The Ins and Outs of Competitor Keyword Bidding for PPC

One of the greatest things about PPC is that if there is a query with enough search volume, you can likely bid on it. Not only that, but you can have your brand showing front and center on a search engine results page for that query as well. That is just one of the benefits of bidding on your competitor’s branded or trademark terms because it allows you to get right in front of prospective customers and persuade them to consider your product or service instead. When done right, competitor keyword bidding can be a profitable venture for a PPC strategy. In this blog, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of competitor keyword bidding as well as the tactical and strategic best practices to maximize results.

Pros and Cons

Before you consider identifying your top competitors and increasing bids on their terms, it’s important to weigh the positives and negatives of this strategy.


Incremental leads/sales – When scaling a PPC account, it’s important to consider all options when looking for keyword expansion opportunities. Look no further than your competitors’ branded terms! Unless specified through a contract, it is not against the rules to bid on these types of terms. By doing so, you open up the opportunity to appear for relevant traffic and attract potential prospects away from your competitors. While conversion rates may be lower, this is still a great way to drive more leads/sales through your site.

Branding potential – As mentioned in the preceding section, your ads will be distributed to many prospects who are already relevant to your business because they are looking for an organization very similar to yours. This provides a great branding opportunity while your potential customers are in a critical consideration phase in the purchase funnel. Make certain to leverage engaging ad copy but be careful when using specific trademark terms in the messaging or risk ad disapprovals.


High cost-per-click – Depending on your account average CPC is, you may run the risk of seeing higher click costs when running a competitor campaign. This is due in large part to the fact that you will likely have low Quality Score on competitor terms, which will inherently drive CPCs up. If you currently run PPC campaigns for your site, you know that your branded CPC is always of the cheapest. This is because your ads are most relevant to your site which is why your Quality Score on those terms will be strongest. It’s this exact reasoning as to why your competitor keywords will see a low Quality Score and that’s due to the relevance of your site to those terms.

Negative relationships – Would you like it if your competitors started bidding on your branded terms? Didn’t think so. Another potential con is negative relationships that you might begin with your competitors when bidding on their terms. They may reach out with a cease and desist letter or they might start bidding on your branded terms to try and drive up your CPCs. While certainly a negative, the gains from bidding on your competitors’ terms might outweigh the issues here.

Strategic Best Practices

Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons to competitor keyword bidding, it’s time we talk about how to execute a successful competitor campaign.

Campaign structure: Separate your competitor keyword targeting into its own campaign. This will allow for easier optimizations. Other benefits are as follows:

  • Budget management – Ensure you are not devoting too much of your overall efforts to this one strategy. Setting a daily cap on how much you are willing to spend will help you stay on top of these campaigns.
  • Geo-specific targeting – If you are looking to minimize costs when it comes to competitive bidding, consider only targeting in certain higher priority regions. You’ll be able to still have visibility in top markets but you’ll not waste spend in less important areas.
  • Ad scheduling – Similar to geo-specific targeting, ad scheduling is another campaign specific optimization that can be used to manage costs. Use ad scheduling to only have your competitor campaign distribute ads at certain times of day or days of week that are most advantageous for your business.

Ad copy: An important consideration with competitor campaigns, is having the most engaging ad copy in rotation. Ideally, you should test a number of different ad variations. We’ve recommended some messaging considerations below:

  • Trademark variations: Instead of using a competitor’s trademark term, consider using a close variation that will still produce high Quality Scores but protects you from potential trademark infringement claims.
  • Inclusion of pricing – One of the best approaches when bidding on competitor keywords, is to include pricing in your ad copy especially if your prices are better than your competitor’s.
  • Competitive benefits – Does your platform deploy in under an hour and your competitor’s platform takes 24 hours? Do you offer free shipping and the competition charges $5.95? If your product or service has superior benefits, don’t be afraid to hammer that messaging home!

Landing pages: The last piece of the puzzle is converting traffic at a high rate, and that is mostly done with an effective landing page experience. It’s important to include iterations of your competitor’s trademark term if you can to ensure you are maximizing Quality Score too. Please find two approaches to developing an effective landing page below:

  • Conservative approach – If you’ve decided that bidding on your competitor’s terms is enough and you don’t want to bug them anymore, we recommend providing prospects a conservative landing page experience. This would be similar to your current strategy where the above-fold CTA is prominent but you have additional below-fold CTAs to engage users even further. Also, be sure to showcase messaging that makes you appear superior to your competitors.
  • Aggressive approach – If you are thinking about a more aggressive approach, consider a comparison chart that directly presents why your product or service is better than your competitor’s. This would include pricing and any other superior benefits side by side with the competitor’s name included in the chart. Insights from prior tests show this as a very effective strategy.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can more effectively leverage a competitor bidding strategy, please contact us by email at or by phone at 781-591-0752.