One question we hear a lot from lawyers is: Why is my competitor bidding on my name?
While there are definitely some instances we've seen where lawyers are actively trying to syphon some of their competitor's brand equity, it's usually a case of "accidental matching."
About broad match
In my experience, the mostly likely culprit is broad match:
When you use broad match, your ad is eligible to serve for user searches that are related to your keyword. This helps you find all queries relevant to your business while spending less time building keyword lists.
Broad match is the default match type that all your keywords are assigned if you don't specify another match type (exact match, phrase match, or negative match). The Google Ads system automatically runs your ads on related variations of your keywords, including synonyms, misspellings, and many other related searches, including searches that don’t contain the keyword terms.
To help deliver relevant matches, this match type may also take into account:
- the user’s recent search activities
- the content of the landing page
- other keywords in an ad group to better understand keyword intent
synonyms, misspellings, and many other related searches, including searches that don’t contain the keyword terms.
See, your competitor isn't actually bidding on your name at all. It could just be that the Google Ads matching system thinks of you as a synonym for a non-brand category term. So, an advertiser that broad matches "michigan personal injury lawyer," might show ads on searches for:
Keyword close variants: Definition
Another reason your competition might show up on a search for your name is the sinister close variant:
Close variants allow keywords to match to searches that are similar, but not identical to the targeted keyword, and help you connect with people who are looking for your business—despite slight variations in the way they search—reducing the need to build out exhaustive keyword lists to reach these customers.
By default, all keyword match types are eligible to match to close variants.
There is no way to opt out.
This one is just mean. But your competitor isn't the evil one here, it's Google. You see, even if your competitor is trying to avoid showing ads for searches on your name by, say, only using exact match keywords, Google might still show their ads for searches on your name if the system concludes your name is a close variant for the target keyword.
By default, all keyword match types are eligible to match to close variants. There is no way to opt out.
So, even if the competition is limiting their bids to exact match:
[michigan personal injury lawyer]
Google Ads might say, meh, show the ad for that lawyer's name anyway, close enough.
There are a few other ways that this matching issue can occur, but I'm not going to go deep on them here (if you're so inclined, drop them in the comments).
The point is, before you go sending cease and desist letters to the lawyers down the street, be aware that they might not be doing this on purpose.
And if you are bidding on competitors' names, and you're brave enough to share (I guess you can do so anonymously too), I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments. Did it work? Did you lose a friend? Get sued? Have a grievance filed against you?
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It is very easy to put a negative keyword in for the attorney's name to prevent it from continuing to happen if you find out it is occurring with your broad search of exact match search.
It would be weird if you as an attorney want to bid on "injury attorney" for yourself and on an exact match search google serves up your ad on "john block" search. I believe an attorney has a duty to investigate that if they learn it is happening and to look and see if their ad might be potentially or actually misleading or have a misleading effect on the public who sees it served up when they search for "john block."
The advertiser attorney can always correct it so that their adspend isn't wasted and so they are complying with local rules of professional conduct and ethics by putting in a negative keywords "john block," for example, so that the ads are not served up by a mere search on the name of the other attorney in the area. Attorneys are held to a higher standard than is the general public and people in other fields.
Joseph thanks for the comment! It's unfortunate that Google will serve ads for similar variants, leading to bids on "injury attorney" showing ads for "john block," but that's the way they do it (read: more ad revenue for them). Yes, you can add negatives, but that won't actually solve the problem (unless of course you add ALL lawyer names). Seems like an unreasonable burden to ask attorneys to negative out all lawyer names for which Google might serve ad.
If the lawyer's ads are only showing up for one or two attorney's names, and those attorneys ask him to stop bidding on their names, it does not seem at all burdensome to me to put in those keywords. I believe an attorney should, especially if his ads are targeted on, let's say, the name of the only two african american attorneys in town or the names of the only two women in town doing injury law out of of 300 attorneys n the field of law in the local area, his ads having a gender or racial discriminatory effect. That is what we have seen in our area, blatant discrimination. It is not being done to white males, and it is being done by white males.
I know an attorney who is spending some months over $500 just to have an ad on her name to show up on a search of her name, only necessary because of ads being served up for other attorneys in the area on her name. It is only happening to her and one other attorney, and at least one of the men with the bids on her name was doing it intentionally only to her, not due to a broad/exact search.
Not a great way to build a reputation.
True. It looks like the bids on your name from those other legal marketing companies have stopped.