Bidding for paid keywords on your own brand

As I was writing a presentation for next week on paid keyword tracking, I was reminded of something that had happened to me in a previous job. Particularly this was bidding for keywords that included the brand name.

Now for content based websites, this shouldn’t be an issue. You should never need to bid on your own brand to get traffic into the website (the exception being when you are trying to get users to sign up for something – eg to buy a print version of the product, merchandising around it or a special offer). Remember that you control the text that the user sees below your website name and above your domain name – so if you do want to give your users something unusual to think about, then this can be a good option.

For e-commerce websites, this maybe slightly different, although I agree with a couple of Dave Davis’ points on this subject, I’m not quite as convinced by it all, however both myself and Dave are going based entirely on what we think is the best option, rather than what we know is the best option. How can we know whether it is good to bid on your brand (or company name)?

Well why not measure it:

Firstly measure how much traffic you get from your main brand term from the natural listings in a certain search engine. Then you need to work out your ROI of that search term (by looking at the number of conversions it drove and the amount of money that you made on those conversions). Then you need to start bidding on that search term. Work out how much money you have spent on driving traffic to the site, how much traffic you have driven to the site and again, the ROI of that traffic.

Now comes the important bit – you have to make sure you are not just cannibalising your organic traffic. This is important, because if you take your brand traffic on its own, you will see you have a good ROI because those people are already engaged in your brand (hell, they managed to search for your company name – they must know you already). Also you’ll discover you have a good ROI because it doesn’t cost you much to bid for your brand name (the cost per click of a brand term is much lower than a product term usually), especially if nobody else is bidding for it (which they shouldn’t be).

How do you find out if you are cannibalising your own traffic? Look at a brief before and after picture. This is the traffic we were getting before (and an ROI), this is the combined traffic and ROI that we are getting afterwards. Are you getting more traffic now than you were before when you weren’t bidding on your own brand? Are you getting more money now than you were before when you weren’t bidding on your own brand? Is that extra money you are getting worth the amount you are outlaying on it (because you are bound to cannibalise a little bit of the organic traffic)?

The areas that you might find a better option for bidding on are areas that you aren’t currently getting the organic traffic. That means bidding where you would expect the user to think of you, but they haven’t quite typed your domain/company name in first. Think about these ones:

  • Popular misspellings – most people know how to spell your company name, however there are thousands of ways of spelling it and if you don’t pick those pages up with SEO (which you won’t, because usually you don’t misspell your company on your own website) then you need to stop them going to competitors (or affiliates) who will be bidding on them to get your business
  • Slogans (past and present) – these are important in the world of advertising. People will remember your slogan or your tag line and will search for it in a browser if they can’t remember your company from the ad. These slogans are part of your brand and should be picked up as such
  • Brand terms with other products – people bid in search engines for products. It’s not cheap. They think they can get a good return on it. If someone searches for your brand and that product, they’ll likely get other rivals paid ads being shown up. They want to come to your company (they searched for it, didn’t they), so you might need to give them a bit of help in this case.

However remember the rule above: If you are still cannibalising your own traffic and you aren’t getting the ROI it is not worth it. Bidding on search terms is all about Return on Investment and with your web analytics tool you should be able to measure that to the nth degree.

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