What’s The Real Value of Brand PPC?

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Many of our PPC clients (and from what I hear from other pros and agencies, many of their clients) at some point start to believe they shouldn’t be spending money on keywords for their brand names, service name, or product names. They want to advertise only on more general keywords. I believe this is a mistake for a number of reasons.

The client assumes:

  • If I stop advertising for my brand name, people will click on my natural search listing anyway. I’ll get exactly the same number of visitors, and it won’t cost me per click!
  • Anyone that searches for my brand name is probably a repeat customer, not a new one.
  • SEO and PPC listings are equally valuable, the only difference is the cost.

A number of internet experts and researchers believe:

  • When you don’t have an ad AND a natural listing, you have less presence on the search result page, and thus more competition.
  • When you show both, you make a bigger impact on the buyer, which increases attention and trust, thereby increasing traffic, conversions, conversion rate, decreasing cost per conversion, increasing ROI.
  • Brand keywords are usually cheaper than general ones, so the ROI on that ad spend is higher.
  • Most of the industry uses “last click analytics” which means we have a blind spot about how many touchpoints a customer hit before converting.
  • Our internal research shows that about 50% of people who convert on a brand keyword are actually new customers.
  • In some cases, you can lose significant brand recognition and natural search sales if you stop advertising on your brand names.
  • The ability to customize ads and feature new offers in PPC ads gives it a striking advantage over SEO meta descriptions.

PPC’s Partial Measurability Can Be Held Against It

PPC is so highly measurable that it could be held more accountable than other channels- but we don’t see the effect of PPC on other marketing channels, because they get credit for the conversion in last-click analytics. Brand awareness generated from PPC ads can translate into conversion where the last click attributes credit to natural search or email.

Both brand and general searches could be conducted by the same prospect before buying. The multi-touchpoint journey is complicated, and few analytics packages track it. Hardly any companies are using that kind of data to discover the real partial value each channel contributes to ROI.

A Few Touchpoint Paths To Consider

A Few Touchpoint Paths To Consider

Yahoo PPC has a concept called “assists” that hints at this big picture. For one client, 14% of Yahoo PPC sales were assisted by multiple keyword searches. That’s just within the PPC channel.  25% of those brand name keyword sales were assisted by a general keyword search. A blog post by Alan Rimm-Kaufman suggests 6-11% of brand keyword sales are preceded by general searches. Our numbers are different. There may be a high amount of variability per client and vertical, so we watch these patterns per client.

We can only partial see the multi-touchpoint trails, so we need to assume that whatever ROI we see from PPC is only part of the picture. (Indeed, even AdWords’ 30 day cookie and its attribution to the date of first click means that PPC reports are only accurate 30 days or more before the reporting date.) PPC ROI is usually higher than first glance suggests.

Client Case Studies

One client, fighting big time competition, seasonality issues, and focusing on general keywords, was only getting a 250% ROAS (return on ad spend, or revenue divided by ad cost). But when we include call tracking data and look at all sales that originated from PPC, the ROAS is 350%.

Another client stopped running brand keywords in PPC and when we compared them to two similar clients (same vertical, similar business structure), we found something very interesting- their natural search sales dropped dramatically. The comparison clients kept a consistent brand vs general PPC spend percentage and didn’t see this drop in natural search bookings. Somehow, brand ppc was leading to sales directly preceded by natural searches.  This suggests that brand PPC might have a brand awareness raising effect, which isn’t ridiculous to consider.

Natural Search Bookings Decreased After Brand PPC Ceased

Natural Search Bookings Decreased After Brand PPC Ceased

PPC Brand vs General Keyword Recommendations

I’d recommend a mix for most customers. Generally speaking, each marketing effort makes the others more effective. Until we have complete multitouchpoint analytics that can guide us to the optimal mix, I suggest you allocate your budget according to your goals.

  • If you’re more aggressive about new customer acquisition, spend more on general keywords.
  • If you’re more focused on high ROI, spend more on brand keywords.
  • If you don’t care about getting new customers, stop PPC and just email your house list.
  • If you don’t have an email list yet, get more aggressive with PPC.
  • If you want to feature special offers to new customers, use PPC- SEO can’t be customized that quickly.
  • If you want to feature special offers to repeat customers, use email.
Brian Carter
Brian is author of The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money With Facebook and Facebook Marketing: Leveraging Facebook's Features For Your Marketing Campaigns, How to... Read Full Bio
Brian Carter
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