Should You Include Your Competitors Names in PPC?

Bidding on your competitors’ names in your PPC campaign seems like an obvious thing to do, but if you’re wondering whether it really is as good an idea as you think it is – you’re not alone.

Ultimately it’s up to you, but here are some issues worth considering.

Broad reach

The big advantage of bidding on your competitors’ names is increasing your reach. If you’ve just gone into the hiking boot business, you know that people searching for Timberland are interested in your product, so it’s a good way of getting your name in front of your demographic.

This is particularly true if you’re just starting out. Brand hijacking is a great way of taking advantage of the brand recognition your larger competitors has built up. In certain niches brand names get more searches than the generic term, so it makes sense to take advantage of that.

The law

There is a legal aspect to bidding on your competitors’ names. Although the practice is not explicitly outlawed, it has come up in court a few times (no one has thus far been prosecuted for it).  It is also not forbidden by the Google Terms of Service.

However, you do have to be careful what you do with your adverts. Bidding on a competitors name is one thing, what you say about them is another entirely and could lead to a law suit. The best approach is to stay safe and not explicitly mention them in your ad text.

Raising the stakes

The other major problem with brand hijacking is that if you do it, you’re inviting them to do it back.

Careful consideration of how much of an issue that would be is important.

In any case, once Google clocks that there is no mention of the brand on your page, clicks for the competing brand are likely to become very expensive, potentially rendering them economically useless. Not mentioning the brand name in your ad will also result in a low-quality score.

Keeping up appearances

The final issue worth considering is the PR consequences. Although most people probably won’t notice, the greater public (who very often consider SEO to be shady by nature) may not look so kindly on it.

Even amongst SEO circles, the practice is actively discussed in ethical terms. It is rather like pitching up outside your competitors’ shop with a sign of your own, so it’s easy to see why.

As long as you’re careful with how you approach it, the pros may outweigh the cons. But weighing them up carefully before you do is important.

What do you think is bidding on a competitors brand name unethical or a legitimate tactic?