Should You Bid on Competitors Keywords in Google Ads?

Should You Bid on Competitors Keywords in Google Ads?

Should you bid on competitors keywords in google ads

When it comes to Google Ads , the strategy of bidding on competitors’ keywords in Google Ads is a topic of much debate. Some marketers swear by it, seeing it as a way to steal traffic and customers from their rivals. Others are more cautious and concerned about the potential pitfalls and ethical considerations. So should you bid on competitors’ keywords on Google Ads or not? Let’s explore the topic, the pros and cons and give you our stance on it, along with some handy references.

The Evolution of Google’s Policy on Bidding on Competitor Keywords

To understand the topic, it’s good to know the background on it.  In the early days of Google Ads, bidding on competitors’ brand names and trademarks was a contentious issue. Many advertisers found success in targeting their competitors’ keywords, capitalising on the brand recognition and existing customer base of their rivals. However, this practice was not without controversy, as some argued that it could mislead consumers and dilute the value of the original brand.

Google’s Stance on Bidding on Competitors’ Keywords

Initially, Google took a hands-off approach to bidding on competitors’ keywords, allowing advertisers to target any keyword they wished, including their competitors’ brand names. This policy led to a surge in competitive advertising, with companies vying for the top spot in search results for their competitors’ names. 


Changes in Google’s Bidding on Competitors Keywords Policy

As the practice became more widespread, Google began to reevaluate its stance. In 2004, Google implemented a policy that allowed advertisers to bid on competitors’ keywords but restricted the use of trademarked terms in ad copy. This meant that while advertisers could target their competitors’ brand names, they could not use those names in their ad text.


Despite these restrictions, advertisers have continued bidding on competitors’ keywords and in some cases, using a competitor’s trademarked terms in their ad copy or landing pages too which has lead to legal action. 

So in summary, advertisers should be cautious when using competitors’ brand names and ensure that their ads comply with Google’s policies and local trademark laws.

Why Even Consider Bidding on Competitors’ Keywords?

There are lots of reasons why you might consider bidding on competitors’ keywords. These include:

  1. Increased Visibility: By bidding on your competitors’ keywords, your ads can appear alongside or above their organic search results, increasing your brand’s visibility to users who are actively searching for similar products or services.
  2. Targeted Traffic: Since users searching for your competitors’ keywords are likely interested in similar offerings, bidding on these keywords can attract highly targeted traffic to your website, potentially increasing your conversion rates.
  3. Competitive Advantage: Outbidding competitors on their own keywords can give you a competitive advantage, especially if your ad copy and landing pages are more compelling, potentially allowing you to steal customers away from them. But is this ethical…?
  4. Brand Protection: Bidding on your competitors’ keywords can help protect your brand from being hijacked by competitors who may bid on your brand name.
  5. Market Insights: Monitoring your competitors’ keywords can provide valuable insights into their marketing strategies and help you identify new opportunities.

The Cons of Bidding on Competitors’ Keywords:

  1. Cost: Bidding on competitors’ keywords can be expensive, especially if your competitors have a strong presence in the market.
  2. Limited advantage: According to Forbes, just 10% of searches are branded. The remaining 90% are looking for information or products.
  3. Low-Quality Traffic: While bidding on competitors’ keywords can attract targeted traffic, some of this traffic may be less likely to convert since they are not actively searching for your brand.
  4. Ethical Concerns: Some marketers view bidding on competitors’ keywords as unethical, as it can be seen as piggybacking off of their brand’s reputation and hard work. We’ve had a situation before where a new marketing agency on the Sunshine Coast was found to not only be bidding on our trademarked name AND using it in their ad text, but also doing the same to many other agencies. What a way to make friends in the same industry when you are new on the scene!  In fact we were made aware of the issue by a former colleague who had moved on to run her own agency, asking us if we were aware of the issue and seeking our advice on what we  should do. We wrote a formal email to the company for our own interests and on behalf of the other agencies in our local area, asking them to amend the ads. Our exact template if you ever need to use it was

“It has come to our attention that you are using our trademarked business name in your Google Ads. We will be reporting this to our key contact at Google as an unauthorised infringement of our trademark and will have no hesitation in taking further legal action if this activity does not cease and desist by 5pm today, X date. 

Trademark or otherwise, targeting the names of other local agencies in your advertising is an aggressive and unethical strategy. We also note you are running similar ads referencing other agencies’ names and we will be providing this as documented evidence to Google, as well as notifying those agencies.”

  1. Legal Issues: In some cases, bidding on competitors’ keywords on Google Ads can lead to legal issues, especially if your ads mislead users into thinking they are clicking on a competitor’s website. Had the above agency not responded to or actioned our request, we may have sought legal action as we indicated in our email.

Alternatives to bidding on competitor keywords on Google Ads

  1. Focus on bidding on generic terms to reach audiences in the research phase
  2. Bid on competitor keywords that have the word “alternative” or “vs” in them as these are people researching for potential alternatives
  3. If you do insist on bidding on competitor keywords, make sure that budgets and bids are constantly measured versus ROI. Also make sure you have a proper funnel & landing page in place designed for this audience.

Conclusion on whether you should bid on competitors keywords on Google Ads

In conclusion, the practice of bidding on competitors’ keywords has evolved over time, with Google implementing policies to address the concerns surrounding trademark use and brand protection. While it can be a useful strategy for some advertisers, it is essential to understand the potential risks and implications before implementing such a tactic in your Google Ads campaigns.

Bidding on competitors’ keywords can be a strategic move for some businesses, providing increased visibility, targeted traffic, and a competitive advantage. However, it also comes with risks, including high costs, low-quality traffic, ethical concerns, and potential legal issues. Ultimately, the decision to bid on competitors’ keywords should be based on a thorough understanding of your market, your competitors, and your own business goals.

Handy References on Bidding on Competitors Keywords: