It’s a question as old as time. Well, perhaps as old as AdWords anyway, which is just about 18 years old. It’s not quite as dramatic an opening to say, it is a question as old as a legal voter, but I think you get the idea. So what’s the question? Come on! It’s all in the title!
Yes, competing on your own brand name in paid search is a lead pipe lockdown strategy to a well-developed and efficient AdWords account. It has long been considered a best practice for digital marketers and more importantly Google themselves. Buy why? After all, it is completely counterintuitive, right? If someone searches for my company directly, then I will always appear in the number 1 position of the organic results so why pay Google for the extra spot? It’s this type of faulty logic that can cost advertisers some real return and powerful marketing levers.
On the surface you are correct. If that brand name ad is clicked, then I will be paying Google for someone who clearly had previously been aware of my website. But think about that first piece, “If that branded ad is clicked.” You only pay if the ad is clicked, and the cost of that branded paid search click will be the cheapest click you ever get running your paid search account. If it is not clicked, then you’ve just been handed a free billboard that you can project any message you want to users looking for your firm. This leads us directly to our second point.
Control. You have 100% direct control over any message that is placed in that ad whereas your organic ad will remain largely unchanged over time. You can coax the messaging somewhat through meta tags, but ultimately the organic listing is at Google’s discretion. If you want to project a different brand voice, highlight a new product, key date, new engaging content, or promotion you are running just to name a few, you can control this directly and easily through this paid ad.
You also have the ability to direct your traffic anywhere you want on your site. The home page to any website is the gateway to the site and nearly 100% of the time your organic listing on a branded search will direct traffic to your homepage. If your brand name is searched frequently, this will give you a very cheap lever to direct traffic to the aforementioned new product or new content that you want to feature. There will be no other digital channel that is a more efficient way to send relevant traffic to those pieces.
The other big thing you need to guard against is from competitors trying to leech off your own brand name. Assuming your name has some type of trademark or copyright on it, then your competitors will not be able to use your name in their ads, but that in no way will prevent them from bidding on the keyword that is your name and showing a branded ad of their own. Even if your competitors are actively bidding on your name, they are unlikely to grab a high impression share, but without a branded ad of your own, they will instantly become the top result above your organic listing even if it is a relatively infrequent occurrence of say 10% impression share.
Often times in retail especially you also open yourself up to a situation where a large-scale advertiser may not directly be bidding on your name but is bidding on extremely broad non-branded product terms. A simple example for men’s coats could set up with users searching for “j crew men’s coats.” Clearly, they are aware of J Crew in this case and their organic listing will absolutely be the number 1 result. However, if there is a big advertiser competing on the keyword, +men’s +coats or “men’s coats”, they are beginning to cross over into possibly taking up an impression above the organic results based on the broad match or phrase match state of their keywords. A very inexpensive method to mitigate any possible loss on these searches is an established and well-built set of branded search campaigns.
And the last but not least main point regarding competing on your own brand name revolves around the faulty logic that comes in assuming that just because you are the number 1 organic result in Google means that you will always grab that click 100% of the time. Research will vary by source, but estimates indicate that click-through rate for the number 1 organic position, even on a branded search query, only yield between 30-50% CTR. Here is one interesting study done by SmartInsights indicating branded click-through rate by positions 1-5 were approximately 44%, 20%, 12%, 8%, and 5% in decreasing respective order. This means 1 out of every 9 branded clicks are outside the top 5 organic results in this case. Similar to the above point, the most inexpensive way to help mitigate any loss I getting your paid ad above those results as well.
To put things more simply, you cannot afford to not compete on your own brand name. Without a well-developed set of branded campaigns, you are opening yourself up to multiple areas where you are potentially losing the most qualified traffic on the web. Considering there will be no source of cheaper traffic in all of the advertising world, a branded campaign is a simple no-brainer.