Bidding on branded keywords is one of the areas of paid media and paid search that seems like a no-brainer to some marketers. Some marketers question if it makes sense to spend money on keywords they feel they own.
“If I have free organic results coming up when people search for my brand name, doesn’t it make sense to stop paying for these terms? “
No. That’s it, and that’s the article. Okay, more context may be necessary around this topic.
My client questioned if they should bid on brand keywords in paid search. This is not the first time we have received this question, and it will not be the last. The client was concerned they were spending unnecessary money on their brand name. Evidence exists for those who have paused brand ads and lost traffic and sales.
Over the years, it has been common for clients to question whether it makes sense to continue spending money on their brand keywords in search. They believe that if their organic listing shows in the top spot, customers will click on it, whether that listing is being pushed down the SERP by competitor ads or not. But here are some client tales that show that’s not always the case.
Turning off branded keywords could cost you long-term
Several years ago, a client decided to turn off their brand ads. They believed their organic listing would pick up the clicks. After 30 days, paid search lost 52% of the revenue, and organic only picked up 12%. Direct also lost 11% of revenue. So in total, they lost approximately $228k. After 30 days, they decided to turn their brand ads back on, and it took 6-8 months to get performance close to the levels we saw before pausing their keywords. There is incremental gain or loss to be had on having paid & organic listings within the same results.
Suggested Reading: What Happened When We Paused Brand
Paid and organic often work better together
Opportunity loss: bidding on branded keywords
Once you turn off your brand terms for a while, you lose a lot of ground. Brands will have to spend more money to regain their previous position if they turn brand ads back on again. This can happen for a few reasons. If you have competitors bidding on your brand terms and you exit the space, costs for bidding on your brand keywords will plummet because the most relevant ads have been removed.
Google will only have to choose between the most relevant competitors and base CPCs on your competitors. When you try re-entering the space, you may have cheaper CPCs than many competitors. Still, their ads could also be more thoroughly optimized, making the journey back to the efficiency you experienced before that much longer.
In the rare case of no competitor ads above the SEO search results, you still need more choices that serving ads allow you. Everything from messaging to landing page choice is lost, and your prospects may not convert on the page organic results drop them in.
The benefits of bidding on branded keywords
Bidding on your brand keywords in paid search can have several benefits for your business, including:
By bidding on your brand keywords, you can ensure that your business appears at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) for queries related to your brand. This increases your brand’s visibility and can lead to incremental clicks and visits to your website.
Having organic and paid listings within the same search has proven to have an incremental lift in revenue. One client paused the brand ads and lost over $200k in revenue within 30 days.
Having brand bids can help measure campaign-to-campaign attribution and brand lift from other top-of-funnel or offline advertising.
Bidding on brand terms increases brand authority, making the company appear more credible to improve conversion rates. This type of visibility can increase the trustworthiness of your company to your customers. Consider how much real estate Apple owns for this search below. It increases the likelihood they will win the click. You can also see Verizon is more than willing to pick up the slack.
Control over messaging
When you bid on your brand keywords, you have control over the ad messaging that appears in the SERPs. This allows you to craft a message that accurately represents your brand and promotes your unique value proposition. This is a great opportunity to help your searchers solve their problems. Consider what they are searching for and create an ad that answers their question.
Protection against competitors
If you don’t bid on your brand keywords, your competitors may do so, potentially stealing traffic that could be going to your website. By bidding on your brand keywords, you can ensure that your business is the first result users see when searching for your brand. Often, it is cheaper to bid on your competitor keywords than non-brand terms.
Increased Click-through Rates (CTR)
Research has shown that bidding on brand keywords can lead to higher click-through rates (CTRs) than organic listings alone. This is because users are often likely to click on a paid result at the top of the SERPs, especially if that result takes up much more real estate with assets like site link extensions. Sometimes searchers click on the first ad that appears. Then, competitors can earn their business because they will have that high-visibility real estate while your organic listing gets pushed down.
Since brand keywords are typically less expensive to bid on than non-branded keywords, bidding on your brand terms can be a cost-effective way to drive traffic to your website and increase conversions. For example, a competitor may pay $3.00 to click on our term while you are paying $1.25.
Organic and paid listings are more blurred than ever
Paid listings look like organic listings and people may not even realize they are clicking on a paid ad. Especially with Google’s infinite scroll feature that no longer shows ads only at the top and bottom of SERPs, but appears randomly throughout four pages of organic results.
Control over the landing page
Besides controlling the copy, you can control which landing page users are directed to. This can also be a great way to test different landing pages to determine what performs better with searchers. This can be something other than your homepage if another page is more relevant to the query. For example, in this search, ‘Verizon iPhone deals,’ the brand ad displays a special deal for iPhones and directs users to a page with the available offers.
The landing page your prospects are dropped into can often be an afterthought for some PPC marketers. This is a tremendous mistake. Your landing page not only represents your brand but also clearly indicates what you are offering searchers looking for your brand.
For example, when you search “new apple phone 2023,” you can be met with two landing pages. Image 1 is the landing page from a paid ad, and landing page 2 is from the first organic result. As you can see from these images, the image from the paid ad gives the searcher more information about the newest line of iPhone products and has a bold CTA, enticing searchers to buy the product. Compare this to the organic result you see below; this is simply a press release and will require more navigation to get a searcher to the point where they may convert on this site, losing that potential the more the searcher needs to navigate.
How to save on paid search advertising
If you are looking for ways to save money on your paid search advertising, it would be best to start with any wasteful spending first. There are a few ways to do this:
- Identify keywords that are high spenders and low performers and cut them
- Update your device targeting to ensure you are only serving on devices that convert
- Update your location targeting to narrowly fit into the locations where your product can be used, and further narrow to your most efficient geos
- Go through your search queries and identify irrelevant or underperforming keywords to exclude
- Identify inefficient times of the day when you can stop serving ads
- Review your display content and exclude non-converting content
- Consider testing new landing pages or different bid strategies to improve your ROAS
- Set up offline conversion tracking if you are doing lead generation on search to better identify what search elements are working best to drive revenue
- Take a look at your networks. How are search partners performing, if they aren’t driving the results you want, turn this off.
It’s important to look for additional ways to improve your current evergreen campaigns rather than turning them off and losing all of the ground you’ve gained.
The reason you want to take these actions rather than pausing brand terms is that optimizations and trimming the fat in your campaigns will make sure you are only putting your money into the things that drive performance while making sure that you don’t hurt your program for the future, and while others vastly trim back the progress they’ve made, you’ll be setting yourself up for opportunities to scale further when budgets aren’t as tight.
Overall, bidding on your brand keywords in paid search can be a valuable tactic to increase brand visibility, protect against competitors, and drive more traffic and sales to your website.