Should You Be Bidding On Your Brand Name?

The answer is, yes. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Bidding On Your Brand Name

Okay fine, I’ll explain because I love you all and I can’t leave you hanging. There’s been a consistent debate happening on branded keyword bidding strategies: should you bother bidding on your own name? I mean if someone searches for “Jim Benton’s Hardware Store” it’s pretty obvious what they’re looking for, and since you’re the only Jim Benton’s Hardware in the Lower Mainland you’ll always be #1, right?

Wrong, obviously, or I’d have no blog post to write. Bidding on a branded keyword can draw eye-rolls with its simplicity, but let’s dive a bit deeper into why you should, and why your competitors hope you’re stupid enough NOT to.

The obvious reason is first: top-of-mind availability. If you don’t bid on your branded keyword, eventually someone else will. Poor Jimmy Benton didn’t think that Big Box Hardware knew who he was, but since Jim hit a few million in sales last year, his competitors have sat up and taken notice. Maybe Jim’s customers didn’t think about ol’ Boxy because they love the excellent service they get from Jim, but being reminded that there’s a BBH near their grocery store might have them curious if the widget they’re looking for is available from the Big guys… also, would you look at that it’s $8 cheaper! Jim just lost a sale.

This doomsday scenario might sound convenient, but it plays out daily in households and on mobile phones across the country. Customers in homogeneous markets such as hardware retail aren’t necessarily all that loyal to any one store. Many stores carry the same brands, and convenience is a large part of why people buy at certain stores; look no further than the trend of urban hardware stores making their return to downtown cores across Canada for proof.

Bidding on your own branded keyword also offers secondary proof into how effective Google’s advertising configuration is. You can see how many people click on the ad rather than your organic listing further down the page. At least some of these people would have happily clicked on your competition’s ads as they are looking for a product or service, not YOU specifically.

Branded keyword ads also give you a higher degree of control. Google scrapes data from your website to build the snippets for your organic listing. While you can control this to a point, being able to craft a message bespoke to your needs is invaluable. Having a sale, or have a new product or brand to showcase? Put that message directly into your branded keyword ads and watch as that becomes the new message on your SERP.

There’s also the fact that studies have proven that organic reach does NOT pick up the lost conversions when you turn the taps off on paid search advertising. Here’s proof:


Simply put, paid traffic is both valuable and targeted, and is updated (by GOOD PPC firms… cough fucking cough) when algorithms or formatting changes, or when trend winds shift. It’s vital that you continue to provide value with your advertising both to your company and the people searching for your services. You can’t rely on customers connecting the dots for you on searches related to your products; they may not know that vinegar can be used for cooking AND cleaning, but you do, and paying to make that known you’re helping everyone have tasty coleslaw, and a clean kettle is worth every penny in the end.

I feel that it would be irresponsible of me to clap my hands together at this point and say “all right that’s it, bid on branded keywords!” and not offer some counterpoints.There are instances where you probably shouldn’t bother bidding, such as when your keyword is low traffic or highly specific, or where your organic results already dominate the SERP.

Thanks to ever-occurring changes to Google’s SERP, however, these instances are quickly disappearing. Google is starting to give SERP real estate to broader and broader match keywords. Coffee shops who used to be the only result when their name was searched are now placed into maps results that place similar businesses alongside their listing. Google’s increased focus on shopping ads places similar business’ search ads atop your organic listings, even when the search term wasn’t a part of their keyword list explicitly.

But hey, there’s a better reason to take the bull by the horns and bid on your brand: the conversion funnel. Once a customer searches for your brand, they’re likely on the road to a purchase. In fact, they’re probably close to the bottom of the funnel since they want specific information about a brand. Why abandon them in their hour of need? Why let a competitor swoop in and eat your lunch? Make sure you’re near the top of the SERP.

Lastly, there’s the other, blacker-hat side of the coin I’ve been avoiding: bidding on your competitor’s branded keywords. If you’ve been reading between the lines (and you should be, even though I’m fucking nice I’m not an idiot), you’ll notice that a lot of my arguments are focused on defending your brand from your competition. Guess what: you are the competition to your competitors. Look for opportunities to eat THEIR lunch. Business is everyone’s inner fat kid: never satisfied with what’s on their plate.

I know by now you’re halfway into an email to your PPC manager asking why you haven’t seen a proposal for a branded bidding strategy, and how many untold millions you must be losing because of it. Cut them some slack. They haven’t had the years of experience I have. If all they can muster is a weak, “but organic is freeeeee!” you should probably address your next email to me, and I can help you out. Ain’t nothing free but the sweet release of death, and don’t think you want that for your business quite yet.

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