Ruthless law firm cashes in on competitors’ names for PPC content

Published on
by Brafton Editorial
​Internet marketing uses keywords to position content in front of prospects and, in some cases, those phrases can aim to take down rivals.

Businesses use a variety of web marketing tactics to reach prospective and current customers online. According to Webmarketing123, approximately 26 percent of B2Cs and 20 percent of B2Bs develop pay-per click campaigns to generate leads online. This practice requires marketers to bid for ad placement in popular SERPs, most often sparked by keyword usage.

PPC advertising can get competitive, especially around local search terms. MediaPost recently reported on a unique court case between two law firms over the potentially illegal use of competing brand names as key terms in a PPC strategy.

The source notes that a law firm in Wisconsin used the names of rivals to trigger paid search ads online. The trial judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by Robert Habush and Daniel Rottier – partners in Habush Habush & Rottier. The firm accused competitor Cannon & Dunphy of violating Wisconsin’s privacy law by using their names in promotional efforts. The clever law firm (Cannon & Dunphy) optimized PPC ads to reach internet searchers who entered “Habush” and “Rottier” into popular engines like Google and Bing. The court published an 18-page ruling that concluded the practice doesn’t violate state law.

“This strategy undeniably takes advantage of the name of the established business and its ability to draw potential customers, but the strategy does not ‘use’ the name of the business in the same way as putting the name or image of the business in an advertisement or on a product,” the court stated.

The law firm Cannon & Dunphy will bring the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, despite the latest ruling.

Businesses shouldn’t rush to optimize their PPC or content marketing campaigns to take advantage of competitors’ names, but the report should inspire creativity when it comes to internet marketing. Look for keywords and content angles that can help win competitive, qualified leads, and don’t hesitate to step outside of the box.

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  • Chad Stewart

    I’m pretty sure using competitor brands as KWs is standard PPC practice. I do it to my own competitors and they do it to me as well. I’m surprised that something like this ever made it to court.

    • TedKarczewski

      Hi Chad –

      It’s an interesting case – I guess it just took one business owner to get fed up with the practice before he/she decided to do something about it. I do agree, however, that very little can be done about this practice, and if everyone employs the same strategy, the playing field remains even.

      Thanks for reading!
      Ted

  • http://broadshouldersmarketing.blogspot.com/ Chad Stewart

    Ted,

    In my experience, bidding on competitor terms actually does produce relatively low conversion rates, but from a branding perspective the clicks are usually much cheaper than “industry” or “niche” KWs, so the lower conversion rate can still create a reasonable CPL/CPA.

    Thanks for posting!