Don’t underestimate the value of launching competitor campaigns on search. These can be a powerful way of getting your ads in front of people who are on the cusp of making a purchase. Here are our top tips for how and why you should make search campaigns that target the brand names of your competitors.

When to build a competitor campaign

We get started with competitors straight after we are done with brand campaigns. People searching for our own brand name are those most likely to convert as they are already hunting us down. As soon as we know people searching for us can find us, we can move on to searchers who are the next most likely to convert. Let’s split these into two groups:

People searching for a competitor: these users are looking for the solution that we offer. Let’s make sure we give them as many options as possible.

People who have been on our website and are searching for a competitor: these people are probably still shopping around but already know who we. Let’s make sure we remind them we have a great product to offer, especially if they are about to make a purchase.

Does it work?

Competitor campaigns can be costly. We will never get the same Quality Score as someone bidding on their own brand name so we will have to pay a premium to show up. However, this can be compensated for by the super high conversion rate that comes from advertising to people at precisely the moment when they are making a purchase. In a word, yes it does work.

Ad copy ideas

Rule number 1; never write your competitor’s name in the ad copy. Nobody wants to get sued. We are specifically talking about targeting keywords here. However, your ad copy can still show self-awareness; something along the lines of “see why we are better instead”. If you want to get started fast, you can just repurpose your existing brand ads and go live with them straight away.

How to optimise

Even if some competitor keywords are not cost-effective when targeting a broad audience of new users, we can still target more narrowly. For example “option a vs option b” or “alternative to X” keywords will reduce our reach to those who are still deciding. A good indication of people still shopping around is that they have already been on our website so we would still want to show ads for our remarketing audiences. Volumes can be low and CPC’s high, but if we have already attracted a customer to our site in the first place, we presumably offer something of interest to them. Another option is to target keywords at searchers who are looking to jump ship. If someone is searching for “product x support” or perhaps looking for a refund, they may well be keen to find a replacement. We would normally suggest against directly targeting existing customers of your competitors, you can include negative keywords like “login” or “account” or whatever is most relevant to your sector.

Choose your competition carefully

Of course, we are advocates of taking decisions based on data, so if you have the budget to do this quickly, grab as many of your competitors as possible and see which ones work. It can be helpful to keep in mind how relevant your competitors are. Start off with those offering the closest product to you, for example, if you are a new search advertising platform you might want to begin with targeting keywords related to Google or Bing. If these are profitable you could branch out further. Facebook is a competitor when it comes to the digital marketing industry even if they don’t do search. If you want to go even further you could try showing ads to people searching to advertise in a specific print publication – you are still offering an alternative to an advertising product. If you are unsure where you should start, you can always look at the auction insights report to see who is bidding on your brand name. It’s worth having a think about possible negative keywords that you can include as well.