My web agency is creating a variety of SEM PPC campaigns in the search networks, and I'm thinking of exploring the idea of bidding on keywords for my competitors' company names. Of course I wouldn't include their brand names in my copy, but I would leverage their keywords as terms to position my company. I'd be looking to bid on roughly ~400 keywords, therefore ~400 creative, ad, marketing, web, digital, performance agencies. I haven't strategized ad copy and landing page direction yet, simply exploring the concept first.
What are the pros and cons of this strategy from your point of view?
This really depends on the nature of the industry you are in and the level of loyalty your competitors inspire.
For dentists and other services with immediate need, I find bidding on competitors brands to be very effective.
For industries with minimal demand, like emerging industries is practically a best practice to do this.
The simple reality is that using a broad match keyword will likely surface you on a competitors brand search, so I dont see how it is even remotely frowned upon. Your competitors might not like it, but its very unlikely they'll even notice it.
You should even feel free to use their brand in your copy as long as its not trademarked. Some people use Dynamic keyword insertion to do this.
I highly suggest following the strategy you outlined.
Companies across all industries follow this practice. Don't feel bad :).
I think that this is the wrong way to go about SEO in todays new media landscape. Reason being is that with a Wordpress Blog and some hard work it is now possible to take the first organic link on any search term you want.
If you remain relevant with your content your organic links will remain in place above your competitors shining brightly with lady Karma on your side .This is where 75% percent of web search users will go, is below the ad fold to the first organic link or local search results.
25% of the search will go through a paid link anyway. Also content is forever and your budget may not be.
If you can stand the cost (bidding on other brands costs a lot), it's a good way to capture customers from competitors
There's no cons to this so long as the campaign converts, and it's something that's very common for PPC so no reason to feel bad about it.
The one thing Google doesn't allow is using a trademarked brand name in your copy, but you weren't planning on doing that anyway.
I'd set up a campaign in AdWords and name it Competitors so you can track it better and so you can decide how much money you want to dedicate to this campaign.
Something else to keep in mind is that this is the reason you should also bid on your own brand name. Why? So a competitor doesn't do it and then rank higher than your organic result with their ad (something I've written about here: http://blog.ispionage.com/bid-on-my-own-brand-terms-adwords.html).
Something else you can do is use a tool like iSpionage to swipe your competitors entire keyword list (disclosure: I work for iSpionage). These types of competitive intelligence tools give you access to the PPC terms your competitors are bidding on, the SEO terms they're ranking for, ad copy they're using, and landing page URLs to provide you with new, profitable keyword opportunities while also providing insights into the entire PPC strategy of your top competitors. You'll learn a lot, and it's a lot easier than starting every new campaign from scratch since you can start with keyword lists that are already working for competitors.
Feel free to message me if you have any questions about competitive intelligence strategies for PPC.
This is totally a legitimate strategy. If you would like to take this strategy to the next level, you can also create a page that reviews your service vs. your competitor, and then you can use the competitors content in your ad, and frame it as a review.
Just be aware, that if you have big competitors who are lawsuit happy, no matter what you do, you are at risk of them getting annoying and dirty. I'd recommend being very respectful (if they are bigger).