What is Conquesting for AdWords?


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Paid Search 2nd, Jul 2013

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Conquesting in AdWords is an aggressive marketing strategy where one company bids on keywords targeted towards a competitor’s brand name. Conquesting is an in-your-face attack on your competitors’ customer base, and almost always provokes a reaction. Skilled marketers sometimes even use conquesting to force a competitor to react, in the hope that competitors will roll out marketing campaigns or spend their budgets too early.

Advantages of Conquesting

Conquesting disrupts a competitor’s client base and advertising schedule. It is most effective when competitors have a lot of balls in the air. For example, if a competitor is changing their website design, and rolling out a new product, and changing marketing tactics, then they are vulnerable to conquesting.

In this scenario, conquesting would allow you to steal some customers confused by their new website, decrease the expected profits of their new product, and cast doubt on their marketing strategy. In the best case scenario, the competitor will let all the balls drop by reverting to their old website, changing their new product, and overspending on reactionary marketing. That way, your competitor just flushed some money down the drain, and you have some brand new customers.

Other than competitor vulnerabilities, conquesting is good if:

  • you produce a very similar, but slightly better, product than your competitor;
  • you have a larger marketing budget than your competitor; and;
  • you think your competitors have better market research than you.

The advantage of conquesting is that it gets under competitors’ skin gives you control of their actions. It also lets you use their market research and brand building to direct customers to your site.

Disadvantages of Conquesting

However, there are a lot of disadvantages and risks that come with conquesting for AdWords. The most significant is that your landing pages will rank lower on relevancy than your competitors.’ This means that you will have to pay much higher bids in order to rank.

In addition, Google is generally hostile towards conquesting. AdWords staff are actually forbidden from ever answering questions about conquesting. AdWords has also been known to try to heavy-handedly stop conquesting in progress. It’s not uncommon for Adwords to up the minimum bid of a conquesting campaign to 5 to 10 dollars.

Finally, conquesting has the disadvantage that many visitors will bounce as soon as they realize they’re on the wrong brand. This drives up your bounce rate. It also means that even with an extremely high bid, you still have a very low chance of an actual conversion.

How to Do it Right

Conquesting is always risky. There are many good reasons not to try it. However, if you are trying it, here is how to win:

  • Get in, get out. The longer your conquesting campaign runs, the more likely it is that your competitor will figure out how to react and the lower your Return on Investment will be. Also, you run the risk of Adwords slapping you down with high minimum bids. Try to strike hard and fast. By the time your competitor and Adwords know what’s happening, your campaign should already be wrapping up.
  • Make a landing page that counts. Make a landing page that relies on quality, because it can’t rely on relevance. Find out how here.
  • Watch your bounce rate. Your conquesting campaign could drag your whole site down. Watch your bounce rate closely and cut your campaign loose if it is hurting your SEO.

It will still come down to the wire. Conquesting is not for everyone. But if you can handle risk, conquesting lets you hit your competitors where it hurts.

By: Steve Toth

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