What to do about competitors’ bidding on your hotel brand terms in paid search
Nothing can be more frustrating than finding one of your competitors at the top position for your brand term. Your first gut instinct might be to retaliate and start a digital trench warfare by bidding on your competitor’s own brand terms; however, it is highly likely that this tactic will not fare well in the digital arena – but more on that point later. You have other options at your disposal, which we think you should explore first before going ahead and launching a “bidding war”.
Competitor bidding –as it is commonly referred in the PPC world– simply means that competitors are bidding on each other’s brand terms. Google and other search engines, like Bing, do not prohibit this practice (which can be engaged in indefinitely), but have established some ground rules around this aggressive behavior.
Many marketers consider bidding on competitor terms an easy win, especially if the competitor in question is not bidding on their own brand terms as keywords. If your hotel is vulnerable to this attack and does not respond, your competitor might end up taking a significant share of your valuable traffic.
Why is this tactic appealing?
This topic is extremely polarized. While some marketers happily engage in this practice as a way to steal traffic, others actively discouraged their clients from employing this strategy unless they have very deep pockets or are extremely aggressive with their PPC campaigns.
Competitive bidding can indeed provide a boost to your PPC campaigns at a lower cost-per-click (CPC), especially in competitive markets like the hotel industry. What marketers argue is that if someone is searching for your competitor’s brand name, it makes sense that he or she might be interested in what your property has to offer too. Your ad will be displayed to a qualified audience, perhaps even current or past guests of your direct competitor.
Another advantage is that it is generally cheaper to bid on brand names due to lower competition. Some marketers recommend this tactic because it is an excellent way to generate brand awareness. Two things are crucial here though: the ad copy should be captivating and enticing to attract attention and generate clicks, and it should also promote the competitive advantage your hotel has over your competitor’s property.
Competitor keyword bidding can quickly become very expensive; therefore, it is important that hoteliers understand beforehand their position within the hotel industry and the potential return of their investment. Conquesting –another name for this practice– is more effective when your property is in a niche segment and sells high priced hotel rooms. A clear example are luxury boutique hotels.
What can hoteliers do to defend their brand?
We recommend that your hotel implement these suggestions in the following order of action:
Start bidding on your own brand terms: Instruct your marketing team to start bidding on your own brand name, if they are not already doing so. Your hotel should be able to quickly claim the first position on these terms, as well as achieve a high-quality score, since Google grants you a higher quality score because your ad is likely to be highly relevant to the searcher. Google also makes it more expensive for businesses to bid on other companies’ branded keywords and rewards businesses that play fair and stick to keywords that are relevant to them. As a result, your cost-per-click will be lower than the offending party, and their CPCs will in turn increase significantly.
File a trademark complaint: If you have trademarked your hotel name and you see a competitor using it in their ads, you can report them to Google via its Trademark Complaint Form. Make sure your lawyer or someone in your legal team fills this form in as it requests information about your intellectual property filings. Google will only take action if your brand name is a registered trademark. By filing a complaint, you ensure that your trademark can only be used by your account and any other you expressly authorize in the future. If you would like to submit a complaint to Bing Ads, you can do so by filling out this form.
Get in touch with your competitor: It is possible that if you send your competitor an email politely requesting that they remove their ads it will be ignored, but it is a recommended first course of action. If you carefully word your message and hint towards the possibility of starting a bidding war (in which the only party that benefits is Google), your chances of success increase and you might reach a “gentlemen’s agreement” with your competitor on not engaging in this type of practice.
Bid on their brand terms: As we mentioned above, running campaigns using a competitor’s brand terms is likely to start a bidding war, which will rise CPCs on both sides, much to Google’s delight. That is why we recommend exploring your other options first before bidding on their terms. If a war is already underway, it might be worthwhile to reach out to your competitor again, but this time with evidence as to why both parties should stop before this behavior spirals out of control.
There is no need to despair if your brand has been the victim of competitor bidding. As explained in the above suggestions, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and avoid a “bidding war” getting out of hand, which ultimately will not benefit either party.