I came upon such a question today on Search Engine Watch Forums. It is not the first time it has been asked – “Can I include my competitor’s names in my SEO strategy? Will I find myself in any kind of legal trouble?” Or even, “Is it ethical?” Sure you can do it. It is your site – you can do what you want with it. Yes, you may find yourself receiving one of those nice little cease and desist letters. As for ethics, that would depend on what your ethics are.
However, whether it is legal or ethical is really not the question. My question to those who even consider this tactic is, “Why?” Really, why would you want to rank well for your competitor’s names or brands? If I search for a specific company or brand name, I want to find that company’s web site or at at the very least some information about them. I think most people would feel the same.
So what is the purpose? If you should attract visitors for your competitor’s brand names, do you really think the person is going to continue to browse your site even though it was not what they are looking for? Or even worse, they believe that you are the competitor they are looking for? I have never attempted such a strategy myself but it would be interesting to see the analytics behind such a scheme. I would imagine that most would immediately hit the back button and very possibly even be frustrated with the fact that they landed on your site in the first place.
The bottom line – even though tempting and even though you may not get into legal trouble, spend your time doing more useful things, such as building a site that is better than the competition When people arrive to your site after a search, the goal should be to convert them – not somehow trick users who are searching for things that are unrelated to who you really are and what you have to offer.