The State of Branded Keywords in Paid Search: Branded PPC Study
After evaluating nearly one million PPC ads during Q3 of 2014, BrandVerity compiled a detailed Brand Report. Below are the major highlights of the study for AdWords advertisers.
PPC Brand Study Parameters
BrandVerity’s study looked at the following brand attributes:
- We focused purely on core brand terms — our study exclusively monitored ads that appeared on searches for core brand terms, such as brand name, misspellings/variants, and domain name. For example, if we were monitoring the BrandVerity brand, these would be “BrandVerity”, “Brand Verity”, and “brandverity.com”.
- We zeroed in on trademark usage — ads placed by advertisers other than the brand itself were only included in the study if they also used that brand’s trademark in their ad copy.
- We categorized advertisers by type — advertisers other than the brands themselves were then categorized according to what type of business/site they are.
- Overall, trademark usage by competing advertisers was much higher on AOL, Bing and Yahoo compared to Google.
- On Google, there were an average of 0.28 Ads per SERP from competing advertisers using brands’ trademarks. That means on a given Google search for a brand name, there’s about a 1 in 3 chance that a potential customer will see an ad, using that brand’s trademark, that was placed by another advertiser.
- Of the industries included in the study, Consumer Electronics brands and Internet & Telecom brands experienced the most trademark usage from competing advertisers. By comparison, Consumer Finance brands experienced the least.
While the study includes sections on 10 different industries, the highlights below focus on the data from Online Retail, Clothing & Apparel, and Consumer Electronics categories (View the full study here).
Below are 4 main takeaways from the Branded PPC study to help you perform better on your AdWords accounts.
Lesson #1: Trademark Usage by Competing Advertisers Is Higher on Bing, Yahoo, and AOL vs. Google
Across all industries included in the study, there were more Non-Brand Ads (ads using brands’ trademarks that were placed by competing advertisers) per SERP on search engines other than Google. Some of this sounds encouraging—after all, that means less competition on Google when customers search for your brand.
However, that also means significant competition on other engines. When Non-Brand Ads are outnumbering the brand’s own ads (sometimes by almost 3 to 1), that’s hard to ignore. Furthermore, even though the levels of trademark usage on Google and Google Mobile are lower than that, they’re not negligible. Brands may want to consider who else is bidding on their brand terms and using their trademarks.
Lesson #2: Search Arbitrage Is Still a Big Issue
Search Arbitrage interferes with brands’ search marketing efforts, diverting traffic from their own sites and inflating their cost-per-click (CPC). Fortunately, any Search Arbitrage that uses a brand’s trademark in its ad copy would violate the various search engines’ trademark policies. By submitting a trademark complaint to the relevant search engine, a brand can have Search Arbitrage removed.
That being said, Search Arbitrage was the most consistent advertiser type across the study. Search Arbitrage accounted for 24.1% of Non-Brand ads on AOL, 22.4% on Bing, 11.2% on Google, 5.9% on Google Mobile, and 28.8% on Yahoo. This suggests that brands have significant room for improvement here, and could certainly be clearing more of these ads out of search results by taking action with the search engines.
Lesson #3: In Clothing & Apparel and Consumer Electronics, Resellers and Comparison Shopping Engines Dominate
Out of all the categories included in the study, Consumer Electronics experienced the highest rate of trademark usage. Clothing & Apparel wasn’t far behind, showing similarly high levels of Non-Brand ads. Who was behind all those trademark-using ads? By and large, Resellers and Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs).
Of course, these ads are perfectly fine in the engines’ eyes—and may actually be encouraged by the brands themselves. Brands in these categories typically distribute their products through retail partners (Resellers), so they may permit those partners to bid on brand terms if it facilitates a sale.
These brands may also have relationships with CSEs, or their retail partners may have relationships with CSEs, potentially extending trademark bidding privileges to those sites as well. Certain brands, however, restrict what these partners can do on core branded keywords. In particular, brands who are focused on growing their direct sales may consider restructuring their agreements with Resellers and CSEs. After all, with a decrease in friendly competition from your partners, traffic is more likely to come to your own site.
You’ll also get that traffic at a lower cost-per-click (CPC). Clearly, negotiating this is a complex process. A brand can’t just blindly go from allowing all forms of trademark bidding one day to a zero tolerance policy the next. It’s not realistic. That’s why we always recommend keeping tabs on who is bidding on your brand terms so you can be as informed as possible if/when you choose to make a transition.
Lesson #4: Online Retail Is Not Immune
Even if you’re purely a retailer of products made by other brands (i.e., not a manufacturer brand that also sells direct), you’ll probably still experience some trademark usage by competing advertisers on your branded keywords. While levels of trademark usage in the Online Retail category were lower than in Clothing & Apparel and Consumer Electronics, they were still significant.
And although the category does include some manufacturer brands, it’s unlikely that they’re the experiencing all the trademark usage here. Even if you leave out Resellers and CSEs—assuming they’re only targeting manufacturer brands—that still leaves a significant presence from Search Arbitrage, Affiliate, and Other advertisers.