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The Great Brand Debate

6 min read

Shane Lyons, Head of Search Strategy

by Shane Lyons, Head of Search Strategy


Many companies pay significant sums to bid on their own brand terms in the Pay Per Click (PPC) space. Is this still best practice or a waste of your marketing budget?

There are many different views when it comes to Brand Search, some see it as a tax on your own traffic by Google, others see a net uplift when they run Brand PPC. But what is the potential impact to your business of taking this risk to not appear top of page for your own terms? Let us analyse both sides of the debate.


Benefits to ‘protecting your brand terms’

There are some important reasons why you should bid on your own brand:


1. Paid search allows for real-time optimisation

PPC is one of the most reactive marketing channels any company can have. You can update your ad copy and it will be live in 30 minutes, the same won’t work for your Organic listing if you are relying on updating your homepage meta tag. So, if you are constantly running different weekly offers or sales, brand PPC is the far more agile option.


2. Competitors could steal your customers

Without brand PPC, you are leaving yourself open to competitor messaging sitting at the top of the page for when someone searches for your brand. Considering more searches are carried out on mobile these days where you will typically see a maximum of two ads above the fold it is particularly important that it is your brand and not one of your rivals that consumers see and click on.


3. More insights from paid search

Unfortunately, Google don’t pass organic keyword information through Analytics so it is very difficult to get actual stats on increases or decreases in brand searches organically. If you’re running a lot of high impact, above the line activity and especially if you include a search call to action, it is important to ensure that you are capturing and measuring this valuable brand performance data.


Reasons not to bid on brand:

Some advertisers are starting to move their budgets away from brand search. The key reasons behind this are:


1. Would you have acquired the customer anyway?

As costs in the PPC space have increased, advertisers are more likely to question the logic of paying for customers that they would likely have acquired anyway, free of charge via their organic listings. The most important factor to consider here is whether competing brands are bidding on your brand terms.


2. Advertisers too reliant on strength of brand results

Advertisers can often over attribute the strength of brand PPC results, without questioning, for example, how many other marketing touch-points were there before that brand conversion? The low cost of brand traffic and conversions lead some advertisers to become too reliant on it when the lowest cost traffic (free) will always be from Organic.


3. Redistribute Brand budget to generic search

For some advertisers, brand protection eats up a large proportion of their search marketing budget. By reducing spend on brand, the savings can be used to bring new customers into the purchase cycle and deliver a net uplift in business leads, generally through having a stronger presence in more generic, early research terms.


What should advertisers do?

At Core, we constantly review if brands are over-investing on brand search. Key to this is our 5-step process:

1. Analyse your PPC activity to understand how much you are spending to protect your brand and document what this activity is delivering in leads.

2. Review the competition on your various brand terms to try to find some keywords with low levels of competition or where your PPC ad may even be sitting above your organic listing.

3. Trial pausing these brand terms for an agreed time period.

4. Re-invest the ‘saved’ brand budget in Generic search so you will have a greater presence in the early research phase.

5. Monitor the results daily and analyse the shift in dynamics between Paid and Organic search. Very quickly you should begin to see some trends – Organic traffic and conversions should increase but it is important to compare the combined PPC and organic leads for this test period versus a similar previous time period.


With a test and learn strategy like this you should be able to identify if it is a viable long-term strategy for your business. For some advertisers it will prove not to be worth the risk while for others it could unlock massive savings in PPC marketing spend.

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