Why Non-Brand Search Actually Works

By Tinuiti Team

A lot of big brands fall into the trap of solely focusing on branded keywords in their search marketing. They point to a higher return on investment relative to non-brand campaigns. However, this approach limits your ability to optimize reach, traffic and sales.

A non-brand search strategy is a great complement to your branded efforts. The following is an overview of the primary reasons that non-brand search works well for your business if you use it correctly.

Benefits of Non-Brand Search Campaigns

The following are some of the key advantages of non-brand campaigns when they are well-executed in a cohesive strategy:

Higher Search Volume

Outside of rare circumstances in which an industry is heavily concentrated around one or two brands, non-brand searches are more common than branded searches. Thus, targeting with non-brand campaigns allows you to take advantage of a higher volume of search traffic and more potential referrals.

Expand Reach and Awareness

One of the common criticisms of non-brand search is that the return on investment is lower because users aren't as prone to choose your brand. When someone conducts a brand search, it is clear they have an interest in or preference for your brand.

A non-brand campaign allows you to cast a wider net. Reach users that have a general interest in the products you sell but aren't intuitively driven to focus just on your brand. You also achieve a higher level of awareness. Even if you don't generate clicks from the non-brand search, your brand earns impressions when users scan through the paid listings.

Think about a consumer searching for a professional pen to take to sales meetings, for instance. An experienced professional may query "Cross Pens" on Google based on brand recognition. However, a lot of new professionals or those who haven't made similar purchases in the past would more likely query "Professional Pens." The Cross brand is able to achieve reach and awareness with this new or emerging market.

Compete for New Customers

Branded search campaigns are great for capturing repeat business or sales from people that trust your brand. However, non-brand search is necessary to compete for new customers.

If you work in a competitive industry and don't engage in non-brand search campaigns, you are essentially leaving thousands or millions of shoppers for your competitors to win. Even if your company is successful, customer attrition occurs over time. As you work to maintain your existing base, leverage non-brand campaigns to acquire new customers for stability and growth.

How to Make Non-Brand Search Work

Concerns about the return on advertising spend for non-brand search campaigns are legitimate. Regardless of the promotional method, it is always harder to earn new business than to generate repeat business. However, these concerns shouldn't stop you from investing in non-brand search. Instead, they should caution you to plan effectively.

For non-brand search success, it's necessary to set up realistic goals with your account manager. Weigh the benefits and risks of implementing non-brand keywords and campaigns into your search marketing strategy.

Gather data on non-brand keywords to optimize campaigns based on what prospective customers are really interested in. You could even bid on keywords aligned with a new feature or benefit your company is exploring. Search volume and engagement tied to your ad messages are useful indicators of what is or isn’t appealing to your audience.


It is clear that, when effectively developed and managed, non-brand search campaigns are of value to most companies. The challenge is to prepare and execute successfully. 

For more insights on paid search campaigns, read Paid search and shopping collaboration results in online revenue increase for!

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