Do I Purchase My Brand Keywords or Has Google Improved So Much I Don’t Need To?

Part 1 of 3
Bestbuyserp Recently Google has changed the way search results on brand queries appear for many businesses. They have provided them with added real estate at the top of the SERP by listing four links to internal sections below the main result and description (interestingly it seems for everyone but Amazon & their platform users like Target). This definitely improves the searcher experience. Users can navigate more directly to relevant sections. They are more likely to click on the legitimate site rather than affiliates or made for AdSense sites. Users also get more insight into what products and services the searched on brand/site has to offer. It’s a clear win for everyone and at the heart of Google’s credo. Or is it?

This improvement (coupled with other factors enumerated below) raises some interesting questions on search, brand, spend and ROI. The main question is has Google improved its natural SERPs so much for brand queries that having an ad is no longer necessary? The answer to this question will not only interest business and advertisers, but also Google. This is because as SEMs know, most of the traffic to any site is on these brand keywords. Should ads start disappearing on them one has to think this will negatively impact Google’s revenue from AdWords. But, will it negatively effect businesses?

Nordstrom is spending lots of money each day on branded queries (I have no business relations with any examples). No doubt their impression volume is high for the Nordstrom branded AdGroup and without competition (a huge factor in this equation) Nordstrom is at the mercy of Google’s price determination for these clicks. I’m also sure from my related experience that their ad is drawing lots of clicks. But are these clicks that would have ended up in the natural result had the ad not been present?


Now take a look at Bloomingdales. Are they loosing traffic without having an ad? More importantly are they losing revenue?

There’s been talk for years (and even yesterday) about do you have an ad along side a high natural ranking in the SERP. I’ve heard the question on almost every SES panel I’ve been on. There was research a year or two ago that showed that it was a good idea and I think on most queries it probably is. But does it make sense for brand? Are those clicks just going to go to the natural result anyway?

SerpgoldentriangleThe new result format takes up most of the golden triangle (seen here on the left as determined with eye-tracking) at the very top of the page. The result is also clearly aligned with the goal of the keyword. Factor into this that even in the event a competitor was allowed to bid on the brand terms it’s unlikely that they could get a quality score high enough to have top sponsor result. It makes one wonder if buying an ad here is worth it.

These questions were raised by an OTTO Digital client (a major retailer) and they are indeed very interesting questions to try and answer. Of course our job is to strategize with clients on how to get those answers. In Part 2 I’ll tell you what we are doing to understand this dynamic and in Part 3 (later this month) I’ll provide insight into the results.



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6 responses to “Do I Purchase My Brand Keywords or Has Google Improved So Much I Don’t Need To?”

  1. WebMetricsGuru Avatar

    Do Branded PPC Keywords make sense to buy?

    No, they dont, according to how I read the latest post in Jonathan Mendezs blog, Optimize Prohesize. I can tell you, beyond a doubt, most brands do getmuch of their search traffic on variations of their own name….


  2. WebMetricsGuru Avatar

    Using to analyze PPC Spend Strategy of your Competitors

    I was about to go to bed (its 3 AM already) but I just had to turn the key one more time – Johnathan Mendezs post of Branded PPC got me to think about, which he uses as an…


  3. Josh Avatar

    First, thanks for writing all these great blogs. 🙂
    I don’t ever think that getting rid of paid search on branded terms is going to go away unless google and other search engines prohibit the use of those branded terms by competitors.
    For example, let’s say that Best Buy dropped all of it’s paid search on it’s branded terms. Circuit City could come in and make the highest bid to become the first paid result, which could read something like “Will beat any Best Buy published price by 10% guaranteed”.
    Although that isn’t the most creative example, I’m sure some competitors out there could think of a way to steal a ton of business, so although paid search on branded terms I feel will become more of a defensive play rather than to advertise the company.


  4. Dave Avatar

    interesting article. Doesn’t look like their is a consensus on brand term bidding by my brief survey of our competitor set. Who are you, and what do you do for a living?


  5. Jonathan Mendez Avatar
    Jonathan Mendez

    Josh- There a few issues at play here including biding on trademarked terms. Best By has no one bidding against them competitively.
    Dave- Who are you and what do you do for Nordstrom? All my info is available by clicking on the “About” link in the left nav.


  6. wan emulator Avatar

    The big issue I had was the setup wizard and all the tutorials were all geared around each interface being in a different broadcast domain/subnet.


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