Brand bidding is often touted as a hotly debated topic in paid media. That said, a cursory glance will reveal that the typical advice given by PPC experts is to bid on it, without exception. But the question is whether this is good advice or just self-serving. Let’s look at each of the main arguments for brand bidding in more detail and see if the answer is a bit more nuanced and not just black and white.
- Protect your brand
If you have competitors appearing for brand terms, either in paid or organic then yes, you need to consider how you protect this traffic stream and PPC brand bidding is an obvious option, along with improving your SEO rankings. On the flip side, if you have limited or no competition, it really is worth considering pausing branded PPC.
Logic would dictate that if a user is searching specifically for your brand, then they want to visit your site or engage with content. If your SERPs don’t contain competitors and only links associated with properties you own, then the benefits of bidding on brand terms become dubious.
Even if you are convinced that you will lose some brand traffic in this scenario, you need to ask yourself if the incremental value that PPC provides is worth it. Let’s say you lose 5% of brand traffic by turning off PPC brand. What that’s telling you is that 95% of your PPC brand traffic did nothing.
In other words, because you would have to appear on 100% of those impressions to protect your brand loses, a £10,000 brand spend which usually would get a £100,000 return, would actually have an incremental return of just £5,000 When viewed this way your ROI goes from 9.00 to -0.5.
- Dominate the SERPs
Dominating the SERPs is a desirable goal for a lot of advertisers, however, this argument falters if you are already dominating the SERPs without a paid ad hogging the top spot. If you don’t have paid competitors bidding on your brand terms and you have good organic rankings for your owned properties you already dominate the SERPs and are just paying to push all your other listings down the page.
If you do have some organic competitors creeping onto your first page results, you should look to manage your other properties outside of your main site. This is a good way to ensure that you capture as many organic listings as possible and push any SEO competitors of the first page longer term. Ensure that your social media sites, Wikipedia page, and local listing are optimized and appearing for brand terms.
- Control your messaging
It’s often argued that PPC is better at controlling message and landing page choice. While it is indeed more agile at both, you still have control from an SEO point of view. SEO’s have been optimizing listing copy in the meta descriptions since SEO began and any half decent SEO team will have categorized your pages and actively optimized your brand terms to land on the most appropriate pages.
Potentially if you have a sale running or have launched a new range, you may want to quickly reflect this in your copy. But again, if you have no competitors, it’s logical that you will get the click anyway and you can use your landing page to convey any important messaging.
- Your brand terms are cheap
Brand terms often are cheaper than non-brand terms, but unless they add benefits, it is just an additional and unnecessary cost. You could be using that spend on other new customer driving activity to grow your business.
- Capture high-quality traffic near the point of conversion
PPC managers and teams love to bid on brands because it converts well, makes reports look great and can mask poor performing activity.
This obviously isn’t a good enough reason on its own and only applies if you must defend from losing conversions against competitors. Otherwise, you are just taking credit for conversions you already would have received.
- Brand terms improve overall account quality score
The premise here is that brand bidding will improve overall quality score and therefore decrease cost per clicks on other terms (at least in the early stages when you launch new keywords and they are yet to establish a QS). However, Google has never admitted that account level quality score exists. They have chopped and changed QS measurement over the years, all new keywords used to launch with a QS of 6, now they start at zero and build as they accrue data. According to Google, keywords are assessed on their own merit and gain a quality score once they build data. PPC experts have asserted that account level QS exists, but we have little hard evidence to support that claim, so the known benefit is wishy-washy at best.
My view is that brand bidding should be avoided if possible. A PPC manager will only add value by growing prospecting activity, not piggybacking off the success of a brand name.
If you can turn off brand, ensure that you break your brand terms into different categories and assess the need to bid on them independently. A core brand term [brand x] may have no competition, but a brand + product term [brand x shoes] may be more likely to receive competition as other advertisers broad match on the product term (rather than directly bidding on your brand). Also, add negatives as well as pausing keywords and continue to monitor the situation, in case competitors appear.
If you must bid on brand, then task your PPC manager with making it work for you as efficiently as possible, getting that traffic cheaply. If it’s within your power, take steps to remove the need to bid on a brand. Boost SEO rankings on other owned properties, like Facebook and Wikipedia, reach out to resellers and even competitors about brand bidding, you may be able to reach an agreement to stop bidding on each other’s terms.
Do remember to assess your situation on a case by case basis and understand if brand bidding is right for you.