What Trademark Search Data Can Reveal About User Behavior

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been challenged by advertisers on the topic of trademark search. The question is simple: why “waste” money buying traffic on trademark keywords when it is clear that the user intends to get to their site?

Researching the topic, there have been a number of studies all concluding that it is worthwhile to advertise on trademarked search terms. A selection of notable articles include:

  1. Think Insights with Google: Search Ads Pause
  2. ChannelAdvisor: The Value of Bidding on Brand Terms in Paid Search
  3. SearchEngineLand: Should You Bid on a Keyword if you Rank Organically for that Term?

But no matter the validity of the articles that I cite in my case to promote advertising on trademark keywords, I get the same negative reaction from clients. So I’m taking matters into my own hands and proving my case – creating a clean testing environment to deliver a truly insightful and conclusive result.

The Case

Question: Does paid search on trademark drive incremental conversions over and above natural search?

To create the cleanest test environment, we advertised aggressively (impression share in the 98-100% range) on trademark keywords for a full 30-day cookie cycle, then paused and negative targeted those keywords for the following 30-day cookie cycle. For consistent performance measurement, we used Google Analytics for day of conversion attribution.

The goal CPA for the advertiser is $5.

Here’s the breakdown of performance over the two periods:


Comparison the two periods, we observing significantly more visits and conversions during period 1 when paid search was running in full force:


We must assume that there was some cannibalization of conversions during period 1 – people that would have converted via organic search clicked on the paid search link.

As a result, to calculate the true performance of paid search in Period 1 we take the incremental conversions (Period 1 conversions minus Period 2 conversions) and the total cost of paid search in Period 1:

Incremental CPA: $78,000 / 21,410 = $3.64

Conclusion: $3.64 is less than the $5 goal CPA. Even [conservatively] associating 100% of the cost of paid search with just the incremental conversions driven by paid search, buying trademark keywords in paid is profitable. Paid search delivers an 8% lift in visits and an 18% lift in conversions.

Beyond The Bottom Line

Other than resolving the profitability discussion, there are some other questions brought up by this analysis:

  • Why are there 490,000 incremental visits when paid search is enabled?
  • Are visits from paid search more valuable than visits from organic search?
  • Why is conversion rate from paid search so much higher than organic?

It’s entirely logical to believe that when a user searches a trademarked term their intent is to get to the brand website – this is the logic executives use when refusing to advertise for this segment of traffic.

That said, the data clearly shows that not all users get to the brand website. Maybe they get sidetracked in news results or other semi-relevant indexed pages. Regardless, these searches are highly relevant and the users are qualified – missing these clicks is leaving money on the table.

While pulling the data for this case study, I stumbled across a few golden nuggets providing unique insight into who’s clicking on a paid search link versus the organic link.

In most cases, new user acquisition is more valuable than a return user converting due to perceived lifetime value of the new user versus the return user.

Most advertising campaigns are designed to drive new users, but trademark search implies brand affinity, indicating that the customer clicking on a trademark search link has a higher likelihood of being a return visitor.

During the same two test periods analyzed above, here is the data for new versus return visits:

A click on a trademark paid search link is over 4.5 times more likely to be a new visitor than a click on trademark organic link. While this may not seem like a revelation, it begins to explain why more visits occur with PPC on.

Comparing the two periods, the incremental traffic driven by paid search proves to be relatively skewed towards new visitors:

As you can see, 19% (92,975 / 490,000) of incremental visits driven by paid search are new visitors. Conversion-based profitability aside, increasing new visits by 19% (92,975 / 499,625) is arguably worth the cost.

This still doesn’t answer why visits from paid search convert so much better than visits from organic search. It’s all about calls to action and optimized landing pages.

The advertisers’ ability to control the messaging, provide incentives and deeper links in the ad copy attracts new visitors who might just be browsing around in an informational search session. Conversion focused landing pages delivered by call to action based links drive users who would otherwise not even click to engage with the site and eventually convert.

Consider the following example on the trademark term [pizza hut] (this study has nothing to do with Pizza Hut and this is merely an example):

The organic listing shows several deeper links, however there’s no real call to action. In the paid ad, deal-specific sitelinks (shown below the ad copy) incent and qualify users, dropping them further into the conversion funnel than a simple link to the homepage. Strategically tested calls to action and purchase incentives directly increase conversion rates.

Bringing It Together

Increasing new visitors and profitable conversions are good things. Even when all logic indicates that the process is unnecessary and it’s wasted money, the data doesn’t lie.

If you are fighting the good fight at your company, make a case to get aggressive on trademark keywords for a week or a month and then let the numbers tell the story. Any good executive should be able to look at the numbers and embrace the performance.

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

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Search & Analytics


About The Author: is the Vice President of Performance Marketing and Analytics at SellPoints and is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | LinkedIn


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  • Jeff Lotz

    Love the article, great job Benny. We always recommend ppc domination for the clients business brand names and receive the same resistance. Crazy not to own-it. Your ads will have a higher quality score than your competition making the actual ppc down right cheap and with decent call to actions the new customer conversions are sweet spot nice. Make it happen.

  • http://twitter.com/funkydigichris Chris Barnard

    It’s a great article on a subject that all online personnel need to discuss with their executives at a point. I would say that I think industry, competition and budgets have to come into the equation as if you have a very small budget for your paid search, targeting keywords that you can convert in natural search would not be sensible.

  • http://twitter.com/Mel66 Melissa Mackey

    Great article and analysis! Another reason to bid on your own trademarks is to keep competitors from stealing your traffic. Even with trademark restrictions, this still happens.


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