We have a client whose paid search ads are showing up for a competitor's brand name. Just to avoid confusion, Google's Adwords Terms Of Service does allow a competitor to bid on your branded terms but prevents you from using your competitors trademarked terms in your ad copy. This client, however, has decided to disarm the current arms race of competitors bidding against them by not bidding on their competitors terms and they asked us to help.

The problem is that the company isn't actually bidding on their competitors terms but their ads are still showing when people search on the competitor's name. The reason is that many of the competitors have category words in their terms. Our client's broad match settings were triggering their ads to show accidently on competitor's branded terms.

To fix the problem, I had two choices: 1. Change the match type on some of the broad match keywords 2. Use negative keywords to suppress the ad if competitors branded terms are present

For a primer on Google's match type for PPC advertising, visit the Google Adwords Help Center on Match Type

For me, the choice was pretty easy. Use negative keywords to hide the ad when certain competitors names were present in the keyword search.

The trouble started when selecting whether I wanted a Negative Exact Match, Negative Phrase Match or a Negative Broad Match. I normally have no problem with match type but this felt like doing math with a negative number. There are slightly different rules but once you figure out the rules it is pretty easy.

I only wanted to suppress ads for terms that included competitors brand. I started by setting up a Negative Exact Match for the competitors' terms. After loading my changes, the change did not work as I expected.

Turns out that because normal searches for my clients terms would also include category terms, my Negative Exact Match keywords were not being triggered. Since in most cases negative keywords are used to capture a portion of the search phrase, I needed to use a Negative Broad Match.

The only time that Negative Exact or Negative Phrase comes into play is if there is a very specific entire search query that you want to block.

In this case, the Negative Broad Match was the best way to meet the objectives of my client.