Why it’s important to invest in non-branded paid search

by Kelsey Chadwick, 27 Jun 2018

Working hand-in-hand, brand and non-brand keywords create a strong SEM presence that allows you to stay competitive and drive profit. However, to achieve a campaign’s goals and improve profit, you must first decide how much you are willing to spend to drive conversions.

Some brands might think a business can remain profitable by simply running on brand terms alone. However, we believe investing in brand alone just doesn’t cut it. Here are some reasons why businesses should save some advertising dollars for non-brand terms:

  1. Brand can’t do all the work.

Brand can do a lot of the leg work for your campaigns by bringing in the majority of conversions to your site, but there does come a point when brand growth becomes stagnant. That’s when you want to start investing in non-brand. Bidding on non-brand can help expand your current audience base by reaching those who are still in the exploratory stage of the search funnel – those that may not be familiar with your brand yet.

While these searchers are still in the research phase, capturing their attention early can lead to a conversion later down the road. Therefore, high-funnel searches are critical to the growth of your business. Without them, you not only lose the opportunity to expand, but you also provide the perfect opportunity for competitors to swoop in and steal new customers. How can you create brand recognition if searchers only see your competitors’ ads on the search results page?

  1. Make your overall campaign more efficient.

Efficiency is the key to any successful search campaign. When you choose not to bid on non-brand terms, there’s a strong likelihood your current keyword set will still match out to these “bleed out” terms, which could result in paying higher CPCs than necessary. To get ahead of that surge in CPC, you can bid on those non-brand terms and better control spend by maintaining strong ad relevancy and setting search bids at the price you’re willing to pay.

  1. Maximize your reach.

Non-brand is a great way to expand your reach and find new customers. While most advertisers have high impression share on their brand terms, it can be hard for them to maximize their reach on brand terms alone without tactics like non-brand driving up branded impressions. Non-brand not only allows you to get out in front of consumers who may not have had any prior exposure to your brand, but also allows you to help feed and expand your current customer base. 

  1. Non-brand lifts brand conversions.

Many would argue there’s a lift associated with non-brand’s impact on brand conversions. Though hard to calculate without pausing non-brand completely, we agree with this theory and have tested this in several accounts. In the tests in which we turned off non-brand, we were able to calculate a drop in brand conversions. One retail client discovered 10% of their total revenue in a given quarter was generated from brand terms where the first click in the path to conversion was made on a non-brand term first.

Had they not been bidding on those non-brand terms, brand would not have seen the incremental revenue that those keywords drove. This proves the value of the assist that non-brand holds when working with brand. Fortunately data-driven attribution is more accessible to advertisers nowadays, which makes it easier to prove the value of non-brand and apply proper credit to its role in the conversion path.

  1. Without it, you leave revenue on the table.

One way to look at investing in non-brand terms is to consider what you lose by not bidding on it. Not only would you miss an opportunity to gain incremental revenue and drive more sales, but you also give your competitors a chance to steal your customers. As long as you’re strategically investing in non-brand and still see a positive return on your campaign as whole, there are not many advertisers who would say that driving more revenue isn’t worth it. To stay competitive, you have to be willing to spend more, but the payout is usually higher as a result of pushing more money into expanding your campaign.

Although a lot of advertisers see 80 – 90% of orders (depending on the industry) come from brand terms, bidding on both brand and non-brand terms will help you achieve your overall campaign goals and expand your audience base beyond what bidding on brand alone is capable of doing. As long as you’re able to reach your goals by bidding on both brand and non-brand, we think any business would say it’s worth the incremental new customers and revenue acquired.

If you aren’t investing in non-brand yet, it’s not too late. Here are a few ways to control your non-brand spend and make bidding on those terms a little less scary:

  1. Use SQRs from AdWords, Bing and Gemini, as well as SEO reports to determine which non-brand terms people are already searching and clicking on, to create your non-brand keyword list.
  2. Layer on Demographic and Similar Audience Lists to ensure you're capturing potential customers who look and act like existing converters.
  3. Use Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) to act as a catch all so that you can match out to all relevant non-brand terms that you might not have built out in your keyword list. DSAs also save you time in building customized ad copy since the headlines and description lines are pulled directly from the landers on your website and are dynamically served to match the search.
  4. Use remarketing campaigns to capture people who have come to your site via a non-brand search, didn’t convert, then searched again later on. This allows you to bid up on these return searchers—increasing their chances of converting the second time they visit your site after clicking your ad.