This is a question that is often raised at any search engine marketing conference or seminar. It is a question that sparks debate and discussion between the three camps: the search engines, the campaign management agencies, and the brand owners. The search engines will obviously say: "Yes, you should", but no one believes them because they have a vested interest in increasing any bidding activity. The brand owners will say: "No, I already own the top SEO results so why should I waste money." And the agencies will straddle the fence because they know that the branded terms perform better in click-through-rate (CTR) and return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) -- but they need to appear independent. Neither the search engines nor the agencies can seem to articulate further to convince the advertisers any further.
From my experience, the answer to this question is unequivocally: "Yes, a company should bid on the keyword phrases and terms of its brands and products."
It boils down to real estate
On a typical search engine results page (SERP), there are 10 natural organic results and anywhere from zero to 10 paid results. Everyone knows that users often click on more than just one result, and more than just the top three organic results. So as a brand, do you own ALL those search results whether they are organic or paid? Of course you do not and will not be able to do so. Then would you not want to own as many as you can?
So treat that SERP as real estate in a shopping mall: the more exposure you brand or products gets in the shops, the more you will sell. And if you are on that limited shelf-space, then someone else -- like your competitor -- can not be there. Yes, these are your competitors bidding on your branded keywords.
Defending your brand
Google no longer offers copyright protection in the United Kingdom and has not done so in the United States for the last two years. So anyone can bid on any keywords they feel like -- a competitor, or an approved reseller, or one of the thousands of affiliates of a reseller -- can bid on your branded keywords. Yahoo! and MSN have never offered copyright protection and do not even bother thinking about Baidu -- the No. 1 Chinese search engine. As for Google, it will just be a matter of time before they lift the copyright protection for the rest of world since they have already done it for the two of the biggest online markets. So if you are not taking up that paid space on your branded searches, you can be assured someone else will -- especially if it is a highly searched term.
Take the valuable storefronts
Not all search results on the page are equal. The top three organic search results will get clicked by most people, and some paid results will get clicked more than even the organic results. This is why on some Google SERP pages, you see one or two paid results appear above the organic results; if they get more clicks, it means they are more relevant and hence should be higher.
So as a brand or product owner, your paid result will be more relevant than your competitors to a user who searched for your branded keyword. Chances are you will be able to get the top paid result as well as the top one or two organic results. These are the most valuable real estate on this SERP page. Take it. Don't let someone else grab it.
Two is better than one
It has been shown that branded keywords get a 30 percent lift in CTR when there is a PPC bid running along next to the natural search results. Besides holding more page real estate, there are a couple of factors that have been cited as contributors to this effect:
- Higher brand awareness: Users who search for a brand or product and see the brand in both the natural and paid result have higher confidence and hence are more likely to click through.
- Relevant ad copy and landing page: Because the search engines all have hidden algorithms in determining what organic results to show, what page description to show, and how they are ranked, brand owners have little control over what the user sees on the organic results. However, with a PPC ad, they can control the ad copy and the landing page so the PPC ad can become more relevant to what the users are searching for.
- Promotions and offers: Ecommerce sites have the additional ability to use the ad copy to inform searchers of deals, offers, sales, etc that have effective "call to action" push on consumers.
So if you have been hesitating, then get on it right away. If you have been adamantly against it, then at least give it a try and see the results for yourself.Joe Nguyen is the regional manager of South East Asia for Omniture.