I have previously explained why I believe you should bid on your own brand in AdWords. I did, however, mention that it does not always pay off. In this article, I will describe three cases where you could consider not bidding on your own brand name.

1. You have many users who visit your site on a regular basis

If you have many users who frequent your site, you risk spending much of your budget on users who are already your customers.

Take a bank, for instance. The bank’s customers will have to sign in to their online banking several times a week, and many of them will probably search for the bank’s name on Google.

If the bank is bidding on its own name, it might end up spending a significant amount of money on existing customers who just as well could have clicked on the organic result.

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If you want to prevent ads from showing when existing customers search for your brand, you can use negative keywords. The bank, for instance, could add “login” and “online banking” as negative keywords and thereby prevent ads from showing up for customers who are clearly just looking to sign in to their account.

Another – more advanced – option is to use Remarketing List for Search Ads (RLSA) to exclude existing customers. In this case, the bank could create a remarketing list with all the users who have signed in to their online banking within the last week. With RLSA, you can exclude this list to make sure that brand ads will not be shown to existing customers.

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2. You have a very limited budget

If you have a very limited AdWords budget, and if no one else is bidding on your brand, you might want to spend all your money on keywords where you currently do not show up in the organic results.

Danish search specialist Frank Hellerup Madsen recently told me about a client with a well-known brand, but a very limited AdWords budget. The company ran extensive TV commercials, which resulted in a huge amount of interest that practically ate up a third of the company’s entire AdWords budget. No competitors bid on the client’s brand, so Hellerup Madsen advised the client to stop the brand ads.

When you bid on your own brand, you can use the Auction insights in AdWords to check if anyone is bidding on your name – and if so, who.

Click the ad group in which your brand keywords are located. Now click Keywords and Details.

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You will get a list of all the advertisers who are bidding on the same keywords as you. In the example below, only one advertiser (booking.com) has bid on the client’s brand.

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Had this list been empty, and were the client taking up a good chunk of space on the first page in the search results, one might consider holding off on the brand bidding and spend money on other keywords instead.

3. You share a popular name

If you share a name with a person and/or company significantly more well-known than you, you risk spending a lot of money on users who will leave your site immediately because they weren’t looking for you.

On the other hand, you could argue that in this case it is necessary to bid on your own name, so that the few people who are actually looking for you will be able to find you.

You should make sure, though, that the ad makes it nearly impossible for users to mistake you for others who share your name. Hopefully, that way you’ll be able to avoid many of the users who will leave your site immediately.

When you have made your decision

If you have decided that you under no circumstances wish to bid on your own brand, you must remember that even though you have not created a brand campaign, you might still end up paying for clicks on brand searches.

For instance, if you’re selling towels and bid on the word ”towels”, your ad will obviously show up when users search for towels. It will, however, also show up when users search for “towels + your brand” – simply because you are bidding on the word “towels”.

If you want to avoid this entirely, you have to add your brand as a negative keyword.

It does not have to be one or the other

There is a big difference between users searching for [your brand] and users searching for [your brand + product].

You do not visit Adidas when you have searched for [nike]. It is pretty clear what you’re looking for. If you, on the other hand, search for [nike trainers], you’re looking for two things: Nike and trainers. The latter is likely of the essence here, so you might be willing to click on ads for other trainers.

My point is that it might be a good idea to hold off on ads for users who search for your exact brand, but still bid on broader searches in which your brand is part of the search query.

You can do this by bidding on “your brand name” (phrase match) while simultaneously adding [your brand name] (exact match) as a negative keyword. That way your ads will show up on all searches where ”your brand name” is included – as long as it’s not an exact search for your brand.

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What’s your stance on bidding on your own brand? Leave a comment!

2 Comments

  1. Morten Madsen July 1st, 2015

    We operate online casinos in Northern Europe, and in the countries where it is possible (eg. Denmark & UK), we run ads on most (90+%) brand related keywords.

    For us I believe it is an important part of player retention:
    1) The gaming market (and particularly casino) is quite generic
    2) Adwords are very competitive and most if not all brand terms in the business is being targeted by competitors and/or affiliate sites. This really makes adwords part of our customer retention.
    3) Depending on what our customer is looking for, our competitors is really able to offer a better deal if they customer is really just looking to play (all sites offer better bonuses in the acquisition process than for retention)

    However, the cost of running it is significant as bids are high, and we have considered trying to pause the brand related ads and see how it will change.

    Good post BTW – and some good points and tricks

  2. Anton Hoelstad July 4th, 2015

    I normally always advice clients to bid on their own brand searches, because these are often very cheap, and gives such an high ROI, that it’s crazy not to spend this.

    I do however see the cases that you mention in this blog post, where it might actually make sense not to, or at least limit the amount of spend on brand related keywords.

    Good article and insights indeed!

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Frederik Hyldig is a search specialist at s360 - one of the leading search agencies in Denmark.