Can you handle a bidding war?

In the UK, Google has recently changed its trademark rules for Pay Per Click advertising.

What this means is that, whereas in the past you couldn’t bid for keywords that were trademarks (such as Tesco, Amazon, Ebay) unless you were the trademark owner, now you can, as long as you don’t include the trademark wording in your advert.

So theoretically, you (as a website users) can do a search for ‘Tesco’ and find an advert for Sainsbury’s at the top of the sponsored listings.

This is all well and good, and not great news for Tesco but how does this affect you if you’re a small local business?

Well, if you run a well respected local company called, let’s say, “Alpha Lighting” in Woking then your clever competitor, “Beta Lighting” in Woking, could bid to appear at the top of the sponsored links for everyone who searches for ‘Alpha Lighting Woking’.  In the main, this probably won’t affect you, because the user is clearly looking for the company called Alpha Lighting.  But if Beta Lighting includes the text ‘Cheapest lighting company in Woking’ as part of their advert then it might just drive traffic away from your site and affect the sales from your website.

You have two options to overcome this:

1 – You can bid for the term as well.  This will cost you money because you’ll need to outbid Beta Lighting for every term they’ve chosen that you feel is relevant, but it will ensure that you’ll appear ahead of your competitors in the sponsored listings.
2 – You can ignore it and focus on your on-site SEO.

Both options are viable – I’d encourage you to always focus on your on-site SEO but make a point of playing with Google, trying out different search terms and checking out what comes back.  If your competitors website is coming back in the sponsored listings for a search term with your business name in it then you’ll need to consider how to address it.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from applying this policy for yourself.  I personally don’t like it but it’s just a personal view.  If you think it’s something you want to do then nobody is stopping you.

The real winner from this policy change is, of course, Google.  It’ll ramp us the costs of keywords, create much more competition and generally increase their revenue.  Whether you choose to get involved in a bidding war with your closest competitor is a decision that only you can make.

All I would say is to always ensure that your on-site SEO is up to date for your chosen keywords, your website description is compelling enough to encourage people to click on your link in the search engine results and make sure that your website is clear enough to encourage your visitors to become customers.

Simple steps that you should always be doing!

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Gregor Spowart is a partner in Mass Media Design, a website design and Internet Marketing company based in Reading (Berkshire), Swindon (Wiltshire) and Cardiff.