The rationale behind bidding on trademarked brands is something like this: if I bid on my competitor’s name than my company’s PPC ad will show up in any branded searches for my competitor. Since my competitor and I are going after the same target audience, this is good way to piggyback on the brand value of my competition and drive targeted leads to my own site. Full disclosure, bidding on a competitor’s brand for my own PPC campaign is an SEM tactic that I once tested. I tried it out for a month or two, but I quickly realized a few very important things. First, when someone is searching directly for a brand they are just about ready to pull the trigger and convert. My lowly PPC is probably not going to be enough of a deterrent to tear them away from that other company, so it’s really not a cost effective way to use my PPC budget.
Secondly, I decided that ethically it’s bad will, especially in the SEO industry. Since SEO is a customizable service for every site owner based on their needs, goals and objectives, I look at other SEO providers as my colleagues, not just as my competitors. In theory, my SEO company is competing with thousands of other SEO providers—big companies, small boutiques, freelancers, consultants, providers overseas, web designers and much more. Each of us takes a slightly different approach to the way we manage SEO for our clients. I don’t want to work with a client that I can help, so even if I do manage to snag another SEO company’s lead by bidding on their branded keywords that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good lead for my own company. Since I’m paying for each click my PPC ad gets, I’d much rather pay for leads that I know are interested in working with my company.
I eventually realized that bidding on another company’s branded keywords is a lot like standing at the entrance to the McDonald’s parking lot and handing out flyers to Burger King. That car is 90% of the way to buying their burger and fries from McDonald’s, is my flyer really going to send loads of hungry patrons to Burger King? Even if I get one or two patrons, is it worth my time and money to do it? Instead of piggy backing on someone else’s brand and trying to skim a few visitors here and there, why wouldn’t I just take that PPC money and invest it back into my own brand?
Back when I was testing this SEM tactic, if another site owner saw what I was doing and asked me to stop I would. I wasn’t trying to step on anyone’s toes, but I wanted to test the validity and value of bidding on trademarked brands. I recently noticed that another company, Insegment, has been bidding on “Brick Marketing” as a keyword. In a way I suppose it’s kind of a compliment. This company has decided that Brick Marketing is a strong enough brand to bring quality traffic to their own site. But at the same time, I’ve spent a lot of time and money building up that brand with marketing and advertising, so seeing another company trying to capitalize on my efforts is a little frustrating.
Now I don’t know much about Insegment as a company, but their website says they are a Boston Internet marketing company that does everything from website design to SEO to creative and branding and everything in between. Even though they offer SEO services, it doesn’t look like that is their core competency. So why is Insegment bidding on Brick Marketing’s trademarked keywords? I’ve contacted the company via phone, email and even live chat asking them to stop bidding on my branded keywords but so far it’s been to no avail.
Google AdWords allows site owners to bid on other brand names to varying degrees. For instance, you might be allowed bid on a brand name but you can’t use it in your PPC ad’s text. Every industry is different, and for some companies bidding on branded trademarks might be a viable SEM tactic. However, when it comes to the SEO industry I don’t think it’s an acceptable approach.