This question has been raised several times by our clients and we felt some clarifications were needed. After all, why would you want to bid on your company name if your web site already performs well in natural search?
In the old days where competition was weak and paid search very costs effective, most advertisers focused on educational or transactional keywords. Brand keywords (‘your company name’ or ‘yourcompanyname.com’) were mostly left out of the paid search campaigns. We just assumed those brand terms would perform effectively by themselves in natural search.
This is changing. Increased competition, decreased share-of-voice in search engine results and rising Cost-Per-Click make it more than ever important to bid on your company name. Here’s why:
1. Negative suppression … or how to prevent competitors to steal your company’s name
With Google’s update to their U.S. trademark policy in May 2009, it is now possible for your competitors to bid on your company name and use your brand terms in their text ads. In September 2010, Google expanded this practice to Canada, U.K. and Ireland. The same day, they also made it possible for most advertisers worldwide to bid on your company name (but not include their brand terms in the text ads). This is currently being challenged by the European parliament and US companies like Rosetta Stone.
But it looks like most regulators are fine with this approach as long as the ads using brand names do not confuse customers. In summary, those policies are unlikely to change for now and you may want to get head of the game by bidding on your own keywords to protect this valuable sponsored results real estate
2. Real Estate opportunity … your web site first
Talking about real estate in search engines results, research has shown that customers do expect respectable companies to come-up in the top results of the Google, Bing or Yahoo!
Customers may think that your company is relevant to the search query or you are prepared to pay for the privilege of being on top of the results. And so should you, even for brand terms like your company name.
With the explosion of digital assets optimization, all sorts of links such as Twitter feeds, YouTube videos or Google news may come-up in the search engines results pages before your web site link appears. You want to offer customers the opportunity to go to your web site where you can manage relevant and targeted content.
3. Share of voice … every pixel matters
As mentioned above customers are now seeing multiple links and messages that are related to your company name. The more positive messages about your company name, the better.
Especially when those brand term references (‘your company name’) occupy real estate above the fold. Below is an illustration of customers looking at search engines pages. There are definitely some great benefits in terms of brand recognition of being in the areas that receive most attention.
Don't fold when in trouble with competitors.
4. Hallo Effect … SEO and Paid search benefits
Some research I have seen in the past indicate that having both a strong SEO link and sponsored results ads can trigger a 10 to 15% increase in CTR for both of them. This supposedly can be related to the fact that once you have gained the share of voice battle, customers are simply more willing to click.
5. In-site control … get customers to where they should be spending their time
SEO links are determined by a complexity of factors. And so is the selection of which link will appear under which brand terms. It’s not always easy to influence Google or Bing’s assessment of each page. By bidding on your company name, you will be able to redirect customers (or other stakeholders such as reporters) to the right section of your web site. By using Google site-links in your text ad, you can even offer a selection of pages each customer or stakeholder type can go to.
All in all bidding on your company name makes more sense than even from a competitive, branding, performance and content control standpoint. If you don’t, competitors will most will.