Five Reasons to Bid on Branded Terms in PPC



Branded Keywords

Anyone who manages a PPC account is perpetually on the lookout for a “secret weapon” to boost their performance. As a Customer Success Rep at WordStream, I have consulted for (what feels like) almost every type of account imaginable. Usually, my suggestions differ based on each individual client, but there is one foolproof recommendation that benefits just about everyone: bid on your branded terms.

OK, I know it sounds crazy. You’re probably thinking, why bother spending money on branded terms that are already triggering organic listings? (That’s what eBay recently decided, but we’re not sure their SEM managers are quite up to snuff...) Or you may be worried that paid search ads will cannibalize your organic traffic. However, Google has conducted studies that show this isn’t the case.

Here are my top five reasons that you should start bidding on your branded terms:

  1. Bidding on branded queries helps you dominate your search engine results page. I think we can all agree that two is better than one, especially when it comes to your links on a SERP. In the same way that having multiple links in an email can increase click-through, giving the searcher more opportunities to click works to your advantage. In addition, by appearing in both the organic and paid ads columns, you are proving to your searcher that you are a prominent player in your space.  
  1. You can control your messaging. Organic listings may be free advertising, but let’s face it, they are boring. Paid ads give you an opportunity to craft a message that will grab the attention of your searchers and entice them to visit your site. To really drive this point home, remember that your organic results might not send searchers to the most ideal landing pages. Take advantage of paid ads and send your searchers to your highest converting landing pages. Use sitelinks, Product Listing Ads and other engaging ad formats.
  1. Competitors may be invading your territory. If your competitors are savvy, they’re already bidding on your branded terms. So, if someone does a search for your company, they’ll find your vanilla organic listings flanked (or even preceded) by a nice shiny ad singing the praises of your competitor. This may actually cause traffic that would have been headed to your site to be diverted right over to the welcoming landing pages of your competitor.
  1. Branded terms are a steal. We’re all on the hunt for cheap keywords that actually have search volume. Those “magic” keywords might be right under your nose – your own brand name! Don’t just stick with your company name, bid on your specific products or even your URL. Not only are these words likely to be easy on your wallet, they should also garner some of your highest click-through rates and Quality Scores.
  1. Capture high-quality leads that are near the point of conversion. People who are searching for your branded terms are already acquainted with your company. Perhaps they’ve heard about you from a friend, researched you in the past or are even return customers. They know you have what they want and, chances are, they are further along in the buying cycle than the average Joe Shmoe who’s searching more generic terms.

Still don’t buy it? I know that some marketers are hesitant to subscribe to this strategy and I understand their reluctance. My only request to the skeptics is, give it a shot! Every PPC account is unique and you’ll never know what works best for yours unless you test your options.

(More: The Importance of A/B Testing: 24 Reasons to Test Everything)

Have YOU incorporated branded terms into your keyword lists?

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Caetano Notari
Mar 19, 2013

Usualy I am not concerned at reasons 1 and 4, but  2, 3 and 5 are the main reasons why I advertise on Branded Terms. It is amazing to see competitors bidding on your branded terms, and it happens more and more in my customers. So, instead of loosing traffic, just bid at a low price. Competitors are getting better at the art of creating messages that are not good for my brand, and by bidding on my branded terms, they show up high in the page - a big no no...

Kurt Harris
Mar 21, 2013

Hi Erin, I must admit that it is a nice and well composed post. I'm a newbie to this industry and rading your post gives me some idea how to passify my customers  to go gor PPC campaighs. I think you've been in this niche for a long time now. Can you suggest me some more ways or importance of opting for PPC rather than going organic.

Mar 25, 2013

Hi Erin, you make all valid points for bidding on brand terms, and I've used these reasons time and time again to justify brand campaigns. My question is, how do you respond to merchants when they say "I don't want to pay for [a click] for someone already interested in the brand". For some PPC managers, we are paid to bring in new customers using new keywords and ads, and brand campaigns are just 'low hanging fruit' , particularly if the merchant owns the organic SERPs for their branded keywords.

Kris K
Mar 28, 2013

This is really an increadible post, makes me think to go invest more time on PPC. It maybe a long way on testing and sometimes the campaign would not return anything but yeah, its worth a shot! Thanks for sharing these tips with us Erin!

Mar 31, 2013

Branded terms are cheap and convert like crazy. Besides if you dont use them someone else will for sure. :)Good read overall. These are some basic stuff which most people tend to forget while doing ppc. ThanksRyan

Mark McKnight
Apr 11, 2013

Thank you for sharing this very informative article. I agree with you that anyone who manages a PPC account is perpetually on the lookout for a “secret weapon” to boost their performance and your  top five reasons on why we should start bidding on  branded terms are true.

Leads Dubai
Aug 20, 2013

branded keywords are a steal no doubt. but what happens when competitor misuse this feature and misleads the brand? isnt there any protection for brands to protect their identity? 

Simon Hill
Sep 11, 2013

If other competitors are bidding on your brand, then you should definitely be doing it to preserve top rankings and search engine real estate. I don't think it should form the crux of your campaign though. If you are spending more than 10% on your own branded terms, you are probably throwing money away on a traffic source that isn't really affecting your bottom line.  Ofcourse they convert like crazy, and agencies love reporting on a campaign as a whole when branded terms are included, but the reality is 90% of the time you would have converted that customer for free.  It's just another tool in the toolchest. 

Oct 03, 2013

Thanks for a really useful article. If you have a business that is relatively new/unknown can you still use use branded keywords to your advantage? How would you do this? ThanksKath

Alan Mitchell
Jan 07, 2014

You've covered most of the main benefits for bidding on brand terms (e.g. messaging control), but here are plenty more benefits:'m a big fan of using brand terms to show time-sensitive offers and promotions (point #5) - I think this is a big opportunity often overlooked when brand bidding.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Oct 02, 2014

Great post. We sell an add-on software that is useful for existing customers of Oracle ERP. The term "oracle" is a branded keyword for us and a vital part of our ad copy. Oracle Corporation itself doesn't have a similar software. Therefore, while the brand is not ours, neither does it belong to any competitor. We've found our ads getting rejected if they contain the term "oracle" in the copy. Any idea how we can get over this issue?

Ami Shimkin
Nov 20, 2014

Thanks Erin, I'm bidding my branding keywords for a long time now and it's working great. However, I found out in the last months (and it's growing trend) that when i bid my brand keyword (SysAid) on a broad match type i get many search terms very related to my product (e.g. help desk software) even due i have those keywords in other ad groups and campaigns even in exact and phrase type.I would appreciate your recommendation if to exclude this search terms (as negative keywords) in the adgroup level so they can be attribute to the exact keyword or leave it that way? Many Thanks,Ami

karan sodha
Sep 02, 2015

I am working on PPC campaign of an e-commerce website and I would like to know that if I use competitors brand or competitor keywords ( other e commerce websites ) to trigger my e commerce website ...than will it cost less or high. Will the CPC for competitors campaign be high or less ?

Michel Descoeudres
Apr 07, 2016

I used to agree with your view, but things have changed in the past 2 years. Now even bidding on your company name is EXPENSIVE! It makes you wonder if it's worth it at all.

Another insight to take into considertion is sitelinks: studies (see Aaron Wall et al.) have shown that if you use sitelinks in the ad that shows up for your brand, you're actually taking away organic clics (assuming you're ranking 1st on your brand and company name on Google, which you should be...). So this study suggest that it is a good idea to have an simple ad on your company name, just without sitelinks, as your organic listing will have sitelinks as well. With that approach, ads actually give you more lead in the cumulative approach with organic leads.

All the best
Michel, Switzerland

Tim Oates
Sep 29, 2016

Branded search may be low-hanging fruit for pumping up conversions, but it can be poisonous to the bottom line for manufacturers.

A lot of reports show campaign performance in ROAS silos – not considering how the bottom line changes holistically. “I spent $100 and generated $1000 in revenue. Branded search is working!” A common oversight when deciding when, if, or how much to bid on your branded terms is neglecting to measure the difference between making the sale yourself and making the sale through an advertising re-seller. (If you own the brand, i.e. a manufacturer, you technically get every sale.) A direct sale may have a 50% margin, but if the wholesale margin is 35%, winning the sale over an advertising reseller nets only a 15% gain – minus ad spend and any management fees. So the question is, “How does that return stack up against your other advertising channels? Is it good, or bad?”

Additionally, by opting out of branded search, your re-sellers in turn have better conversions, lower bids (higher ROAS on your branded terms), making your products more attractive for them to sell and ultimately increases wholesale orders. In my case, the better my products sell through re-sellers, the more those re-sellers advertise my products - online, in print, and in store. So by stepping out of the competition for my branded search terms (as well as low price leader), my wholesale volume and revenue have increased more than any incremental retail conversions could ever hope to overcome. It's a win-win for me and the re-sellers that support me. (Sorry Google, no bidding wars)

Keeping the undesirable ads at bay is certainly a good reason to bid on branded terms. And if your organic ranking stinks, you are automatically qualified to bid on branded terms. Ultimately, I think we can all agree by now that the definitive answer to bidding on your branded terms is "It depends..."

Bob Chandler
Nov 10, 2016

Interesting article that shows good hints. I would like to point that SEO can also benefit for the PPC as well. When using AdWords for the best keywords on your business, you can use the keywords for the PPC as well. I recently had a chance to work with one of the digital marketing agency called Soulpepper. Their PPC Service helped a lot of clients to grow their business. They're some serious guys!

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