Brand Strategies for Search Marketing - Part 2

After reading Part 1 of this brand series, you've convinced your executives to buy your own brand terms. Yes, even though you already rank first organically for these terms.

Now the question is: How do I properly manage and measure my paid brand terms? Since many, including yours truly, prefer to manage our keyword campaigns from a portfolio approach, it would make sense to "dump" these into your portfolio.

Many make this common mistake. A quick example will show why this isn't wise:

Let's say you're in charge of online marketing for a company that's attempting to obtain qualified leads as efficiently as possible. You are obtaining leads via three methods: e-mail, paid search, and display marketing tactics (brand terms are included in your general search campaign). The return for these marketing methods are as follows: $20 for e-mail, $20 for display, $15 for paid search.

Looking at these returns, it would seem prudent to push more money toward paid search (especially since we're all search lovers), at least until the return came close to approaching $20. However, upon closer inspection, this isn't the case at all. Digging into your paid search data you soon realize that a majority of your leads are coming from brand terms at a cost of $6; however your non-brand terms are generating a cost per lead of $32. Assuming the same volume is achievable in e-mail and display marketing, you are actually overspending in search.

An appropriate portion of spend from the search marketing campaign should be moved from search (blasphemous, I know) into your e-mail and display marketing campaigns, since they are generating a better return than $32. Or, if you prefer to not move the spend, you need to allocate more time and effort further optimizing your general search terms.

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The underlying reason is that due to the nature of the way brand terms are bought and function in the engines (more in Part 3 of this series) your cost per acquisition from your brand terms will remain relatively constant. In other words, you are going to "get what you get" from your brand terms.

Constant is a relative term. Obviously your volume and total cost from brand terms will vary depending on seasonality and if you are running large brand/offline campaigns generating more searches for your brand terms. Constant means, if you up your bid on your brand terms it's not likely that it will generate more traffic, most of the time you will have the number one position for your brand term.

"Although brand keywords experience some lift from non-brand keywords, it's no more than 10 percent to 15 percent and the non-brand impressions have to be very high," said Ken Robbins, president of Response Mine, an agency specializing in search. "With new clients, we always separate brand from non-brand so we may maximize the budget and ROI (define) on brand, and then concentrate our efforts on expanding and optimizing non-brand."

Before I get a thousand e-mails, I'm not stressing to manage your brand terms in a silo, I'm merely stating it's important to be able to breakout and analyze the true return of your non-brand terms. Many paid search campaigns are showing an inflated ROI (in terms of direct response, more on the undervalue of brand awareness in a coming article) for three reasons:

  1. It's never dawned on the people managing the campaign to look at it this way.
  2. The managing agency wants to show the best return to the client and essentially "snowballs" the client.
  3. Client wants to show the best return to his executives and "snowballs" the executives to garner more budget for his/her fiefdom.

Closing analogy: When Shaquille O'Neal left the Los Angeles Lakers, it became readily apparent that he was covering up for a lot of weaknesses that the team possessed. Think of your brand terms as "Shaq" and manage accordingly.

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About the author

Erik Qualman is the Global Vice President of Online Marketing for EF Education, headquartered in Lucerne, Switzerland. With more than 26,000 employees in 53 countries, EF Education is the world's largest private educator.

His book "Socialnomics: How Social Media has changed the way we live and do business" was released from Wiley Publishing in August 2009. Qualman is a frequently requested speaker within the Internet and marketing community and also maintains a social media blog at www.socialnomics.net.

Qualman has been highlighted in numerous publications, including: BusinessWeek, AdvertisingAge, USA Today, Forbes, PR Week, Investor's Business Daily, eWeek, Media Life, Direct Marketing News and Direct Response Magazine. He has also been interviewed on various radio and television outlets. Qualman is also a published fiction author.

Prior to joining EF Education, Qualman helped grow the online marketing and eBusiness functions of Cadillac & Pontiac (1994-97), AT&T (1998-2000), Yahoo (2000-03), EarthLink (2003-05) and Travelzoo (2005-08). Qualman holds a BA from Michigan State University and an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin. He was also first team Academic All-Big Ten in basketball at Michigan State and still finds time to follow his beloved Spartans.