Using Pay-Per-Click for Brand Building

Using Pay-Per-Click for Brand Building

If you work at an agency that manages paid search campaigns, it’s likely you’ve encountered the age-old discussion about using PPC to build the client brand. Often there a variety of reasons not to do this, and clients are usually the first to point these out. They often want to conserve budget, of course, and bidding on their brand name looks like a good way to waste valuable campaign budget just to get visitors that are already searching for the client’s brand name. And while there is some truth to this, more often than not, this is only part of the story.

Let me illustrate with a true story. We have a client whose competitor spent quite a bit on a radio promotion. These ads had a call-to-action that drove people to the web. When it comes to radio commercials, as it would happen, consumers do one of two things: 1) they remember the brand name of the company running the radio commercial, but don’t know the URL so they search for it in a search engine, or 2) they can’t remember the brand name, but remember something about the brand or product, so they search for whatever they remember.

So what if you set up a campaign and targeted the competing product name, as well as the competitors frequently searched related keywords? Well, we did. When a consumer did a search after hearing the radio commercial, they would see our client’s ad on top of the search results. We ended up getting traffic that came from another promotion, saw our client’s ads and got interested. We also earned thousands of impressions, each of which is an opportunity to build our client’s brand in the mind of a consumer who is actively engaged in the research phase, looking for a product our client sells. This is about as good as it gets when it comes to branding. Maybe they click on our ad and visit our client’s website and make a sale – great. Maybe they just see our client’s ad, near the top of the search results page when searching for a competing product – also great.

This is just one example of when it can pay to use PPC to build a brand. Hang in there for another few lines and I’ll explain a few more.

Competitor names and products – If you’ve ever been involved in a competitive speed sport such as running, cycling or car racing, you may have heard of the concept of “drafting”. This is concept of aerodynamics where one competitor takes a position directly behind another to allow the front competitor to break the air resistance. The spot directly behind the front competitor will be in the slipstream of the leader, which allows the follower to observe less wind resistance, allowing the “drafter” to conserve energy, build speed and more easily shoot past the competitor in the front. The concept of utilizing the leader’s energy for your gain also applies to marketing. As illustrated in the original example, there is a great opportunity to attain brand recognition and association within a specific marketplace. Often you can “draft” your competitor, thereby gaining advantage from their larger budget and offline promotions.

Synergy with organic optimization – So your brand comes up on top for your name in the organic search results. Perfect. But what about all the competing messages on that page, and ads from your competitors? There are plenty of studies that have shown that you will often achieve a higher click-through-rate when your PPC ad is shown along with your organic listing, for both products and your brand name. But be careful, sometimes this can have a cannibalistic effect, and you should look for the net ROI change to make sure this isn’t happening in your instance. Here’s a great article about how to measure to make sure you are not cannibalizing your SEO results.

Supporting offline campaigns – Using PPC to support an offline campaign is a great way to use PPC to build your brand. When you are running an offline promotion, whether PR, TV, Radio, Print or even a social campaign, it’s important to have PPC ads in place to support whatever your potential customers might be searching. This is your opportunity to associate your brand or product with their search. However, keep in mind that your competitors have the opportunity to “draft” by utilizing some of your offline campaigns to attain additional traffic and brand building. Bottom line, just be aware of this activity and don’t leave this gap open for your competitors to steal your mojo.

Bidding for brand names, products, tag lines and associated keyword phrases – If you don’t have the top organic listing this is particularly important. It’s a good idea to associate your brand with the consumers’ search phrases, particularly when those phrases cover your industry or product. When the consumer is searching for a tag line that you are using, or hoping to use in the future, this is also your opportunity to further associate your brand with this tag line.

Misspellings – It always amazes me when I do a search for a company and spell it wrong. Frequently the company website will not come up high in organic listings, and even worse, they won’t have a PPC ad waiting there for me. This is an opportunity to correct a brand mistake, build your correct brand name (spelling) and to direct a nearly lost customer to your web property. And best yet, more often than not, the cost for these PPC clicks is very low.

There are many more strategies to employ, but these should be a few good ones to consider when developing your paid search campaign strategy. Here are a few tips to remember when running a PPC campaign for Brand Building purposes.

• Make sure the keyword(s) you are bidding on are featured on the landing page(s) to which you are sending consumers. This will help keep PPC bid costs down by increasing quality scores, and will also help increase conversion when consumers get to your landing page.

• Make sure to show your brand or product name clearly in ad copy – too often I see ads that would be great branding ads, yet they lack a clear brand name and message. Don’t forget the most important thing in building a brand is… the brand.

• Make sure to put the brand name in the display URL – again, it’s critical to show to help reinforce the credibility of your brand name by showing it again in the URL.

• Make sure to bid aggressively enough to get a top spot – sometimes when you are running a campaign for the purpose of generating sales and ROI, the 3rd or 4th spot might generate the best return on your investment. When you are building your brand, this is a different story. If your ad falls in the 9th position on the bottom of a page of PPC ads, you will not be seen as a leader in the category that the consumer is researching…if your ad is seen at all.

Don’t forget the content network – if the purpose of building your brand is to associate it with a specific need/category/product in the consumers mind, the content network does just this. It shows your ad next to an article discussing a particular topic that is relevant to the keyword you have bid on. It’s not perfect, true, but it will certainly get you a great number of brand-building impressions for a low cost.

While PPC is often one of the most cost efficient ways to drive direct sales, don’t forget the value of building a brand through paid search. In a world where you, and your client, could use every advantage possible, this is yet another powerful way to realize great gains with little expense.

Love the idea? Hate it? Feel free to shoot me an email, or discuss below.

NOTE: This article was written for, and first appeared on the website. It has been edited slightly and modified a bit just to better suit the readership of this website.

Scott Kaufmann
[email protected]

Scott is Partner at Lucid Agency and a lover of all things technology, marketing, investing and entrepreneurship. Scott volunteers on the board of the Denver-based Nonprofit Celebrate EDU and as a mentor for SeedSpot (a Phoenix-based social startup incubator).

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