Should I Bid on My Trademark Terms in PPC?

Ryan Gibson / 26th April 2017 / Comment

We recently talked about how to differentiate branded from non-branded terms, particularly for manufacturers. Oftentimes, the follow up question that retailers have: “Should I be bidding on my trademark term in search? And if so, how much?”

While every advertiser’s trademark landscape is different, we advise testing to confirm the incremental return for the costs of the ads. Once you understand the incremental costs and return from advertising on trademark terms, you can decide whether the return warrants bidding on your brand.

5 Strategic reasons for investing in trademark traffic

There are certainly business reasons to bid on trademark terms, even if the incremental traffic doesn’t justify the costs:

  1. Paying for trademark ads allow you to control your brand message. While you can help to influence the message that’s appearing in your organic listing, there’s no guarantee you can control what’s presented. You can customize ad-copy to exactly support a searchers query (e.g.: “Gardener’s Edge” vs “Gardeners Edge Catalog” might offer different copy and dedicated landing pages).
  2. Paid ads also give you a place to tout short-term offers to add urgency and update seasonal relevance.
  3. They prevent “broad matching” algorithms from putting your competitor’s ads above your natural search listing for trademark searches
  4. Trademark ads provide additional relevant information and insertion points into the site
  5. There are several ad extensions (ex. call, app download, etc.) that aren’t available in organic listings and those that do, allow more control and tracking through paid ads.

Tips for Testing the Incremental Effect of Bidding on your Brand

Typically, we find that when a company does not bid on trademark terms, organic does not completely pick up the paid traffic, leaving money on the table by ceding incremental searches that should have been yours to competitors and affiliates. In some cases, we’ve seen over 60% of branded paid traffic be incremental to an overall search program, although on average we see that percentage fall somewhere between 10-25%. We’ve also seen cases where the trademark term is so unique to the brand that nearly none of the paid traffic is incremental and the brand must decide whether the value of advertising on the brands makes strategic sense.

One of the only ways to test the efficacy of paying for your trademark terms is by conducting a holdout test or better yet, a mixed market test. In either case, you’re effectively pausing (i.e.: holding out) brand terms and comparing that time-frame to the overall results when brand ads are running. In a mixed market test, you would identify markets/DMAs with similar traffic and revenue figures (across search, not just PPC). By pausing brand in one market/DMA while leaving the other similar market/DMA running, you’d test to see if your test group maintained the same level of traffic and/or revenue as your control once brand was paused in the control.

A few things to watch out for during testing:

  1. Make sure you’ve separated your brand terms by customers who are truly looking for you vs brand terms that may be competitive or general terms, as well. (In some cases, your only option for a true, navigational brand term may be “[trademark].com”. [See our post on Brand vs Nonbrand]
  2. These tests should be conducted over a period of time. Make sure that catalog mailings and other marketing efforts won’t muddy the results (e.g.: we typically see navigational searches for brand terms increase around the in-home dates for catalogs)
  3. Take latency into account- if it takes a week or so for most your clicks to convert from paid search, you’ll need to make sure that your test period is long enough so that purchases seeded by brand clicks from over a week ago don’t appear as search conversions during your test period.
  4. Monitor organic shifts over the same period to ensure that organic changes don’t impact your results.
  5. The easiest version of the test is to cycle ads on and off, such as 1 week on, 1 week off. Repeat the test a few times to ensure results .
  6. Make sure that ads really are not appearing during hold-out times or in “off” markets. (You may need to add your brand searches as negatives across the account to ensure no visibility due to broad matching algorithms.)

Eking Out Performance Improvements on Brand Terms

If you are advertising on your brand terms, there are a few tips to follow to ensure you’re maximizing the effectiveness of your brand portfolio:

  1. Make sure that your max bids on brand terms aren’t set too high. By reducing the max bids to align with your ROI goals for brand terms you can ensure that anyone bidding on your trademark terms won’t artificially inflate your overall brand costs. For one homegoods retailer, we were able to drive more than 15% more traffic and revenue for the exact same brand keyword spend, simply by adjusting the max bids on branded keyword terms to align with expected return.
  2. Ensure you’re matching to the right branded queries by controlling matchtypes. Oftentimes, we’ll see [brand] + [product category] broad matching to the product category (eg: “moscot aviators” matching to a general search for “aviators”). Because the category terms typically have higher costs and lower conversion rates, they can tank your brand term performance.
  3. Manage affiliates who are bidding on your brand terms. Better yet- keep affiliates and partners from advertising on your brand terms when it makes sense. If people are looking for you by name, make it a super easy by providing a clear path for consumers to connect with you directly, regardless of what they click on in the search results pages.
  4. Maintain a strong SEO presence for your branded terms. It’s often easy to rank, but grooming what appears for those organic listings can be key to “owning” the search results page when it comes to your brand. Reviews, fresh content and the right technical structure can go a long way in dominating the results.

Hopefully, we’ve provided some direction for the next time your CFO asks, “why are we bidding on our branded PPC terms?”. Ultimately, each brand needs to test to find the right value to place on advertising on trademark terms. But with a little testing, you can feel more confident in your answer.

Still have questions? Shoot us an email or ask us in the comments and we’ll do our best to help you find the right answer.

By Ryan Gibson