Add3 – Digital Marketing Agency with offices in Seattle & Portland

6 reasons to bid on branded ppc keywords

If you’ve managed a PPC campaign before you’ve no doubt heard this question: “Why are we be bidding on branded keywords? We’re ranked #1”. Sometimes we’ll just get a directive when marketers think they’re being smart “Once we’re ranked #1, we’ll stop spending money on these keywords”. On the surface this seems to make sense; if you’re already ranked #1, why would you pay for the same keyword?

We’ve answered this question over and over again. Every situation calls for it’s own solution and you should test to find the answer for you, but by and large we’ve found that buying branded keywords in PPC is a good idea. Here’s all my thoughts on it. Buckle your seatbelt.

1. If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It

A properly managed PPC campaign is being managed and optimized to a performance goal that supports a business goal. All keywords and ads are measured against that goal. It’s pretty simple – if a keyword is supporting the goal by helping the campaign meet or beat the performance goal, then leave it in there. If it’s not helping the campaign perform, then get rid of it.

Sometimes though, you don’t know whether something is broken or not until you test it. I absolutely encourage you to test whether or not having branded keywords in your campaign is effective, but that judgement should be made based on data.

2. The Power of PPC Ads and Organic Listings on the Same Page

Don’t like my argument above? Then let’s look at some data. NYU’s Stern School of Business did a study in late 2009 called: “Analyzing the Relationship between Organic and Sponsored Search Advertising: Positive, Negative or Zero Interdependence?” [Links to a PDF] Don’t worry you don’t have to read it or interpret the numbers – I did it for you. Here’s a breakdown of a couple key findings:

Click Through: Combine SEO + PPC for Best Results

combine branded ppc keywords with organic seo search results for best click through rates ctr

Click Through Rates increase for terms where you have both an organic (SEO) and paid (PPC) presence. Not only do you own more of the search results page real estate, giving you a better shot at capturing a click, but perhaps there’s a gain in brand perception and credibility as well.

Conversion: Combine SEO + PPC for Best Results

combine branded ppc keywords with organic seo rankings for improved conversion rates

Click Through Rates increase for terms where you have both an organic (SEO) and paid (PPC) presence. Not only do you own more of the search results page real estate, giving you a better shot at capturing a click, but perhaps there’s a gain in brand perception and credibility as well.

True, this study isn’t directly addressing branded keywords, but it does address the search results landscape. Having a PPC ad and an organic result on the same page improves performance. My assertion is that this applies to branded keywords just like it would any other keyword in your campaign. In our view – you HAVE to include brand keywords in your PPC campaign as a baseline. You can always test the impact of not having brand keywords, but if my job is to make the PPC campaign perform – I’m going to hedge my bets and include branded keywords in my PPC campaign.

3. Branded PPC Supports the Conversion Funnel

If your campaign is firing on all cylinders then PPC will be reaching users all along the conversion path with the right message at the right time. This includes the final stage of  the funnel where conversion/purchase/vendor selection happens. Sometimes people just want directions or a phone number. Why not use a PPC ad and take the opportunity to make that next step a little easier? That makes your brand look a little more helpful.

PPC Across the Conversion/Sales Cycle

how search marketing works across the conversion funnel

4. Defend Your Turf

Have you looked at the search results for your branded keywords lately? Especially if you’re selling a product. Surprise!  Your site and your managed profiles are probably not the only result on the page. Someone else is probably running ads for your branded keywords as well… Do you really want to give them YOUR clicks?
Branded PPC - bidding against the competition in search results

Look at all the competition trying to get a click for this “iPad” brand search.

Still not convinced that buying brand is smart because Apple has the first organic result and would probably get the click anyway? Not so fast! Check out what happens when you look at the search results in different browser sizes. 5% – 10% of searchers won’t even see Apple’s organic listing. If Apple wasn’t bidding on it’s own brand term, who do you think would get the most clicks? (tool:
competition, brand ppc vs organic listings

Competitors bidding on your brand terms can push your organic listing way down below the fold, giving competitors the click instead of you.

5. Control the Message and the Link

In a perfect world, your organic SEO result would show the exact message, description and URL that you want your target to see for that specific keyword. This isn’t a perfect world and that doesn’t always happen. Depending on your situation, you may not be able to work with the SEO team on this anyway. That’s a subject for another blog post entirely.
With PPC, you can tweak the ad copy and use ad extensions that fit your situation that makes it that much easier to give the searcher the right message and the right link for the keyword. With ad extensions – you can do things that are much harder to control in SEO. Plus, you can make your ads work a little harder and provide value right on the search results page.
Example of an address extension on a branded ad
adwords ad extension
Example of a product extension on a branded ad – get visitors directly to the product they want
Google AdWords product extension branded ad

6. Quality Score

It is obvious that quality score exists at the account level in Google AdWords. If you create a new campaign in your Google account, your new keywords instantly have a quality score. How do they know what your keyword quality score is if you’ve never bid on the keyword before? They use historical performance of all keywords and ads in your account. Quality score determines your ad position and cost per click. Branded keywords pretty much always have good quality scores which improves your overall account quality score.


So there you have it, our thoughts on the role that brand keywords play in your PPC campaign. What did I miss? What did I get wrong? What are your experiences with branded PPC? Leave a comment.

More Resources – Don’t Just Take Our Word For It

Here’s some links to what other people think about this subject:

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Ben Lloyd

About Ben Lloyd

Ben Lloyd serves as Principal at Add3 and manages the agency's Portland office.  Ben got his start in SEM way back in 1999 - when there was like, 15 search engines and Google was barely a thing. Prior to Add3, Ben had founded Amplify Interactive in 2003 (which was acquired by Add3 in 2013), and hasn't looked back since. Ben likes lots of stuff like golf, pinball, food(ie), booze/beer/wine - in that order, etc. Mostly - he likes doing that stuff with his friends. Ben is also co-founder of SEMpdx. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn

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