Recently I was asked if there was any recourse for a business whose name was being used by a competitor in Google AdWords. Basically, this particular business was concerned that a Google search for their business name returned their competitor in the number two paid listing. Certainly not a very good thing for driving traffic to your site and business. So what can businesses do to combat this issue?
The only real way to address this is if your name is trademarked. Google AdWord recognizes trademarks and will not allow competitors to bid on trademarked names. They have procedures in place for companies to file any such violations. If “Your Product/Business Name” is trademarked then you can certainly pursue this course by filing a compliant with Google.
If you do not have a trademarked name then Google allows bidding on competitors names just like any keyword. That means the onus is on you to protect your business name. One way to combat this is to price the competitor out of the market by bidding 10-20 times higher than them. It could prove useful as a marketing strategy too, because having a paid placement appear alongside an organic result can be a powerful incentive in driving traffic. Another way to combat this is through a “gentleman’s agreement” of sorts. Ask your competitor to stop the practice and promise them that you won’t buy their name as keywords either. This may or may not work.
Other than that, there is little recourse. Of course you can take solace in the fact that over 70% of users do not click on paid listings but prefer organic results. Most people also look at the URL before they click through and so if they were trying to reach you they don’t see the point in clicking just because the title says your name but your URL doesn’t. So, in the long run it may not be hurting your business in any significant way.
One way to NOT address this issue is by clicking on the ad as a way of draining your competitors AdWord budget. Not only is this unethical but you will be committing click fraud. If your competitor finds out (which they very well could, by looking at their server log files) and reports it to Google, you can say good by to any organic or paid listings on Google for some time to come.