Do I Really Need to Bid on Branded Keywords?

brandedkeywordIf someone is already searching for your brand online, do you really need to bid on your branded keywords?  I did some research on this question and found the answer to be a resounding, “yes.”  In this post I share why you need to bid on your branded keywords and how you can measure the effectiveness of your branded PPC campaigns. And I also share a little news about Google currently testing branded banner ads for search. Here we go!

Why You Should Bid on Branded Keywords

According to Ben Lloyd of Amplify Interactive, click through rates are higher for brands that have both an organic and a paid presence on the web. Putting effort into your organic SEO and your PPC will help your brand own more space on the search engine results page, which is extremely helpful in getting more clicks and traffic for your site. Conversion rates for keywords that show both an organic and paid result are higher as well. Lloyd suggests that the dual results can create more credibility for your brand in the eyes of the user.

It’s also important to control what shows on the search engine results page for your branded keywords because you want to make sure the searcher is receiving the right message and the right link for a given keyword. You can use your PPC campaign to better direct traffic for those keywords because you can target your ad copy and use ad extensions to provide even more information if needed. It’s simply not possible to have this level of control over your search results by using organic SEO alone.

Another important factor to think about with regards to the search engine results page is browser size. If you don’t own the top ad slot for your branded keywords, your competitors will end up pushing your organic result way down the page. Lloyd gives great visual examples of this on his blog post. He has also published some extremely useful graphs that show the differences in conversions and click through rates between PPC & organic vs. organic only campaigns. You can see the full post here:

Measuring the Effectiveness of Branded Campaigns

It might be a good strategy to separate the goals you have for your branded vs. non-branded campaigns. Branded keywords and non-branded keywords most likely have different objectives, so you may have different ways of measuring whether or not they are successful. For example, you may use branded keywords to encourage specific action from users, such as clicks and conversions, so you’d want to measure those. On the other hand, you may use non-branded keywords to try to get your company in front of users searching for those terms to generate brand awareness. In this case, you’d want to measure the number of impressions instead of clicks and conversions.

A great way to find out if your branded PPC campaign is effective or not is to do a before and after test and then compare the total traffic. According to Craig Galyon of SwellPath, you should choose a period of time to run your PPC campaigns without the branded keywords and again with branded keywords. Of course, there will be some variance because your test will be over two different date ranges, so you will want to make sure that you have chosen a time period for your business that has the lowest amount of fluctuation (no major events or seasonality factors involved).  Galyon also created an excellent step-by-step guide of how to measure the effectiveness of your branded keywords. You can find it here:

New Branded Banner Ads Test on Google

Bidding on your branded keywords may become even more important in the future. Search Engine Land reported that Google is experimenting with branded banner ads attached to branded keywords. It’s being called “the brand image experiment” and approximately 30 advertisers are participating, including Crate & Barrel and Virgin America. @SynrgyHQ provided Search Engine Land a screenshot of Virgin’s banner ad. Have a look at it here:

The banner ad is paired with organic search results for Virgin, making it appear to be one large ad. If these new branded display ads are fully rolled out, branded keywords will become even more important for any business. If your competitor has a branded banner ad, it will take up the majority of the real estate on the first page of search results, and therefore, the majority of clicks and traffic. Since we can already see Google putting more emphasis on branded search, it’s probably a good strategy to keep up your efforts regarding your own branded search.


Branded keywords are highly relevant to the searcher. If someone is searching directly for your brand, they know exactly what they’re looking for. In turn, your branded keywords will also end up being your highest-converting keywords because of how relevant they are to the user. However, don’t fall into the trap that customers who search for your brand will find you whether or not you bid on your branded keywords. If you aren’t bidding on your branded keywords, you will become an open target for your competitors. Don’t forget, relevant keywords cost less so it will be less expensive for you to take the top paid spot for your brand. And now with Google testing large branded banner ads,  it is probably a good time to take control of your brand and make sure that you are in the top paid spot for all your branded search terms.