Your Brand in Search

By Ted Schuster, Paid Search Supervisor, Advertising Solutions

Questions occasionally arise from advertisers that are concerned about the proper use of their brand in search. It’s an especially potent issue too, because of the very nature of search: People are explicitly telling you what they’re looking for online, and if you can’t deliver something relevant, it
can sour your brand with that searcher. It’s essential in search to always keep that user experience in mind, because the more you can improve your brand relevance to searchers, the more interaction and success you’ll see online (and potentially offline).

Do you own your brand?
Arguably the biggest consideration when debating whether or not to bid on brand terms is your brand visibility. Depending on how many of your competitors and vendors are in your brand term space, you may be struggling to own your brand in the search engine results. Having the top natural listing is important, but it’s all about the real estate on the page. If you’re the maker of a sports drink, for instance, and someone searches a brand term of yours, are you comfortable with 10%, 20%, or 30% of those searchers going to a competitor’s site or a vendor who are above you on the page? If you’re not dominating that top-of-page real estate, that’s exactly what can happen.

The engines get more “rich” with content beyond just traditional listings and you have to do more than just own the top of the page. Google, Yahoo and Bing all display various forms of shopping feed results, image results, local business results (with maps), and so on, depending on the keyword searched. Therefore, it’s crucial to also make sure that you’re on shopping comparison engines (or at least Google Product Search, which is free), that you have an updated feed with all of your store locations for the engines, and that you’re taking advantage of any betas that are allowing images or rich content to show prominently on the page.

Also consider your brand from a PR perspective. Search ads are flexible in that the messages can be updated within minutes—not days or weeks. Your brand can be positioned front-and-center as news breaks, product developments unfold, or as important promotions get rolled out. Working with your Web development team is also crucial, to try and get the most compelling and relevant copy and functionality on your site. People are largely using search engines to gather information, so why not be the source of that information?

Your Brand in PPC ads
As mentioned above, search ads are easily adaptable and thus easy to test. Remember that search is unique from most other forms of advertising, so what works in print or on TV won’t necessarily translate to search. But don’t take my word for it—test it. There are many components to consider, all of which are worth testing for your brand. To name just a few:

• Is your brand well-known for the non-brand keywords you’re running on? If it is, keeping your brand in the title of your text ads or displayed prominently otherwise can mean significant performance gains. If you’re a smaller or lesser-known brand, devoting that prime space to your brand may be a mistake, unless you’re solely concerned with gaining awareness. Run an A/B test to determine what effect your brand is having on your paid ads.

• Test display URLs and whether it’s better to use vanity URLs ( or just the root URL (

• If you have the flexibility, test how you’re talking about your brand. Positioning yourself differently based on the particular keyword group you’re bidding on can bring performance improvements. For instance, if you are traditionally known as a high-end retailer but are selling products that are doing especially well for discount retailers, you may want to consider putting some focus on your discounted or on-sale products. Adapt to market conditions whenever you can.

• Try testing out rich ad products that several of the engines have supported. Yahoo! RAIS and Google Site Links (among others) can give your ads more real estate and provide an improved user experience by showing deep links into your site, or having images, videos, etc.

Understand Your Brand
It can be very insightful to take an in-depth look at the site visitors who came in off of brand terms. What are they actually buying or converting on? What pages are they frequenting? Understanding your site analytics for your brand terms can give you great page optimization insights and even help inform your search ad copy. For example, if you see that 65% of visitors to your site off of your core brand term are signing up for a particular service, you should definitely be testing out ads that are tailored more specifically to that service. Also, if there are any areas of the site where your brand term traffic is dying off and you’re seeing high bounce rates, consider making some landing page optimization recommendations and giving that page a second look if you’re landing any other keywords there.

These are just three areas to focus on that, if optimized, should improve your users’ experience and of course your online performance. As with anything in search, test it out for yourself and run with what works.


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