Brand Bidding - Do or Don’t?

Monday, March 18, 2024


Written by

Senior Paid Media Specialist

Brand bidding is and always has been a hot topic in the world of paid search. It’s often contested as to whether it’s needed or a waste of valuable ad spend. Before we get into it, I just wanted to clarify what we mean by brand bidding first.

What is brand bidding?

Put simply, brand bidding is when you bid on your own brand name. This can be the actual brand name [Adidas], Misspellings [Addidas] or Products [LA Trainers]. Advertisers bid on their own brand in order to appear in Google shopping or search, on SERPs. This usually allows them good real estate in SERPs, attracting users to click directly through to the site. 

What is the argument against brand bidding?

If there is no competition on your brand name, and you’re appearing first organically, then bidding on brand is likely stealing organic traffic, which doesn’t cost vs. paying per click to drive this traffic through a paid ad. We wouldn’t recommend brand bidding if this is the case, however would always recommend keeping an eye on branded terms in case competition does one day appear. 

There is also a general argument that even if there is competition on branded keywords, if you’re appearing first organically, you should avoid brand bidding. Again, this argument is claiming that paid traffic is stealing from organic, hence paying for traffic that would otherwise be free. In this case, the level of brand bidding adopted should be thoroughly tested to find a balance between paid and organic brand traffic.

SERPs have become increasingly busy, especially for ecom results. Generally there’s shopping results, followed by 3-4 paid ads, and then organic results.

When landing on the SERP’s page, organic results are nowhere to be seen, and before a user has a chance to navigate to them, they could be tempted by half a dozen shopping and search ads. If you have competition bidding on your brand and you’re not there, then you’re essentially handing that brand visibility over to competitors to try and tempt users first. We’d therefore recommend bidding on your branded terms if this is the case.

This can get a little messy and complicated when re-sellers are in the mix too. These are slightly different to competitors, because they sell your product, but ultimately it’s more profitable for users to buy direct rather than through a reseller, ideally you’d want users on your site.

Would dropping brand harm paid search performance?

This is entirely dependent on how you report on paid performance, and what targets are in place. 

At Clicky, we report on whole performance, as well as brand and non-brand separately for our clients. This is important because brand bidding is not usually seen as ‘new customer acquisition activity’, users are already familiar with you, potentially returning or already seen an ad elsewhere i.e (Meta). Effectively the brand claims that conversion when really the hard work has likely been accomplished elsewhere to get that users attention in the first place. 

Brand ROAS nine times out of ten would have the best performance in the account, vs. prospective, non-brand campaigns, and therefore will always make performance look better. By reporting on brand and non-brand activity separately, we understand how non-brand activity is performing and growing, which is usually a core aim for clients. 

Some clients have ROAS or CPA targets inclusive of branded activity, others exclude brand - reviewing how you want to report and set KPIs for paid ads could dictate the impact reducing branded traffic would have on performance. 

So, should I bid on my brand traffic?

Well, unfortunately, as with many other digital marketing arguments, it depends. 

I know that’s not the answer anyone likes to hear, but it’s not a one size fits all approach. 

It depends on everything we’ve outlined above:

  • The amount of competition / resellers bidding on your brand

  • Your available budget for paid advertising

  • How you report and set targets for paid ads 

  • Your organic performance for branded keywords

Another consideration to factor in too is conversion rates. Organic conversion rates are generally lower than paid traffic - there’s definitely a balance to be struck. 

This is exactly why we’d always recommend testing. All of our client’s strategies differ, and therefore brand bidding differs for each of our clients too.

Some clients have no, or minimal brand bidding, others spend a lot on brand because of their competitive industry. We’ve tested pausing or reducing branded spend to test any uplift this drives for organic traffic and conversions too. Without testing, we can’t find the sweet spot between ensuring max visibility for brand terms, but also driving as much free traffic as possible, freeing up the budget to drive new customer acquisition (which is more expensive).