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How to bid on competitor terms for Paid Search

Posted by Clotilde on 08-May-2018 12:33:14
| 4 Minute Read
BrightonSEO April 2018 was once again a success. I came back with lots of ideas and tips from talented digital marketers from across the world! One talk that inspired me was given by Duane Brown, founder at Take Some Risk Inc. in Canada. He demonstrated how bidding on competitor terms can be great for brand awareness and showed how this strategy worked very well for one of his clients in the FinTech industry. 

When & why should you bid on competitor terms? 

Paid media FunnelThe digital landscape is getting increasingly competitive and it’s hard to be heard in this plethora of information. This especially applies to small and medium-size companies that might not have the budget for huge brand awareness campaigns both online and on traditional media. How do you compete in this environment?

Bid on competitor terms when advertising on AdWords or Bing to build brand awareness. As Duane said: “People cannot pick you as a solution, if they do not know you’re an option”. Reaching people when they’re searching for your competitors is an easy way to show them that you exist and can give them the solution they’re looking for. Maybe your offer is even better than the brand name they typed in initially, so tell them.

Depending on the brand you’re bidding on, competitor terms can sometimes be cheaper than more generic terms that refer to your business offer. You’re also reaching people who are probably further down the funnel and might be comparing offers from different providers. Don’t miss the chance to be part of the comparison.

The only time when you shouldn’t bid on competitors is if your budget is extremely limited. Then, just focus on terms that will easily convert to start growing your business. As ROI builds up, you might be able to push some more money towards PPC and start a competitor campaign.

Which competitors should you bid on?

Boxing Match "how do you compete"Quoting Duane, “It doesn’t matter who you think your competitors are. Who your customers think your competitors are matters a lot more”. You’ll need to go further than your direct competitors and understand how your customers use your product or service to figure out which brands you can target. You might have more competitors than you think:

  • Direct competitors – they do exactly what you do, you should know who they are.
  • Indirect competitors – they might not do exactly what you do but their services or products might complete yours or solve part of the problem that your customers have.
  • Free services – people like free stuff so if someone is doing something similar to you for free, they’ll try it out, even if it’s not very good…

Where to find your competitors

Read online reviews on Google or Trustpilot, visit online forums, check out Reddit and other platforms where your audience might be talking about their challenges and trying to find solutions. You can also check tools like SEMrush to see which websites are also ranking for specific terms that are related to your business.

Building your campaign

lego-blocksDo not include competitor terms within generic campaigns. Instead, create a separate campaign with its own budget. Your competitor campaign will never have a great quality score because however good your landing page is, it will never have as many mentions of the competitor’s name as the actual competitor’s website. If you include competitor terms into other campaigns, you’ll decrease your quality score for these and end up paying more for generic terms.

In this campaign, you can create an ad group for each competitor or if you want to go more granular, create a campaign per competitor with ad groups for each related term.

 Targeting competitor terms

Now that you know who your competitors are, what do you bid on? Here’s a list of common terms that people will be typing into Google:

  • Competitor brand
  • Competitor brand + review
  • Competitor brand + price/pricing
  • Competitor brand + vs
  • Competitor brand + competitor
  • Competitor brand + alternative / alternative to + competitor brand

This list should help you cover most terms but feel free to use keyword idea tools to see if your audience is looking for something more specific.

Writing ads

Regarding the ads, whatever you do, avoid bashing your competitors. They might not be as good as you, but you don’t want to start a war. You don’t know how much budget your competitors have, and they might not react in a very friendly way if you start insulting them. Also, they could take you to court if your claims are not true or they could file a complaint with Google to ban you from using their trademark. Be smart about how you write your ads and focus on your USPs.

Building effective landing pages

Aircraft landing Please do not send this valuable traffic to your homepage! Any ad should avoid sending traffic to the homepage anyway. You need to build a relevant page to explain why someone should choose you over another brand. Interestingly, Duane is not a fan of comparing your offer to a specific competitor as he explains it will probably make your visitors check out the other brand to see what it’s about. I would advise you to test and learn as every industry is different.


Another useful comment from Duane was that you shouldn’t focus solely on price because if one of your competitors manages to be cheaper, you have nothing else to show off for. Find other arguments or talk to the product/service development team to improve the offer if it’s not as good as your competitors’.

Here are a few examples of what your landing page should focus on:

  • Prequalify your audience – make sure you don’t get clicks from people you don’t want as customers. Add information that could deter them in your ad copy so that you’re only paying for clicks that are valuable to your business.
  • Highlight your features & benefits – explain why someone should choose your business over a competitor and how you will be able to solve their problem.
  • Match your message to the ad – be consistent and ensure your landing page displays the same message as your ads else visitors will bounce right back as they’ll think they’re on the wrong page.
  • Choose the right hero shot – use impactful images to convey your message and give the right impression about your brand.
  • Use social proof – visitors will probably not know you so show them that other people love you and are satisfied with your services.

Remember that every business is different and what’s important in some industries might not be in others. Test your landing pages to learn what works for you.

 So, why bid on competitor terms?

Bidding on competitor terms can be a good brand awareness strategy if you’re in a competitive market or are not very well-known in the industry. Ensure you know your competitors, focus on your USPs and build a useful landing page. Don’t expect a high quality score, as long as your campaign has a good cost per acquisition, it doesn’t really matter if your score is only 2 or 3 out of 10.

Check Duane Brown’s full presentation on Slideshare If you’d like to try competitor bidding and need a bit of help, feel free to contact our team of PPC experts and we’ll be delighted to help grow your business.


Topics: PPC, Events