In this article, we’re going to explore the opportunity to steal traffic from your competitors with a conquesting strategy in Google Ads. 

Image of How Conquesting Works in Search


  • In Google Ads, there are brand and non-brand keywords

  • There is a subset of non-brand keywords, competitor keywords, that allows you show up for your competitors’ keywords

  • Conquesting campaigns, or bidding on competitor keywords, can be a fruitful marketing strategy, but it doesn’t come without challenges and risks 

Quick Google Ads Recap

When someone searches something in a search engine like Google they are presented with search engine results, also known as the SERP. Within these search results, there are paid results (SEM / Google Ads) and organic results (SEO / unpaid). The way Google Ads works is that you have the ability to bid on specific keywords and show your ad on the search engine results page.

Brand vs Nonbrand

There are generally two categories of keywords - brand and non-brand keywords. Brand keywords are keywords that include your brand or business name. Take Apple for example. If someone searches “Apple iPhone” or anything related to Apple that would be considered a brand keyword. If someone searches something more generic like “smartphone” since it is not specific to Apple, it would be considered a non-brand keyword.

Competitor Keywords

I know I said above that there are two categories of keywords, and technically that still holds true, but there is also something referred to as competitor keywords. These are your competitors’ brand keywords. For the competitor, these are their brand keywords and for you, they would fall into non-brand keywords, where competitor keywords could be a subset of those. 

Example: Samsung Conquest

Now, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the CMO of Samsung. We think our Galaxy phones are superior to the iPhone so we want to convince people of that. We can catch people in the search engines looking for iPhones with a conquesting strategy in Google Ads.

What we’ll need to do is bid on keywords related to iPhone or Apple phone and then show our ad for our Galaxy phone. We’d want to tailor the ad copy, as well as the landing page, for this specific use case. The ad would probably have to say something comparing the Galaxy to the iPhone and explain the value proposition over the iPhone. 

The Power of Conquesting

There are many reasons to use conquesting campaigns as part of your digital marketing strategy. Conquesting campaigns can have a variety of benefits:

  • They offer a great opportunity to gain visibility for your brand if you are able to show up for larger competitors search terms

  • Competitor terms are somebody else’s brand terms, and therefore generally more high-intent, so getting in front of those customers may convert well relative to other terms

  • Conquesting is also a great way to combat cross-shopping and stay in front of customers who are shopping around a variety of options include yours and your competitors

Challenges & Risks

There are a handful of benefits to conquesting, but it doesn’t come without challenges and risks:

  • The most obvious challenge is actually convincing a customer looking for a specific brand to consider your brand. This is where tailored messaging, targeting, and smart marketing come into play. 

  • Conquesting campaigns can also be very costly and run up your Google Ads budget since you will generally have a lower quality score than the competitor for their keywords since they are inherently more relevant to the search

  • A secondary effect of conquesting campaigns to be aware of is retaliation. While it might be great to be able to steal traffic from your competitors, they can just as easily do the same to you. Beware of starting a bidding war between you and your competitors where everyone loses money except for Google, who collects all costs.

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