The Challenges of Brand Search and PPC

Rich OrdDigitalMarketingNews, EnterpriseMarketingNews, SearchNews

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Controlling the search position of your brand is very important to your business. However, this has become increasingly difficult due to changes in Google brand policies that have opened the door to competitors stealing (or buying) your brands traffic and business. Puneet Vaghela, Head of Paid Search at PHD UK, a global communications planning and media buying network recently spoke about these important challenges:

Why is brand search difficult to control in PPC?

With brand search, you are expected to get most of the traffic. However, what we are seeing increasingly is more and more competitors entering the market in our brand space. Back in the day, it was there but you could just get them kicked off by Google or Bing. Nowadays, it's a lot more difficult with all of the policy changes. What this actually means is that they are not only cannibalizing our traffic but they're also pushing up our CPCs and our CPAs.

As a brand, you are always looking for ways to get people to your website and get them to convert more. It used to be just interest-based keywords on generics related to your own brand. Now you can cannibalize other peoples brands and get those incremental gains. The problem then is competitors coming into our brand space and pushing our ads down or increasing the CPCs on our ads. It's not just direct competitors either, you have resellers, aggregators, etc. In the automotive space you have dealers and many automotive brands are having issues with trying to control how their dealers are bidding because dealers don't have as much experience.

What we are seeing now is traffic is being lost from our brands' brand-related search terms onto our main website and it's going away.

This is even more important on mobile

As you know with mobile there's a lot less space on the SERP, and usually with the size of the ads above the fold takes up most of the space and not many people are going to scroll down all the way to the bottom. Also, with mobile, it's when people are actually looking for stuff at the moment and they've got less attention span, so it's even more important that we actually pick up this traffic. Chances are that whatever they click on they are going to then stick with that. This is especially the case for retailers and automotive businesses who have local offerings and people looking for local specific information.

On mobile, the lower your ad position is the higher (negative) impact it has on your clickthrough rate.

On tablet and on desktop the actual CTR decrease as your ad position goes down isn't as significant as it is on mobile. This goes to show that on mobile we need to make sure that our ad positions are up there at the top.

How valuable is your brand space?

Once you have the data and you know about your brand space it's about analyzing the data and finding out how valuable is your brand space to you? Years ago you could just log into Google Analytics and look at the value per click of your organic brand and the value per click of your paid search brand. As long as the value was more than your cost per click it made it viable to bid on your brand. It was a pretty simple analysis.

Then seven years ago Google took away the ability to see organic keyword data and analytics have become harder. What we are seeing now is that's it's a lot more difficult to access this data and so people are having to think of different tests that they can come up with.

I like to use standard deviation to get the validity of the data in the beginning in order to measure the success of the ad test. The reason for this is that gives a much better data set to work with so once you actually have the data in you can use a range to look at the changes we see if we then turn the brand off. If it fits within this range then fine, we don't need to work on brand PPC. If it's outside of the range then we know that PPC needs to be turned on because it's having a significant impact on our business.

Rich Ord