The brand bidding debate is back! This time as a result of Basecamp.com, who controversially ran the below ad on Google in recent weeks, expressing their frustration at being held to ‘ransom’ by the search engine giant.

Agree or disagree with their opinion and approach, it’s certainly caused a stir in the paid media world. So, should you be bidding on your competitors’ branded terms?

It sounds like a great idea in theory doesn’t it? A potential customer searching for your competitor, requiring their product or service, therefore requiring YOUR product or service; you’ve hit the jackpot. A targeted audience, a lower cost per click and a kick in the teeth for your competition;who wouldn’t?! Right?

Well, it’s all about traffic gain versus traffic loss. Offence versus defence.

If you’re a smaller brand considering bidding on a larger competitors’ terms; terms which have significantly more traffic than your own, then there are certainly advantages to doing so. Play offensively.

If you’re a larger brand with a higher volume of branded searches than your opponents, bid on your own terms, hold your position and keep the traffic; don’t give your competitors a look in. Play defensively.

However, there’s a third option; don’t play at all. But, why not?

We’ve pulled together an essential checklist to help you decide whether to play offensively, defensively or not to play at all; here’s our thoughts…

  • What is your relationship like with your competitors? Do you want to start a war with them? Is it a war you can ultimately win?
  • Does it make commercial sense to advertise on Google at all? The cost to advertise certain products and service can be very expensive. You must consider whether you should even be on Google at all!
  • Is it in-keeping with your brand to play offensively? In retail for example, we see aggressive strategies implemented to ‘one-up’ the competition. We would be shocked to see the same from charities.
  • Where do you rank organically on Google? If you already hold position 1 for your branded terms and no competitors are bidding against you, you should undoubtedly consider investing your money in other areas of your marketing strategy.
  • By bidding on your own brand, you’re increasing the competition for that term. More competition = higher cost per clicks.  You’re driving your own future costs up! Does it cost in for you to do so? Can you afford a higher cost per lead or cost per acquisition? 
  • Is the competitor you’re considering bidding against definitely a direct competitor? If a user Googles ‘HSBC near me’, they don’t want results from Santander, they want HSBC as they probably already bank with them. Google will recognise this and since it’s in their best interest to deliver only the most relevant results, they won’t display the Santander ad, thus reducing their quality score and what else? Increasing their cost per click!

By no means are we saying that competitor bidding is right or wrong; it works for some, but definitely doesn’t for others.

To ensure this strategy will work for you, it’s essential that you weigh up the pros and cons from the below checklist to make the most informed decision.

Good luck!

The Essential Checklist:

  • Traffic volume
  • Relationship with competitors
  • Cost to advertise
  • Your brand
  • Organic ranking
  • CPC implications