in a specific location (locally made).
How to navigate Google Ads and competition safely
To wrap it all up – get advice from professionals, do your research and be realistic. Competitor targeting can certainly be worth it, as long as it isn’t seen by those engaging in it as a stand-alone marketing campaign and it is done within legal constraints and Google rules.
To get the best advice on these tactics and do it all with peace of mind, handing it over to a specialist to manage it the smartest choice. Those experts like our digital marketing team at Jezweb spend all their waking hours absorbed in the World Wide Web, and know as soon as the current changes – that is, we’re in the best position to know when Google might change the rules, or a tactic stops working. It’s kind of our whole job. So if you’re interested in blocking out your competition, or just getting wise to the possibilities – contact us today and get a jargon-free introduction to Google Ads campaigns and all the curly details!