Brand Keywords: To Bid or Not To Bid

The age old question in Search Engine Marketing, one that I’m afraid I’ll only examine (but not answer) here, is whether or not to bid on your advertiser’s brand keywords. As much as this is debated, often times, I only see arguments stating “yes, you should”, or, “no, why would you?”– but, rarely does the discussion go further than that.

In my opinion, the decision to bid on brand keywords in SEM is a variable, that changes from advertiser to advertiser. There’s no simple answer that applies to all; however, if you’re stuck trying to determine for or against, maybe this piece will help a bit. As always, feel free to leave me a comment below or email me any questions you have on the subject.

The Argument For Brand Keywords

To begin, if your client isn’t in the #1 position for their own name, and subsequent variations, stop here. There’s no question, until your SEO develops, you should absolutely be bidding on brand keywords.

Also, do a little research: are competitors bidding on your advertiser’s brand? Are their other brands out there with similar (or the same) names that might be knocking you out of the top position on SEO? Either way, in those cases, I would also strongly recommend bidding on brand terms.

For everyone else, think about this: brand keywords are typically very cheap. And, I’ve found in direct response campaigns, they perform very well. Plus, there is something to be said about representation; personally, there’s times I feel that brand who do not bid on their own terms, especially when there is stiff competition for their vertical or name, are missing out on valuable real estate that may cost them in the long run.

I’ve also had many clients, mostly SMBs, who very much like to see their ad on top of the SERPs for their own brand terms

The Argument Against

You’re Walmart. Google is already giving you premium real estate, with maps & Google Plus integration right there on the SERP. You are number 1 in SEO, nobody is trying to bid on your brand keyword; and, above all, everyone on Planet Earth knows who you are. Sure, in this case, bidding on branded terms is probably a waste of both management time, and money.

I used to manage Target’s SEM campaign on the AOL network a few years back. They refused to bid on their own brand terms– which, at the time, was only frustrating to me because I received commission on spend, and, hell, the more the merrier, right? But, in all honesty, I agreed with their choice, and thought it to be a waste otherwise.

In The End…

I regret not making this a clear-cut post: I’ve seen (and collected) data for both sides of the argument; and while I cannot share this specific information, believe me, I don’t personally advocate a “right or wrong” in this matter.

In my opinion, the decision whether or not to bid on brand keywords comes down to a client-by-client decision. If their SEO isn’t top-notch, or they have stiff competition in their vertical, I can’t see a reason not to bid on their brand terms. If you’re working with a giant in the industry, or someone that is very well-known by brand name, then it becomes more of a decision of real estate vs.

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