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During this week’s PPCChat session, host Julie F Bacchini gathered expert opinions on bidding on brand terms in search. This discussion also focused on when it is appropriate to bid on brand terms and when it is not, what is the most misjudged aspect of bidding on brand terms and more.

Do it so you can contain them from your non-branded. @navahf

My general feeling on bidding on brand is that you shouldn’t have to bid on them, but you very often must. And it is essential to keep branded and nonbranded separated so you can get real data that is useful and not skewed by combining both. @NeptuneMoon

Get the easy wins. Control your creative when you’re running offline. @ferkungamaboobo

For early startups I might encourage them to be efficient on ad spend and let organic do the work – they’re probably not having competitors target their brand keywords anyways. For everyone else– bid on brand terms to capture wins and protect against competitors. @KatelynConroy

@KatelynConroy you bring up an interesting point about WHEN to bid on brand terms too. Because no brand bidding conversation is complete without talking about awareness! @NeptuneMoon

If there’s a reason to like not ranking well for their brand name or competitors are bidding on it, I say go for it. @adwordsgirl

It is a tricky one for me. I personally don’t encourage them, but there are instances where it makes sense to do so. When competitors are bidding on your brand is one of them. I’ve done some tests and found that even if no one is bidding on your brand, the CTR improves by at least 20% if you run a branded campaign. @arnolditdepends

Well, let’s be honest here too – Google is forcing some things to change around brand bidding too with competitor names now matching to both branded and non-branded terms. @NeptuneMoon

Do it. 1) I believe in account-based quality scores, which brand campaigns theoretically help boost. 2) Owning more of the real estate in the SERP from paid and organic boosts overarching CTR. 3) Defends from competitors drafting on your awareness by stealing your brand traffic.  @BryceLiggins

It’s like insurance. It protects from a competitor getting above you on the SERP. And it can help you send traffic to a better LP if your homepage isn’t the best. @robert_brady

For PR reasons I definitely do. people hate a bill they have to pay, so worth owning the conversation about who is this brand. on the restaurant side, Mcdonald’s can just outbid us whenever they way, so I need to own the brand terms. @JuliaVyse

Absolutely do it. @navahf said it, but you need to especially with PMax campaigns running in your account, so your brand shows up for those terms.Also, the way matching works, your competitors may not be purposefully bidding on your name, but match types being what they are, they will show up for your brand. Lastly, @BryceLiggins mentioned it, but quality score is really high for your own brand terms so take advantage of that. I lied, one more lastly. Insurance…@lchasse

There are use cases for branded campaigns: @teabeeshell

  1. You’re a new company, and your organic results are not yet reaching top-of-SERP placement (temporary)
  2. You have a time-gated deal that your organic listings do not surface or surface well/reliably (strategic, and also temporary)
  3. You have competitors actively bidding on your brand name or branded product names (defensive play, even if just vs. Amazon)
  4. You want to feed Google Ads with “easy” conversion data against which it can model for non-branded efforts (unproven, but likely “tax” situation)

Q2: Are there any situations or circumstances when you think it is an absolute MUST to bid on brand terms?

Go-to-market. Slogans. SEO weak. Offline ads. @ferkungamaboobo

When competitors aggressively bid on your brand name. @robert_brady

Poor organic ranking & when competitors bid on the brand name. @adwordsgirl

Strongly competitive situations and if you have a local business, for sure. @NeptuneMoon

When a new program is being launched and search isn’t directed for it yet. @JuliaVyse

Tough to spell businesses. Brand names that have other/unrelated results owning the top of the pack. @BryceLiggins

If your brand does a lot of television, catalog, radio, etc… types of ads, 100% yes. We need to ensure our ads are displaying in those situations not our competitors. A smart competitor may bid of ads for brands doing a lot of other marketing efforts to take advantage of your own increased activity. @lchasse

To piggyback on what @lchasse said – if the brand is doing a lot of awareness advertising or doing trade shows, consumer shows, etc. then you want to be extra sure you will capture that generated demand for your brand! @NeptuneMoon

I also often look at brand PPC as turf protection. It costs little relatively. @NeptuneMoon

Very true. Such a low cost with so many positives. @BryceLiggins

All of them. Like I said, you need a way to sequester brand from non-brand. Also giving up the opportunity to communicate with your customers when competitors come in is asking for lost market share. @navahf

Poor site management which causes poor SEOAt the outset of a campaign – just for the extra traffic (provided my budget is big)And highly niche businesses. @BalogunAbdulqudus

Competitors going after your brand terms directly. @revaminkoff

I think these are all valid, just use case dependent: @teabeeshell

YES !!! This is it man – these are the “exceptions” for using branded PPC campaigns. @BalogunAbdulqudus

Q3: Are there any situations or circumstances when you think it is an absolute must to NOT bid on brand terms?

Non-differentiated CPG. When the brand name is just the category. @ferkungamaboobo

Maybe very large brands with high brand awareness could skip bidding on branded terms? It is always interesting to do some searches yourself and see if ads show on the most desirable branded queries. Because sometimes there are no ads for a very brand-specific query. @NeptuneMoon

When your brand is overly generic and intersects high volume, irrelevant search volume. @robert_brady

There is also the question as to pulling brand out of Performance Max – to do it or not? There are a lot of differing opinions on that topic. @NeptuneMoon

I advise against it when budget is limited and also when running Pmax campaigns (I actually exclude them) so as not to skew campaign results. @BalogunAbdulqudus

I think too, there’s a “what are you selling” POV on this — if you’re selling “lead gen,” does it makes sense to spend even 1/10 of the budget on stuff that probably would have converted anyway? Or on queries that might not be new prospects but re-engaging customers — i.e. queries that look like “good leads” from your POV because you’re not deep in the weeds of call analysis, but are actually not leads? @ferkungamaboobo

Sometimes I think we assume more weight on brand searching than what actually happens too. We think about search in a very specific way. But “regular people” do not. They may search for a certain brand but in their mind they are really doing what we would categorize as a more generic search. In other words, they are not as “in” for the brand specifically as we as marketers might think or want to think when a brand search is performed. @NeptuneMoon

Even Airbnb went back to brand bidding after they caused a ruckus with their CEO telling everyone they should not have to. They lost revenue by not bidding on their brand. I have no reasons not to bid on brand. Even when we have tested it with brands who wanted to, we saw revenue dip maybe if nobody is showing up for your brand name anywhere in the country (good luck with that with how match types work these days). @lchasse

And to add to this – Search intent would confuse some advertisers to want to bid for some search terms thinking it is “brand” meanwhile it is not. @BalogunAbdulqudus

Ugh the Airbnb guy. @NeptuneMoon

For sure re airbnb but also — that could have been attribution error either way. And I think there’s a smart way to do brand search for real brands. If you have the millions for a super bowl spot, you have the hundreds of thousands to fund the labor on granular brand searches the help the user’s need.  @ferkungamaboobo

I agree with @NeptuneMoon in that we expect consumers who be loyal if they are searching for our brand name.The truth is if someone else says you can save an average of 10% by using our product/service, you will absolutely lose clicks/revenue. People are not nearly as loyal to a brand as they think and creative marketers can take advantage of this. @lchasse

@lchasse That is what I mean – we and brands can tend to assume that it’s in the bag if someone searches for our brand. When that actually may or may not be the case. Important to remember that part. @NeptuneMoon

If you are my competitor, I can almost promise you that I will. @lchasse

Branded search can (and should) be limited to <15% of overall spend. Anything more represents a risk of overspending on non-incremental spend. The best way to vet this is with structured holdout testing, if budget allows. This helps determine how much brand is truly additive vs. wasted spend. I’d venture a guess that most brands overspend on branded search and don’t know how to rip the bandaid off. @teabeeshell

Q4: What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of bidding or not bidding on brand terms for PPCers?

It’s additive — multiple studies have shown that showing paid and organic listings on the same query help the CTR on both listings. @revaminkoff

That it is not part of a larger marketing plan, sometimes as PPCers we can get overly focused on just demand capture and not inquire about demand generation efforts (if we are not involved in brand awareness campaigns directly). @NeptuneMoon

Folks still believe they own the brand and their organic listing will show up first no matter what. This is not the case. If you don’t bid, you may not have the top listing if others are bidding or Google believe someone else’s brand/product term is close to your own.VRBO could show up if Airbnb does not bid as an example, because they either bid on the term specifically or if Google wants to match it in a broad match campaign they are running. @lchasse

I think of it as a search intent thing.PPC almost exclusively focuses on transactional/buying terms. Brand has far more opportunity because you’re dealing in such lower CPCs.You can do navigational terms – “bank of america support line” You can do informational terms – “can I mix clorox and pine sol” @ferkungamaboobo

Most consumers can’t tell the difference between organic and paid results. So any paid ad above your #1 organic ranking gets the “credibility” from Google of being #1 to the uneducated consumer. @robert_brady

But I also think it’s important to know your brand. No one is doing “Nice! Mixed Nuts 8oz Bag” – it’s an inferior good in the economic sense, while they absolutely will do “Planters Mixed Nuts” @ferkungamaboobo

And I mean, on the other hand, maybe they will do that “Nice!” search, and you can really serve your customers by giving them what that search intent really means — I doubt they’re trying to buy it online but maybe they need to get to customer support or they’re trying to figure out who actually makes Nice! or something. @ferkungamaboobo

It’s simple:
Do you need it? If you can survive without it (minimal competition, organic surfaces top-of-SERP) it’s largely unneeded. Many folks like the aesthetics of branded search, and they don’t realize that they (therefore) spend less on true acquisition efforts as they could/should be. @teabeeshell

Q5: What do you wish clients or stakeholders understood better about bidding on brand terms?

Branded search should NOT be a vanity play. The goal is not to “see your name” atop SERPs. The goal should be strategic (defense, promotional), or it should be avoided. Understand the relationship between paid and organic for branded terms (name and/or product). If you pay more to appear and earn clicks, does your organic revenue go down?If yes, that’s a mistake. You should let organic do what it can (at effectively zero cost) and bid only where you must. @teabeeshell

I do get tired of having the conversation around “Why should we have to pay for our own brand” and “Why can competitors bid on our brand name” conversations. @NeptuneMoon

I think I go back to search intent. These are different users than your non-branded searchers. I think too, it’s a discussion of search ads and organic search actually, weirdly to us in the field, being the same channel.  @ferkungamaboobo

That’s it’s no longer 2007 and you can’t just “bid up” and always be above your competition every. single. time. @KristenLienemann

You have to explain more how Google is matching brand terms to competitors and nonbrand terms all the time now too. It is no longer as straightforward as it once was. @NeptuneMoon

Yeah, it’s again, the result of a baseline understanding of PPC being relatively well-known by most businesses at this point. Unfortunately, they’re about a decade behind on tactics (because they have other things to worry about!) @ferkungamaboobo

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