I recently had a client contact me in a bit of a rage about the fact that when they put in the exact name of their company in a Google or Yahoo! search, their competitors came up in primary positions in the sponsored search engine results page (SERP). What was even more aggravating was the fact that their own company didn’t show in any of the sponsored SERP. What is up with that, and how can they get away with that? This company and this name has been in existence for 20 years and there’s no way to just sit here and take this. (Insert appropriate explicative here or substitute #@!ᔐ$) Something must be done, this isn’t fair!
First of all, we would strongly recommend that “self searching” is not the best way to see what is happening when the rest of the world searches, however this is certainly a legitimate concern.
It doesn’t seem particularly fair that one of your competitors can go to Google or Yahoo!, request key words and phrases that contain your company name, plunk down enough cash to “buy” a number one or two position and wait for those folks looking for your company by name to instead click on their ad and go to their website. This seems especially brutal when you’ve worked so hard to build the business, its brand and your customer base, or maybe it’s a family business that has an extremely long history and you know the sacrifices that your parents made to get the company to where it is today.
The direct answer is not necessarily reassuring.
As of the date of this post, there is nothing to stop your competitors from purchasing key words that are your company name, although a recent court case just ruled on may change this. And, yes, it kind of seems like dirty pool. Now, this is what they cannot do: If you have a trademark on your company name, a complaint can be filed with the search engines, which means that even though your competition can bid on key words that contain your company name, they cannot use your company name in their ad copy. A perfect example is the word “BotoxTM” and even though I can bid on this key word and build it into my sponsored search inventory, I cannot use the word “BotoxTM” in my ad copy.
Now before hitting the panic button, I think it’s important to step back, without emotion, and look at the intent of the person doing the searching.
That individual has obviously heard of your company name, either as a result of other marketing efforts you are doing or by word-of-mouth (always the best), and they are using the search engine to locate you because they don’t know your website address. It is not uncommon for people to use a search engine as their browser. If the proper work has been done to optimize your website for organic search, the results page should give you good visibility, and in fact, if you are blogging or have optimized video or other media on your website, the likelihood is very good that you will have multiple organic listings that are highly visible (i.e. “blended results”). Now if the individual was particularly interested in learning more about your company by name, what do you think is the likelihood that they really have much interest in your competitors who may only be showing up in the sponsored search results? Those companies that are showing up in the sponsored SERP probably have a lower relevancy to the requested search, are therefore likely to have a lower quality score and hence must pay even more to keep that high position. Talk about driving up the cost of sale!
Okay, you say, I get that there is a higher likelihood that my organic listing will be clicked instead of my competitor’s sponsored ad, but why don’t I appear in the sponsored SERP as well as my unscrupulous adversaries? Great question.
We would always recommend that your include the name of your company in your sponsored key word inventory but let’s look at Google’s intent when they do not show your ad in the sponsored SERP. They see that someone has specifically requested your company by name, and they know that you have a daily allowance limit on your Pay-per-click campaign. Why would they waste an ad impression and a possible click on your ad, when the searching party already knows you exist? Google is actually doing you a favor (I know, you Google haters are saying when does a behemoth like Google ever do anyone a favor?).
The reality is that the proper strategy behind a Sponsored Search or Pay-per-click campaign is to attract website visitors that don’t know you exist, have never heard of you and simply want the product or service that you provide. Those are the folks we are after. Why pay for people that already know who you are?
Subtleties like these are a part of what makes Search Marketing a specialty and why our clients appreciate the expertise we bring. Call me if you have needs that relate to search or any of the other marketing needs. I can be reached at 816.590.5038 or at http://twitter.com/davidsoxman