Can I Use Competitor Brand Names As Keywords in my Google Ads?

28 April, 2022
Advertising, Digital
2 min read.

Do you remember the keyword controversy between Interflora Flowers and Marks and Spencer? The scandal began in 2008 and lasted five whole years, disrupting both companies and the reputations of marketing agencies as they appeared in the public eye.

The dispute began when Interflora brought its infringement claim against M&S, objecting to them paying Google to use the keyword “interflora” as a search term in their adverts. Interflora stated that consumers searching for “interflora” were being led to the M&S website, and landing on a page promoting M&S’s own flower delivery service.

Interflora believed M&S were infringing on their trademark and driving traffic to their competing service. Even worse still, Interflora was spending lots of money in order to outbid M&S for the right to use their own name as a keyword.   

Regardless as to whether you agree or not, some businesses will deliberately use their competitors’ trademarks as keywords in Google Ads as part of their digital marketing strategies. This isn’t likely to stop any time soon either, as following the dispute between Interflora and Marks & Spencer, a EU court decided that this wasn’t and didn’t classify as a trade mark infringement.

The ideology behind this is that if someone is searching for Brand A, but sees an advert that is clearly for Brand B, it is clear that they are two different brands. Although in many cases it’s not necessarily as easy as this, this approach has been widely adopted as a general rule. 

Does that mean I can bid on my competitor’s branded keywords?

In short, yes – but there are also a few different rules you need to follow in order to ensure this approach stays legal. 

Don’t include your competitor’s name in your adverts

It’s important that you avoid using your competitor’s name within your adverts. If you were to do so, this could be perceived as manipulative marketing, as it can seem like you’re trying to trick any search users into thinking that your website is your competitor’s website. This is against the law in many countries.

 Don’t use dynamic keyword insertion

Dynamic Keyword Insertion is the process of taking any of your keywords matching the search query to fit the 25-character limit of the headline in your advert. It is designed to make adverts seem more relevant to the search engine user, by replacing part of the original copy with the user’s search team.

If you are using this method, the headline of your adverts could end up showing your competitors brand names, which could cause a potential legal problem. 

How can I find out if someone is bidding on my brand name?

As a business or brand owner, you can easily find out if someone is bidding on your brand name as a keyword – just search for your brand.

If your competitor’s website comes up and your brand name is in the copy, you should contact your lawyers about a trademark infringement.

How can I avoid this happening?

By making sure you and any agency you work with understand the risks before setting your keywords and keyword insertion strategy, you can avoid any legal trouble.

Better still, by partnering with a marketing agency that takes guidance and works in collaboration with solicitors, you can rest assured knowing you are getting correct and up-to-date legal information.  

Find out more by emailing info@edge-creative.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Greaney

Content Strategy Manager

Jess’s passion for storytelling, blogs and being an all-round bookworm has meant she’s perfected her killer content writing skills to suit the digital world. Jess likes letting everyone know how much she loves content, and expresses this through typing at a volume to rival that of a pneumatic drill.

Jess loves nothing more than watching her carefully crafted scripture being shared across the digital realm. She’s also a big fan of a good pub quiz, and regularly shares her incorrect answers with the team. Jess is most often seen with a notepad, but if you’re looking for her, you’ll probably find her and her unmistakable cackle at The Old Crown in Digbeth.