Achieving Paid Search Balance: 3 Reasons To Invest In Non-Branded Terms

Managing your health requires achieving a balance between diet and exercise. In the same way, a healthy paid search campaign requires achieving a balance between branded and non-branded spending. Working together, the two create an optimal mix that will help you achieve the best results possible.

Why balance matters

Given branded terms’ reputation for delivering ROI, they often receive the lion’s share of a paid search budget. However, in this economy—where consumers are still hesitant to purchase—many marketers are not seeing the revenue from their branded terms that they had hoped for. As a result, they are desperate to find other means to boost revenues.

Fortunately, targeting non-branded terms can help you do exactly that. In fact, doing so not only has the potential to drive revenue, it can also increase brand awareness and spur growth—3 great reasons to invest in non-branded terms. Let’s take a closer look at each:

Growth. A paid search campaign that only spends on branded keywords will only grow as much as the brand recognition allows. By only investing in your brand, you leave growth opportunity to your competitors who are willing to make the non-branded investment. True growth, beyond the brand, comes from non-branded investment. If you are only investing in branded spend, year over year growth will be a reflection of your brand and the investments you’ve made towards it alone. In order to see year over year growth in paid search, you need to invest in non-branded spending.

Branding. If you want to increase brand awareness, you need to run paid search advertisements on relevant non-branded terms. After all, the search funnel begins with research, often with non-branded searches. Given that, it is important to get your brand in front of searchers when they are beginning their research. Ad copy that reflects your brand name may be one of the first touch points you have with that new user. Employing tracking that attributes the sale appropriately across each marketing touch point with that user will qualify your investment in non-branded terms that results in branded conversions.

Revenue. If your goal is to increase revenue from the dollars you invest, non-branded investment is an opportunity that has proven profitable for marketers. With accurate attribution management/reporting, non-branded spending can reflect its own profitability and that of your other marketing initiatives. Such attribution will be key to helping you find the optimal balance between branded and non-branded terms, and allow you to see how they are balancing each other in regard to ROI. In addition, this style of asset management may also teach you a thing or two about your consumers. In essence, it will allow you to leverage the data from your non-branded investment to improve your overall marketing and increase your bottom line.

Keys to achieving balance

But before you can configure your optimal balance between branded and non-branded terms, you first need to establish your minimum threshold of return. For example, if you could make $2 for every $1 you invested would you do it? Could you afford to make such a low return? Or, can you afford not to? Would it be better for your competitor to be spending that dollar and making two? Compared to the return you get from your branded spend, a 2:1 return doesn’t look that great. However when you are looking for maximized returns and growth, it spells possibility. Once you know your minimum threshold, you’ll be ready to push your investment to get the maximum return possible with the branded/non-branded mix.

While it can be tempting to solely focus on branded terms, smart marketers will incorporate non-branded terms into the paid search marketing mix in an effort to achieve the optimal balance that will deliver the most profitable return.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Brand Aid | Channel: SEM | Search Ads: General


About The Author: is a Client Services Manager at iProspect, responsible for overseeing the activities of a client-facing search team responsible for search engine optimization, social media, shopping feeds and pay per click campaigns.

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  • alanmitchell

    Hi Cara,

    I think the first step to success in non-brand spending is separating brand from non-brand in reporting and analysis. Sounds simple, but brand will always outperform non-brand, and if they are pooled together, any extra spend on non-brand will of course pull down the average performance of the campaign, creating a disincentive to invest in non-brand terms.

    I am a big advocate of bidding on keywords that capture searchers at earlier stages of the buying cycle, as ‘researchers’ can still be an extremely profitable audience, albeit one with a longer click to purchase lag time.

    Guess the success of non-brand paid search will come down to the ability to attribute conversions accurately. There is no doubt a large majority of customers search for a handful of generic keywords, then come back and purchase on a brand terms, so being able to accurately measure the extent to which multiple touch point affect the user’s intention to buy, and adjust bids accordingly, will make generic paid search all the more powerful.


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