Brand bidding is a practice used by advertisers during a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. Not everyone will benefit from brand bidding, but many companies will; it depends upon the product or service that is being offered. In this article, we will thoroughly explore brand bidding, and help you to understand the term, the process and decide if you want to use brand bidding yourself.
Brand Names as a Keyword
Brand bidding starts when a company bids on well-known brand names as a keyword. For example, a website that sells auto parts may bid on the search term CARQUEST. CARQUEST is a well-known national brand of automotive parts, and lots of people are going to be searching for that brand. If a company can divert some of those customers that are heading to CARQUEST websites in order to buy parts online or find a location near them, they might be able to make a sale. After all, the customer is looking for auto parts, and they may be willing to buy from someone other than CARQUEST if presented with the opportunity.
One thing that most people do not know is that companies do not have the right to choose who is able to post ads on the internet using their brand name as a keyword. In fact, companies will often try to give permission to a certain group of people to use their name in advertising.
But some people will bid on brand keywords, even if they are not authorized to do so. In fact, a common tactic is to use a PPC campaign to hijack some of the traffic that was headed to the brand’s official website and redirect them to where they were heading in the first place but with an affiliate link attached. This means that the brand loses money because they have to pay an affiliate fee, but the traffic that was diverted was their traffic in the first place.
Google allows brand bidding, as long as the keyword that you are targeting (aka the brand name) does not appear in the HTML title or description of your ad copy. You can place an ad for your auto parts store using CARQUEST as a keyword, but you cannot put the word CARQUEST in your title or description.
Some brands actively fight against brand bidding, such as allowing a group of authorized affiliates to use the brand name, while others simply ignore it. Many companies mistakenly believe that because they are at the number one spot and highly visible for their brand keyword, that there will be no traffic to site being advertised. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Most of the traffic will go to the brand’s official website, but some of it will still get diverted to the advertiser site. In fact, some research puts the number of people that get diverted as high as 20%.
It is not just smaller companies that are bidding for larger company brand names as search terms either. The auto manufacturer Mazda has used the same tactic to convert Pontiac customers to their brand by targeting Pontiac brand names and taking the person that clicks on their ad to a page that shows a side-by-side comparison between Pontiac and Mazda, with Mazda obviously coming out on top.
One of the other ways that brands keep other websites from getting traffic with their brand name search terms is to always make sure that they are outbid. That's why if you type a brand name search term into Google, you will sometimes get an ad in the right sidebar from that actual company; as well as them being in the top organic search result for that keyword. The thing to keep in mind about this defense tactic is that it works well if there is no competition for the brand keyword, because the clicks will be super cheap, but it can get expensive if other websites are bidding on your brand name and you have set your Google AdWords or other PPC platform to outbid them.
Of course, a fairly significant portion of internet searches now use ad blocking technology so they do not see the pay per click ads on the sidebar anyway. This is good news for a brand that is losing traffic to other sites bidding on their keywords, but it is a double-edged sword because those people with ad blockers are also going to miss any PPC ads that the company runs to target keywords that they are not at the top of the search results for.
There are a few other things to keep in mind when it comes to brand bidding. First, if you are bidding on your own brand keywords, it can be quite irritating having to pay for traffic that you would have received anyway if another company hadn't tried to hijack your traffic. But you can turn this to your advantage by varying your marketing messages on PPC click ads. This allows you to send two different messages to customers searching for your keyword; one that is your regular site at the top of organic search results and the other your ad.
Another thing to bear in mind is that while courts have determined that other companies are legally allowed to bid on trademarked brand names, they are not allowed to give the customer any impression that they are the actual company or affiliated with the actual company, unless they actually are an authorized affiliate, of course. This means not using the brand keyword in the ad title and description, but it also means ensuring that the landing page would not lead someone to believe that they are at the official company website.