Bidding on brand terms


Bev Rogers


The big question in any PPC strategy is always “Do we bid on brand terms?” There are times when the answer is easy – if you’re competing against resellers, you can’t leave it to organic. But for many the answer is not so clear. Is PPC actually bringing in anything you couldn’t get for free?

The short answer is “yes”, but I don’t expect you to take my word for it.

Search Laboratory has been running tests across a number of accounts to measure the impact of branded PPC. To set up such a test yourself:

  • Link your website in Webmaster Tools (Search Console) with your AdWords account.
  • Pause your PPC brand campaign 50% of the time during your test. For example, you could pause the campaign at 9:00, re-enable it at 10:00, pause it again at 11:00 and so on.
  • If your account has a high variation in conversion rate based on time of day, make sure this is not affecting your results.

The results of our own tests are below, and they may surprise you.

Does brand activity drive extra traffic?

The answer is a very big yes! Increase in click-through rates ranged from 18% to 26% (for fellow pedants, this is in percentage points, so going from 40% to 58% is an 18% increase). So, if your main brand term gets 20,000 searches a month and 10,000 clicks (a 50% click-through rate), that’s 1,800-2,600 extra visitors you could be missing out on.

If you’re running your own test, this is how you calculate your extra clicks:

extra clicks

But where are these clicks coming from? At this stage we can only speculate. Anyone who has run ads on competitors knows that those extra clicks are unlikely to be going to other PPC ads. Perhaps those extra few seconds of searching let people become distracted.

Now we’ve established that you definitely get something from branded PPC, it’s time to move on the million dollar question:

Does brand activity drive extra profit? 

Surely, if these extra visitors can be distracted in the two seconds it takes to scroll to the organic results, they’ll be distracted before converting?

Surprisingly, no. In one test, there was no change (down to 2 decimal places) in visit-to-conversion rate when PPC was off. So if your brand conversion rate is 4%, and you get 10,000 visits as above, that’s 72 – 104 leads you’re missing out on.

So to get your CPA and find out if those extra leads are worth it to you:

CPA formula

For ecommerce, the relevant metric will be:

COS formula

In tests we ran, this was between 5% and 10% (or £10-£20 per £ ROI).

To summarize, you should probably be running on brand.

There are definitely circumstances where brand may not be profitable. For example, if you have one subscription-based product and a large percentage of people searching for your brand are already customers. Even in this scenario, you can still make branded PPC profitable with bid adjustments on remarketing lists.

So if you’ve been skeptical before, give branded keywords a go! And if you’re still unsure, why not run your own test?