SEO vs SEA: Should you bid on your own Brand Keywords?

- Kerstin Bieringer

One of the age-old questions in PPC is undoubtedly: should I bid on my own brand keywords?

If you’re doing SEO right, it can seem like a waste of money to bid for your own brand’s terms. After all, that’s what organic search is for. Right? On the other hand, what kind of highly-relevant traffic are you losing by not bidding on your brand terms?

As the debate raged on with no end in sight, we decided to let the data do the talking. And so we set to work creating an experiment. From the 9th October – 4th December 2016 we tested how SEO and SEA are affected when we did not bid on the brand keyword of a major fashion retailer.

Question: Should you bid on your brand terms?

The experiment

We selected a test and a control group each with similar performance and monitored them for two months. Each group contained three British cities, and in the test group, these were added as negatives for Brand campaigns. In the test group, we then paused brand activity.

The Results

The graph below shows how orders from SEO and SEA combined reacted to the changes when the control group always represents 100%. The results show that when we did not bid on brand keywords, orders dropped in the Test group from about 80% to as low as 50% order volume compared to the Control group.

This drop could be due to competitors taking away some of the traffic, the fact that in SEA it is easier to control and direct the customer to the correct products and pages, and/or lack of promotional messaging as an incentive.

The period of the largest drop, interestingly, was during the time when the Retailer was offering its strongest promotions in November. This suggests the ability to clearly and concisely portray promotional messaging, even for people searching for the brand, is a major strength when bidding on Brand Keywords.

Yes! You should bid on brand terms

The results of our experiment clearly show that bidding on brand terms is beneficial to a retailer’s bottom line. Brand search ads can massively increase brand awareness and have been shown to have a positive impact on the overall effectiveness of a business’s’ online presence.

By bidding on your brand keywords it is much harder for competitors to reach high visibility on Google for those terms, meaning customers are more likely your purchase in your shop then be swayed to a competitor. Using SEA ads it is much easier to control the user and landing page experience, which improves communication between the client and the brand.

Customers who have already shown an interest in certain products when they search on Google will generally perceive the ad on the top position to be the strongest. By bidding on brand terms the space used on the first page of the search results can be increased enormously by taking advantage of all the different ad extensions Google offers. People also consider the page as more trustworthy when an SEO and an SEA ad are displayed at the same time, which increases the chances that they click on your ad.

Finally, CPCs for brand keywords are usually very low and ROAS very high which makes them very profitable. So in short, you have very little to lose by bidding on brand terms, but a lot to lose by not bidding on them.


Kerstin is a Digital Marketing Manager at crealytics in Passau, Germany for almost two years of experience in PPC. She is a UK market expert working for our leading international ecommerce customers within the fashion retail industry.

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