5 Tips To Eliminate Waste In Branded Search Campaigns

In the world of digital advertising, setting up paid search ads for your own branded terms is the closest thing you can get to a slam dunk. The hard part has already been done: getting potential customers to recognize and seek out your brand. Now you just need to direct them to their area of interest and start collecting your sales or leads.

Much has already been written about the value of branded search, and why it’s a good idea to pay for ads even when you have a top-ranking organic listing for your brand terms. I won’t spend too much time on the details, but a Google study from 2012 found that when an advertiser has a top organic position alongside a branded search ad, 50% of the clicks received from paid search are incremental, as opposed to taking what would otherwise be a free click on the organic listing. And the lower the organic ranking, the higher percentage of incremental clicks received from paid ads.

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Brand CPCs are typically a fraction of the cost of generic non brand terms, and tend to have drastically higher conversion rates. And while the resulting CPA or ROI may seem to make branded search a no-brainer, here are 5 tips to eliminate waste and get the absolute most out of your branded search efforts.

1. Take Advantage of All Available Ad Extensions

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There are several advantages to employing ad extensions. They generally have a positive impact on Click Through Rates, and can allow you to include more information about your brand in your ad copy, improve your quality score, offer alternative destination points, and take up more real estate on the search engine result page to help ensure everything above the fold is related to your brand.

The latter is important especially if you are in a competitive vertical where everyone in the space is bidding on each other’s brand terms. The more extensions you take advantage of, the more space your branded assets will take up, leaving less room for your competitors to show up and lure away valuable traffic.

Enhanced sitelinks are particularly useful for taking up more space on the search engine result page. Since each enhanced sitelink has the same character limits of a normal text ad, you can essentially run 5 different ads for the same search at no additional cost. If you’re a site that offers multiple products or services, it also gives you an opportunity to provide a user with the exact content they’re looking for, which can be difficult to determine if the person is searching for just your brand name.

You can familiarize yourself with all of the available ad extensions for Google here, and all of the available extensions for Bing here. Here’s a breakdown about what those extensions look like on a typical search ad:

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2. Test Landing Pages

The most obvious place to drive your branded traffic would be to your home page. But there are several reasons why that may not be the most effective strategy. Maybe you have a promotion and want to increase its exposure. Maybe you’re trying to generate leads through your website and there isn’t an obvious conversion path. Maybe there’s a certain page on your website that has a significantly higher conversion rate than the rest of your site.

The bottom line is, don’t take anything for granted. The most obvious solutions may not necessarily be the best ones, and you won’t know until you test for yourself. Spend some time diving into your Google Analytics reports to figure out what your audience is doing once they get to your site. If most of your traffic goes to a particular section of the site once they hit the home page, maybe you can increase your conversion rates by reducing the number of steps to hit that conversion.

3. Keep An Eye On Your Competitors

Both Google & Bing offer auction insights report, which will break down your overall impression share for a given set of keywords, as well as the impression shares, average position, and “Overlap Rate” of anyone else who may be bidding on your keywords.

To access this report in Ad Words, select one or multiple campaigns and select the “Details” button above the grid.

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The report can also be found in the same section of the “Campaigns” tab in Bing Ads. This report can be accessed from the campaign, ad group or keyword level.

Once you have a sense of which competitors are showing up for your branded terms, spend some time to look at their messaging. Maybe your competitors are trying to distract your traffic with a promotion. Maybe they’re even using your trademarked terms in their ad copy to confuse users.

You’ll also want to make sure that you’re competitors aren’t showing up in a higher position for your own branded terms and potentially distracting your customers. If you’re using a bid management platform such as Kenshoo or Marin, the easiest way to avoid this is to set a bid-to-position rule targeting an average position of 1-1.3.

The reason why you don’t want to select “Bid to position 1” is because it’s extremely difficult to get an average position of exactly 1.0. As a result, your bid management tool will continue to increase your bids each day, which can result in the following issue…

4. Keep An Eye On Your CPCs Over Time

You may notice that your CPCs for your branded keywords are significantly lower than your max bid prices, even when you’re showing up in the top position every time. However, you want to avoid keeping your branded bids arbitrarily high, as this can result in an artificial inflation of your CPCs.

This happened to a client of mine who started to see a competitor get increasingly aggressive on their branded terms in Bing. While CPCs were typically around $0.40, the client increased their bids to $10 to make sure they would beat the competitor on every search. Over time we began to notice our Brand CPAs increasing, and discovered that our average Brand CPCs in Bing were over $2.00, while our average CPC in Google was still about $0.40.

It’s important to remember that paid search works through an auction. The price of those clicks depends on a number of factors, but one of them is the amount you are willing to pay for a single click. If you demonstrate to the engines that you are willing to pay up to 10x more per click than what you already pay, eventually you’re going to see some those CPCs increase. CPC inflation is inevitable, there’s no need to speed that process up.

5. Check Your SQRs

This is another area where you don’t want to take for granted. Both Google and Bing now automatically opt you in to show up for close variations of your exact match keywords, which can be plurals, misspellings, or things that have nothing to do with your business.

For example, one of our clients is XYZ Pro, which is a premium service that is separated from their primary brand XYZ. For this reason, we avoided using any sort of exact, phrase, or broad match keyword that would have triggered a result for “XYZ” without the word “Pro” in the query.

After taking a look at our search query report though, we discovered that due to some shift in Bing’s algorithm, we were beginning to show ads for “XYZ,” and attracting users who weren’t really interested in the Pro Service. Nothing is set in stone in the world of search, and changes are made to algorithms on a fairly regular basis. Be sure to keep an eye on your SQRs and add new negative keywords at least once a month to avoid paying for irrelevant traffic. You may be surprised at what you’ll find.

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