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Should you bid on your own brand name in paid search?

This is one of the first questions advertisers ask when considering a new paid search campaign: should I bid on my own brand name?

The answer to this question is more complicated than you might think. While it might seem obvious that you shouldn’t bid on your own brand name (you’d get these clicks through SEO anyway, right?), there is a significant body of evidence that bidding on your own brand does in fact produce incremental clicks – although the reason why it does is not fully understood.

This is intended to be the first in a series of articles discussing this strategy, in which I give a brief overview of the main arguments for and against branded paid search bidding.

The Argument Against Branded Paid Search

The reason an unscrupulous media agency might tell you to bid on your own search terms is simple: the media agency gets paid on commission, and the conversion numbers from your own brand name look great, since a lot of those people who were typing your brand name were going to find your website and convert anyway.

If you’ve taken the time to walk through the SEO optimization instructions on simple site builders like WordPress or GoDaddy, you should at least be ranking number one for your own brand organically. So, it stands to reason that bidding on your own brand name would be superfluous: simply spending money on traffic that you were going to land anyway.

But not so fast…

The Argument for Branded Paid Search

The argument for branded paid search is multi-fold and can be broken down into three main categories:

1. Making-up for gaps in your current SEO

2. Protecting you from competitor conquesting, and

3. Driving truly incremental traffic

The first category is the most straightforward: making-up for gaps in your current SEO. If your website is too new or small, if your current media agency hasn’t spent enough time on SEO optimizations, or if your industry is crowded with competitors, then you might not always rank number one for your own brand organically. And even if you do, you might find that your results don’t take up the whole search engine results page and competitors are appearing right below you. So in this scenario, it might make sense to devote a portion of your paid search budget to your own branded keywords. You could be losing your own traffic to competitors in the search engine results page, and branded paid search could serve as a stop gap until you can improve your own SEO presence.

Competitors can also choose to conquest your branded terms through paid search (if your competitor is using Meyers Enterprises as their paid search media agency, they are definitely doing this). Google allows anyone to bid on any given trademark as long as they don’t use it in ad copy. Furthermore this practice has been deemed perfectly legal and ethical – after all, they’re not actually using your trademark, they’re simply appearing in front of customers who were searching your trademark. So when a person searches for your brand name, ready to make a purchase, a listing for your competitor comes up and steals that traffic away.

This is why it’s important to have a paid search presence for your brand terms. Even if you appear atop the SEO rankings, your competitor could still be using paid search to seal your customers at the last minute. (And if you choose Meyers Enterprises as your media agency, you could start doing this to them …)

Finally, a study from Google showed that as much as 89% of all traffic from your own branded paid search terms is incremental and disappears when you stop bidding on your own brand. The study doesn’t make it clear what the exact cause of this is, but it’s likely a combination of the two points discussed above. There is also hypothesized to exist an effect where seeing two search listings in a row causes a person to be more likely to click on at least one of them – so having your paid search ad on top of your organic search ranking makes a person more likely to click in general than having your organic ranking alone.

Now of course as the saying goes, when investigating the health benefits of Frosted Flakes you shouldn’t base your conclusion solely on research from Kellogg’s. So it’s definitely worth taking the results of a paid search study from Google with a grain of salt. However, it’s still an interesting data point to consider.


This is a complex topic with valid arguments both for and against branded keyword bidding. Currently, Meyers Enterprises generally recommends a certain level of bidding on your own branded keywords along with scrutiny and experimentation to ensure that you are truly achieving incremental traffic from your paid search dollars.

Interested in taking your paid search efforts to the next level? Choose a media agency that you can expect to win and contact Meyers Enterprises today for a free consultation.

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