To bid or not to bid on your brand keywords - by Equeco

Have you always wondered if your brand search ad dollars are wasted? Learn how to measure their incremental value and define your strategy.

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It’s a question almost as old as paid search marketing itself: should we advertise on our brand keywords?

After all, many of the brand search clicks will come directly through organic search if there is no ad.

So why would an advertiser pay for it at all?

There can be several reasons, such as the greater control of messaging with adcopy, or simply company policy.

But there is also a question of performance: will organic results alone get as many clicks as with paid search?

This is the test we ran - the methodology and results. The outcome may vary by advertiser, so we recommend you run your test with the same methodology to measure your brand SEM value.

The 2-month test was done in collaboration with Viajala, a leading travel brand in Latin America, with good recognition and brand searches in the tens of thousands of impressions per month in the test market.

Before the test, Viajala had had great organic and paid search positions for branded queries for years.

But the question always came back in discussions: what if they did not advertise on brand keywords anymore? They would of course save on Google Ads spend, but would the media savings compensate for the paid clicks loss? 

So we did just that: we paused their brand keywords for a few weeks.

First, clicks on organic results for brand keywords immediately doubled, as per the chart below:

From this chart, we can see that the organic clicks doubled, hence paid search clicks cannibalized half of the organic brand clicks.

However, that analysis alone is incomplete: paid search clicks made 85% of all brand traffic, so they effectively:

  • Lost 85% of clicks - from paid search
  • Added only 15%, ie. doubled organic search clicks

This means they lost 85 - 15 = 60% of all the clicks on their brand searches. Over half of the total clicks!

The chart above clearly shows the increase in organic clicks did not compensate for the loss of paid clicks.

In other words, when looking at the full picture, we can see that whilst the brand-paid ads cannibalize half of the organic clicks, they also generate a lot of incremental clicks.

Why is that? One likely reason is their brand keyword is being targeted by the competition, whose ads likely showed a lot more when Viajala’s were paused. This did not happen as much when they were advertising with a very high quality score preventing the competition from appearing as much.

A quick calculation showed that 60% of brand-term revenue was worth far more than the cost of brand-paid clicks.

As a result, in this particular case, it is preferable to advertise on the brand terms, which they did to recover normal levels of traffic.