We’re sometimes asked “why should I bid on my own branded keywords?” In most cases, the asker wants to know if they can save money (or improve ROI) by not bidding on their brand keywords. It’s an interesting question, with a not-so-simple answer. Each click costs money, so yes, theoretically, you can save money by not bidding on your own branded searches. But with that same logic, can’t you also save money by keeping it under your mattress instead of in a 401k?

It’s understandable to initially focus more on the cost of branded keywords, rather than the value. Cost is a measurable, absolute number that’s seen in paid search accounts and credit card statements. The value is usually less-measurable, with some shades of gray in the calculations.

Sometimes it can be tough to quantify the effect of branded exposure, especially in dollars and cents. Our experience shows that branded keywords almost always convert at pennies on the dollar, with very high profitability. That’s only for the immediate, measurable traffic though. What about the long-term effects in customers’ minds or residual traffic that may come later on? In my opinion, the harder-to-measure effects of “bidding on your own branded keywords” are almost always a reason to spend more on them, not less.

Here are eight reasons why bidding on branded keywords can be a good idea (and a good investment):

    1. Professional appearance – An ad at the top of the page can give an impression of a bigger, more established and a more savvy company. It suggests that you’re anticipating the visitor and welcoming them to your site with a paid ad.
    2. Ads are ads, organic results are not. With ads, you have absolute control over which messages your searchers will see. You can instantly get a message in front of your customers without waiting 2 months for your site to get re-indexed. You can quickly and systematically test different brand messaging in your ads. You can set start and end dates to your messaging. I wouldn’t recommend trying those things with organic listings.
    3. Better traffic control through a paid ad can help your customers reach your site’s best page (according to you, not Google’s crawler). Believe it or not, a company’s home page is not always the best place to send branded traffic. Your company’s top organic search result may not be the most ideal landing page. Is there a different page that’s better designed and has a higher conversion rate? If so, use a branded ad to get people there.
    4. Two links are better than one. One more link on the page makes your site easier to find. It’s one more search result that you have control over, and one more chance to create a positive impression of your company. Own as much of the results page as you can.
    5. Guard your customers from distraction. If someone’s on their way to shop at your store, you don’t want them seeing other people’s ads, offers or companies along the way. Bid on your terms and be the first one to catch their eye.
    6. If you don’t, someone else will. Competitors’ ads can show up for your terms too, potentially robbing you of sales and customer loyalty. More commonly, ads from your own affiliates and authorized resellers can chip away potential profits and erode your bottom line. Consider the example of Reebok (below). Each pair of shoes they sell on their own site is likely worth considerably more for them than each sale through one of their distributors. Would they be wise to only rely on their #1 organic ranking in this case?

  1. Make it tough for your competition – If competitors bid on your branded keywords, then you can raise their costs substantially by simply slapping your ad next to theirs. Yours will very likely have a higher CTR, better position and better quality score. Great for you, bad for them. As a result, you’ll reduce their conversion rates, increase their CPA, lower their position and diminish their traffic volume – all while requiring them to jack their bids to compete for your same ad slot. If you don’t bid on your own branded terms, you make it much easier (financially) on your competitors who might.
  2. Prepare customers for their visit. A paid search ad can effectively reroute the visitors’ attention to specific events or issues:
    • Promotions & Sales – If you have a sale or a special promo, branded ads are the best and fastest way to get the word out to people before they come to your site. Holiday specials, upcoming sales, coupons, etc.
    • Company Info – News, product launches, contests, slogans, mottos, credibility, testimonials, phone numbers, etc. Search engines might not show the text you want. If you have a clear and effective “value proposition” that’s nowhere to be read in your organic rankings, think branded ads.
    • Public Relations or clarifications – Taco Bell recently received some bad press when word got out that their beef was 88% beef. Never a better time for a branded search ad. They bid on “taco bell” and wrote an ad to welcome researchers to their page and prepare them to learn more about their high quality beef (their words, not mine).

      Notice that in their ad, they also offered a “limited-time-only” promo for people to try the beef for themselves: cleverly, 88 cents.

For more information on writing ads with high click throughs and good conversion rates, check out our free report on ad essentials.