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3 ways to target your PPC competitors’ audience

Looking to improve your PPC lead generation efforts? Consider laser-focusing on the customers ready to buy from you right now – your competitor’s unhappiest clients. 

This article reveals actionable strategies to identify and target three key groups through search campaigns:

  • Customers actively looking to switch providers.
  • Customers trying to cancel services.
  • Customers seeking help or support.

By understanding these prospects’ search intent signals, you can precisely reach the hottest leads primed to convert to your product or service at key “action” moments. 

PPC audience targeting for lead generation

Improving lead generation involves targeting specific groups: 

  • People in your niche.
  • People who are interested in your services or products.
  • People who are willing to buy from you. 

To reach these profiles, you can employ a search strategy focusing on transactional keywords relevant to your products or services. However, this method can be competitive and require long-term effort.

Alternatively, you can target your competitors’ audience. Most marketers are familiar with brand bidding, which can be a great tool for gaining visibility but also comes with many caveats.

Dig deeper: How to benchmark PPC competitors: The definitive guide

What is brand bidding (and why I don’t recommend it)

Brand bidding in PPC is like putting up a sign right next to your competitor’s store, hoping to attract their customers. You bid on the names of your competitors so that when someone searches for them online, your ad shows up, too.

It’s a way to grab attention from people already interested in your competitors and possibly win them over to your brand instead.

 A simple campaign could look like this:

Example Of Classic Brand Bidding

You have your competitor campaign. The competitors are separated into different ad groups and each ad group holds a specific competitor with different keyword options.

With this setup, you can target people now looking for your competitor or, depending on the keyword option, your competitor, along with a service or product. It’s an easy way to gain impressions and visibility, but there is no performance guarantee.

Additionally, it’s crucial to consider legal obligations. Laws vary by country and advertising jurisdiction, especially concerning the use of competitor names or bidding on their keywords. Avoiding a competitor’s brand in ads is advisable to prevent potential confusion. Consulting a specialized lawyer is wise for clarity on legal matters. 

Beyond legal considerations, your brand image is another important factor to take into account. Bidding on a competitor’s terms may attract clicks to your ad, leading users to land on your site.

While some may genuinely be interested in your company, others may feel misled. This could harm your brand reputation, especially if users become frustrated or annoyed by the perceived deception.

Brand bidding can be useful, but its drawbacks should not be underestimated. In most industries, brand bidding can be ineffective.

Dig deeper: When to use branded and competitor keywords in PPC

Action-based approach to targeting your competitors’ audience

So, how do you target your competition’s audience without blatant brand bidding? The solution is action-based competitor targeting. Instead of simply going after a brand, you must couple your competitor’s brand with an action. 

When you target an action or idea, you’re reaching people ready to make a decision. They’re not just browsing; they’re actively seeking something and are more likely to be open to your offer.

Having used this strategy successfully for several years, I can distinguish between three categories. 

  • Customers who are not happy and are about to churn.
  • Customers who are looking for help and are often not happy.
  • Customers who are looking for an alternative either because they haven’t decided yet or want to make a switch.

Good SEOs are often familiar with this approach. The SaaS industry has used the comparison path with competitor comparison landing pages for a while. The idea is pretty much the same and synchronizes perfectly between SEO and PPC.

Let’s look deeper into the three categories and visualize them with examples. Let’s imagine you are in a contract-based industry, such as phone, cable or insurance.

These types of lead gen businesses are a good example because there is always a movement in the market. Consumers are pretty much always in need of those services, but due to a lot of competition, they are also often open to comparing offers. 

1. Targeting people looking for competitor alternatives and comparison

You can target people searching for competitor alternatives or comparing your brand with various competitors. 

A possible campaign structure could look like this:

Campaign structure to advertise alternatives

An easy structure allows us to target people looking for an alternative to Competitors 1 and 2. Those people have probably searched through the market. They are actively looking for different services or providers or currently in a contract with a competitor and are looking to prepare their exit and switch contracts. 

Those campaigns can work well if you can supply a competitive offer and your products are similar to compare. Suppose your product is not a substitution for a competitor’s product but rather a similar product. In that case, it might be a little more tricky since those people usually need to be convinced of the changed features or details your service or product offers.

To keep it simple: It should work out if your product is close to a 1:1 replacement. 

Let’s look at a second example. Imagine the streaming industry. Let’s say someone is currently with Netflix and they want to switch because of pricing, or they are not satisfied with the series collection anymore. 

If they are looking for a competitor, other streaming services like Disney+, Amazon Prime or maybe Apple TV+ could have a decent chance of winning that customer. 

If that customer were looking specifically for an exclusive series, that wouldn’t work since the customer wouldn’t be searching for an alternative.

The comparison approach is quite similar to the “alternative” approach. Usually, consumers compare when they are close to signing up for a service and are highly advanced in the conversion funnel. They are most likely trying to determine major differences and get pricing information.

Those consumers can easily be targeted with a comparison approach or by “why” searches.

Campaign structure to advertise comparison

For a direct “competitor 1 vs. your brand” or “competitor 1 vs. competitor 2” setup, the landing page should offer comparison tables and explain why your offer is better.

To stick with the streaming example, you could highlight the number of movies and series you offer by showing that you bring in the highest streaming quality for an amazing price, so consumers understand that you are the best provider on the market.

The second approach for using “why” questions is also interesting, but it only works when dealing with more well-known brands since the search volume might be too low for newer companies.

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2. Targeting people looking to churn from your competitor

Targeting consumers ready to churn is my favorite group. They’ve made up their minds to switch.

Some already have a new provider in mind, and others don’t. Often, they’re frustrated with their current service, so if you prioritize customer care, it’s easier to win them over.

Your campaign structure could be built like this:

Campaign structure when targeting churn or contract termination

Again, it really comes down to the specific industry or service, but you can experiment with different approaches. You can use straightforward keywords such as “cancel,” “termination,” and “cancellation,” or you can go more longtail with “how” and “why” questions.

Service-based businesses, particularly online ones, often make canceling a hassle. Some even create obstacles, burying support and cancellation options. While it’s seen as churn prevention, it’s usually just frustrating for customers.

Legal requirements vary by country, but potential customers can generally grant you power of attorney to handle cancellation and transition to your service. This shows a high level of trust and is often automatable, reducing manual work for you.

Taking care of everything from the start leads to happy customers, positive reviews and increased patience in case issues arise early in the contract.

The last group I’d like to include is the support intent group. Now, I have to say, this is kind of a gamble because it can go in two directions.

People are searching for your competitor using keywords like “support,” “hotline,” “service,” “contact” and similar. They might:

  • Have a normal support request without any deeper meaning. This means your ad would be of no interest to them. They just could not find a way to contact the support.
  • Be looking for a contact because they are unhappy or satisfied with something and are there to complain, request assistance or request an improvement.

The second group is valuable because they’re open to switching providers, even if not right away. You can position your brand to them, letting them know you have an offer if they’re thinking of switching. This is kind of an upper funnel search approach on this competitor topic, but it can lead to much more volume.

If you show this group that customer support is your top priority and that you care and are available, you can leave a positive impression on them, potentially gaining new customers. Many other factors also need to be checked like pricing and offer competitiveness, but support is often underestimated. 

Customer support is often viewed as a cost, but it can actually bring in profit indirectly. Happy clients tend to stay longer, are less likely to leave, and are more likely to refer others to you. It might be hard to measure it directly and short term, but mid- to long-term, customer satisfaction plays a huge role. 

A possible campaign structure is shown below:

Campaign structure targeting support and contact requests

Attracting your PPC competition’s customers 

Targeting competitor audiences based on search intent and action outperforms traditional brand bidding tactics that are too broad and generic. Extending this approach to upper funnel formats enhances its effectiveness. 

The immediacy of search ads is particularly potent for addressing urgent needs like churn or customer support. Make sure to tailor your strategy to industry-specific behaviors. Embracing action-based targeting opens up possibilities for engaging with audiences at the right moment and driving meaningful outcomes. 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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