The Secret Truth Series #6 – Success Through Negative Brand Keywords

A few years ago when asked for the #1 tip to improve a campaign, I wrote that segregating brand keywords was the task that I thought nearly everyone should do, many haven’t done yet, and can offer huge benefits in any campaign. As covered in the discussion of Secret Truth #3 and #4, when the keywords within an ad group or campaign have inconsistent business goals or performance profiles, the quality of your results suffer. There are probably no keywords in your account that have as distinct business goals or performance profiles as brand keywords – which is why they really need to be isolated.

Should You Bid On Your Brand?

brandThe wisdom or necessity of buying paid search on your brand keywords – where you should rank #1 (or at least) very high in the organic results, is often discussed. In the end, most decide that buying the paid search coverage is a good idea, even if you have multiple prominent organic links. We agree that bidding on your core brand names and terms is worthwhile. There are several reasons for this:

  • If you don’t buy those links someone else will
  • Many report a ‘brand halo’ effect in which the paid listings actually increase organic traffic
  • There are people who click paid links over organic ones, for various reasons
  • You’ve already spent a lot of money to build the reputation that generated the branded search. Paying a few cents for the ‘last mile’ of the click to actually get the visit is a prudent investment.
  • It’s great to see huge CTR and conversion rates in your PPC account
  • The huge CTR of your brand terms actually drives your account CTR history up, helping overall quality score

Types of Brand Keywords

The diversity of brand keywords can be surprising. But to really ‘answer the question’ (Secret Truth #1) it’s critical to figure out all the different ways your brand is being used by carefully examining your search queries (Secret Truth #2). We typically see several types of brand keywords:

  • Brand Pure Keywords
  • Navigational Brand Keywords
  • Brand Related Keywords
  • Brand Plus Keywords

What we call ‘pure’ brand keywords are the most narrow and focused set. This includes the brand word or words themselves, mis-spelling and deviations, and not much else. These we isolate into their own ad group or even campaign. navigationThe next set, and often largest by keyword count, are navigational keywords. The searcher is trying to find your company or even your website. Navigational keywords include ‘brand website’, ‘brand homepage’, ‘brand company’, ‘brand city-name’ and many others. All of these clearly navigational terms should be bundled into their own ad group. Then come the brand related keywords. These include things like executive names, other terms and other phrases that may be connected with the brand. A lot of these will be developed as you query-mine the results you get from your initial broad match pure brand keywords. Your business may have and need other clusters of brand keywords too. A business with a lot of retail locations would likely have a whole ad group full of ‘location and store locater’ words and phrases. There may need to be groups for your PR issues, your financial/investor issues, etc. Create as many as you need, and follow the ideas for campaign and ad group organization discussed in Secret Truths #3 and #4.

Brand Plus Keywords

The final set are those we call brand plus keywords. These include your brand plus category, product, or other keywords. These are the ones that are often mixed in with other non-brand keywords and that we’re most strongly recommending you separate out of your typical existing campaigns and ad groups. Here’s the problem. Suppose you sell dog collars of your own making, and right now your dog collar ad group has the following keywords:

  • dog collars
  • puppy collars
  • collars for dogs
  • hemp dog collars
  • MyBrand dog collars

Of course this is an over-simplified example and there would be many more keywords and perhaps spead over several ad groups. But the point is that if ‘MyBrand’ is the house brand item, that keyword should be put into it’s own ad group and we would strongly recommend moving it into the main brand keywords campaign, or more likely a separate brand-plus campaign. The rational is the same as we’ve discussed for both campaign and ad group organization; the alignment between query and text ad is best served by a very specific kind of ad, and the numbers these brand-plus keywords produce will only confuse the performance and results when mixed with non brand keywords. Obviously if you have tons of brands and categories, doing the separation can be a lot of work. As always, prioritize based on volume – get those brand-plus keywords that are attracting a lot of traffic moved into their own ad groups and if possible campaigns first. Finish the rest progressively over time.

Brands as Negative Keywords

negativeWhen you’ve created nice brand focused campaigns and ad groups, your search query reports should show that the majority of queries the contain your brand keywords are matched to those ad groups. But there will be exceptions. Every time a branded search query lands in one of your non-brand ad groups, take a look and see if you have a keywords that was targetted at that search query. If you don’t, add one. Of course, if it’s a search query you don’t want, add it as a negative keyword to both the brand and non-brand campaign. After query-mining for brand keywords in your non-brand account for a while (days to weeks, depending on your volume), when you’re confident that the keywords you’ve added to your brand focused campaigns are relatively complete and accurate, go ahead and add your brand keyword as a campaign negative to the non-branded campaigns. This will assure that no branded queries are matched into those campaigns. They’ll be forced (more or less) to match into the brand focused campaigns you’ve created for that purpose. The users will see brand appropriate ads, they’ll be sent to brand appropriate landing pages, and your campaign and ad groups reports for both branded and non branded keywords will be more complete, consistent, actionable, and accurate. What Do You Think?

This blog post is part of a series extending and amplifying the ideas in our free ebook ’21 Secret Truths of High-Resolution PPC’. What they’re saying: “Craig’s dug deep into AdWords and unearthed some important nuggets. They’re surprising, simply but eloquently described, and vital to your PPC advertising success.” – David Szetela – Owner and CEO, Clix Marketing’. Download Your Copy Today .

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