In a perfect world, we’d all receive the organic traffic that our websites deserved.
Many new business owners have likely wondered what would happen if they pocketed their branded search budget — and relied on organic clicks alone.
After all, why pay for branded keywords when you have a unique brand name that pulls enough clicks organically?
Here’s a story about what happens when you drop your branded search ads altogether.
The Hypothesis: Drop Paid Branded Search, Rely on Organic Traffic
This business, which will remain anonymous, became convinced (by a third party) that too much budget was spent on branded search campaigns.
The thought was that paying for brand keywords is unnecessary. By not paying for brand name keywords, all that traffic would go to organic for free — and net the same amount of sales. Right?
The retailer decided to give this hypothesis a try and dropped branded search ads altogether.
To ensure a clean test, the retailer negated branded keywords from all campaigns.
Organic vs. Paid Revenue – The Results
The experiment lasted no longer than two weeks.
In less than ten days, the brand was bleeding in both sales and store traffic.
Let’s look at conversions and revenue for two time frames — the two weeks before any changes to paid branded keyword campaigns, and the two weeks after.
Before (12 day data period)
Paid Search: 1,916 transactions with a 4.65% conversion rate totaling $84,415 in revenue.
Organic Search: 1,094 transactions with a 2.78% conversion rate totaling $59,228 in revenue.
After Branded Search Test (14 day data period)
Paid Search: 1,016 transactions with a 2.69% conversion rate totaling $41,121 in revenue — a 51.29% loss.
Organic Search: 1,350 transactions with a 3.05% conversion rate totaling $65,814 in revenue — an 11.12% gain.
We can say that at least part of the hypothesis is true — some conversions did shift to organic in the two weeks following the pause of branded search.
This resulted in an 11.12% lift in organic revenue from $59,228 to $65,814 — a net gain of $6,586.
However, the absence of branded search ads resulted in a 51.29% loss in paid revenue from $84,415 to $41,121 — a net loss of $43,294.
The slight increase in organic traffic (11.12%) doesn’t even begin to compare with the staggering losses in paid revenue (-51.29%).
The moral of the story: branded search campaigns matter.
Not only do they ensure that you rank at the top of the SERP for your brand keywords, but they also drive a significant amount of quality traffic and conversions.
Branded Search Is Your Friend
Relying on organic branded search entirely without locking in that top paid spot on Google Search means losing out on major traffic volume and conversions.
In fact, paid clicks have become so important that they are beginning to outpace organic clicks for certain SERPs, according to a study by Moz.
For the ad-heavy non-local SERPs that we work in, paid ads are likely now earning nearly the same percentage of clicks as organic results — a staggering change from most of the history of Google.
Why Is Branded Search Becoming More Important?
Moz lists several factors contributing to the rising importance of paid search vs. organic search:
- Ads serving on more queries
- More ads per query
- Larger ads, with more space given to each ad
- Google Shopping (which show up on more queries, list more products per query, and take up more space)
- Subtler ad labeling, making it less obvious that an ad is an ad
SERP Position Matters
Not only is it important to show up for your own branded terms, it’s also critical to show as the first result on the first page.
Because clickthrough-rate (CTR) declines dramatically after the first SERP position.
According to Smart Insights:
“It’s well known that clickthrough rates for branded or navigational keywords are higher – the blue curve shows this well.
This shows the value of being in the top 3 clearly with CTRs from nearly 30% in first position to 10% in third position. In the lower positions of 9 to 10, CTR has fallen to a paltry sub 2%.”
Extensions Are Also Your Friend
In addition to showing above the fold, paying for branded search terms also affords your brand the ability to show automated extensions within your branded Search ad.
Extensions boost the visibility of your ad and help consumers navigate directly to an item or promotion that you are spotlighting.
If you aren’t paying for search ads, you are leaving it entirely to organic chance for what shows below your website on the SERP.
Paid search ads give you the control of building out these extensions, which are proven to drive traffic and conversions.
If You Don’t Own Your Branded Keywords, Your Competitors Will
This particular brand was fortunate in that they didn’t have competitors bidding on their brand name, so their organic result was still number one on the SERP.
Imagine how much more dramatic the losses would be if a competitor (or two) captured the top spot on the SERP by showing for your branded terms?
It would be like Nike failing to show for its own brand terms — and Adidas showing up instead.
The Final Takeaway
Don’t drop your branded search campaigns and assume that organic traffic is going to deliver the same results — it won’t.
With today’s competitive SERP, it’s more important than ever to ensure that you rank for your branded keywords, both paid and organic.
Want to learn more about Search ads? Take a look at some of our recent posts.