Sunday, 20 May 2007

Bidding on Branded Terms - Why You'll Lose Customers If You Don't

When creating a keyword bank for your PPC campaign, your first port of call should be your branded terms. Protecting your brand and ensuring you funnel all available searchers to your site should be priority number one. Why? Well, there are two main reasons:

1) brand terms convert up to ten times better than generic terms
2) the perception of your brand is weakened if you're absent from the sponsored links

Let's address point one first. Why do brand terms convert better than non-branded terms? Well, you've heard of the "buying cycle" right? The further you are down the buying cycle, the more ready you are to buy. When someone searches for a branded term on a search engine, they're indicating a strong intent to buy. When they're searching for a generic term, it indicates they're still in the researching period.

To illustrate this, let's consider Mr Jones, who's looking to buy pet insurance for his family's new puppy. When he first goes onto Google, he has only a broad idea of what he's looking for. He knows he wants to insure his pet, and he knows he wants to get a good price, but doesn't know too much beyond this. For this reason, he enters "pet insurance" into Google. Now, this is about as generic a term as you can get within the pet insurance market. The SERP that comes up will likely a broad spectrum of insurance companies, some specialising in pet insurance, some not, some offering insurance on all types of pets, some not, some cheap, some not, and so on. Mr Jones will then think to himself, "well, it's a dog I want to insure, so let's try narrowing things down that way". He then enters "pet dog insurance" into the search engine. Now his results are a bit more targeted. The engine shows him only results for canine insurance. He looks at a few sites from the listings but decides they're too expensive. He then enters his last generic search - "cheap dog insurance". This brings up some great sites, with just the deals he's looking for. One in particular catches his eye, being offered by He jots down the details, goes and chats with his wife, has his dinner, then sits back at the PC later that night. He can't remember the url of the site he wants, but enters "barking insurance" into the search engine. He finds the site and makes the purchase. This decision process can also be initiated offline - if Mr Jones saw a TV ad for this great insurance deal, or perhaps was recommended by a friend. It's all the same - ultimately what happens is he comes back and looks for your brand in order to buy.

Now, suppose he hadn't been able to find when he went and looked after dinner. Perhaps the site didn't rank well organically for its brand search, or Mr Jones had misspelled the brand and therefore the engine didn't serve his listing. That site stands to lose a customer. However, I hear you thinking - "well, my site ranks well for my brand - number one in fact - so he would have no trouble finding it". Well, this maybe so, but suppose he'd searched for your brand and came up in the sponsored links with an offer that seemed even better (he'd looked for you at the top of the sponsored links, but you weren't there). He'd most likely click on this better offer, and you'd have lost that customer....even though he was searching for your brand!

Now, I can even hear some of you saying "well, we're number one organically and have our brand trademarked, so nobody else can show an ad for our brand". You think this covers you? It almost does. Most people will find your site - around 75% in fact, with the other 25% either not seeing your listing or deciding they've seen another listing that actually looks better. However, if we look beyond merely gaining that brand click, we'll see that your conversion rate actually suffers if do not show a PPC ad. A number of studies have shown this, but my favourite is by The reason your conversion rate improves when you present a searcher with both an organic and a PPC ad, is that the perception of your brand is strengthened and you also have the ability to send the searcher a powerful call-to-action marketing message within your PPC ad. As a marketer, you have far less control over the message displayed in your organic listing. With PPC, you can tailor it however you like. The net result of this is that you convert more searchers into customers.

There's no denying that generic terms are a very important piece of the PPC jigsaw. They're what drives the high volumes of traffic, and are what places your brand in the front of your searchers' minds. However, you must then ensure you close deal. The best way to do this is by maintaining a solid and persuasive presence in the SERPs when someone searches for your brand. If you can, get other advertisers removed from your brand using a Google Trademark Claim (see Google's help pages on how to do this). However, even if you can, it's vitally important that you gain great presence in both organic and paid results for your brand. By doing this you ensure your brand will be found, you ensure your brand looks strong and credible, and you ensure your searcher reads the kind of positive, call-to-action message required to turn them into a customer. All this will ensure you get your sale.

Oh, and did I mention brand clicks are cheap? If you run your campaign right, you should be able to get brand clicks for under 5p. Now, if this doesn't finally convince you that brand bidding is essential, I don't know what will!

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