Brand Protection & Paid Search

Brand is important. Brand is a poorly defined word that could mean anything from becoming synonymous with a product, to creating awareness among a high percentage of your likely customers, to designing a pretty logo and ensuring that it always has the proper pixel count of blank space around it. For the purposes of paid search, brand is much more simple, or at least it will be for the purposes of this article.

Brand in Paid Search

In this context brand means only one thing. For the purposes of Google Ads (AdWords) let’s define brand as simply the phenomenon of people who search for your business name on Google. We can segment this down into “Core Brand” and “Brand Plus”. If we were discussing Nike as the advertiser, the core brand term would be simply “Nike”. Brand plus terms would include “Nike shoes”, “Nike Clothes”, “Nike running shoe reviews”, “Nike Instagram” and pretty much every other query that includes the word Nike. The key to running any successful Google campaign is understanding and respecting customer intent. While intent can be a little bit murky with core branded terms, it usually has something to do with visiting the official brand website. Brand plus terms usually include more hints about the customer’s true intent. So the behavior you’ll see in terms of click through rate, purchase rate and other key metrics will be different.

Filing for Trademark Protection

While many are catching up, a large portion of brands who own trademarks are not taking full advantage of the benefits this ownership provides in regard to advertising on Google. If you own a trademark you can file with Google to ensure that no competitors/affiliates/others are allowed to use your brand name in their ads. Now, this will not stop someone from bidding on your keywords, but it will make doing so (conquesting or competitor brand bidding) more difficult/expensive. Since your brand will be the keyword in the event someone decides to conquest your brand, filing for trademark protection ensures that the competitor will not be able to use your brand name (the keyword they’re buying) in their ad copy. Since their ad will not include the keyword they are bidding on, their ad relevance, click through rate and quality score will be lower than it would be if they could match ad copy to keyword exactly. If you’re ready to file for trademark protection you can file a trademark complaint here. If you need help with the process, please get in touch.

How to Manage Core Branded Terms

From the perspective of the advertiser managing the brand, there’s a lot of confusion about how to properly manage paid search for core branded terms. One route that has become less popular in larger part due to conquest campaigns of either competitors of affiliates, is choosing not to buy core branded terms. This has one big advantage which is that you don’t pay Google to be #1 for your brand name. If nobody searches for your brand, or you are in such a small/niche market that no one is interested in selling to your customers, the choosing not to participate option can be a fine one. If people do search for your brand (and they probably do) and you have competitors (you probably do) then choosing not to bid for your branded keywords will result in at least some, if not many, of your customers at least engaging with and considering, if not purchasing, a competing product/service. The obvious way to avoid this problem is to buy your core branded keywords aggressively. This should result in a 80% or better search impression share and a 20-40% click through rate.

Your core branded terms will deliver a dramatically better click through rate, conversion rate and cost per click than any other traffic you can buy. Yes, it does kind of suck that you still have to pay Google after you’ve already done the hard work of generating interest with offline advertising, display, video, social… Since those channels often “spark the search” this aggressive brand buying strategy adds slightly to the overall cost of acquiring a customer, but with the alternative being losing a customer you’ve primed to buy to a competitor who is buying your brand name, it makes sense for almost every medium/large business to compete for these clicks in PPC. In order to mitigate the pain of forking over this month to Google every month, a sophisticated advertiser can use tactics like featuring higher margin products, encouraging social engagement, and asking for referrals to friends using specific landing pages for ad clicks, sitelinks, and other ad extensions.

How to Manage Brand Plus Terms

The strategy here is to make sure your messaging and customer experience aligns with what your customers are asking for. For example, if a customer searches “your brand reviews” you’ll have much better results with an ad that talks about reviews and a landing page featuring client testimonials than with generic brand messaging clicking through to your homepage. The “reviews” keyword is a great example of a branded term that, when bought aggressively by the brand advertiser, can provide significant incremental conversions. If a customer is searching this keyword, they are right on the edge of buying your product. Even the best business will have some negative feedback. Using an ad responsive to the user’s query can get them on your website, reading reviews you’ve curated, and within a few clicks of closing the sale, instead of talking themselves out of buying based on a 1 star Yelp review or 7 year old ripoff report authored by a disgruntled employee.

The other main category of interest is “brand + product” type keywords. If you have multiple product lines, simply create ad groups which hold both the relevant keywords and ads that are responsive to the query. The simple example above of Nike Shoes and Nike Clothes are easy to map to how those ad groups should be managed. Another example could be a hotel chain with multiple locations, for instance “hilton hotel san diego” should go to a different section of than “hilton hotel maui”.

Final Thoughts on Branded Search

Protecting your brand online in order to maximize the conversion rate of people who search your brand, divided by number of those people who make a purchase or take some other valuable action isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible. Just like other categories of paid search, branded paid search performs most efficiently if it is segmented into the proper categories, matched with relevant ad copy/extensions and bid/budgeted properly. If you own trademark terms, be sure to file for protection with Google and monitor the competitive landscape periodically to ensure Google is respecting your property. If you’re a brand that needs help moving this in the right direction, schedule a call.

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