Why Are They Bidding on My Name?

Gyi Tsakalakis
January 15, 2021
Google Ads Showing on a Search for Name

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

- Google Ads Help

Catch that?

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.

- Google Ads Help

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?

Do tell!

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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