Don’t be tempted by competitor bidding

by Blog, Communications

Don’t be tempted by competitor bidding    By Stewart Roode. September 21, 2016.

For many dentists the world of pay per click (PPC) and SEO can seem a little murky and intractable to say the least, which is why the vast majority of practice owners outsource the service.

You’ll know that your business needs some kind of budget for PPC among other online marketing campaigns to make sure your website is served near the top of the first page on Google whenever anyone looks for a dentist in your area.

The different types of campaigns like SEO, social media and PPC work towards this outcome in different ways, but always with the same goal — to give your practice primacy over your competitors.

What you might not know, however, is that there’s a highly debated and questionable tactic being used by some suppliers of this service for short term results at the expense of their clients’ long term business interests, and this is happening in dentistry and plenty of other industries too.

Let me explain. With PPC you bid for search phrases — anything from 5p to £12 per phrase, so that in effect you temporarily own that search phrase and anyone using it is directed to your website. When competition between businesses in the same locality intensifies bids rise and the phrases most in demand become more and more expensive.

If you are a dental practice and you’re running a PPC campaign you might bid on key words per treatment type. If you’re an orthodontic practice for example you might bid on phrases like teeth straightening. Google sells the search phrase to the top bidder and so if you’re outbidded, down your website goes, out of sight.

But something called competitor bidding, which has been around since the birth of search engines, gets called upon by unscrupulous online marketers to stop this happening. This is when you target the competitor who keeps outbidding you and bid on their business name or brand name. Often it’s quite cheap to do this because, naturally, there won’t be a large number of businesses bidding on that phrase — especially when the name is something specific like “One Tree Hill Dental Practice” that has little or no generic search value compared to a name like “Perfect Smiles”.

If we’re running a campaign we would periodically check your own brand name to see if anyone’s bidding on it, and if there is we’d make sure we get an add up and that it’s appearing above them.

Google have changed the rules a few times on this; going back a few years if you had a trademark on your brand name it offered you protection, but these days you can bid on anything, only you can’t include the trademarked brand name in the ad text. In practice that means it’s a free for all because you can still bid on your competitor’s brand name and then simply put your own brand in the ad text.

Like I said, this malpractice goes on in different industries. In some it’s frowned on but in others everyone does it. In most scenarios we’d recommend against competitor bidding.  The long term consequences can be a lot more negative than first meet the eye:

  • You end up in a bidding war. Remember that your competitor will come back at you and push up bids for your own brand phrases.
  • If they get really narked then fake reviews are a big problem — we see spurious reviews targeted at “enemy” practices all the time by riled victims of competitor bidding.
  • Even when you stop your competitor may well continue.

So you might end up having to call them or meet them and arrange a ceasefire. Is all that really worth it just to get a fleeting edge on your local rival? No. So ask your online marketing provider what they’re up to on your behalf.


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“It’s a highly questionable tactic being used by some suppliers for short term results at the expense of long term business interests”

Stewart Roode, Fine Online director

Author: Stewart Roode