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To Brand bid or not to Brand bid?

Written by Tom | 23-Feb-2015 14:50:00

A common client query for our PPC campaign managers is “should we bid on our Brand term?”  The client is asking whether or not it is a good use of budget to bid on their own brand name in paid search. On the surface the question they pose is a logical one.  After all, if they rank no.1 in organic search results when a search using their Brand name is made, won’t they just be paying for a click we would get anyway through their natural search listing?

However, when you dig below the surface you find the question is not a simple one to answer. This is because, there is a huge variety in the branded searches people may perform depending on a number of variables and the actions of your direct competitors need to be taken into account when making a decision.

Brand searches can be categorised as follows to illustrate this point:

  • Pure brand – searches for just the brand name and nothing else
  • Brand product – searches for one of the specific products or services you offer which contain the brand name
  • Brand long tail – other searches that are not product specific but might be informational searches including the brand term.
  • Existing customers – searches performed by your existing customer base as a short cut route to your site

There is a risk that for complex searches your site won’t appear top in natural search listings because other sites, such as retailers of your products might rank better. Winning organic search traffic through SEO is often thought of as free traffic. However achieving search engine visibility increasingly requires advanced technical and creative skills. Possessing those skills internally or outsourcing through an agency clearly has associated costs. It will also take time for a website to build authority and obtain natural links that contribute to it ranking in the search engine results pages.

For the purposes of simplicity let’s assume that you have invested in building a website that is technically sound, indexable and crawlable by the search engine spiders and has been up and running for some time. Therefore in theory you would have little challenge in appearing organically for branded searches.

Why would you want to pay for branded traffic then?

1. Consider the scenario where a competitor is bidding directly on your branded terms. They must be able to generate economic profit by piggy backing on the awareness of your brand otherwise their strategy is not credible in the long term. In this scenario that competitor will be taking some of your valuable branded traffic away from your website through their paid for search ads appearing above or beside your organic search results listing. You should consider the impact of losing that traffic and given the typically low click costs associated with bidding on your own brand, consider protecting your brand in the SERPs.


Brand PPC traffic carries relatively low click costs primarily because there is little more relevant when someone is searching for you, than a link to your website. In the AdWords auction relevancy is rewarded by high quality scores which translate into lower average CPC costs for a given achieved position. Watch this video for a comprehensive look at the AdWords auction. 

2. A branded product search contains the product or service that you offer. Obvious statement but what you will typically find therefore is that there will be active SERP competition as a result. Other advertisers will appear despite not actually bidding on your brand term per se, but through matching to the product / service specific element of the search.  Again you should consider the impact of losing traffic to those competitors. In the example below other digital marketing agencies are matching to the “digital marketing agency” part of the search query.


3. Limited time offers or frequently changing offers.  Brand PPC ads are a cost effective way of articulating those constantly changing offers when compared with making frequent changes to content on webpages that will only be live for short periods of time. So even where there is no competition bidding on your brand term you should weigh up the costs of website development time (and the impracticality of changing page meta descriptions constantly which don’t immediately update in natural search anyway) against serving brand ads and making those offer changes to your PPC ads.

4. The ability to deep link users where a deeper intent is revealed. This is really an extension of point 3 as by structuring your AdWords account in a granular fashion you can deliver users to exactly the right page for a featured offer or information. As it is not always possible to get the optimal destination page to rank organically for a particular branded long tail search the flexibility and absolute control offered by PPC ads can be hugely beneficial; improving user journeys, driving higher conversion rates or average basket values.

When may you not want to pay for branded traffic?

If the search intent has revealed that the user is already an existing customer then you may not want to pay for that traffic. For example “Company X log in” or “Company X customer services”. Unless there is an opportunity to cross - sell to existing customers then paying for them to reach your log in seems daft. Implementing negatives or using negative exclusion audiences with RLSA are great ways of ensuring you do not pay for these clicks.

There is a consensus that total search traffic is greater when you have paid and organic presence in the SERPs. 

We have frequently seen the same phenomena when analysing this issue for our clients, but data should always be at the heart of any strategy decision. It’s important to know the answers to questions such as:

“In the presence of search ads from competitors what volume of traffic do you lose to that competition? If you switch brand ads off do you pick up all the clicks lost in organic search clicks?” 

Weighing up the value of that traffic against the costs of serving PPC ads will determine whether or not you should brand bid. Read our joined up SEM blog here.

"What is the relative revenue per visit from paid Vs organic clicks?”


Through being able to easily showcase your top offers, direct users deeper into the website or more directly towards acquisition funnels, click through rate and paid revenue per visit is often higher than organic revenue per visit, so once you know this you can calculate if you can afford to lose the paid clicks.

Accessing query level data is more challenging in the “not provided” era but leveraging WMT data through the AdWords Paid Vs Organic report can also help shape decisions (you will need to link your WMT and AdWords accounts).

There are many factors to consider when answering the question “Should we brand bid?” and we haven’t even touched on the role of digital channels in maximising investment in other channels such as TV, radio and social media.

These considerations are part of daily life within the search team here at equimedia and your paid search team or agency should be able to give you a definitive answer to this question by looking at the value of your PPC and organic search traffic, the role they both play, your market context and your overall marketing strategy, channels, aims and objectives.

We are constantly striving to deliver the maximum return from our clients SEM marketing budgets as a whole and as part of a joined up marketing strategy to fuel business growth.  Please read through our case studies or get in contact with us to find out how we can help improve your paid search performance and help you grow your business today.