Search as a medium is becoming more commoditised and brands are looking to make their media dollars go further, and rightly so. Clients often question why brand keywords should form part of their paid search strategy.

They ask, “If we have a high organic ranking position for our branded keywords which drives free traffic, why should we pay for traffic through paid search as well?”

Many believe that if we switch off our paid ads on brand keywords there won’t be an impact on our overall traffic volume. In some cases, this might be true. However, as experts we feel it necessary to outline the major benefits of having both paid and organic appearing for brand keywords.

Some studies have shown that branded keywords are 5X more likely to convert and paid conversion rates can be 4X that of organic conversion rates.

The demand for better strategies and smarter marketing is ever present, and we believe that the key to making your marketing budget go even further comes down to three tactics: ensuring that your brand is protected from competitors, pursuing incremental uplifts, and focusing on offering a seamless user experience.


Competitors: Bidding on another brand’s terms is allowed within paid search

Regardless of what vertical you’re in, you can assume that your competitors’ acquisition strategy includes bidding on your brand keywords to capitalise on your market share.

In this instance, it’s a no-brainer to bid on your own brand keywords to ensure brand protection and retention. Being present when and where your customers need you will ultimately help you positively influence purchasing decisions. Think about it this way: what are your customers likely to do if they search for your brand but can only see your competitors’ ad at the top of the search results page?

This is especially common in industries such as gambling and travel, where customers have the freedom to be fickle with their loyalty due to the sheer number of services, offerings and promotions available in the marketplace.

In other verticals such as retail, establishing your brand presence can be an even bigger challenge because of additional ad formats such as Google Shopping, which can push your organic listing even further down the page, below the fold. In situations like this, brand bidding will help your business stay visible, competitive and relevant to your audience.

The above screen shows the result of not protecting your brand against competitors. In this example, we fell victim to a competitor bidding on our brand in a restricted geographic radius. It just goes to show how important it is to monitor your brand terms from different locations and times.


Seek out incremental uplift

You’ve probably already seen Google’s study around incremental uplift that shows that 96% of traffic is incremental when ads are appearing against organic listings when ranking 5 or higher.

Source: Google Research Blog, 2012

There are a few different schools of thought when it comes to brand bidding, and some advertisers believe that it is essentially a counterproductive strategy that affects the growth of organic traffic and revenue.

In addition to the research above, we’ve also tested with an “amplification” approach which looks at the causal effect of paid brand keywords on incremental organic traffic as well. The test took into account brand-term traffic from both organic-only and paid-only, and was conducted over a number of controlled vs test geo-groups across Australia.

What we found was that the test group’s total year-on-year search traffic from Jan – Aug saw an 18% uplift. Organic traffic increased by 22%, with an additional 6% increment on branded paid search.

Additionally, search revenue was boosted by 31% year-on-year from Jan-Aug, with a 36% uplift on organic and 25% on paid search (brand).

More importantly, the path to conversion contribution from paid search (brand) to organic increased by 23%, proving that the first touch point on branded paid search leads to more assisted conversions on organic as well. Additionally, the organic to paid search path to conversion also saw a 32% uplift.


Seamless user experience: don’t just bid on brand, bid strategically on brand

Customer expectations have evolved and it’s now the new norm for them to expect more from any brand regardless of vertical. Brands that heed their customers’ needs and intent by offering them a personalised experience are brands that will truly thrive in the long term.

The ability to provide timely, personalised and relevant messaging through remarketing is a key factor that truly sets paid search apart from organic. In a recent Google study, it was noted that 63% of digital customers expect a brand to use purchase history to provide personalised experiences from the very top of the funnel.

Targeting an audience via Google’s Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) and 1st party data through Customer Match gives you the ability to define your most valuable customer segments and serve them with tailored ads.

Now put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It has been 7 days since your last online t-shirt purchase from “Brand X”, and you’ve decided that you’d like to get more t-shirts to add to your wardrobe.

You immediately search for the exact brand keyword “Brand X”, and are pleasantly surprised to see an ad that says ‘Shop The Latest Brand X T-Shirts’ instead of an evergreen brand ad. Wouldn’t that make you feel more engaged and increase your sentiment towards “Brand X”?

In fact, this accelerates the purchase funnel and provides customers with a seamless shopping experience, further enhancing their brand experience with you. Retail advertisers who have tested with this method have generally seen an average 48% uplift in conversion rate, and 60% increase in ROAS.

Hopefully this has provided you with some of the ways brand can be used within a paid search strategy. It does vary on a case-by-case basis, however if you’re still not convinced we’d be more than happy to discuss your brand strategy further with you.

Damien Tang

Damien is a Digital Strategist at iProspect Australia whose goal is to help businesses grow through in-depth omni-channel strategies across SEM, paid social, programmatic and automation.