Branding Isn’t Just for Big Businesses

I recently had similar conversations with two completely different clients and started thinking about the myths and theories behind pay per click advertising versus organic ranking. Both clients were completely convinced that since they ranked extremely well for their brand name, it wasn’t necessary to bid on it in their Pay Per Click campaigns. They thought having “double exposure” on that first page was “overkill”. This wasn’t unexpected, small businesses are generally opposed to spending any more money than is absolutely necessary.

So, that prompted me to ask them, “Why wouldn’t you want to take the opportunity to double your exposure and maximize your ability to convert lookers into bookers?” There’s a lesson to be learned here: even small to medium sized businesses must consider the branding impact of organic and paid search results have on their bottom line.

Bidding on your company or brand name on the major PPC platforms such as Google Adwords, Yahoo Search Marketing and Microsoft AdCenter, is the best way to drive qualified, inexpensive traffic right to your Web site. Yes, it’s great if you already rank well for your name – but owning the first page of that query is critical to establishing yourself online. Having both organic presence and Pay Per Click ads showing is an excellent way to get started in the online branding process.

So after introducing the concept, my skeptical clients wanted numbers – they’re business people after all. Luckily, I was prepared for the challenge and had some fairly convincing numbers available, courtesy of another client – a small hotel chain, with locations in Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wyoming.

The Plan

When I was first given their campaigns around the middle of 2006, I was challenged to find a way to increase their click-through rate (CTR) and bookings (conversions) without increasing their Pay Per Click budget. I had read somewhere about the great traffic another Search Engine Marketer (I’m so sorry I don’t remember who that was – but they were very smart!) had received by bidding on a brand. My client’s brand is very unique – so I thought, why not?

Taking Action

I set up campaigns for each of their eight locations using their brand name along with various misspellings as the keyword phrases. Along with writing regular text ads I took advantage of the local ads Google Maps and Yahoo offered. I also implemented mobile friendly ads on Google. This gave me the ability to write targeted ads for local and mobile searches, in order to maximize the client’s exposure across a variety of platforms. The clicks on these new platforms are generally inexpensive – usually no more than the minimum bid of $.10 per click.

The Results

For the final quarter of 2006, their branded campaigns earned an average of 157 targeted clicks per property with an average CTR of 24.5%. The average cost per click was $0.12. They spent less than $170 on more than 1200 extremely targeted clicks. With a very limited budget, this was an amazing result.

Unfortunately, because their booking engine refuses to cooperate with their analytics software (that is another article entirely) we are not able to see the exact conversion rates from these terms. Because the terms are so highly targeted – I believe it’s realistic to expect somewhere around a 30% return on those clicks. Assume a one night stay with an average nightly rate of $100 – you’re looking at $36,000 in revenue with only $170 invested.

The Caveat

Of course, there are scenarios where this bidding approach won’t work as well, or at least without advanced targeting. For example, if you have a brand name that is a broadly used term or phrase – such as “Island Real Estate” – you’re going to have some trouble getting targeted traffic.

Realize that your PPC ad could show up for different queries – such as “Padre Island Real Estate” or “Hilton Head Island Real Estate” which won’t do you any good if you’re on Catalina Island in California. Yes, you can set your campaigns to exact match but it’s still possible to show for some queries that are not applicable to your brand or market.

The Bottom Line

Recent developments in the search world could possibly offer more exposure for your brand-name campaigns. Google’s new Pay Per Action could allow our campaigns to offer a North Dakota tourism Web site publisher $5 for every click he sends into my client’s booking engine.

With any luck, the business will be able track direct revenue from PPC by that time, simply proving that you can’t go wrong with a Pay Per Click campaign aimed at your brand, no matter how small your business is. Not only is it good for your online reputation, it’s good for your bottom line.

Related reading

Simple Share Buttons