Welcome to Part 3 of a series on PPC brand bidding, where I answer the biggest question facing PPC advertisers in 2016: How do I get meaningful growth numbers out of a crowded and competitive PPC market?
Let’s get you all caught up. In Part 1, we reviewed how gains in PPC evolved over the years and why top-line revenue is so hard to come by today. Part 2 used data and case studies to explain just how valuable brand bidding has become to marketers.
With the “why” now out of the way, it’s time to discuss the best practices of “how” to implement brand bidding campaigns.
As with any PPC campaign, brand bidding begins with effective keyword development. There are plenty of primers on keyword selection and keyword research tools on the web if you need to review the basics. These definitely apply to brand campaigns, too.
To start, find the brand and brand-plus keywords by reviewing your existing campaigns and analytics for generic terms that drive the best traffic. Then, add your brand terms in front of them (e.g., Burton + women’s snowboards on sale).
Next, combine your brand name with common search term appendages, such as:
You can also check Google Autocomplete and related searches (at the bottom of the results page) for common searches on your brand.
Competitors on your brand terms are there to steal your clicks and piggy-back on your good name. Competitors can cause you to lose clicks (See Part 2 of this series) and increase CPCs on your brand terms. Or worse, they can overtake you in rank, pushing you down the page.
Your number one goal is to remove as many competitors as you can. The search engines will help you with this exercise. Start by familiarizing yourself with the engines’ trademark policies.
Then, be vigilant in monitoring your brand terms. If you find a competitor who is using your name in ad copy text, be relentless in reporting these competitors to the search engines (More on this in Part 6 of this series). Report any competitive advertiser that uses your brand name in their PPC ad title or copy. (Remember that it’s okay if your brand appears in the ad’s Display URL, which engines allow.)
The search engines have compliance departments that are set up to review your complaints. If an ad infringes on their policies, the engine will take the ad down immediately. If the ad does not infringe, the search engine will allow the ad to continue to run. If the latter happens, don’t take it personally.
And don’t worry about getting penalized for this. Search engines expect some level of complaints and are prepared to handle your inquiries. If you can automate the reporting process, you should.
The next best thing to a take-down is to beat your competitors in rank. You never want your competition to bid above you on your own brand terms, so it’s important to monitor your brand terms daily and adjust your bids accordingly.
If your take-down attempts end up failing, it is most likely because the competitor is not using your brand name in its ad copy. By not using your name, the competitor’s ads are likely not very relevant to the search term, which will cause their quality score to decline and their CPCs to increase. Their costs will balloon as a result, which is what you want, since it allows you to outbid them.
Sure, they could ignore return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) and continue brand bidding just to be jerks, but let them spend the money. You can also cause them additional pain by cranking up the heat with partner arrangements.
If you sell online, having an affiliate program can help you dominate page one, drive more revenue, manage costs and build your brand. By carefully selecting a group of your best affiliates to work with you, you can use this powerful cost-cutting technique that can also boost clicks and sales.
We will dive deep into partner and legal issues later in this series, but here are the basics:
Affiliate management and coordination takes constant vigilance. (Sorry, there are no freebies in PPC!) This is accomplished with dedicated personnel and PPC monitoring tools that can automate the detection, reporting and communication with affiliates and the engines.
In addition to the standard best practices for ad copy and landing pages, like title-matching your keyword, here are other best practices for brand bidding:
Keep in mind that if you have a strong brand, and you can show your value in the ad copy, then you might not need an offer. Before you decide, evaluate the competitive landscape.
Remember what Ricky Bobby said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last?” This is true with mobile, where only one or two paid ads (and often no organic results) can appear above the fold. You’d better focus on being #1.
For example, here is a search on the Burton brand, and you can see only one listing. Burton makes use of site links, a phone number and an offer. Notice how BIG their ad is!
The pole position is clearly good for traffic and conversions. Google recently announced that more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers. Our client and retail super affiliate, Savings.com, shares that on their mobile website, CTR drops from 30 percent in the first position to 12 percent in second position.
Piggy-backing is a technique where you brand bid on a competitor’s brand name. I just spent most of this article discussing how to brand bid on yourself. Now, we will discuss brand bidding on your competition.
Who can benefit from piggy-backing?
In order to piggy-back effectively, you will need to follow these rules:
Here is a great example of this tactic deployed by Chevy against Ford to promote the differences between its Malibu brand and the Ford Fusion. Notice how Chevrolet is ranked first for “ford fusion?” The ad copy does not mention Ford. The display URL contains the Ford Fusion brand and takes the user to a comparison page.
Okay, now let’s discuss another great example of piggy-backing. In the screenshot below, two giants of marketing automation, Marketo and Pardot, are battling it out in PPC. Marketo is advertising on Pardot’s brand name.
Notice again, as in the above Chevy versus Ford example, how Marketo is ranked first and links its ad to a comparison landing page to make its case. If you were a smaller player in marketing automation (e.g., Net-Results.com, which markets on how it can compete with the industry leaders), you could be capitalizing on this same piggy-backing strategy.
I hope you’ve seen that brand bidding is a carefully planned and executed battle that can be won by both large and small brands. By using the weapons discussed above, it’s possible to achieve meaningful growth from a crowded and competitive PPC market. For those of you who are more advanced here, I welcome your time-saving tips for newcomers.
The next article in this eight-part series will dive deeper into maximizing affiliate/partner relationships for brand PPC. It will be followed by articles on handling the competition, legal responses to trademark violations, highly effective techniques and the future of brand bidding. Stay tuned!
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