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  • Brand Jacking: How to Use Brand Jacking to Drive Loyalty Away From Competitors to Your Brand

    Brand Jacking: How to Use Brand Jacking to Drive Loyalty Away From Competitors to Your Brand

    Search engine optimization (SEO) is a great marketing strategy. It’s accessible. It’s inexpensive. And it can scale to yield an unbelievable return on investment (ROI).

    But there’s a big problem that might stand in your way: competition.

    Having a formidable competitor at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) means you’ll have to work twice as hard to earn a spot in the top few ranks. It also means you could lose a lot of traffic to another site just because you’re a rank away from the top.  

    It’s possible to mitigate the threat of competition with strategies like targeting a different audience, optimizing for long-tail keywords, and focusing on a unique niche.

    But what if you could use the power of your local SEO competition against them?

    That’s the idea behind brand jacking – a novel SEO (and PPC) strategy that can help you get better results, no matter what kind of competition you face.

    What Is Brand Jacking?

    “Brand jacking” or “brandjacking” is a combination of the terms “brand” and “hijacking.” But we’re not literally hijacking someone else’s brand. Instead, we’re attempting to use the power of their brand against them.

    In a traditional advertising context, brand jacking has been used to criticize, undermine, or otherwise attack popular luxury brands. For example, in 2013, charitable organization Oxfam created an ad called “The Bitter Taste of Sugar” that parodied an ad for Coca-Cola Zero in an attempt to criticize Coca-Cola’s unsustainable business practices.

    But we’re more interested in using brand jacking in the digital marketing world.

    Here’s the idea. Your competitors have established a lot of visibility and brand equity with their brand name. When someone searches for “CompetiTrix” (your top competitor), they inevitably see several pages of the CompetiTrix website.

    So what if you could leech some of the traffic they’re getting here? You’d hit them right where it hurts.

    Let’s say you write an article on your site (or hire our blog writing service to do it) titled, “The Top X Alternatives to CompetiTrix,” and you optimize it for terms related to “CompetiTrix.” Eventually, you could organically reach the second position in search engines (landing the number one spot may be impossible). Now, people who search for this competing brand name will have the option to look at alternatives instead.

    If successful, you’ll take traffic away from your competitor. You’ll capitalize on the existing power of their brand name. And you’ll get a chance to persuade your target market not to go with this competitor. It’s multiple advantages in one.

    Heinz was a victim of brand jacking that did not go well.

    Brand Jacking With PPC Ads

    You can also brand jack with the help of pay per click (PPC) ads. The idea here is to pay for ads with keywords related to your competitor’s brand name. It tends to be faster and more reliable, but also more expensive.

    There are two big problems you might run into:

    •         Brand jacking defense. Digital marketing-savvy companies typically prepare defenses against the possibility of external brand jacking. It’s common these days to buy ads for your own brand name, to discourage people from targeting your brand for brand jacking and drive up the prices (just in case someone goes for it).
    •         Google action. Google doesn’t want advertisers to abuse this system. If you throw trademarked keywords into an ad without a good reason, your ad could be removed due to misleading content or poor quality.

    Sound sketchy?

    Here’s a quote clarifying Google’s position on the matter:

    Advertisers may use a trademark term in ad text if they are a reseller of, offer compatible components or parts for, or provide information about the goods and services related to the trademarked term.

    In other words, as long as you have something relevant to say about your competitor, you’ll be in the clear.

    How to Choose a Brand Jacking Target

    One of the secrets to brand jacking success is choosing the right brand jacking target.

    There are no right or wrong answers here, but you should consider:

    •         Competitors. Your direct competitors are the low-hanging fruit of brand jacking. If a company sells similar products and services as yours, and if it’s targeting the same demographics, it’s ripe for brand jacking. Getting higher visibility in a search for this type of brand will not only directly benefit your brand – it will also hinder your competition.
    •         Complementary brands. Complementary brands are also good targets for brand jacking. For example, let’s say you sell boat insurance. You might optimize content to rank for major brand names in the boating world; this way, boat buyers will discover your insurance brand when they research possible purchases.
    •         Audience synergy. Consider targeting brands who share your audience in a favorable way. As a simple example, let’s say you run a grape jelly company and you know there’s a dominant company in your area that sells peanut butter. You know people want to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so you might optimize content on your site to rank for the peanut butter company’s brand name. If this is the case, you can turn the relationship into a more synergistic one; for example, you can collaborate together on content for mutual benefit.
    •         Third party website rankings. Before you move forward with a brand jacking target, spend some time evaluating the SERPs for branded keyword terms. Does it seem like there are lots of third-party websites ranking for branded terms? If so, there’s probably room for you to move in. If the SERPs are totally dominated by the brand’s own content? If so, it may not be worth the effort to try and displace them.

    What Every Brand Jacking Strategy Needs to Succeed

    Brand jacking won’t be successful automatically. If you want a chance to succeed, you need the following ingredients, on top of the right competitive target (via competitive analysis of course):

    •         Keyword optimization. If brand jacking is your main goal, the primary keyword in your marketing campaigns should be your competitor’s (or target’s) brand name. But you might also consider optimizing for a product brand name. Or you could optimize for keywords and phrases that are related to the brand in question. Do your research to figure out the search volume and competition rating for each keyword you’re considering – and to generate more ideas.
    •         Quality content. Just as with the rest of your SEO campaign, the quality of your content matters. You can’t stuff a competitor’s brand name into a page and hope for the best. You need to do research, organize your content logically, word your articles eloquently, and polish your piece to perfection.
    •         Search intent satisfaction. Empty content isn’t going to get you anywhere. You have to help search users in some way if you want to rank higher. That means solving a problem, answering a question, or providing meaningful information. For example, it’s not enough to write about the brand generically. Talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the company, the alternative products worth considering, and the common questions most people have when engaging with this brand for the first time. You may need to conduct some market research to determine what these types of searchers typically want to know.

    Brand Jacking: Step by Step

    How do you form a brand jacking strategy from the beginning?

    1.       Identify a potential target. Your first step is acquiring a potential target’s online identity. Remember the criteria we outlined above. Start with only one target (and don’t worry, you can always expand your strategy later), and choose one with plenty to offer. It should be a reasonably popular option, but not so competitive that it can’t be touched.
    2.       Do your keyword research. Research is your friend. Use keyword research tools to figure out what the SERPs look like for various branded keywords and phrases. What are the most popularly searched terms related to this brand? How competitive are these terms? What are similar words and phrases worth considering as part of your campaign?
    3.       Brainstorm content. When you have a handful of lucrative, branded keyword targets, it’s time to start brainstorming content. What do people usually ask about this brand? What information do they want to learn? Ideally, you can create one strong piece of content for each keyword you target; this content should answer a question or provide another type of substantial information.
    4.       Evaluate the return. What do you stand to gain if you write a piece like this? Do you have a solid chance to get near the top of the SERPs? Can you siphon traffic from your competitor? Will you be able to persuade readers to go with your brand instead?
    5.       Develop content. If the opportunity looks promising, it will be time to develop the content. Like any search engine optimized piece, it should be a few thousand words long, optimized for your target keywords, with plenty of outbound links to strong resources, and solid writing. Also make sure the page is technically optimized with proper meta tags, descriptions, and headers.
    6.       Support your content. The content itself won’t be enough to earn you a high rank – even if you have an awesome domain authority (DA). You’ll need to spend time building links to the piece as well, preferably with external guest posts on high-authority publishers.
    7.       Consider ads. If you want to see even better results, consider placing bids for PPC ads targeting your primary keywords. It’s slightly more expensive, all things considered, but it can give you nearly instantaneous search engine visibility.
    8.       Evaluate and nurture. Spend time observing your performance. Are you successfully rising in the SERPs? Are you getting a steady stream of traffic? How are your inbound visitors behaving once they read your content – are they converting? Use these data to refine your content, target new keywords, and polish your brand jacking strategy to perfection.

    Is Brand Jacking Worth It?

    Is brand hijacking really worth the effort? To be successful, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time and resources (and possibly money) to be competitive.

    In many cases, it’s better to focus on your mainstream SEO and PPC campaigns. In others, brand jacking can yield incredible value.

    It’s not always easy to tell. So consider:

    •         The size of your competitor. If your competitor is too big, it’s going to be almost impossible to siphon traffic from them; they’ll have strong defenses that will intentionally stifle your brand jacking efforts. If your competitor is too small, it’s probably not worth considering; it doesn’t get enough traffic to justify your brand jacking attempts. Instead, you want to target a kind of “Goldilocks zone” competitor that’s not too big and not too small.  
    •         Your propensity to rank. How easy does it appear to rank for these branded keyword terms? If you already have a high domain authority (DA), you’ll have momentum you can carry forward to your brand jacking strategy. If there are lots of third-party sites already ranking for branded keyword terms, you’ll have even more potential.
    •         Content fit. What kind of content could you write for brand jacking purposes? Is there a creative way you can persuade readers to go with your brand, rather than a competitor? If you have an easy “in” with high-quality content, go for it.
    •         Alternative opportunities. SEO is a broad strategy that can be utilized in many different ways. Instead of brand hijacking your competitor directly, can you figure out a way to siphon traffic from them in other ways? Can you go toe-to-toe with them with a different selection of keywords and phrases? Can you speak directly to their audience?

    Protecting Your Brand From Brand Jacking

    One more important note: you’re not the only company thinking about brand jacking. As you’re reading this, your competitor’s brands may be plotting a brand jacking move against you. If you want to minimize their impact, you have to prepare a defense.

    The first phase of defense is making sure you’re dominating the field with your own branded keywords. It shouldn’t be hard to get to the top spot with your own brand name. But what about the subsequent ranking slots? What about PPC ads for your branded terms? The more robust your branded ranking strategy is, the harder it will be for someone else to move in.

    The second phase of defense is watching out for threatening new content – and fighting against it. Run searches for your branded terms and evaluate the content you see ranking (including ads). Can you write competing articles to outrank them? Can you outbid the top bidders?

    Are you interested in starting a brand jacking strategy of your own? Or are you interested in learning more about how to resell SEO by selling SEO services, PPC ads, or other digital marketing strategies? Contact SEO.co today for a free consultation! 


    Chief Revenue Officer at SEO Company
    Industry veteran Timothy Carter is SEO.co’s Chief Revenue Officer. Tim leads all revenue for the company and oversees all customer-facing teams for SEO (search engine optimization) services - including sales, marketing & customer success. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & Digital Marketing, assisting in everything from SEO for lawyers to complex technical SEO for Fortune 500 clients like Wiley, Box.com, Qualtrics and HP.

    Tim holds expertise in building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams.

    When he's not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach...preferably in Hawaii.

    Over the years he's written for publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, ReadWrite and other highly respected online publications. Connect with Tim on Linkedin & Twitter.
    Timothy Carter