Should we bid on branded terms?

Do we need to be bidding on branded terms? How much of an impact does bidding on brand terms have?

I tend to include bidding on branded terms in my strategy.  First, they're cheap--no one will beat you for the Quality Score of your brand, after all, and few competitors will succeed in making any money coming at your brand directly.  Second, they're a great defensive play--for very little money, you take up more real estate on the SERP, and if someone does start moving in on your turf, it keeps them away from the top of the page--and they're paying a lot more to participate in that auction than you are.  Third, they let you shape the shopping experience.  The best example of this is with "brand plus" keywords, where it's your brand, plus something--usually related to coupons and discounts.  Rather than letting a customer automatically fall on a site like RetailMeNot (which, if you're not careful, you may be paying a commission), you can bring them right back to your site.  But it's better than that--you can then get something in exchange for that coupon!  The most successful campaign I've run of this type was to drop them to an email signup which gave them a $5 discount (our AOV was $300, so not much).  I knew what an email address was worth to me, so that was a very fruitful approach. Further, it converted better than dropping them directly to the cart with the coupon auto-applied. Maybe they felt like they earned it? I was surprised by that one, I'll admit.

The one thing I recommend, though, is to set a much more conservative Cost of Sale target (how much of your revenue are you looking to spend on ads?), as compared to non-brand.  So, if your Shopping Campaign is trying to hit a 20% COS (same as an ROI of 5x), then the Branded campaign might only target 5% or so.  This makes sure that if you have a very well-funded (and reckless) competitor, or if you get a weird broad match leak, you don't put good money after bad.

The most common objection to a Brand Text Campaign is that you'd expect the traffic to come in via Organic anyway. This would seem to make perfect sense, wouldn't it? Sure, the ad lets you control a little SERP real estate, but really... where else would they be going?

Well, I had the opportunity to test this. It was a time-series analysis, unfortunately (as opposed to a side-by-side split test on the same time period), but it was over a period that should have been seasonally neutral. I all but paused the Brand Campaign for a couple weeks, and monitored the Organic traffic over the same period. Comparing the traffic (and revenue) numbers for that test period to the two weeks before (and after), I could find no statistically significant evidence that the Brand search traffic was coming in on Organic instead after I'd halted the paid ads. Weird, right?

While I recommend doing your own testing, as every site is unique, if I had to decide a default position--I'd be in favor of running a very carefully tuned Brand campaign.

A few things to consider:

  1. Be sure to measure the COS of your Brand Campaign separately from your other Campaigns, or it will cover up under-performance very easily. (You can read more on LinkedIn on that)
  2. Within the Campaign, separate coupon and discount searches from the rest. Add "coupon", "discount", and similar terms as negative keywords in the non-coupon AdGroups. This will allow you to shape that shopping experience correctly, and potentially start collecting email addresses (or other desired interaction).
  3. Watch for broad-match bleed! If you are selling swimming pool equipment (as I have), any broad matches to billiards stuff would hurt performance very quickly--wrong kind of "pool"! Keep your keywords tidy, to the point, and more phrase and exact-match focused. Be aggressive with negative keywords, too--if you find something that's converting, but is tangential to your brand, spin it into a new Campaign!

Have questions?  Drop me a line via the Contact form--I love to talk shop.

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