December 16, 2016 | Sarah Danks

A while back I posted about why you should be bidding on branded terms within your PPC campaigns. So, sure, if you run pay-per-click accounts you need to allocate some budget to branded search, but within that realm there are SOME keywords I don’t believe you should be including in the branded mix.

I ran across an article on Marketing Profs about mistakes not to make so you don’t bog down your AdWords click-through rate. It’s a good article, and one of the suggestions is to — surprise, surprise — add branded keywords to your PPC campaigns. Sweet!

But, then the recommendation goes awry:

“Branded keywords can generate higher than average CTRs. Focus on your own, but also on those of your competitors.”

WHOA, Nelly!

Get out the tugboat and back up the cruise ship. I entirely, 100% agree with bidding on your OWN branded keywords…

…but those of your competitors?

One of the main reasons to include branded search in your PPC campaigns is to help the entire account with the high Quality Score of those keywords (they’re uber-relevant, have a high CTR — oh, and they’re CHEAP!).

A group of keywords with a very high Quality Score increases the quality of your entire account, “all ships rise with the tide” and all that. Well, guess what? Bidding on your competitors’ company names (and/or products, etc.) will negate all that hard effort. I.e., throw out the anchor and watch the armada pass you by.

Don’t bid on competitor terms. Please.

While bidding on competitor names will get you to show up in front of people who MIGHT want your services, the likelihood of people actually clicking upon YOUR ads when they just typed in a specific business name other than yours is, well, slim to none.

So, you’re going to be left with a nautical nightmare (picture an entire flotilla — beached). I.e., when you bid on competitor terms, you’re actually lowering the overall quality of the account.

See, I’ve been there, done that (and bought the t-shirt). And guess what? Nothing brings down an account quicker than tons of impressions and little to no clicks because of poor-quality keywords.

So, while you’d be doing your PPC campaign a huge favor by bidding on your own branded terms with your left hand, you’d be causing major damage with the right hand by bidding on competitors’ branded terms.

Here’s what happens when you bid on your competitors’ names:

What happens is this: you start bidding on competitor terms. You’re showing up, but getting very low CTR (say, 0.2%). Over time (and not very much of that, in fact), the Quality Score for these keywords starts to sink.

When QS tanks, your impression share goes down. Then you’ll show up less and less, and have to bid even more in an attempt to improve your ad rank. But, it’s a losing battle.

So don’t waste your time, money and the quality of your PPC account by putting money towards competitor keywords. Because, at the end of a day at sea, it’s all about quality. Namely, Quality Score — and keeping it at high tide.

Even though Google’s trying to downplay the importance of late, we PPC marketers know it’s extremely important to focus on improving the Quality Score of your keywords. And, of course, you want your entire account to be high quality.

You do this by focusing on those keywords that yield the highest results. And competitors’ branded keywords aren’t going to yield anything but a shipwreck.*

Larry Kim states in his new article about AdWords Quality Score:

“Delete poor-quality keywords. Conversely, it’s worth considering deleting existing, poorly performing keywords. If you don’t, the CTR of your poorer keywords will negatively impact the Quality Scores of new keywords.”

While he’s not talking specifically about competitor terms, he is telling you to get rid of the chaff of your pay-per-click accounts. And you do this by deleting poorly-performing keywords — so, competitor terms.

Another great point he makes is this: if you leave poor-performing

Because I assure you, if you’re bidding on them, they’re dragging down your entire account.


Do you have a different experience bidding on your competitors’ brands?



*Of course, there’s an exception to every rule, and we’ve been privvy to a couple of cases wherein clients bidding on their competitors’ terms has worked in favor of the overall account…

…but again, it’s not something we recommend because you have a bigger chance of running aground than sailing off into the sunset with this tactic.*



Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Our newsletter includes industry news, tips, and upcoming events!