Tara West

Can Competitors Use My Brand Name in AdWords?

3rd Jan 2012 PPC Blog, Google AdWords, PPC Blog 4 minutes to read

Is a competitor bidding on your brand name in Google AdWords? Or using your brand name in their ad text? This post can clarify where you stand in these situations and when you can stop this happening. It also provides advice on what to consider if you are using competitors’ names in your AdWords account.

Can a competitor use my brand name in AdWords?

The following applies to anyone advertising in the US, Canada, or the UK:

If the competitor’s AdWords landing page only talks about your brand (no others), and has a good level of informational content, they are allowed to use your brand name in their AdWords ad copy. This is because they are covered by Google’s Informational Site Policy.

If the competitor is a certified stockist of your branded products, or they clearly facilitate the sale of your branded products, they are allowed to use your brand name in their ad copy. This is the case providing that their landing page sells only your brand of products (no other brands can be on the same landing page). This is because they are covered under Google’s Reseller Policy.

Not only does this policy apply to anyone selling your branded products, but also to anyone who sells components, spare parts or compatible products for your branded products.

In both of these examples the restriction of only being able to sell or talk about one brand on the landing page is limited only to the landing page. They are able to sell or talk about other brands via other pages on their website providing they do not use these as landing pages when using your brand name within their AdWords ad copy.

Please also note that there are no restrictions on the competitor’s use of your brand name within the display URL of their ad, regardless of whether they are covered by the AdWords reseller policy or not.

If you think a competitor doesn’t fall into any of these categories and is using your brand name against Google’s advertising policies, you can report them in order to have the case investigated.

To gain permission to use a brand’s trademarks in your ads you will need to ask them to fill in this form.

Can I stop someone bidding on my brand name in Google AdWords?

Unfortunately there is no way to stop anyone bidding on your brand name. The only way Google will consider an investigation into bidding on a brand name is if the competitor isn’t covered by the re-seller policy and the ad that is triggered by it appears to be directly associated with the brand, or could be seen as confusing for the user. They will only investigate bidding on a brand name as a keyword in the following regions:

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Macau
  • New Zealand
  • North Korea
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan

Can a competitor use an element of my brand design in their ads?

If you have noticed a competitor is using part of a design which you have copyrighted as part of you brand, there is unfortunately no way of reporting this for investigation by Google. This is because Google claim their advertising system is text based. Although this is true to an extent, they offer a range of display advertising options so it does seem silly that they can’t yet regulate copyright within design elements.

In this instance your best bet may be to contact the competitor directly and request that they do not use your brand design within their advertising.

What should I consider when using a competitors brand in my AdWords campaign?

If you are thinking about using a competitor brand name in your AdWords advertising, there are some things to consider in addition to copyright.

If you are bidding on competitors names as keywords, you should set up a separate campaign to use for this. Your Quality Score will be low when bidding on competitor brand names because your landing page isn’t going to be as relevant to the keyword as the official website of the brand owner. This negative effect on your Quality Score mean that you might not achieve the best average position in AdWords results, which means that your Click through Rate is going to be lower than you might expect. You will have to bid quite high on competitor names as keywords if you want to boost your Quality Score, but unfortunately that means traffic from this campaign won’t be the most cost effective. From experience, competitor campaigns also tend to have a low conversion rate, so if you do achieve conversions in this way, your Cost per Conversion is going to be high.

Bidding on competitor names can be an effective way of gaining reach and brand awareness, but I would steer clear of this tactic if you are more focused on getting a direct response such as sales or sign-ups.

Hopefully this answers any questions you’ve got about where you stand if a competitor is using your brand name in AdWords, or if you are considering using a competitor’s brand name. If you have any other questions you can tweet me @Koozai_Tara, view our PPC management page, or leave your comments below.


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