Brand queries: the AdWords performance illusion

Posted on: May 30, 2016 by in SEO
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google-adwords-yellow3-1920Experienced marketers know that where high-consideration purchases are concerned, it’s normal for customer journeys and purchase cycles to take weeks, or even months.

But many AdWords practitioners still look at each search session as the entire relationship with a user when looking at performance reporting.

These sessions are then analyzed and translated into bidding strategies and also influence campaign budget allocations. As a result, the sessions that are most highly valued are the ones that typically start with a brand query and are closer to the conversion event than shopper discovery sessions that are typically initiated with a generic category or generic product query.

To grow a healthy sales pipeline, it is essential for marketers to work the top of the funnel and spur introduction to the brand. This is how wise marketers feed volume to the bottom of the funnel, where the conversion events happen.

Targeting shoppers in the research phase involves testing generic keywords and category term keywords to discover which ones provide assists to the conversions that happen later on in the customer journey.

As an industry, we have become myopic with our AdWords strategies and are focused on optimizing a single event — typically last click — for a positive outcome instead of optimizing the customer relationship across multiple touch points for more sales and revenue over the longer term.

Conduct an AdWords audit

Are your own AdWords campaigns falling into the brand comfort zone? Your first step in figuring this out is to audit your campaigns. As you review, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your ad groups set up in a way that lets you separate and compare your branded and non-branded ad group spend and performance?
  • What percentage of your AdWords campaigns spend is brand versus non-brand keywords?

If the answer to the first question is no, adjust your account structure to ensure branded terms and non-branded terms are not intermingled in the same ad groups.

Once this is complete, you should determine the level of incremental lift that the brand terms are providing. You can accomplish this by turning off the brand term ad groups in AdWords for a week and see the loss in AdWords revenue and the gain in Natural Search revenue.

This will give you a sense of what amount of additional revenue you would be getting from natural search results if you didn’t bid on this keyword. Then, use this information to determine how much you should be discounting the revenue in your ROI or ROAS calculation.

This discount will vary by industry and brand, but the most important thing here is to implement some sort of discount so you can balance your AdWords spend optimally throughout the purchase cycle.

Rebalancing your keyword portfolio

Once you have taken a discount percentage (for this example, we’ll use 30 percent), you can now look at the performance of your branded and unbranded ad groups with and without the discount.

This will give us a fresh look at how our AdWords campaign is performing and how we might rebalance our bids and the AdWords spend across our campaigns.

Rebalancing will optimize our campaign towards investing ad spend in capturing incremental sales and a bigger revenue pie, rather than the comfortable and myopic view of looking at and optimizing solely toward metrics like Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

When fine-tuning the campaign, look at these factors:

  • Review brand terms one by one.
  • Analyze the Search Console report called “Search Analytic Report.”
  • Discover the click and CTR differential between when the brand terms were being bidded on and not bidded on.
  • Turn off keywords where the ads are not providing significant incremental clicks and value.

Reinvesting in incremental sales

Now that you’ve optimized your campaigns, you are ready to move some of the saved budget and reinvest it into keywords at the beginning of the purchase journey.

It is important for brands to be top of mind for users when they are shopping, so that when they get closer to their purchase, they include your brand with the product in their query, rather than that of your competitor. Brand also plays a large factor in both paid and organic search click-through rate (CTR); users tend to click on results where a recognized brand appears in the title or the URL.

To increase the likelihood of searchers typing in searches that include your brand, you must bid on generic terms earlier in the funnel. This is when shoppers are learning the brands that are relevant to their purchase consideration set.

Display advertising, content marketing and social advertising can also be a great way to ensure that your brand has top-of-mind association with a particular category or product/service. The increase in your CTR on your ads will have the positive second-order effect of increasing your AdWords Quality Score, reducing your costs of search advertising and increasing revenue later on in the purchase journey.

When you acknowledge the performance illusion of branded keywords, you have a chance to adjust your campaigns for true performance. You’ll see the long-term rewards are worth the effort.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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