Yes, you should bid on your branded keywords to protect your brand from the competition. Read on to learn more about strategies that work.
Here, you’ll find:
- What branded keywords are
- Our take on whether or not you should bid on your own brand terms
- Reasons to bid on brand terms (and reasons not to)
- How to deal with competitors bidding on your brand terms
The strategy behind your branded search and ad campaigns can be pivotal in keeping hold of or growing your market share.
This blog delves into the nuances of when to bid on your own brand name and will share actionable insights for how you can optimize your ad campaigns effectively.
What are branded keywords?
Branded keywords are specific search terms that include the name of your brand, product, or company within the search query.
For example, our company is “HawkSEM,” so some of our branded keywords could be “HawkSEM services” or “HawkSEM reviews.”
Or let’s say your brand is Apple. Some of your brand terms might be “iPhone” or “Macbook.”
Branded keywords are directly associated with your brand, products, or services. When users search for these terms on search engines like Google, the results often prominently feature your brand’s website or related content.
Should you bid on your own brand terms?
Short answer: Yes.
Abigail Beene, one of HawkSEM’s SEM managers, explained to us a bit more about why bidding on branded keywords is worth your time.
“Often, especially in highly competitive industries, your competitors will bid on your brand name to try to outrank you,” she says. “If you have someone searching for your company, they will want to appear next to you or above you on the search results page so potential customers can check out their brand instead.
When people search for your brand, product, or service, your website usually appears at the top of the search results. If you’re in a competitive industry or have poor search engine optimization (SEO), this may not be true. Additionally, your competitors may appear above your organic listings.
Still, why would you want to spend more of your pay-per-click (PPC) ad budget getting ahead of your organic results with Google ads (formerly AdWords)?
It’s a good question. And it leaves a lot of experienced marketers confused. While the answer certainly is that sometimes you don’t want to run brand campaigns (we’ll get into that later), there are some uses to having your branded keywords included in your search marketing strategy.
Beene says branded keywords are typically very affordable and have low CPCs and CPLs. The lower cost and higher conversion rates are certainly a win.
“So setting aside a small amount of your advertising budget to ensure you show up at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) when users search for you is definitely a best practice,” Beene explains.
Reasons to bid on brand terms
- Brand visibility: Bidding on branded keywords ensures that your brand’s name appears prominently in the SERPs. This enhances your brand’s online visibility.
- Control over messaging: By bidding on branded keywords, you control the ad content and messaging users see when searching for your brand. This allows you to tailor the message to promote specific products, offers, or events.
- Competitive edge: It prevents competitors from outranking you for searches related to your brand, protecting your impression share and ensuring that potential customers find you first.
- High relevance: Branded keywords typically have high relevance to your audience. Users searching for your brand name are often more likely to convert as they already have some familiarity with your brand.
- Protecting against negative sentiment: Bidding on branded keywords can help mitigate the impact of negative reviews or unfavorable content by ensuring positive brand messaging appears first.
Bidding on your own brand name: Pros & cons
Bidding on your brand name in Google Search may seem counterintuitive at first. However, you should consider these pros and cons when deciding whether or not you should bid on your own brand terms.
Bidding on your own brand name: 5 pros
1. Maximize brand awareness
By bidding on your branded keywords, you ensure your brand occupies prime real estate on SERPs. This dominance sends a powerful signal of authority and can reinforce brand recognition.
2. Control your messaging
Brand bidding allows you to dictate the ad copy, call-to-action, and landing page, providing a level of message control that organic results cannot match. This is particularly beneficial for promoting specific products, offers, or events.
It’s worth noting that when it comes to organic SERPs, while you can submit a meta description with your pages, Google does not always use it in the SERPs, so you don’t always get the content you want.
3. Enjoy high quality scores
Branded keywords typically have high Quality Scores since they closely align with your ad content and landing page. “You also have the ability to send users to a landing page in branded campaigns instead of your main website, which could be better optimized for conversions,” Beene explains.
According to WordStream, a good Quality Score for branded keywords is between 8 and 10. Whereas a good Quality Score for high-intent commercial keywords is 7 to 9, and for low-intent, it’s only 7.
This higher Quality Score can result in lower click costs and improved ad placement, ultimately stretching your advertising budget further.
4. Gain a competitive advantage
Bidding on your brand name safeguards against competitors hijacking your brand-related traffic. This is essential to maintain your market share and prevent potential customers from being lured away by the competition.
5. Improve your conversion rate
Given their familiarity with your brand, visitors who use branded keywords tend to have a higher intent to convert. This often leads to superior conversion rates compared to other search terms.
Bidding on your own brand name: 5 cons
1. Spending ad dollars on people who already know your name
A significant factor in directing ad strategy is the cost of ads. While branded keywords typically have lower click costs, they are not entirely immune to competition.
In highly competitive markets, the cost per click (CPC) for branded keywords can increase, impacting your overall ad spend. Bidding on branded keywords with high intent can also filter spend away from other keywords that might convert.
2. You may cannibalize organic traffic
The primary reason brands have for steering away from brand bidding is that it can divert traffic from your organic listing. If you have strong SEO for branded terms that you worked hard to get, you may be concerned that bidding on your brand may eat away at your organic performance.
This is why you should plan your brand strategy as a whole rather than by channel. You’ll be able to make the most of every resource when you have a holistic plan.
Using Google Ads or Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing) for brand campaigns can result in increased advertising costs and potentially cause organic click-through rates (CTR) to decline.
3. Questionable return
For established brands with high organic visibility, the incremental value of brand bidding can be questionable. Determining the true value of brand bidding requires sophisticated attribution modeling.
4. Risking ad fatigue
Over time, users may become immune to brand ads if they see them too frequently. Crafting fresh ad content and periodically optimizing your brand bidding strategy is another cost to consider when bidding on branded keywords.
Still on the fence about creating a branded campaign?
“Sometimes companies can be hesitant to run a branded campaign, as they think that they could have gotten those conversions without spending any money if a user was already actively searching for them,” Beene tells us.
She feels the pros outweigh that small con. “We can’t say for certain that user would have converted without seeing the branded campaign, as they may have gone to a competitor instead.”
5. Skewed analytics
Often, we look at our paid ad analytics as a whole rather than breaking it down by campaign or part of the funnel it targets. Because of this, a branded campaign could skew your analytics a bit.
“If you are looking at conversion rates and cost per lead on an account level, sometimes having a high-converting branded campaign can make your metrics seem a little inflated,” says Beene. That’s because users searching for your brand name already have a much higher intention of converting than those searching for the product or service you offer in general.”
Beene notes that if you’re using a small budget for this campaign, it shouldn’t inflate those metrics too much.
“Also, because we have the ability to segment reporting by campaign, it’s easy enough to determine your conversion metrics of just non-branded efforts without factoring in the results from branded,” states Beene.
When should you bid on your own company name?
Now you know the pros and cons of bidding on branded keywords, let’s take a look at some examples of when you would and would not want to add branded keywords to your bidding strategy.
1. Build brand recognition and trust
If your brand is relatively new or not widely recognized, bidding on your own brand name can help establish credibility and increase brand visibility.
For example, if you are a startup in the online streaming industry bidding on its brand name to gain recognition among competitors in a competitive niche.
2. Stand out in a competitive landscape
In highly competitive industries, bidding on branded keywords is often essential to maintain your market share and prevent competitors from diverting your traffic.
For example, an e-commerce giant is bidding on its brand name to fend off competitors in a crowded online marketplace.
3. Protect your brand reputation
When you face reputation management challenges or want to counteract negative sentiment, brand bidding allows you to control the narrative and promote positive messages.
For example, a restaurant chain could use brand bidding to mitigate the impact of negative reviews by showcasing their top-rated dishes.
4. Achieve specific marketing goals
If you have some specific marketing goals, such as promoting a limited-time offer, event, or a new product launch, brand bidding can help you target users searching for those specific terms.
When should you avoid brand name bidding?
While bidding on branded keywords offers numerous benefits, there are situations where there might be a better strategy.
1. You have a strong organic presence
If your brand’s organic search results dominate the SERPs for your brand name and related terms, bidding on your own brand name may not be cost-effective.
2. You’ve got a limited budget
If your budget is restricted, prioritizing non-branded keywords may yield a better return on investment (ROI). Allocate resources where they can have the most significant impact.
For example, a small local bakery with limited advertising funds is better off focusing on non-branded keywords to attract a wider local audience.
3. You have minimal competition
If there is little to no competition for your branded keywords, the necessity to bid is reduced. Users are likely to find your website organically.
For example, if you have a niche software company with unique products with little to no market competition, you may not need to bid on branded keywords.
4. Value has diminished incrementally
For well-established brands with high organic visibility, the incremental value of brand bidding may be limited.
For example, a long-established luxury car manufacturer that has strong organic results will typically get a marginal benefit from brand bidding.
What if my competitors bid on my branded keywords?
Above, we mentioned that one of the pros of bidding on your branded keywords is the comparative advantage. This is because it can mitigate your competitors bidding on your brand.
But just how likely is it that your competitors would bid on your keywords?
In the realm of paid search, it’s not uncommon for competitors to keep a watchful eye on your brand’s performance and, in some cases, bid on your branded keywords.
This can lead to a complex dynamic that demands vigilance and strategic thinking.
Why would my competitors bid on my keywords?
Gain market share
Competitors may bid on your branded keywords to siphon off a portion of your brand’s traffic and market share. If your brand is well-known and trusted, it becomes an attractive target to competing brands in your industry.
A competitor might perceive vulnerabilities in your brand, such as a lapse in product offerings, pricing, or customer service. By bidding on your keywords, competitors can exploit these weaknesses.
Promote alternative solutions
Competitors might use your branded keywords to promote their alternative products or services as superior to yours. This can create confusion among your customers.
Sometimes, bidding on a competitor’s branded keywords can be a defensive move. If your brand competes with multiple rivals, bidding on their brand names can serve as a countermeasure to protect your own branded keyword territory.
Strategies to counter competitor bidding
If you have noticed that some competitors are bidding on your branded keywords, there are a few things that you can do to try to combat this.
If competitors use your trademark in their ads (not keywords) you can file a complaint with search engines or platforms. This is especially effective when using your brand in their ads is misleading or violates trademark laws.
Enhance ad relevance
Continuously optimize your ad content and landing pages to ensure that your PPC ads are highly relevant to your branded keywords. This can boost your Quality Score and make it more challenging for competitors to compete effectively.
Typically, competitors will get a low Quality Score for bidding on your branded keywords. But if you, yourself, are not bidding on them and they have no other competition, their ads can then still show up, even with a low Quality Score of 3-5.
Tracking and competitive intelligence
Use competitive intelligence tools to monitor competitor activity, including their ad spend, keyword targeting, and ad copy variations.
If you need help with your competitor tracking, you can check out ConversionIQ. This is our proprietary marketing tool that is built to drive actionable insights, full-funnel attribution, and high-quality conversions and can give you insights into your competitor’s bidding strategy.
By staying informed, you can adapt your bidding strategy proactively to maintain your brand’s competitive edge.
Should I create a branded campaign if I don’t have many competitors?
Many advertisers falsely believe that because they feel they have few, if any, competitors, a branded campaign wouldn’t be beneficial.
“I definitely think there are still benefits to creating a branded campaign, even if you don’t have a lot of competitors,” Beene says.
She gives us a few examples of where they can help.
- Supplementing SEO for new companies: If your company is still very new, you may not show at the top of the search results page even with people searching for your brand terms because it can take time to rank organically.
- Ensure you show when similar brand names exist: If your brand name is similar to a different brand name (even if it’s a different industry), it could also be beneficial to set aside a small amount of budget to ensure you are showing first for your potential customers.
- Boosting an omni-channel strategy: Branded campaigns can be an important part of your omni-channel strategy.
“If you’re running ads on LinkedIn, you want to measure the brand lift from that campaign,” says Beene. “You can create an observation audience in your branded campaign for users who have visited your website from LinkedIn. This will show how much of that LinkedIn audience is actively searching for your brand after seeing your ads.”
Competitor campaigns: the opposite of brand campaigns
While we’re on the topic of branded campaigns, it’s worth mentioning competitor campaigns. This is when you bid on your competitor’s brand name in the hopes that if your ads show up with your competitor’s ads, you may be able to convert a portion of those impressions.
In some industries, competition here can be just as fierce as it is with your core keywords. In others, you can ask your competition to stop bidding on your brand name. They may not even be doing it on purpose.
If your brand has a keyword in it or your competition uses phrase or broad match keywords, their ads may inadvertently show on your name. Sometimes, you can ask them to use negative keywords to avoid showing on your name.
These campaigns are another reason to bid on your brand name. If a competitor takes the top spot, you may miss out on clicks and revenue. The bottom line is brand campaigns are beneficial for most advertisers.
Without them, you may be missing out on conversions and revenue that will help you scale your business.
The art of bidding on your brand name in Google Ads campaigns proves to be a multifaceted strategy. It can deliver great results when you would like to improve brand awareness and stand out in a competitive landscape.
While you may gain a competitive advantage, you also have to consider cons like cannibalizing your traffic and questionable return.
Our best answer is to craft a strategy that gives you the biggest wins and has the least potential for damage.