Brand bidding & PPC optimization: Reducing your competition (Part 5 of 8)

In Part 5 of an 8-part series on PPC brand bidding, columnist Lori Weiman shares her tips on how to deal with competitors who are bidding on your brand name.


Welcome to Part 5 of an eight-part series on PPC brand bidding, where I answer the biggest question facing PPC advertisers in 2016: How do I get meaningful growth numbers out of a crowded and competitive PPC market?

Let’s get you caught up: Part 1 reviewed how gains in PPC evolved over the years and why top line revenue is so hard to come by today. Part 2 used data to explain the value of brand bidding. Part 3 discussed best practices of implementing brand bidding campaigns. And Part 4 dove deep into working with partners and affiliates.

This article shows you exactly how to address your competition when managing brand bidding PPC campaigns.

Competition is inevitable

If you have a brand worth protecting, competitors are already bidding on your brand name. Some bid directly on your name, while others will bid on obvious derivatives, such as when Marketo bids on phrases like “Pardot drip marketing” (and vice versa). Many large brands have competitors bidding to every available ad position for every imaginable brand and brand-plus keyword.

A recent case study from a Search Monitor client, Chacka Marketing, illustrates the benefits of reducing competition in brand bidding. Chacka used our company’s ad monitoring platform to help Avery, the label company, catch unauthorized advertisers who were using the well-known Avery brand name in their PPC copy. Chacka routinely filed trademark violation notices with Google, Bing and Yahoo until the culpable ads were removed.

The results of removing these competitors speak for themselves:

  • Brand CPCs decreased by 64 percent.
  • Clicks increased 34 percent.
  • Total campaign costs dropped by 51 percent.

The question is, what can you do to deal with competitors brazenly showing up on your hard-earned name?

The question is, what can you do to deal with competitors brazenly showing up on your hard-earned name? Your best options include:

  1. Complain. If the competitor is using your name in the ad copy, then file a complaint with the search engines. We will address this more in Part 6, where we discuss the legalities of brand bidding.
  2. Own more real estate. You can take over more of the page real estate by working with partners. If you missed it, we addressed this strategy in detail in Part 4, on managing partner relationships.
  3. Be better than them. Being better means that you earn a top Quality Score, and the competitor does not. It means that you pay a reasonable CPC, while the competitors pay a lot! If the ROAS (return on ad spend) isn’t there, the competitor(s) will stop brand bidding because it isn’t worth it. Be the best “you” possible by using techniques such as remarketing, ad copy development, offer development and landing page development.

Being the best you

Your number one goal is to reduce competition. By doing so, you can experience gains like Avery did. Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you become your best self, which in turn will reduce the impact from competition:

  1. Do outsmart the minimum bid. Presuming you have optimized your ad copy and landing page — making you the most relevant brand bidder on your own brand — then ask yourself, does the minimum bid apply to you? It might not. Try ignoring the first-page minimum bid and instead bid a bit lower to learn where you rank. If you have success, your partners should follow suit.
  2. Don’t just display a generic ad. If the consumer found you through a brand-plus keyword, it’s likely that they want to buy something. I know it sounds obvious, but make sure to promote that “something” in your ad copy.
  3. Don’t ignore competitors.

    • Competitors: Some savvy competitors might be attacking you in their ad copy, focusing on your product quality or pricing (e.g., “They rip you off, and we won’t!”). Study your competitors’ talking points closely, and use your own ad copy to address their attacks head-on. If they mention their lower prices, for example, be ready to emphasize your products’ other virtues.
    • Resellers: If you are a manufacturer, make sure that only authorized resellers are brand bidding (if they are allowed). If you find an unauthorized reseller, take the necessary steps to stop their brand bidding, either through complaints to the search engine or by directly asking the reseller to stop.

  4. Do use ad extensions. As discussed earlier in this article series, ad extensions make your ad copy stand out. If you use site extensions, your ad copy will become a giant bear, dominating the top portion of the SERP. Do this! Look big!
  5. Do use offers. A smart offer can make a difference. Smart doesn’t mean that you have to give something away for free or for a reduced price. Smart means that you have studied the market landscape, taken a realistic gauge of your brand’s strength and determined the offer you need (if any). You should examine the market landscape on a regular basis. If you are in a hot market or a busy time of year, I recommend monitoring your competitors’ offers daily, and sometimes intra-day. Make sure to weigh the offers against your strength as a brand — for example, a very generous offer from a trivial competitor can usually be ignored, but an offer from a competitive equal should definitely be addressed.
  6. Do control your partners’ ad copy. If you are using a partner strategy (which was discussed in Part 4), be sure that your partners coordinate their ad copy and offers to avoid “offer confusion.” See the example from Vonage below. Everything is done right here: the brand holder, Vonage, is number 1.  The resellers are in positions 2 and 3. The offers are in sync and make sense when viewed together.

Vonage - coordinate partner brand bidding

  1. Do pay attention to your landing page. High-quality, relevant landing pages can differentiate you from competitors and keep costs down. Make sure your landing page highlights the keyword, and if you have an offer in the ad copy, repeat it on the landing page. This is Landing Page 101! Too often, I see inconsistent landing pages. Last week, for example, I searched “Macy’s cotton blankets” and saw a Macy’s ad in the number 1 position (smart!). When I clicked, however, no cotton blankets appeared on the landing page — just a list of 64 blankets, unsorted and unfiltered (not smart!).
  2. Don’t let your partners have ugly landing pages. Your partner strategy will lose its effectiveness if the landing page experience is poor. To drive home this point, here’s a landing page I encountered a few days ago. It was promoted by a competitor when I conducted a brand search for “Vonage phone service.” The ad promoted a holiday special with a Christmas motif in March! (I am sure Vonage is glad this was not one of theirs.)

ITP Brand Bidder on Vonage - outdated Landing Page

Final thoughts on reducing brand bidding competition

Hopefully, Part 5 of our series adds another eye-opener to the long list of, frankly, very basic strategies to reduce competition on your branded keywords.

Many of these tips become obvious once you get weekly reports, with screenshots, showing how partners and competitors are advertising on your keywords. These reports can give you the ammo you need to quickly implement changes to copy, offers and landing pages. Knowledge is power in the world of brand bidding.

The next article in this series will cover legal responses to reducing competitors on branded searches, what the law says and how to make it work in your favor, and how to submit complaints to the engines. And finally, the remaining two articles will provide a few more helpful brand bidding techniques and discuss the future of brand bidding. Stay tuned!

[Article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

(Some images used under license from


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