PPC: Why You Need To Pay For Your Brand Terms

When it comes to developing an effective PPC strategy, it is important to include branded terms. However, many marketers are opposed to doing so. This is a mistake. Let’s take a look at why.

Understanding the value

In this economy where marketers need to do more with less, it is easy to understand why they might balk at the idea of incorporating branded terms into their PPC campaigns. Many marketers figure, “Why should I pay for my brand to show up in paid search when my organic listings will do the work for free?” Granted, their argument might appear valid—at least on the surface level—but this strategy is actually quite risky. What happens when search engines change their algorithms? Or increase personalization? Or make any number of changes that might destroy those top ten listings? If you pay to play you are essentially purchasing an insurance policy for your brand terms.

Apart from risk mitigation, the truth is, bidding on your branded terms can benefit your brand in a number of ways. First is the additional traffic and revenue you can net. In fact, studies have shown that branded terms can provide significant lifts in revenue. In addition, keep in mind that only 70% of users click on the organic search results. Considering that, the inverse translates into considerable missed opportunity. In other words, if your brand is not present in the paid search listings, you could be missing out on 30% of your potential traffic and revenue. Bidding on your branded terms eliminates that risk and allows you to dominate the search results page and capture all of your potential traffic.

But incorporating branded terms into your PPC campaigns can also directly benefit your brand by providing you with the speed, agility and control you need to meet your objectives—which is something you just can’t get with organic search. And having the ability to quickly and easily make changes to your ads can have considerable brand implications. For example, if your brand suddenly found itself in the midst of a product recall, you would be able to quickly change your messaging in response to the situation, and in the process, mitigate further brand damage.

Finally, bidding on your branded terms will allow you to leverage your brand to cross-sell or test new brand messaging. For example, let’s say that your company wants to change its unique value proposition. Obviously, such a significant change would impact all of your online and offline marketing. Given that, you would want to test any proposed messaging changes before moving forward. Bidding on your branded terms allows you to do exactly that. You can quickly and easily leverage your branded PPC efforts to rotate ads using your current value proposition versus the newly proposed one to test which one resonates best with your customers before pushing to a broader market.

Making it happen

Clearly, bidding on your branded terms is beneficial to your brand and is worth the investment. However, to create an effective brand PPC strategy, you need develop a plan that will allow you to pay as little as possible for your branded terms, while helping them operate at their full potential. Below are a few tips to help you do exactly that:

  • Improve your branded quality scores. This can most easily be achieved by placing your branded terms in their own, “always-on” account where they can build historical performance and you can easily control spend. Remember, high quality scores mean lower CPCs.
  • Closely monitor your affiliates’ activity. If your affiliates are bidding on your brand terms, they could be artificially inflating your costs. Create a contract with your affiliates that either prevents them from bidding on your brand all together, or enforces a max bid that will not raise your costs.
  • Dominate the page. Competitors and affiliates can all bid on your brand. If you are not present at the top of the paid search results, you could be missing out (or paying affiliate fees) on potential clicks.
  • Test new messaging. Before you put new ads live in other markets, leverage PPC to test how they resonate with your consumers against your current messaging.
  • Alert customers to new products or services. There is no denying that some brand searches are purely navigational. However, by capitalizing on your brand in PPC, you can use it to cross-sell or up-sell through your ad copy or landing page, something you cannot control as easily in the organic search results.

While many marketers are resistant to paying for their brand in paid search, doing so can benefit brands considerably. In fact, by developing an effective brand PPC strategy and fully capitalizing on it, a marketer can ensure that their branded terms pay for themselves.

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

Related Topics: Brand Aid | Channel: Strategy


About The Author: is a Client Services Director at iProspect, responsible for delivering superior results in digital media and providing strategic value for clients.

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  • kingaaronj

    Great article…We did a study on this about 3 years ago when a large retailer told us to pause their brand terms. The gain in revenue from organic search made up only about 30-40% of the loss in revenue from paid search.

  • Shane Horsfall

    Hello Jennifer,

    I completely agree that bidding on brand phrases is crucial, especially when competitors are bidding on your brand.

    Can you just reference where you got the 70% figure for organic visits. Figures like this get bandied around all of the time in search blogs and they usually change depending on whether they’re written by somebody with leanings towards SEO or PPC!

  • http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jamilkassam jamilkassam

    Not sure I agree with this article. This is implying that 30% of users ONLY click on PPC ads. So if someone is searching on a brand name and there is no sponsored link, does the searcher give up – I don’t think so! They are already showing intent to visit that brands website so surely if there is an organic link they will click on it to fulfill their stated goal. If the brand space is clean (which is a key point) where else do they go?

    ‘Clearly, bidding on your branded terms is beneficial to your brand’ – how do you work this out!? For something like a product recall, you could just bid on your brand name for that time period, no need to be ‘always on’.

    The title of the posting ‘Why You Need To Pay For Your Brand Terms’ is misleading as the ‘need’ is not always there, it’s down to individual cases and testing what works best for individual brands, not one rule that can be applied to all.

  • http://www.bealoud.com BeAloud

    Hi Jennifer, I am not a PPC expert, but from a SEO standpoint I agree with you: There have been so many SERP changes in the last year that it would be naive to think that bidding on brand terms isn’t necessary, even in presence of high organic results.

    A few days ago I read an interesting guide about Google AdWords Quality Score on redflymarketing.com. If I remember correctly, it seems that Dave Davis wouldn’t place branded terms on their own separate account because branded terms would generally have a higher CTR compared to other terms in the account, and this would improve the historical CTR of the account, leading to a higher quality score for all the other ads. I guess that you have to make a call depending on how much you are paying for your other ads.

    Moreover, a side effect would be decreasing the competitors’ CTR for your branded term, their normalized Quality Score and historical account CTR. What is your opinion about it?

  • http://gokayaknow.com kwikle

    I question the metric that only 30% of users click on organic results? Having run many integrated campaigns with display, ppc, email newsletters etc, I have seen the reverse. Users are exposed to multiple ads and then end up converting on organic search.

    Also when looking at media spend overall for any campaign, I think it is more of an issue of how to blend branded and non-branded terms in your buy. I think most companies get that they need branded terms, but should you give up spend on good non-branded terms for further brand terms, I would argue from a reach standpoint that his assumption is not only false, but bad advice.

  • http://jaredhuber.com jhuber

    I see the value in being able to control and test brand messaging via PPC, but disagree with the notion that every site should be buying branded terms. Since we’re working with one of the most measureable media there is, I don’t quite understand why anyone would take this advice at face value without testing the effects. For a simple test idea, buy branded terms for a week, then don’t buy branded terms for a week. Compare the overall spend versus website conversion goal for week 1 vs week 2 (granted, this is far from a perfect test, but will give you a better answer for your own unique situation than no test at all.) Thoughts?

  • http://www.thomascreekconcepts.com/ Tom Hale

    @jhuber I agree. Although “buy your brand” may be the best default advice, it can be very situational. Especially for smaller ad buys.


  • http://www.cpcsearch.com Terry Whalen

    I think bidding on branded terms is usually a good idea because of the insurance argument. SERPs are online real estate, and for branded terms it makes sense to take up as much real estate as possible in most (but not all) situations.

    Typically quality scores are very high for branded terms, avg CPCs are very low, and cost/conversion is very low. If branded terms account for 10% or less of overall budget (hopefully much less), than the upside (the sale or qualified lead does not go to a competitor) outweighs the downside (the cost of buying branded terms and the opportunity cost of not buying additional non-branded terms).

    Additional reasons given for including branded terms seem silly – algo changes would very rarely knock a #1 ranking to #2 or #3 – not for a core, branded term. Similarly, the probability that personalization would have this affect is very, very low.

    I agree with jamilkassam – the ’30% argument’ implies that 30% of users only click on paid ads, which is not true; and that the example of a product recall is silly – first of all, that happens only very rarely unless you are Toyota in 2010, and secondly you could easily fire up branded terms at the time of the recall. Same with the company that wants to change their value prop – when that happens (once every 2 years or so), then fire up branded, heh.

    •Improve your branded quality scores. This can most easily be achieved by placing your branded terms in their own, “always-on” account where they can build historical performance and you can easily control spend. Remember, high quality scores mean lower CPCs. — I think this is poor advice – there is no reason to create a totally separate account for your branded terms. There is nothing that would do for anyone in terms of quality score. Putting branded terms in a separate campaign, though, usually is a good idea – the campaign can be ‘always on’ and you can easily control budget.

    Good point that if you’re not buying branded terms, make sure affiliates are not doing so, also.

  • http://www.reactorr.com reactorr

    It also makes sense to be in that space… would be sort of odd not to show up for your own terms


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