When competitor keywords bite back

Xero’s Rod Drury has an “bring it on” post about a competitor buying Google adwords for his Xero brand. 

This is a controversial but fairly common practice, and Google recently freed up its policy to make it easier to do in some key markets (funnily enough, enlarging the market for Adwords at the same time).

Sure, Rod could complain to Google.  But better yet – he’s used it against them by linking back to the competitor and openly inviting customers to compare.  In doing so, he has license to point out the gaps between the two, such as pricing info.  And he has a natural opening to linking to an independent but critical article about Netsuite.

Rod’s post speaks volumes about his confidence in Xero’s product, while still being a natural response rather than an arrogant boast.

We’ve looked at competitor brands when researching keywords for use in online PR, but only to find out what other keywords they’re describing themselves with.  This is to give us ideas about terms that customers might be searching on.

How far could this go?  Could it lead to people including a competitor name in a search engine optimised media release? An old-school media release (written with journalists in mind) would never do that, but a release written for a search engine might. 

Web strategist Jeremiah Owyang lists “saying positive things about your competitors” as one of his “impossible conversations” for companies, but points out that these are the conversations that customers are having whether you like it or not.  As Netsuite’s experience points out, companies need to think twice before making competitive comparisons, whether in advertising or conversations.