How to Dominate Branded Search Strategy in 2020
In the first two parts (read Part 1 and Part 2) of our 3-part series on branded search strategy, we examined the legal history of competitor keyword bidding and the viability of ditching branded paid search as a strategy altogether. In part 3, we look forward to 2020 and how brands should be managing their brand keywords.
You’ve spent years building your brand, creating a meaningful connection with your customers, and earning trust based on the quality of your products and service. That’s a big deal and an accomplishment that many businesses never come close to achieving.
That hard-earned reputation comes with more than just a pat on the back. When it comes to a branded search strategy, it provides an opportunity to drive incremental revenue for your business. That’s because when a potential customer searches specifically for your brand, they’re not window shopping. They know your business, and they’re asking for you by name. It’s imperative that you’re there to answer their call, and in the increasingly competitive search marketing landscape, that often requires being in the coveted Position 1 (especially for mobile searches).
Owning your branded keywords with an effective approach to paid search bid management is one sure way of always being open. This strategy is a proven tactic for increasing revenue and outperforming the alternative of forfeiting your brand terms to the highest bidder. Additionally, it reinforces your brand reputation while eliminating opportunities for competitors to increase their brand awareness on the back of your brand name. So how can you dominate your branded search strategy in 2020?
Let Paid Search and Organic Search Work Together
Paid search and organic search are separate strategies that require separate tactics, but that doesn’t mean they operate independently. As we discussed in Part 2, the relationship between search ads and organic search is cooperative. Protecting brand keywords as well as optimizing for organic search can positively affect both strategies.
A branded search strategy that starts with protecting your branded typically requires you to be the highest bidder for your brand terms. Unless your competition is desperate to sink a substantial amount of their budget into owning your brand keywords, this should be relatively affordable and well worth the investment. Studies have consistently shown that owning your brand terms through paid ads is the single biggest factor in driving traffic to your site on branded queries.
When running campaigns in different geographies, data points can be collected on how competition may vary from region to region. It’s important to assess national competitors as well as local players to monitor difference in costs and auction dynamics to inform your overall strategy.
To keep costs for your brand search in check, always reference system-generated metrics for top-of-page bids as a guideline, but experiment (important) reducing your keyword bids until you start seeing impression share slip outside of an acceptable level. This is a good way to understand specific auction dynamics — considering competition, but not overpaying on inflated cost per clicks.
The next step in an effective brand search strategy is optimizing for organic search. This starts with keyword research, which reveals every potential search query variation of your brand that needs to be monitored and protected. This includes more than just your brand name. Products, product lines, services, taglines, and other indirect brand keywords also should be part of your research.
Once you’ve gathered a final list of branded keyword targets, you can optimize existing site content through meta descriptions, title tags, and image optimizations. If your existing site content doesn’t support a branded keyword target, consider creating a landing page that more directly addresses the query in play.
When branded paid search and organic strategies are tackled in tandem, it allows you to dominate your brand SERP from top to bottom — ensuring that you get the first and final word with a potential customer.
Promote Your Brand Image & Bolster Your Reputation
It’s usually good news when a user searches for your brand. At the least, it means they’re curious about your business. But it doesn’t always mean they’re all that familiar with your brand and what you offer. It’s at this point that your branded search strategy is responsible for promoting your brand image.
The first thing you can do to promote your brand image is dominate your brand SERP. As previously discussed, a focused paid and organic search strategy will give you a leg up on the competition when it comes to showing up for branded searches. This strategy projects relevance and competence to a user that needs to know your business is legitimate. It also prevents competitors from ranking for your brand terms using comparison pages.
Second, you can provide rich content to users, including videos, images, product listings, local business listings, maps, featured snippets, and more. Search results pages have changed significantly since Google returned only text links. The current SERP landscape encourages businesses to optimize content to be included in these Google features. This environment offers businesses the opportunity to engage users on multiple levels, increasing the likelihood of creating a meaningful connection on the user’s terms.
The Right Message at the Right Time
A branded search is, above all else, an opportunity for your business to connect with a highly motivated consumer. It’s important that this opportunity isn’t wasted with poor messaging. That all-important messaging starts before the user ever clicks through to your site. It starts at the top of the SERP with your paid ad copy and ad extensions.
Google Ads offers a host of features that gives advertisers a better chance to directly address a consumer’s intent. A paid text ad includes a headline, description, and display URL that can be customized to promote your desired brand message. But that’s just the beginning. From there, you can customize your ads engage users based on keyword, device, location, date, time of day, or day of the week. This allows you to serve hundreds of variations of a single text ad based on available user data and past campaign performance.
Anther important aspect to brand ad messaging in paid campaigns is the ability to remain nimble on advertising promotions with short flight dates, sales or discounts, which are not easily managed in organic results.
Ad extensions are another Google Ads feature that tips the scales in your favor. Ad extensions display more business information to users under paid ads. The most common ad extensions are automatically activated by Google. All of these extensions are designed to increase click-through rates and only populate if Google believes it will help the performance of your ad. These include:
Sitelinks: Additional links listed below a text ad that provide users more direct paths to information or products while increasing SERP real estate for the advertiser
Dynamic Callouts: Additional information that often supports the advertiser’s selling points, such as experience, reliability, or product quality
Call Extensions: Adds a business phone number to a text ad. Users can tap or click the button to call your business directly
Structured Snippets: Additional information about your business based on your website, including product and service offerings
Location: Encourages users to visit your business by displaying your business address, map location, or the distance to your business
Seller Ratings: Displays a star rating based on aggregate data from reputable review sources
Manual ad extensions offer more opportunities to tailor messaging:
Price: A set of 8 cards that appear below a text ad and display the price of specific services or products
Promotion: Highlights sales and promotions for users who are searching for your brand’s best deals
Branded searches are golden opportunities for your business to generate revenue, but only if you’re presenting a powerful and relevant message to the consumer. Through customized ad copy and ad extensions, you can deliver the most accurate information and emotional appeal at the most opportune moment.
Branded searches are often performed by motivated consumers and those with at least some understanding of what your brand represents, but that doesn’t mean a lead or a sale is a foregone conclusion. Brands must plan and execute a branded search strategy that turns an interested searcher into a loyal customer. This isn’t the time to take your foot off the gas. Instead, it’s time to push forward using a combination of technical optimizations, paid ads, and ad extensions that leave the user with no doubts regarding the quality and legitimacy of your brand, services, products, or culture.
POST-SCRIPT: Five Key Takeaways from Our 3-Part Series on Branded Search Marketing
This concludes our series on the much-discussed topic of branded search strategy that has carried over from late 2019 into 2020. We hope you’ve found each of our pieces informative and insightful, with meaningful tips that you can potentially use to revise (and hopefully improve) your own branded search strategy. Here are the 5 key takeaways we think are worth noting when it comes to assessing how you’re currently executing branded search marketing programs in 2020 and beyond:
1. If you plan to incorporate competitor keyword bidding into your own campaign strategy, make it a point to triple-check that you’re adhering to the official policy of the search engine, Google or otherwise, as well as all trademark law.
2. Choosing not to bid on your own branded terms is likely to result in an overall decrease in web traffic to your site. It’s up to you to determine if this probable decline is worth the savings.
3. What do search engine results pages (SERPs) look like for your branded terms? If you choose not to maximize visibility for branded terms, engines like Google will fill in the gaps, which could lead to results that include competitor ads, unfavorable reviews or other less-than-desirable information being front and center to potential customers.
4. If you do bid on your brand terms, make sure you’re maximizing every opportunity to promote your brand and business within the ad itself by leveraging creative ad copy, sitelinks, location extensions, dynamic callouts and more. It not only increases your chances of engaging the searcher, but it takes up valuable real estate within the SERP.
5. Test. Test. And then test some more. Are average CPCs getting too high on your branded terms? Pause for 30 days and evaluate the impact on your business and your revenue. Then take those insights and test again.
If you’d like to speak with one of Location3’s search marketing experts about improving your branded search strategy, contact us today.
Thanks for reading!