AdWords URL Bidding

Aug 9, 2011 • 8:46 am | comments (17) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google AdWords

AdWords URL biddingThere are some Google AdWords advertisers who bid on their competitors URLs and display ads within AdWords for the URL. Honestly, I do not see this tactic all that often but it happens.

As you may know, it is not that uncommon for the average searcher to type in a domain name into Google in order to go to that URL. That practice, by the extreme definition, is direct navigation search. It is common, heck I have even seen it done for people wanting to go to Google. I kid you not, I asked a former client to go to Google, so he went to Google and then types in into the search box. I am not kidding.

In any event, it seems like some advertisers do it often. They will buy the domain name as a keyword and display an ad for their company. That is like Google buying the keyword [] or [] on those search engines.

A WebmasterWorld thread has some advertisers talking about this technique. One advertiser is upset because it is being used against his client. When he complained to Google, Google told him he is out of luck because the name is currently not trademarked. Google told him:

As per our discussion I have consulted a specialist and have confirmed that the scope of our investigation is limited to only trademarked terms.

I looked into your account and noticed that the the keyword "#*$!X" is not trademarked. We strongly encourage you to go ahead and trademark this term to avoid future escalations and to ensure that there is no misuse of your domain.

So it is fair game? I am not too sure. While Google may allow it, it doesn't stop your competitor for suing you for trying. So be careful when using this technique.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Philip Busk

08/09/2011 01:01 pm

I don't think the strategy works that great anyway. The searcher tends to have tunnel vision for the brand and doesn't look hard at the ads. That' our experience.

Darren Hughes

08/09/2011 01:20 pm

I agree, Phillip. The upside is very minimal. Same for buying competitor brand terms.

Drink Craft Beer

08/09/2011 01:38 pm

Bidding on a site name is no different than bidding on the brand name itself, and neither are a violation of adwords trademark policies. The only thing you can't do is use the trademarked term in your ad copy. You can bid on pretty much anything you want. 

Devon Regan

08/09/2011 01:41 pm

It varies greatly by industry, there are certain brands that people search because they have heard of them before but they aren't necessarily committed to that brand yet. 

Ian Williams

08/09/2011 02:39 pm

Have experimented with this technique and, at the time, it did not work. Poor CTR, poor QS,...all influencing metrics at an account-level. Can appreciate this may be different in other industries but, regardless of law, it just was a flat out failure that I can't make a data-driven decision to back (IME).

Philip Busk

08/09/2011 02:49 pm

Devon, I can see where it could work and believe me we thought  it was a great way to drive some traffic/conversions. For our clients campaigns it turned out the data didn't support the campaign and it actually hurt: low ctr, etc. I think every good campaign manager should test it for their campaigns and let the data, not the fear of getting sued, drive their decisions.


08/09/2011 05:19 pm

I've clicked many ads using my own domain name to spend the competitor's money.  However, one bright spot I've seen has been using comparison language and sending to a landing page that has a specific product/service benefit the competitor does not offer.

Adam Alter

08/09/2011 07:36 pm

I wouldn't recommend doing that.  Just as Ian said below bidding on a competitor name/URL usually results in a low CTR, especially when comparing it to the company's ad itself (which they SHOULD be running for this, and other reasons).  And your QS will often tank because of the poor CTR eventually knocking you off the term. With you clicking it, you're just helping his CTR which in this case is often the problem with being able to bid on a competitor's term.  Since there's usually less competition for these terms (for reasons mentioned) the cost isn't much if you can maintain a decent QS. Your best chance of getting rid of them is bidding on your own name with a high bid (relative) for top position.  Enough people are looking for your site and ONLY want your site, provided it's in the #1 position, they're yours.  Your CTR will blow the competition away resulting in their ad no longer showing or a redicluous minimum front page bid. Of course it's case by case and each vertical can be different.  I'm run in many and this is often the case.


08/10/2011 06:38 am

This is certainly not ethical, though it may not be illegal. On the flip side, I really admire the smartness of the person who started this - bidding on competitor's URL


08/10/2011 07:10 am

This topic is as old as the beard of my grandfather but a hot one all the time. In my opinion bidding on competitors brands shouldnt be a only data driven decision. Of course QS, CTR and so one are poor and cpl is maybe not the best, but in some industries there are hidden benefits like getting customers from the competition, or "to be kept in mind". I think in industries with a long customer lifetime journey it pays off. I watched the brandkeywords for some time, they started poor, but increased cpl over time and not like other new campaigns it took some time. And no question about it, you should protect your own brands by bidding on them. You pay only a few cents and your competion has to pay about 6 times more, but without bidding on your terms you are serving your brands to the competition on a golden plate.

Jon McKean-Dow

08/10/2011 08:30 am

Quality Score has quite an important influence on what we’re talking about. Most advertisers will experience competitor bidding as a difficult game - low CTR, low quality scores and extremely high CPCs. Google’s QS algorithm is based on relevancy; if the searcher doesn’t find you relevant and doesn't click on your ad then you won’t appear in the auction. I think the issue of whether it’s ethical is not that important; it’s whether the user finds your ads relevant to the search term. Therefore, a simple way to combat someone bidding on your brand is to bid on it yourself!  Don’t rely on organic rankings, push PPC and you’ll find that most competitors struggle to sustain a long term campaign on your brand or URL.

Katie Saxon

08/10/2011 11:41 am

Depends where you're advertising - just being pedantic - but normally that's true. Although have to say that like many others I've not had much luck with bidding on competitors brands anyway.


08/10/2011 12:15 pm

I dont agree, if you type the website as a keyword it is more obvious that you use google as a bookmark. As a consequence you decisionprozess is completed. When you type in a brand without .com oder any other tld you may be at the beginning or at the end of your decisionprozess and you use google as a bookmark. Ok  this highly depends on your products and industrial. In the business i work (real estates) we have two important kpis one of them are requests from people which look after real estates to real estates agencies (leads). The other one are ads (sales) from private persons which offers their real estate for rent. The conversionrate for sales from brands without .com is 100% better than from the brands with .com. My explanation is, that people who already typed in everything they want to describe about their real estate and all the pics they uploaded, they dont want to do that again. Dont know why our price which is more cheaper is not that argument to write it again ^^.  The conversionrate from the leads is not much worse. Maybe because it takes only a few seconds to write an request and the real estates from our competition are often the same. I hope you understand me ^^


08/10/2011 07:02 pm

Another aspect is the ethics and positive influence of customers. Would you like to buy something from a company that deceives their customers? Maybe some people would, but honestly, I don't think that it could be a long term strategy for any company.


08/11/2011 08:22 am

To add another benefit or to strength one of my points: Today i found out that the brandkeywords from the competition have a60% better First Vistit Ratio than our own brandkeyword and almost 80% better than the keyword "real estates". Usually i would think that keywords such as "real estates" are the ones starting a  search prozess and keywords such as "real estates brooklyn for rent" would end a search prozess.  So i always paid a lot of attention to these shorttail keywords because i thought they are the keywords which catches the first time visitors. Maybe an explanation is a sentence of a working mate: I use google often as a bookmark of an entire search, i searched for "real estates" and got three good portals, next day i used the same keyword again. An example: "real estates", first time visitors, dont know us at all, 3% average ctr "real estates", second time or whatever, know us and our products, and looks after us, 10% average ctr CPC, Impressions would be the same, so you will get more second time visitors then first time visitors. This could be a problem in all industries like portals for "real estates, jobs, cars" everything you have an advantage to search on more than one portal.


08/11/2011 07:43 pm

Not so much deception, I think, as opportunity. Consider: You offer a Ford auto for sale. Do you only want to offer that auto to people who search for "ford", or do you also wish to expose your product to those who search for "toyota" in the hopes of offering them an alternative of which they may not have been aware? That being said, ads that do not provide a solution to a query tend to have lower CTR and lower conversion rates than those ads that do satisfy the searcher, so this type of strategy will almost always produce less business than a strategy that favors well-targeted terms. But there is no denying that any hit is an opportunity to sell ... even when that hit is the result of a search digression.

J. Chandler Hall

08/11/2011 09:46 pm

Barry, I find it odd that "Google told him he is out of luck b/c the name is currently not trademarked. Bottom line, you can BID on any trademarked word or words you just can't use the trademark in the Ad. Google won this Supreme Court decision after Berkshire Hathaway's (Warren Buffett) Geico sued Google for allowing Progressive to bid on the Geico trademark as a keyword. This was years ago. The ONLY trademark violation that Google will stop is the use of the trademark publicly in the Ad itself.  Bid on it all day long, just don't use it in any ad or promotional copy.

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