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Why you need to bid on your brand in PPC

Among most PPC pros, bidding on brand is an accepted practice. Still, some clients (and maybe even some PPC pros), continue to resist it.

The most common reason I’ve encountered for not bidding on brand is the belief that organic will pick up the slack. Some will point to this 2013 eBay study that concludes bidding on brand is a big waste of money.

But that was four and a half years ago — a lifetime in this industry.

In the meantime, my experience begs to differ.

Whenever clients insist that we test not bidding on brand, our testing period only lasts a handful of days before we revert back. The drop in activity is so drastic that we don’t dare continue.

If you’re using the eBay study as your rationale for not bidding on brand, let me remind you of the many reasons why brand bidding today is a no-brainer.

Some of these reasons will no doubt be familiar. But some of them may be less obvious.

That said, here are 13 reasons why you should bid on brand:

1. You Can Present Your Brand Accurately

As the brand owner, you know your brand best. And when you bid on brand, you can make sure that your brand is represented correctly in your ads.

When you leave brand bids to your affiliates and partners, you can run into problems of brand misrepresentation.

Here’s an example:

Bidding on brand

The top add is my client’s ad. We’ll pretend the client is Red Tree Organization and that it sells closet organization systems.

The second ad is from an affiliate. (We’ll call it ABC Affiliate.) We can immediately spot a couple of problems with its ad:

  • ABC Affiliate lists styles as “Cottage, Glam, Rustic, Nautical and Traditional.” Unfortunately, these style descriptions have absolutely nothing to do with my client’s products.
  • ABC Affiliate is advertising “Up to 70% off Home Décor.” Again, this has no relevancy to my client, which doesn’t sell home décor.

Let’s look at another example:

Bidding on brand for brand accuracy

Again, our client’s ad (which we’ll call “Industrial Products Co.”) is in the number one position.

The ad in second position is not our client but likely a partner or affiliate (we’ll call it “Susan’s Affiliate Co.”).

The second ad makes the claim of “Same Day Shipping!” However, Industrial Products Co. only makes custom products, making same day shipping impossible.

What’s the point of pulling apart these ads?

By bidding on brand, you have the opportunity to represent your brand accurately and (hopefully) counteract any mistaken ideas about your brand that your partners and affiliates might be spreading.

(As you can imagine, the question of how to monitor and correct partner and affiliate ads is an important one — but beyond the scope of this post.)

2. You Can ‘Compete’ with Affiliates & Partners

Even if your affiliates and partners are presenting your brand accurately, that doesn’t mean you should abandon bidding on brand.

Quite the contrary.

If you’re like my clients, you prefer to sell directly to customers (and potentially retain a better margin). You still want to bid on brand so that your ad will appear along with ads placed by your partners and affiliates.

And if competitors are bidding on your brand, then this practice becomes even more important.

3. You Get PPC ‘Proof of Concept’

Occasionally, we work with companies that don’t get much brand traffic (usually because they’re startups or have recently rebranded).

In these cases, we’ve found that bidding on brand is a valuable tool for demonstrating PPC proof of concept for these clients and their marketing teams.

It allows us to show how clicks and impressions accumulate over time and demonstrate the value of how non-branded search, remarketing, and GDN campaigns help to build up brand awareness.

In short, it gives us data that solidifies the client’s buy-in to what we’re doing today, and what we hope to do for them in the future.

4. You Might Spend Less

I can’t guarantee that branded clicks are always cheaper than non-branded. But I’ve rarely seen the opposite to be true.

What’s more, the price difference between branded and non-branded can be significant.

For example, I have a client who pays (on average) $20 for non-branded keywords, but its branded keywords cost only $2 per click!

So even if you don’t 100 percent buy into bidding on brand, you can hedge your bets without spending a fortune.

5. You Can Get Valuable Intel on Keywords

It isn’t unusual for branded campaigns to deliverable valuable intel on keywords that we can then apply to non-branded campaigns.

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For example, my team and I will often use what we call “brand-plus” keyword phrases. These are phrases that combine the brand name with other terms.

If the client sells furnishings (for example), this might mean using phrases such as:

  • CLIENT XYZ orange sofas
  • CLIENT XYZ orange sofa seating
  • CLIENT XYZ outdoor orange sofa seating
  • Etc.

Sometimes, we come up with combinations that perform surprisingly well. Then, we’ll take those high performing keywords (without the brand name) and give them a try in non-branded campaigns. Using this method, we’ve come up with some real winners.

6. You Might Uncover New Customer Segments

Similarly, when we test different combinations of branded keywords, we sometimes uncover results that give us new insight into our clients’ customers.

In some cases, we’ve found unexplored target market niches that we’ve been able to leverage through new landing pages.

7. You Might Help Keep Competitors at Bay

Some of our clients’ brand names include terms that describe their products and services, such as Joe’s Office Furniture or Rain City Athletic Shoes.

In some cases, searches on these brand names may also cause competitor ads to impression. For example, a search for “Joe’s Office Furniture” might lead to two things:

  • Your branded ad might display (because you bid on Joe’s Office Furniture).
  • Your competitors’ non-branded ad might display (because they bid on “office furniture.”

Here’s an example:

Bidding on brand to beat competitors

Here, a search on “Joe’s Office Furniture” returns Joe’s ad, as we would hope. But it also returns ads from two competing office furniture companies!

You could argue that you would do just as well to bid on non-branded “office furniture.” But “office furniture” might be more expensive. Additionally, given the complexities of the AdWords algorithm, there’s no guarantee that your ad would still impression.

In other words, if you want to play it safe, you should keep bidding on your brand.

8. You May Improve Overall Account Health

Branded terms tend to have high click-through rates (CTRs). This isn’t surprising.

If someone searches “Jane’s Office Products,” then they’re likely to click on the Jane’s Office Products ad when it impressions.

And high CTRs, in turn, tend to contribute to higher quality scores.

In short, if your overall account health could stand some improvement, bidding on brand can be a useful strategy.

9. You Might Have Greater Presence on SERPs

I love the one-two punch of having a client’s branded ad and their organic results show up on search engine results pages.

Together, these two can take up a good chunk of SERP real estate and help solidify our client’s brand in the minds of consumers.

10. You Can Help Compensate for Poor Organic Search Results

If your SEO program isn’t delivering great results, then bidding on brand is more important than ever.

You need that presence!

11. You Might Minimize the Impact of Negative Content

If your company has had some negative reviews, or is suffering from bad publicity, you can use your branded ad to push negative content a little farther down the search engine results page.

And if you’re in the middle of a public relations crisis, you can use branded ads to address the issue directly through a sitelink to a dedicated landing page — where you can provide some context for the situation and discuss the steps you’re taking to correct it.

12. You Might Preserve the Critical Final Link in the Conversion Path

Often, people will start their research by searching non-branded terms. In the course of performing this research, they might click on your non-branded ad or organic results, which takes them to your website.

Then, in a subsequent research session, they may search on your brand name – either because they remember your name from their previous search or your remarketing campaign.

If you aren’t running branded ads, your ad may not display. As a result, you might end up sabotaging this final, crucial step in the conversion path.

13. You Can Provide Support for Low-Search Products or Services

If you’re offering a product or service that has little search volume, then a branded ads’ sitelinks are an excellent way to promote them.

For example, some of our clients run webinars. Often, we’ll use sitelinks in branded ads to generate interest in these webinars — interest that often turns into valuable leads.

Bidding on Brand Should be a Given

Let’s return to the “organic will pick up the slack” argument we started with.

I can’t see how organic results could possibly replace the role of branded ads as described in many of the examples given above.

In addition, even if organic search can pick up some of the slack left by an absence of branded ads, it’s unlikely to pick up all of it.

Sure, you might see your organic results slowly improve over time. But how long will it take to close the gap with where branded ads could have taken you if you’d stuck with it? And will that gap ever close at all?

In the meantime, all the opportunities that branded ads could have delivered will have been lost.