Advertising under a competitor’s name on Google’s Search network.

Is it legal to have an ad come up for your business when someone inputs a competitor’s name in the Google search box?

I have personally seen a number of clients receive threatening emails from their competitor’s lawyers, suggesting it is not; but is this the case or are they using their position to intimidate their client’s competitors?

As always, you should seek your own legal advice, but here is what we found:

There are numerous examples online where companies are advertising under their competitors name. That in itself is not proof, but when they are large companies, that is significant. You can’t imagine Pizza Hutt allowing Dominos to use their name as a search phrase unless it was legal:

What about McDonalds allowing Uber Eats to have an ad ranking first when searching McDonalds! If this was illegal you would image these big companies would not hesitate to stop their competition.

What does the law have to say on this matter? Check out this article about an Australian court case:

Despite what your competitor’s lawyer may want you to believe there are plenty of examples and legal precedence to suggest that you can advertise under another businesses name under certain conditions.

Key points:

  • Keywords are not visible.
  • Keywords are not exclusive to one advertiser. Keywords are there for everyone to use.
  • Although keywords are not visible, your ads are. If you do choose to have an ad appear under a competitor’s name, then you must not be deceptive in your ad and cause people to think you are your competitor. You should stay away from using your competitors name in your ad, unless it is referred to as a comparison.


It is one thing to have your ad appear under a competitor’s name, it is another to pretend to be them! At no time must you pretend to be them, otherwise you really will be in trouble!

There is one important point to consider, which may or may not be a concern. If you advertise under their name, there is nothing to stop them doing the same back to you. If you don’t like that idea, then best you don’t poke the bear, but if that is of no concern, then it may be an attractive option.

  • Note: We are not lawyers and do not purport to be giving legal advice. Always check with your lawyer on legal concerns.


Here is another example for good measure. SEM Rush are advertising under Wordstream’s name:

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