Should I bid on brand name keywords (my own or competitors)?

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blog-brand-name-keywords
Chances are, you've either read something that says you should always bid on your brand keyword or someone's bidding on your brand, and you're like... what the heck? I'm going to go through some of the legalese around this, in case you're wondering what recourse you have, and go through the pros and cons of the practice, if you're on the fence of bidding on your own brand name or against competitors using their name.

## __My Brand__ Bidding on your own brand might seem like a no-brainer in some circles. However, there are two sides of the coin even in this situation.

 __Pros__

1.) A Google Research study came out a while back that said if you have an organic result in the #1 position (usually the case for your brand, I hope!), and you also bid on your brand keyword, you'll see an increase in the number of clicks on your organic result. This seems pretty compelling! 2.) If a competitor ever starts bidding on your brand, you'll be protected. The good thing about bidding on your own brand keyword is that you're almost always going to win against a competitor. This is because you have so much more relevance for the search (ie: your own brand) than your competitor. 3.) It's pretty darn cheap. Most CPCs for brand keywords are less than a dollar. So, you can bid on your brand all month and barely break the bank (depending on your brand and budget, obviously).

 __Cons__

1.) You're paying money for clicks that would have probably gone to you anyway. Obviously, there's that Google Research study that says you'll get more clicks and stuff, but the vast majority of people searching for your brand are looking for you (hopefully!). 2.) It adds some complexity to your paid search account. There are a lot of variables at play here because you want the user to get the best experience possible. For example, what if someone searches "Amazon Scissors" - what comes up? Your Amazon ad or your Scissors ad? In most cases, it'd probably be the more specific one automatically, but your ads are competing against each other. You could add negative keywords and stuff, but again... unintended consequences, complexity, etc. 3.) It could taint your overall reporting. I hate having to end a report with "but..." In your case, you might have a bunch of product-focused campaigns running, and your brand one will have drastically different statistics. So, at the end of your SEM report to your boss, you have to say "well, the brand campaign is bringing down our stats slightly..." Ugh... 4.) If the statistics are low for your brand campaign, it brings down the quality of your whole account. Your ad campaigns affect each other. If one campaign does spectacularly, that helps everything - giving you better quality score. However, if you have a lower CTR because people are more likely to click your organic result, then that doesn't help. It's probably not a significant detriment, but something to consider.

 __The Results__

I've tested this, though non-extensively, and the results have been sad in my experience. I've seen the higher CTR in organic search; poor results in my brand campaign - in both Bing and Google; and lower conversion rates across the board. What I suspect is happening is that even with the most actively managed campaign, people are going to search something they're not actually interested in occasionally. If someone searches your brand, but actually meant to search something else (or had something else in mind), they probably have a relatively high chance of clicking one of your two results at the top of the SERP despite that. These people don't actually want you, so they bounce quickly or peruse your site not finding what they were looking for. That's all just assumption, though.

## __Competitors__

 __Legal stuff__

In the world of paid ads and paid organic search, __bidding on competitor keywords__ is generally seen as "okay", legally (in the US). However, that doesn't mean you won't get sued. Several lawsuits have dragged on forever (like most lawsuits seem to) about this topic, so for some, that's reason enough not to do it - legal fees might be enough to dissuade you and/or your competitors. That said, a complainant has never won one of these lawsuits that I can tell. However, you are protected from people putting your __brand name in ad copy__. If you see this, just submit a request to Google, and they'll remove it.

 __Pros__

So, assuming you aren't scared away from bidding against someone who has already bid against you or you really want to siphon off some of Amazon's traffic. Here are the pros of bidding on competitor keywords. 1.) You might get some traffic that would have gone to your competitor. This is obvious - your main driver for bidding on a competitor is traffic and conversions from that traffic. To make this efficient, your competitor better be pretty darn similar to you - after all, do you really think someone searching for *them* is going to have a higher chance to convert? Probably not. 2.) If someone else is already bidding on your brand, this could be a good recourse to get back some customers who happen to click their ads.

 __Cons__

1.) It's relatively expensive. Your quality score for these keywords will be abysmal. So, you'll have to pay out the nose to get past that, and unless you have a really good landing page for this campaign (like a comparison of competitors page), you might even just not get shown. 2.) It can start a war. Do you really want some other brand bidding on your keyword? Maybe they have a really clever, awesome marketing team and can kill it with their ads and take some of your customers who are searching for you. That's what could happen if you remind them that you're around and bidding on their brand. 3.) Litigious companies have lawyers just sitting around all the time looking for something to do (at least this is what I assume based on how many dumb lawsuits I read about). So, do you really want to get sued or a lawyer letter delivered to you? That'd be crappy.

__Final Words__

Don't do this. It just doesn't seem worth it to me unless you're prepared to defend against a petty lawsuit. Even if it's a bluff, it's just annoying for any small or medium-sized business. If you're part of a gigantic corporation, you should consult with your legal department and let us know what they say!





*Sources* Google Research: [Impact of Organic Ranking on Ad Click Incrementality](https://research.googleblog.com/2012/03/impact-of-organic-ranking-on-ad-click.html) ARS Technica: [FTC Sues 1-800 Contacts for attacking competitors' search ads.](https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/08/ftc-sues-1-800-contacts-for-attacking-competitors-search-ads/)
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