The role of branded keywords in PPC campaigns is an important yet contentious one. Bring competitors’ branded keywords into the mix, and you have an increasingly charged conversation. 

Jason Fried

Source: Twitter

Why is there so much debate on brand keywords – your own and your competitors’ – when it comes to pay-per-click advertising? It all comes down to differences in opinion on strategy, budget, and ethics. 

Of course, PPC specialists have been dealing with the pros and cons of using branded keywords for a long time. For those just starting in paid advertising, however, it can be a confusing experience.

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To get an objective view of why advertisers decide to use branded search terms in their campaigns, or why they might refrain from doing so, it’s best to have a look at both sides of the debate.

The Pros of Branded Keywords in PPC

Branded keywords are any keywords that include your brand name. For example, “simplilearn,” “simplilearn courses,” and “why simplilearn” are all considered brand keywords.

When you include brand keywords as part of your paid advertising strategy, it affords you several benefits:

  • Raises the Quality Score for your account, which makes ads cheaper for you
  • Moves your ads to the top of the page in search (this is important if you’re dealing with competitors bidding on your brand keywords, as referenced in the tweet above)
  • Increases traffic to your site, helping boost leads and revenue
  • Improves your credibility by getting you more real estate on search results
  • Gives you better control over PPC messaging, compared to your organic listing 

Some advertisers believe that spending budget on brand keywords is wasteful, especially if their business shows up first in organic results. The tough part is, even if you hold the number one spot in organic search, there could be up to four ads above your page. And if they’re competitors bidding on your brand keyword, then you could be losing business to them.

For example, when I search “basecamp,” this ad – from a direct competitor – shows up first:


Source: Google

You can see why Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, is frustrated by this practice. Yet, Google has been allowing advertisers to bid on other brand search terms since 2008, so it’s nothing new. It’s just difficult.

By bidding on brand keywords in PPC campaigns, you can assure your spot at the top – above the competition – while benefiting from additional traffic, a better reputation, and the opportunity to control your ad messaging by testing different ad copy and landing pages for the best results.

The Cons of Branded Keywords in PPC

Of course, there are a few circumstances where you would be at a disadvantage using branded search terms.

One of these instances would be if your brand keywords had no competition. This means no other brands are bidding on your brand keywords (you can enlist software to help you figure this out).

If you allocate part of your PPC budget to branded keywords, yet you’re the only one spending on them, then really, what is the point? The only listing that would show up above your organic listing would be your ad.

Of course, if you want to do some testing of ad copy and landing pages, then bidding on brand keywords could be helpful, just not necessary.

A few other disadvantages to brand keywords:

  • Points traffic away from your organic listing to a specific page
  • Requires you to keep spending to maintain top position

When you create ads, and they show above your organic listing, then you risk the chance someone clicks on your ad rather than your organic website page. Hopefully, you have considered this in your PPC strategy, so the benefits outweigh the risks.

Spending part of your PPC budget on brand keywords also means you are making a commitment. Once you stop bidding on branded search terms, then you give competitors the chance to take your spot – and your leads and sales.

Do you think you're skilled enough in PPC advertising? Try answering these Advanced PPC Practice Exam Questions and find out now.

A Word on Competitors’ Branded Keywords

Brands who bid on keywords for other brands (their competitors) are not breaking any of Google’s rules; however, this practice does lower your Quality Score if you are the one bidding on another brand’s keywords.

It also costs you more money.

It’s up to you as the informed marketer or advertiser to weigh the pros and cons of competitor brand keywords in PPC advertising.  Will it help you more in the end, or hurt you?

Want to gain expertise as a PPC marketing specialist? Learn the tools of the trade through Simplilearn’s Advanced Pay Per Click (PPC) Certification Training.

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