Before you go running ads your competitors terms, it is a good idea to understand the big picture. Here is what you need to know.
What You’ll Learn:
- What is branded term bidding
- Why you should bid on branded terms
- Pros and cons of competitor targeting
- Best practices for bidding on competitor branded terms
- How to bid on your own brand terms
- Best practices for bidding on your own brand
- Bidding strategies for different platforms
- How to track branded keyword performance
For PPC marketers, targeting branded keywords is a critical move. Organic clickthrough rates (CTRs) on search engines are higher for branded keywords than non-branded keywords.
At the same time, branded keywords have a cheaper cost per click (CPC) than their non-branded alternatives, which only heightens your return on ad spend (ROAS).
A Quick Review of Branded Term Bidding
Branded terms are keywords that include brand names, whether they’re your own or a competitor’s.
With that in mind, branded term bidding links up your PPC ads (on Ecommerce sites or search engines) with these branded keywords, so your ads are set to show up when someone searches the phrase.
Bidding on your own branded terms: Many marketers choose to bid on their own brand name. It may sound silly, but it’s a proactive approach. Even though they organically show up on the search engine results page (SERP) when someone searches their name, they want to take up as much digital real estate as possible. If a branded search triggers an ad, the consumer may be influenced in the right direction.
Bidding on competitors’ branded terms: You can also bid on your competitor’s branded terms. Marketers use this practice to weave their way into the competition’s organic landscape. Just be sure to follow best practices for targeting the competition (we get into the nitty-gritty of this below).
Why Bid On Branded Terms In the First Place?
According to a study by Google, listings that had both paid ads and organic results got 89% more clicks than those without search ads. This is the power of incremental clicks.
In general, branded keywords boast a conversion rate that’s about twice as high as their non-branded counterparts.
Due to the fact that there’s less competition in a branded search term, these types of keywords are typically the cheapest in the bidding market. When it comes to CPC, they might as well be a steal.
Folks who oppose the practice of bidding on branded terms usually have the same response: they don’t want to give the PPC advertising platforms any more money than they have to. But with the obvious benefits that accompany bidding on branded terms (whether you choose to do so for your own brand name, your competition’s or both), it’s a practice that just makes sense — as long as you do it right.
Before deciding on whether you should bid on your competitor’s branded keywords or your own, let’s dig into each option. First up on the chopping block: Bidding on competitors’ branded terms.
Can You Bid On Competitors’ Branded Terms?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: You can! In fact, consumers may just be searching for your competitor because they don’t know what else is out there. Just make sure to follow certain best practices when taking this route. It may not be right for everyone, nor in every circumstance, so do your due diligence and research your competition accordingly.
The Pros & Cons of Competitor Targeting
- Pay less than you would with non-branded keywords (cha-ching!).
- Promote brand awareness in your industry.
- Reroute business from your competition, and show consumers exactly where the grass is greener.
- Your competition could one-up you, ultimately starting a bidding war. They may bid on your brand name, poach your sales and steal your Of course, this all depends on the competitor you’re dealing with. In a worst case scenario, are you ready for an arm’s race?
- The CTR for bidding on brand terms from your competitors is lower than the CTR for bidding on your own brand terms. Why? The consumer might already have made up their mind. This could decrease your quality score, which makes your ad more expensive and bring in less ROAS. You need to be careful when prepping a competitor bid.
Best Practices for Bidding On Competitors’ Branded Terms
If you take anything from this post, make it this. As you know, bidding on competitors’ branded terms can easily go awry. Here are some best practices for bidding on brand terms of your competitors, so you can avoid the common mistakes that lead to PPC downfall.
- Follow Google’s Trademark Rules and avoid using a trademarked brand name in your ad text. You’ll also want to keep trademarked brand names out of your display URLs. If you break these rules and someone submits a complaint, Google has every right to remove the ad and penalize you for your search engine sins.
- When bidding on competitors’ branded terms, you will naturally get a high cost per action (CPA). If you can’t afford this, you may not be ready to invest just yet. Wait until you’ve established your brand to the point where you can afford a high CPA.
- Choose your competition wisely. Make sure you’re picking businesses who offer the same — or similar — products or services as you. And confirm that you have some sort of competitive advantage over them, whether that be locality, affordability, availability or downright superiority (and not just the kind that lives in your head).
- Despite the fact that users increasingly head toward mobile to perform searches, search intent is different there. Someone searching a brand name on a desktop may be looking to compare, but someone searching a brand name on their phone may be looking for directions. In fact, local searches head the mobile category, with 80% of local searches converting on mobile. With that said, don’t over-bid on your competitor’s branded terms on mobile. You may be wasting your ad spend, albeit unintentionally. Instead, divvy it up fairly, and don’t underestimate the desktop.
Bidding On Your Own Brand Name
Now that we know a bit about competitor targeting, let’s see what bidding on brand terms for your own business has to offer.
Can You Bid On Your Own Terms?
Short answer: Yup!
Long answer: You can bid on your own brand name, and it’s affordable! If you have a hand in PPC ads, you’d be remiss not to take advantage of the opportunity. The benefits are more vast than you might expect, too.
The Pros & Cons of Bidding On Your Own Branded Terms
- Again, you’re paying less for CPC than with non-branded keywords. Why not take the plunge?
- Take up more digital real estate. This makes it tricky for your competitors to ambush your SERP. It also helps promote your CTR.
- Increase your CTRs and promote incremental traffic, which is proven to drive more leads.
- Direct searchers toward a different landing page. When someone searches your brand name, Google will most often organically guide them toward your homepage. If you’re running a campaign that highlights another destination, now’s your chance to boost it.
- Fully control your ad’s messaging (we’re talking title, description and meta tags). The alternative? Deal with SEO optimization for your organic search results.
- Use ad extensions to provide users with additional info that can help to generate leads.
- Be proactive with protecting your branded term from competitors (as we know, people are ready to bid on the competition).
- If your budget doesn’t allow for any additional ad spend, you may not want to allocate it toward bidding on your own brand term.
- You are bumping your organic listing down on the page, which can be problematic if your organic SEO strategy is already working really well.
Best Practices for Bidding On Your Brand Name
If you’re getting ready to bid on yourself, don’t just do it — do it right. Here are some best practices to get you movin’ and shakin’.
- Assess your current organic SEO strategy and see how well it’s working. You don’t want to mess with a good thing, so if your strategy is wildly effective, it may not be the right time to bid on your brand name.
- For consumers searching for products, 56% of mobile users and 37% of desktop users do so on a weekly basis. When bidding on your own brand name, you may want to give mobile and desktop equal weight — both have the potential to be lucrative.
- If you have a name that’s less-than-unique or you’ve experienced breaks in ranking for your own branded search term, definitely bid on yourself. It works as a form of insurance when the SEO gods and goddesses have it out for you.
Different Platforms Call for Different Strategies
PPC is not a one-size-fits-all foray. You may be advertising on an Ecommerce platform like Amazon Advertising or a search engine like Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords). Your strategies will likely differ between them.
Consumers who frequent Amazon are typically farther down the sales funnel, making conversions a top priority for Amazon PPC advertisers. On the contrary, Google advertisers are targeting people in the hopes of maximizing brand awareness, boosting subscribers, promoting products and so much more (in short, they’re targeting consumers in every stage of the buyer’s journey).
Knowing this variation in search intent, how will your strategies differ between the two?
- Google ranks ads based largely on CTR. The more clickable your ad, the more revenue Google makes. You’ll want to choose your branded term bidding with this in mind.
- Google ads take consumers to a brand’s landing page. You’ll want to perfect your destination if you take this route.
- Amazon ranks ads based primarily on performance and relevance metrics. It’s a sort of “quality score”, compiled from metrics like CTR, conversion rates, overall sales, product title, description, search terms and seller name. When bidding on branded terms, you’ll want to prioritize your product’s relevance.
- Your product listing within Amazon is home base for your ad. Amazon will never take buyers off the site.
- Not every seller can access all of Amazon’s ad types.
With all these differences, we still see some similarities in advertising between the two platforms. Both Amazon and Google base their PPC advertising off of CPC. Both ads use keywords as a trigger and are organized by ad groups. They’re also both optimized for conversions.
Use These Tools To Extract Branded Keywords (Both Yours & Your Competitor’s)
Branded keywords aren’t always just a company’s brand name. They can also be other head or long-tail keywords (AKA short keywords or phrases that are at least four words long). Use these tools to extract branded keywords for you and your competition:
- SEMrush Organic Research – This tool allows you to filter branded and non-branded keywords on both desktop and mobile. You can also inspect the competition via URL while you’re at it. Use the advanced filters on the report to extract meaningful branded terms. Register with your email address for 10 free inquiries before having to pay.
- BuzzSumo – The buzz around town says BuzzSumo is the bee’s knees when it comes to competitor targeting. Its primary benefit is alerting you to direct competition you may not have even known about, moving your gaze beyond the obvious big dogs and into the small, independent and successful competition. You can see surface metrics for free, but you must upgrade to access deeper insights about your keywords and content.
- Ahrefs Keywords Explorer – Ahrefs is reputable beyond belief, and for good reason. Their paid Keywords Explorer tool delivers tons of value. One aspect worth mentioning is their Top Pages feature, which lets you identify up to hundreds of keywords, all while focusing on page or article topic (instead of focusing on a specific keyword).
- Google Analytics – For those focusing on search engine PPC ads, Google Analytics is the way to go. In addition to analyzing your own branded terms, use it to discover your top competition as well as the branded terms they’re ranking for.
Check out some more tools for spying on your competitor’s keywords here.
How To Track Branded Keyword Performance
Once you find branded keywords to track, you’ll need to know how to measure them. Whichever platform you’re using, there are a few important factors you’ll want to pay attention to:
- Find your preferred tool’s organic search report. Break down keywords by factors such as traffic source and search volume.
- Make sure you’re looking at branded keywords, whether they be for you or your competitors. Specifically, you’re looking for keywords related to product names, local branded searches and other relevant terms.
- Compare performance for multiple periods of time, like two separate weeks or two separate months. Try to build your analysis around pre- and post-campaign. This is the only way to see a change in your progress.
- Analyze your performance for each keyword for factors like revenue per click and ROI. If you’re bidding on a keyword, you want to make sure it’s profitable for your business.
- Make sure you’re ranking for all branded queries in relation to your own brand.
- Compare your chosen keywords’ performance to brand awareness campaigns and see how they affect one another.
- Pay close attention to CTR. As we mentioned, both Ecommerce and search engine platforms place a high value on this.
While You’re At It, Protect Your Own Brand Name
In case your competition wants to start bidding on brand terms for your business, you’ll want to protect yourself as much as possible. Here’s a little defensive tactic for ya’. Trademark your own brand name so competitors can’t use it in their ads (PPC or otherwise).
If you have yet to trademark your company moniker or aren’t sure if it’s trademarked, make the United States Patent and Trademark Office (or your own country’s trademark office) your next step. Search the database and find your company’s name. If it’s trademarked, you’re all set. If you need to trademark your name, follow this guide.
And get on it, before your competition starts bidding on your branded terms and including your name in their ads — without risk of penalty!
If you’re already trademarked, you’re not done yet. Regularly monitor your brand mentions on search engines like Google so you can report ad violations on the fly. The sooner you spot violations, the sooner your competition is out.
The Consensus: When the Budget Allows, Bid On Both
Branded terms (both yours and your competitors) are a cheap bid. If you can afford it and can manage to follow best practices, bidding on brand terms is a smart move in the PPC arena.
There’s hardly a downside to bidding on your own brand name. You’re only boosting your CTR metrics and promoting healthy lead generation. Just take your existing strategy into consideration, and determine if the time is right.
On the contrary, bidding on your competitor’s branded terms does pose some risk. Analyze each competitor and decide if it’s worth it for you.
Competitor targeting and bidding on your own branded terms are not mutually exclusive. You can do both, and if the PPC planets are aligned, you should.
For us, the question “should you bid on your competitor’s brand terms or your own” has a nuanced answer. But most commonly, you’re in the clear for both.