Targeting Competitors in Search

Competitors place a great deal of effort and a large percentage of their marketing budget into building their brand. Smart marketers will use it to their advantage.Blue dart on red target Competitor campaigns are regularly some of the top performing campaigns measured by cost per Opportunity and Pipeline to Cost ratio. By targeting competitors in search, marketers can utilize competitor brand awareness to drive high qualified traffic to their content. This tactic is especially effective in industries with established competitors with strong awareness. At Obility, we run Competitor search campaigns for all of our clients.


Paid Search

Paid search is the least limited approach to competitor targeting. In paid search, you likely can get an ad up for all of your competitors’ terms. Target your competitors’ website URL, brand name, and specific products. However, expect to pay a significant cost per click (CPC). Targeting brand terms in search is expensive (due to low click-through rate). Yet, for the most part, the high- quality leads generated from Competitor campaigns more than account for the high CPC. At Obility, our clients’ competitor campaigns often drive more opportunities than social advertising or retargeting campaigns. If you have strong competitors, targeting their brand in paid search is a must. Obility typically starts with a group of default competitor keywords and then builds from there. Default keyword list (example domain: and match type:

Keyword, Match Type

competitor, phrase, phrase
competitor com, phrase, phrase, broad

Additionally, Obility recommends adding a default negative keyword list to Competitor campaigns to avoid targeting folks looking for a job, stock information, or to log into an account. By default Obility blocks the following terms in Competitor search campaigns:

api, career, careers, contact, employee, employees, free, headquarters, info, integration, interview, ipo, job, jobs, license, licenses, location, locations, login, logo, million, millions, mission statement, partner, salaries, salary, stock, support, training, troubleshooting, valuation, what are, what is, wiki, worldwide

Once your Competitor search campaigns are up and running, regularly check Search Term Reports to identify new keywords and negatives to add.

Note that you are most likely not going to be able to use your competitors’ brand name in your ad text; however, you can use your competitors’ brand names in the Display URL. This typically helps increase click-through rate (CTR) and can lower your CPC. For example, NetSuite is targeting its competitor Microsoft Dynamics by using MS-Dynamics in its display URL.

ad text

In addition to your competitors’ brand, also target their events. Target the name of your competitors’ conferences and events in search. Users that are interested in your competitor’s events will most likely fall into your target audience as well. Consider creative ways to reach your competitors’ customers. For example, you could offer free tickets or a VIP package to your competitor’s conference.

Organic Search

Organic search is another great opportunity to target your competitors, albeit a much more difficult channel. You are going to have a near impossible time to ranking for your competitors’ main brand terms, especially any strong competitor with good brand awareness. Rather than target your competitors brand directly, target comparison keywords that include the brand. For example, target keywords such as “COMPETITOR alternates”, “COMPETITOR vs YOUR BRAND”, and “COMPETITOR pricing”. These are typically low competition keywords, and the queries clearly indicate a user in the Solution Search stage. In the example below, HubSpot has created a page that compares HubSpot and Marketo. The page currently ranks #1 in organic search for a “hubspot vs marketo” search on Google.

Competitor Organic Search Listing


Other Competitor Targeting Options

Search is a viable channel for targeting competitor customers and prospects, but it is not the only channel. Once you have your search competitor campaigns up and running, delve into other channels including social advertising, email lists, and retargeting.

What other targeting options are you aware of? What competitor targeting strategy has worked well for you? 

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