Many online advertisers often make the following statements about their keyword buying strategy:
“I already rank high in SEO, which is free. Why should I pay for SEA?”
“SEA will cannibalize my organic traffic”
“Visitors looking for my brand are already informed and will find their way to my site without SEA”
The question whether to buy or not to buy your own brand in Google AdWords (or other bidding platforms) is definitely not a new one. It is, however, a trending topic since eBay published publically a study that they commissioned on the subject.
Rational arguments exist both for and against brand keyword buying. While both sides of the issue can be convincing, testing is often the best way to draw actionable conclusions.
Arguments against brand buying: the eBay case
eBay’s premise about brand keyword advertising is that consumers searching for a brand intend to end up on that brand’s specific website. Paid search ads simply gets in the way of the natural order of things by providing a more direct path for which advertisers need to pay. This argument is mainly that of cannibalisation.
eBay says to have done some testing. It periodically turned off its brand buying, always with a control group. The findings were relatively clear, SEO would have immediately made up for lost SEA traffic and sales.
Arguments in favor of brand buying
We have identified and sorted arguments in favor or brand buying.
Improved Marketing Visibility
Buying your brand in SEA allows enhanced control over the visibility of your site in search results. SEA search results surpass SEO search results by far in terms of visibility and customization. This is truer than never with the many recent ad extensions.
Moreover, it will - most likely - appear above organic results, and be emphasized by a yellow background. Also, a series of - ever improving - ad extensions make your SEA search results more relevant to the user by adding social or location information.
SEA allows extensive control on your visibility in ways that go above and beyond the single choice of your ad copy’s USP. For starters, you can control 100% of your ad copy’s content. You are in charge of the message that needs to be displayed by your brand. Sitelinks also allow you to push specific products/services directly within the SERP.
SEA easily allows you to target the user in the most efficient way possible. Between geolocalization, language targeting and custom landing pages, you can easily send appropriate visitor to the appropriate destination on your site. This control not only applies to SEA targeting, but also to a very dynamic bidding system.
Competition will vary greatly depending on your field of business. SEA can play a role in protecting your brand and or your online turf.
Google’s trademark policy is now homogeneous worldwide: any advertiser can bid on any keyword. Trademark limitations only apply to ad copy. Buying your brand could prove to be the easiest way to prevent the competition to steal the top spot.
Also, keep in mind that brand names containing generic keywords may suffer from competitors bidding on those generic keywords with the broad match type - for example “Brussels Airlines”, or “Vaudoise Assurances”.
Also, even if it is highly likely that your brand will rank high in SEO, it is not guaranteed. Depending on the size and field of your business, you may find yourself in need of a little push.
Buying your own brand in SEA can seem like a waste of good money. But is it really? To some extend, Google’s algorithms and users are smart enough to recognise the owner of a brand. This relevancy will be rewarded with high CTR and high Quality Score. This, in turn will lower your CPC (to as low as 0.01€) and your CPA, and increase your return on investment.
Depending on the situation, brand buying usually seems like a limited investment for a pretty big return.
It has been shown that search engines such as Google are in love with systemic and historical data. Take a new AdWords Campaign for example. The overall quality of your account will have an impact on the starting quality score of your new campaign.
As biased as it may be, Google published test results similar to eBay’s, proving that SEA traffic was incremental. See the full article: “Impact Of Ranking Of Organic Search Results On The Incrementality Of Search Ads” http://research.google.com/pubs/pub37731.html
In today’s complex online advertising world, it also seems like you would want to maximize your chances to reach your potential prospect. It is important to diversify traffic acquisition channels whenever possible.
Brand buying, opportunity or wasted resources?
This series of arguments will be more valid for some brands than for others. In either case, both sets should be considered in regards to your business needs, your resources and the environment within which your brand evolves.
One can definitely wonder whether eBay and what works for eBay is similar to his own business. eBay is a purely online brand that spends over fifty million dollars a year in Google AdWords. That alone can put an end to any sort of comparison. Furthermore, eBay’s brand is so well known that it has almost become a generic term. Their organic ranking is so good, it could only be compared to internet giants such as Wikipedia or Amazon.
Despite all of that, at the time of writing this article, eBay was actively buying its own brand on Google.be.
Internal “brand off” testing for a retailer and an e-commerce has shown a drop of 15% to 34% in visits, and of 26% to 30% in leads/sales. Generic campaigns can only make up for a small portion of the lost brand traffic. Keep in mind when testing that re-enabling brand campaigns that were paused for the duration of the test does have a cost. It usually takes a few weeks to reach the pre-test performance and cost.
Considering all of the arguments above, and thorough internal testing, we are inclined to say that brand buying is, in most cases, an opportunity with great potential results at a low investment.
written by Julien Cornet