The Alternative To Bidding On Competitor’s Branded Keywords

It’s the ultimate coup – stealing your competitor’s disgruntled customers! There’s no doubt about it, bidding on your competitor’s branded keywords is an enticing strategy for a lot of companies. Whenever someone searches up your competitor, they see your ad right there, encouraging them to switch. Or, if they’re still doing research, maybe they skip going with the competitor and go with you instead. 

Unfortunately, what most people miss is that this is not a strategy that often works out well in your favor. For one, it’s proven that most people will click on the top ad spot, even if it’s not completely relevant to you. This means higher bounce rates, decreased quality scores, and overall high prices. Sure, you might get some conversions here and there, but there’s another cost you might not have considered. You’ll draw the ire of your competitors, and then they’ll start taking out ads on your branded terms, too! Overall, this is a campaign of MAD – mutually assured destruction. Competition on your own branded terms will increase your own costs when two companies are going at it. 

There wis an alternative to all of this: a way to get hyper-targeted traffic with high conversion rates at low costs. Thanks to search engines, we know that people that want something other than what your competitors can offer. 

Get The People That Want To Switch! 

No matter how good your competition is, there are people that are always looking for something new, better, cheaper, or anything else in between. The strategy is simple: create content, and ad campaigns, that focus on people who want to switch, or who are still in the research phase.The three keywords you’ll want to check out are these: 


+[Competitor] +Alternatives

+[Competitor] +Reviews

+[Competitor] +Competitors

Step 1: Determine Which Competitors To Target

Using Google’s keyword search predictor or an app like Keywords Anywhere, you’ll discover the search volume for your competitors using these keywords. If the search volume is 100 or greater, you probably have a good shot at making this work. You should also try search keywords that display your competitive advantages over your competitors. For example, you could try “healthy alternative to _____” if you are indeed a healthy alternative! Test out different keyword combinations and you’ll have a great idea of where to strike. 

Step 2: Build Out A Page Showing Why You’re The Better Option

Now that you have a list of competitors, the next thing you need to do is build out a page not just showcasing your features, but also why you’re better than your competition. Comparison tables are good, testimonials from converts are even better. My recommendation is to survey customers that switched over, or chose you over the competition in the first place. They may give you the language you need to really hit home, and help you focus on your advantages. 

You should make this a page that stands on it own. You may be better than your competitor, but you should dedicate the majority of the page to what makes you a good company on your own. If you don’t, people still may not convert. Just because they’re angry at a competitor’s customer support doesn’t mean they will choose you if they don’t see any value in your product or service. 

For SEO value, the title should be the keyword with the most volume. 

Step 3: Build Out Your Ads

Here’s where you can get really creative! You can hit at your competitor’s weak points and champion your strengths. Just try not to use trademarked terms, because those are not considered kosher by search engines. 

As in Step 2, ask your customers for reasons why they switched, or chose you in the first place. Some of my ads with the highest CTR and ROI directly used recent customer experiences. Google in particular now has three headlines with 30 characters each, so try something like this:


Ticked At Slow CS Response? | We Have 24/7 Support To Help| [Company] Is Your Alternative

Unhappy With Pricing Changes? | [Company] Is Your Alternative | Sign Up Now For 50% Off

Warning: Don’t use your competitor’s name in your ads. It may get you more clicks but you could get your ads removed for trademark violations. 

Step 4: Optimize!

You’ll learn a lot as you run these campaigns. Always be sure to split test, update language, and always have your ear to the ground. Twitter and Facebook corporate pages tend to be goldmines for reviews from unhappy customers. Tap into this zeitgeist and make your ads spicy, and you’ll be rewarded with low cost conversions. 

What To Do If Your Competitors Do This To You:

Be Vigilant For Trademark Violations

Google allows companies to use 3rd party trademarks in ad copy. However, you can submit a complaint and get it taken down. If you see one, report it. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything if they use a branded term as a keyword. 

Take Out Ads On Review Keywords

If people are looking for reviews of your company, they’re in the buy phase but need a slight nudge. You’ll benefit greatly if you keep getting positive reviews for your company. Taking out ads if your competitors are on there will also help you keep people in that funnel. 


Don’t bid directly on your competitor’s branded terms. It just creates ill will, and confused customers that just click on the first thing they see. Instead, go for customers that are looking to switch! They will convert quickly and cheaply if you can show your competitive advantages. 

Photo by Paul Green on Unsplash

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