Bidding on Competitor Brand Terms? You Should.

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Branded keywords are the most effective keywords in terms of CTR (click-through-rate) simply because of their exposure and presence both online and offline, whether on paid or organic search.

In other words, the potential of these terms are proven. However, these are owned media that has little to low ceiling of growth. What if your branded keywords have already hit the ceiling and there’s nowhere else to go but to find new ground or risk plateauing?

You might have this same question in mind. So, in keeping an open mind, what if we tell you to start bidding on competitor brand terms? How would you respond to this?

To put things in perspective, let’s see where your struggle is:

“Market Share”


This pizza represents the totality of the available market for your kind of product/service.

pizza market share

You don’t own the whole pizza, no one does. It’s only broken up to slices that you own, and those you don’t. Some slices are bigger, some are smaller.


You’ve worked hard and waited long to have this pizza. Then you find out the pizza tastes fantastic. It’s the best one you ever had and apparently the only pizza pie available out there for miles. Naturally, you want more. But there’s nothing left. Everyone has taken their slice. But you want more. So what are you going to do?

There are two logical next-steps to take:
1. Buy another pizza, which is waaay more expensive and honestly, impractical. This might also mean you have to give up the slice you already have and move to another state.

2. Or take a part of someone else’s slice. You’re going to walk a fine line here. They’d probably defend their slice tooth and nail. But once you get a part, there’s more for you. And that’s what you wanted, right? Oh, and did we say: everybody’s doing this too.

They used to say:

Not anymore.

We’ll show you why bidding on competitor brand terms is worth it even though it’s risky, because risk can be managed.

Before we move on, we need a precedent—proof that it’s been done before.


As you can see, the search query made is the branded term “pizza hut”. The organic search yielded, of course, everything and anything related to “pizza hut”. But look closely, there’s a lone soul there that doesn’t quite fit the bill: the paid ad of Shakey’s—Pizza Hut’s main competitor.

Looks like Shakey’s is stepping out-of-bounds in this one. Or are they?

If Shakey’s seeks to exert their dominance or take the lion’s share of the pizza chain market, I think it’s very smart and very gutsy move for them to bid on Pizza Hut’s branded keywords. They’re disrupting the buyer’s journey of Pizza Hut customers by providing an out, a detour to their brand—like poking a hole on their bucket straight to theirs.

So now that you have a better picture and a clearer idea of what you can get out of this, let us give you some tips on how to bid on competitor brand terms with minimal risks.

1. Always move within the boundaries of the law.

We can’t stress this enough.

Policies and regulations guide us in maneuvering our ways of doing business. Breaking even one of these can be detrimental, sometimes irreversible. So always make sure that you’re on the safe side of the fence.

Normally, it’s acceptable to bid on competitor brand terms as long as none of their trademarked terms, both registered and unregistered, show up in your ads.

How can you be wary of these registered and unregistered trademarks so you can avoid them like the plague? Go to your local or national patent and trademark office and do some research.

Run through Google’s Trademark Advertising Policies and take them to heart and always take the advice of a legal counsel before making any moves. Google’s policies and state laws may vary. Better be safe than sorry.

2. Bid on these competitor brand terms.

• Competitor’s company name
• Competitor’s product/service names
• Competitor’s website name and other variations
• Competitor’s specific model/product numbers

Again exercise due diligence, make sure you don’t cross any legal lines and consult with a legal counsel.
Going back to our precedent, Shakey’s, in all likelihood, bid on the keyword “Pizza”—coincidentally (or not) a part of Pizza Hut’s brand name. And since “Pizza” is a generally used term that’s almost impossible to be trademarked, it kind of worked to Shakey’s favor. Although I assume Shakey’s didn’t purposefully launched this campaign against Pizza Hut. It just came with the territory.

But wait. We did another search, this time using the exact match filter.


Shakey’s paid ad still came up.

Looks like Shakey’s are really onto something here.

3. A golden opportunity to promote your product/service.

Again, like we said before, your competitor’s backyard is most likely the biggest source of untapped portion of the market that you can take as your own. Since you sell the same product, you can offer tantalizing calls-to-action or show what makes you different by incorporating your unique selling proposition (USP) in the ad copy.

However, know that the followers of your competitor are very likely to be the most faithful also. It will be a very challenging task to have them shift their preferences and mindset, to switch to what you offer. That means low CTR. Another risk here is: these bids might receive low quality scores, meaning a low average position. It will be more expensive for your ad to show.

“Having your cake and eating it.” There’s no other way of saying it.

It’s time to make your feet wet with this notion. Maybe this is the “missing” opportunity you’re failing to respond to. Sun Tzu, author of “Art of War”, an ancient collection of war strategies that’s still being used today, said it best:


Aileen Lualhati
Aileen Lualhati
Aileen is BuiltbySF’s resident AdWords commando. Don’t let her meek nature fool you—her proficiency in utilizing AdWords in campaigns is on-the-mark. You can check out her armoury to beef up your PPC engagements here. Follow her on social media to get a FREE boost on your campaigns.

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