In traditional marketing, targeting the potential customers of your main competitors has been a long-standing strategy. In the digital sphere, the same principles apply but the methods have evolved. Competitor targeting on the internet involves bidding on keywords that are relevant to your business and your competitors.
Your competition will be attracting traffic via keyword searches, and those same keywords could also apply to your business, so marketers try to pay Google (through their AdWords tool) more than their competitors in order to gain the higher ranking.
This may seem like a sneaky tactic, but targeting your competitor’s keywords comes with a lot of rules from Google and the AdWord platform to ensure fair practice. It is still a common strategy but you need to make sure that it’s the right one for your company before you launch into it.
Most importantly, competitor targeting on AdWords is highly popular and therefore competitive. Prices for keywords can skyrocket so it may not be the best (most cost-effective) solution for your business. If you’ve done your research and you know that your competitors are using AdWords, then here’s what you need to know about competitor targeting.
It’s an online auction for keywords
You can see who you’re bidding against for your preferred keywords by clicking on your ‘Campaigns’ tab then going to the ‘Auction insights’ tab. Use the filter to see your specific campaigns and who you’re bidding against.
If no one shows up on the list – you’re the first. Now you need to decide if you want to start a keyword war with your competitors; if you start targeting their keywords, they can do the same and launch a campaign to target yours, driving up your PPC prices in the process.
If you do see other brands in the list of bidders, then it’s fair to enter the bid and start targeting some of their keywords. Just make sure you know what their keywords are and whether they are relevant to your business.
Preview your competitors’ advert copy
Once you enter the bidding war, you can preview your competitors’ ad copy to see how they are marketing themselves against your brand. By seeing what they are writing in their adverts targeting your keywords, you’ll be able to improve your own copy.
Use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool to look at search queries in various countries and locations that are relevant to your business. These results will help you tweak your ad copy and improve your rankings.
Know your competitors intimately
Not all of your competitors will be targeting your keywords, so it helps to know who your main rivals are. Make a list of all the competitors in your industry and then rank them according to how similar they are to your business.
Next, visit their websites and see what keywords they clearly use. Things such as product names, events and slogans are likely to be keywords for their business. If any of these keywords can apply to your company too, then make a list and order them according to relevance.
Do a thorough investigation into your competitor’s downfalls – asking their clients and customers can be insightful. Search customer reviews online and see what they are saying about your competitor’s products. Use this knowledge to create subtle ad copy around their weaknesses. Your copy should explain to the customer why you’re better than your competitors.
Know Google’s rules
Google has strict policies around the use of trademarks and brand names. Using another brand’s name or trademark in your copy will have your ad banned and possibly reported to the trademark owner. This could have legal implications.
However, there are two exceptions to this rule. One is for “informal sites” and the other is for retailers using brand names that are available in their stores, such as a clothing store using the word “Nike” in their ad copy.
Basically, don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want your competitors to do and you’ll be fine. Be ethical but embrace the spirit of competition in the process.
Protect your brand and trademarks
Although you may be ethical, some of your competitors may not be. Keep an eye out for instances where a competitor uses your brand name or trademark in their adverts or on their site. File complaints where necessary and take a screenshot to document the evidence. Having a trademark is a great way to protect your brand and certain keywords.
Remember, you don’t have a right to the top spot of the search results page. You need to have impeccable copy, solid SEO and a bigger budget for bidding on keywords in order to outrank your competitors.
If your competitors haven’t made a bid on any keywords yet, and you’d rather not start a bidding war, you can still take a more subtle approach to target your rivals. The ‘Custom Intent Audiences’ tool allows you to create custom audiences for keyword campaigns related to the products that they are searching for. If your target audience is searching for specific URLs or products, you can target them.
After all the research is done and the competitors are identified, you can choose whether or not you’d like to start bidding on your preferred keywords. Be fair, ethical and honest, but remain competitive by crafting quality copy and adverts.
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