Conquesting: An Arrow in Your Brand Search Quiver, Not a Cornerstone


tom-murphy-guest-authorBy guest columnist Tom Murphy, associate director of search marketing for DigitasLBi.

Conquesting is simply defined as buying a competitor’s brand keywords. If you Google your own brand, do you consistently see an ad other than your own? This may be due to conquesting.

Search demand represents the sum of the market’s interest in it – and your brand is scared.

However, conquesting is an effective tactic that any brand can use.

Don’t give competitors a free pass without considering the impact. 

Why Is Conquesting Important?

  • Brand Ownership: Competitor conquesting impacts your ability to reach consumers already seeking your brand and exclusively own your brand message.
  • Brand Costs: Your search CPCs reflect the bid of the next advertiser in the auction. 
  • Top-Line Performance: Search marketers rarely flush money down the toilet. Would you buy keywords that didn’t pay off? Conquesting is taking business away from you.

How Do I Begin?

One thing to note about conquesting is that preexisting brand or non-brand keywords with high performance rates may represent better incremental opportunities. This is because conquesting results in higher CPCs and lower search quality scores. 

First analyze the competitive landscape to determine if conquesting is an issue. From there, develop a targeted brand defense strategy and search approach tied to a measurement plan. Understand the performance risks and optimize to business goals. 

How Should I React to Conquesting?

These are four key response reactions to conquesting that can strengthen both your offence and defense.

Reactions may vary depending on business goals, risk tolerance, and available resources. 

1. Listen to Competitive Data

Don’t react before understanding the percent of your brand spend impacted. Sporadic competition may not be intentional, making reaction too risky.

2. Return Fire

Conquest industry competitors that conquest you. General brand terms may be too generic to gain traction.

For products or services you also offer, type a competitor’s brand plus – for example – “acme widgets vs. acme,” to demonstrate relevance. Message brand differentiators.

3. Defend Your Turf

Build new domains to occupy more search inventory and displace competitors. Each domain must offer a unique experience – cloning will be disapproved.

4. Build a Measurement Plan

Have an end goal. Buying an umbrella of competitor keywords without an end goal will result in poor results and low quality reads from search engines.

What Are the Legal Concerns?

Advertisers often have legal concerns about buying trademarked terms. The reality is that conquesting is generally governed by search engines – not courts.

Any advertiser can buy almost any keyword, but quality and relevance dictate performance. 

Google your brand to begin your conquest today, and give your competitors a run for their money. 

Tom Murphy is an associate director of search marketing at DigitasLBi. He is based in Boston.  

Homepage image via Shutterstock. 


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