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Should you use your brand in keyword advertising?

Del: 29/01/2007

To brand or not to brand? Should you use or should you not use your own brand in the keyword advertising campaigns with which you want to promote in Italy and/or abroad?
This is one of the most frequently debated issues, in the brainstorming between agencies and clients, especially when the latter can count on brands (more or less) well-known to the general public or, more simply, to their own target.
What is the reason for this question?
Using the brand as a keyword, especially when we are facing a known brand, is the easiest and more effective way to noticeably increase the performances of the campaign itself, since the conversion rates linked to an all inclusive brand search can also be 200% higher compared to one expressed “neutral” word; this because we are taking advantage of the fact that the user has already expressed his/her own preference about what he/she would like, now he/she is only trying to confirm and/or to find the place (in the territory or online) where to concretize this purchase or subscription choice.
However, in many cases, the mere presence of the site among the natural search results would be enough (those which are the fruit of search algorithm, no payment required) to obtain the same results, therefore being able to assign the budget linked to brand keywords and other areas of the campaign.

"The skilfulness of an agency when managing keyword advertising campaigns is above all seen from the outcomes that it is able to obtain from the groups of keywords that do not include the brand”: this is what you can read in many American "buyer’s guides" on how to choose a SEM agency that you can rely on. But the skilfulness of an agency is also that of understanding in which situations you can do without the brand, and in which the purchase of the brand as a keyword in one’s own search advertising campaign is fundamental.
Firstly it is necessary to try to understand in which stage of the decision and purchase process the user searches on the engines even the brand of the company, and how much this search can be decisive in the final decision. There is a lot of research, overseas, focused on this aspect, for instance that of 360i and SearchIgnite (see, but the most reliable can be obtained only testing the specific campaign.

Speaking in more specific and operative terms, there are some situations in which it is useful to insert the brand name among the keywords, and perhaps even necessary. Some of these cases may be the following (the list is not exhaustive, each campaign is a separate story):

- in the natural search results of the engines the site of the company does not appear when the brand is sought (not rarely does this happen), or it appears but not in the first position, overtopped by sites of retailers, by blogs that speak of the company and/or of its products, by sites that publish opinions and comparisons (e.g.
In this case the sponsored link is a must, since most users tend to spontaneously click on the first results they find could lead them away from fulfilling the desired search on the site we are promoting (because perhaps the page they end up on speaks badly of the company or the product, and this makes the visitor change his/her mind).

- digitizing the brand in the search engines the sponsored links of competitors or affiliated stores appear, links that override the company’s site in the natural search results. If it is true that many users will not take into consideration the sponsored links, because they know which site they were looking for, many others may be intercepted by the competitors.
In this case, besides intervening legally in order to have removed the links of the competitors who have purchased your brand as a keyword (especially if the brand is registered), it is convenient to move, even directly, on the sponsored links so as to contrast the competitors, then, verifying if this move has brought an increase of traffic and actions, (and at what cost), or if this move has in the end only "cannibalized" that traffic which would have however ended up on the present site in the natural results.

- when, among the natural search results, the link to the company’s site is not presented in the best way possible (for example, frequently on the engines, “home page” as the title of the link, “to view this site you have to have the Flash Player 8 installed” as the description; if the company name is not present in the URL, how do you know what it is about?), while it is necessary to have the possible prospects receive a precise message in order to make them want to visit the site and discard the uncertain presentation that the company offers of itself among the natural search results.

- when, above all we wish for the visitor to carry out a certain action, the homepage (that usually is the page of the site that appears first among the natural results) is not the best page to get him/her to, it is not the most effective to convert him into contact or client.
In situations like these, aware of the best conversion rates of the ad hoc inside pages or landing pages, we have worked on the redesign of the homepage with some clients in order to insert the first step of the form, or a more evident call to action, so obtaining a perceptive increase of the conversion rates also on those visitors that however preferred clicking on the natural search result (ending up in homepage) rather than on the sponsored link.

- when opportunities want to be communicated, special offers or events of limited time duration, and you want to take the visitor to specific pages.

- when you want to test which message (title or description) could result more effective even for the natural result (you use the sponsored links to test creativity, despite the space available is inferior to the one offered by titles and descriptions of the natural results)

In the USA the issue of the brand or non brand is decisively felt, on the one hand, for the acting as “loose dogs” of many affiliated companies, that also purchase the brand as a keyword perhaps without authorization to do so, and they create problems both of costs and used messages. On the other hand many big companies are starting to collaborate with the main retailers on/offline that move on keyword advertising, so as to best synchronize the activities, in order to avoid stepping on each other and uselessly competing with each other.
A correct management of this situation may be allowed, budgets being equal, to obtain more results, or rather, results being equal, to obtain considerable savings.

                                                            Marco Loguercio
                                                             Founder and CEO
                                                             Sems S.r.l.


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