The Right Way to Use Competitor Keywords in Google Ads (Step by Step)

by | Jan 4, 2021

Competitors on Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) have the brand awareness and traffic that you want.  So why not use your brand as bait into that stream of customers swimming upstream?

Think about it.  If a user is searching by name for your competitor it tells you a few things:

  • They want to buy what your competitor (and you) are selling
  • They are deeper-funnel and already looking into specific brands (i.e. not just researching)
  • They are probably qualified

To give a real-world example.  You can see in the screenshot below that Monday.com bids against “Salesforce”.  Monday’s PPC team knows that anyone looking at Salesforce (a CRM platform) would also be a qualified lead for their CRM platform.

Example: Monday.com bids against Salesforce with Google Ads
Example: Monday.com bids against Salesforce with Google Ads

Nearly every client account that we manage at Upgrow has a robust competitor campaign set running.  It’s highly effective and efficient, but only if set up and managed properly.

Competitive ads can be a complete disaster and a horrible money pit just as easily.  You’ll always be disadvantaged in quality score and CTR compared to the named competitor.  Additionally, you won’t be able to use trademarked branded terms in your competitors’ ad copy.  So how do you overcome this and drink their milkshake?

Read on…

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How to find your competitors

List your known competitors

You probably can name a few competitors off the top of your head.  Open a spreadsheet and start typing them up, the larger the list of brand terms, the better.

Find competitors with Auction Insights

Another method is to see who is bidding against you frequently on Google Ads.  This is available in the “Auction Insights” section of the Google Ads interface under Campaigns and looks like this:

Use Google Ads Auction Insights to find who bids against you
Use Google Ads Auction Insights to find who bids against you

Check out the different sites and add the most relevant ones to your list.

Check Review Sites

Yet another method is to look at review sites that list and rank providers.  The review site to use would depend on your industry but taking software as an example, you could look at G2.  Just find your specific category and you can see a list of competitors.  Here is what it looks like in the Accounting Software category:

Use review sites to find competitors, like G2
Use review sites like G2 to find competitors

Build your competitor branded keywords list with “uncertainty modifiers”

This is really the secret sauce to success when bidding on competitors’ brand keywords.  But what are “uncertainty modifiers” you may ask?

These are words in the user’s search that indicate they are still considering different brands.

Uncertainty Modifiers include:

  • Alternatives
  • Competitors
  • Pricing
  • Similar to
  • Reviews
  • Cancel
  • Category (i.e. Oracle database, Ikea furniture, IBM consulting)

And so on….

Users searching with these modifiers are either still shopping for a vendor or ready to switch vendors.  What you don’t want are their existing customers or other non-buyers so also be sure to add negative terms

Negative to include:

  • Login
  • Account
  • Logo
  • Phone Number
  • CEO
  • Social Media

And so on…

I also suggest not bidding on the brand name by itself unless the volume on the modifiers is just too small.  If you’re in a very niche industry then you’ll probably need every competitor search you can get, but if your market is large then save some expense and focus on the most likely to buy from you.

Know your differentiators and advantages

Why do customers choose your brand over your competitors?  Make a list of your solution’s advantages.  This messaging is crucial to pull users away from the brand they were researching to switch to looking at your brand instead.

Are you lower cost?  Higher se