Branded Keywords: To Buy or Not to Buy?

It’s typically in the best interests of an SEM to include branded keywords in their PPC portfolio for a multitude of reasons, such as including the superior performance in the overall performance numbers and the added media spend (if paid on a percent spend model), but is it in the best interest of the client?

I consistently get two questions from clients regarding spending their media dollars on branded keywords. Hopefully, my answers show the strategic benefit for the investment.

1) “If the searcher knows my brand name, won’t they eventually find my website?”
Hopefully. But, bidding on brand keywords moves the chances of being found from ‘maybe’ to ‘probably’. A searcher could just as easily find a related competitor product, not find anything, or find one of your resellers/affiliates. It’s amazing to see the misspellings people search on, the complex queries in which your brand name may appear within, or brand taglines where you don’t yet/no longer appear. As smart marketers know, visitors = potential conversions and you have to capture that searcher to make them a visitor. Invest in a two week test (factoring in any latency/seasonality, of course) and bid on branded keywords. Then compare those traffic volumes and conversion rates to a similar two-week period where you didn’t target that traffic with Sponsored Listings. Did you get more traffic? Was the ROI worth continuing? I’m betting on yes and yes.

2) “We already have top rankings in the Natural/Organic section, why pay for Sponsored Links?” (Or, “Won’t PPC listings cannibalize my free traffic?”)
Reason one for buying brand terms: Get additional traffic, which should result in additional conversions. See the previously suggested test to verify this as some cannibalization will occur, but typically ROI will justify it. Reason two: Displace your competition/own the limited real estate. Some searchers simply favor Sponsored Links as they’ve found (thanks to savvy marketers) the copy reflects their wants, the links are targeted to deep and relevant pages, and they don’t see them as evil advertising (hey, if Google put this as the top listing, it must be the best). If you aren’t there, your competition will be. Reasons three and four: Utilize different copy and/or landing pages than your Natural listing. Free shipping promotion? Seasonal landing page? Spring sale? Different strokes for different folks – cover your bases. Finally: Because industry studies have shown appearing in both Paid and Natural top positions dramatically increases click thru rate, visitors, actions, pageviews, orders, and more.

To Buy or Not to Buy? ‘To Buy’…that is the answer. Still not convinced? Well, you’d be the first and I’d love to know why you weren’t sold (or if data showed you the ROI didn’t support it). As a final reminder, branded keywords should be tracked separately, but not looked at/optimized in a vacuum, as much of their traffic comes from repeat visitors.

Posted by: Jeff Campbell, VP Product Development & Innovation


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