Branded vs. Non-Branded Keywords – Worth It To Budget for Both?

By Kayla Kurtz | @one800kayla | Senior Digital Advisor at Hanapin Marketing

A company’s brand is defined by many things – the people that make up the company, the clients or customers that company serves, the mission the company sets for itself, the messaging that brand uses to market itself…along with a much longer list of other factors. Splitting out that last piece about how the brand goes to market, they have to determine which marketing channels to tackle and when. That brand will (more than likely) break in to digital advertising (PPC for our purposes today) and then an entire mini-branding effort takes place.


Specifically when it comes to PPC, how loud do you need to be screaming your brand’s name from the rooftops? Should you invest a large percentage of your PPC budget to branded terms? The quick answers are: as loud as you can, and probably not! Brand term bidding in paid search can be highly effective for a number of purposes, but before we get in to the reasons why and how to do it…some definitions (we’ll use our very own blog here as an example):


Branded Keywords

  • those terms or keywords containing your company or client’s company’s name.
  • Ex: “ppc hero”

Non-Branded Keywords

  • those terms or keywords that define or explain your company or client’s company’s products or services.
  • Ex: [paid search blog]


This conversation can get confusing if you have products or services within your account that have their own brand. Branded keyword bidding by this definition is meant for the brand of the top-level company, not the potential brands housed under that one.


More examples! My imaginary company Kayla’s Kicks carries Brittany’s Boots, Hannah’s Heels and Suzy’s Sneakers (which, pretend with me, are name brands all on their own). My Branded PPC campaign and/or ad groups will be for terms containing variations of Kayla’s Kicks; not Brittany’s Boots, Hannah’s Heels or Suzy’s Sneakers. There may be ad groups somewhere that keywords for those brands can live within product categories, etc., but that would not be referenced as Branded traffic for the Kayla’s Kicks account. Now if Brittany’s Boots also has their own website with direct to consumer purchasing available, their Branded PPC campaigns/ad groups would then contain Brittany’s Boots brand name variations as keywords. Everybody clear? Next!


So the typical next question when it comes to Branded PPC is: “But do we want to pay for those clicks when people will probably find our organic result anyway?” It’s certainly important to note that Branded clicks and traffic do tend to be fairly inexpensive in relation to the rest of your terms, so these won’t be keywords you break the bank on. In most accounts I’ve seen, Branded terms can be as inexpensive as a few pennies, or more than 80-90% lower than average CPCs across the rest of the account. Those decreased CPCs tend to lead to fairly productive conversion production (see the screenshot below for a client’s Branded campaign performance over the last 6 months – click on the photo to see it larger).

Branded PPC Performance

 During this 6 month snapshot, this particular Branded campaign produced 32 leads at a $6.62 CPA. The account overall has a $30 CPA goal and 300 leads/month. Considering the total investment in that time for this campaign was only 0.04% of the total budget spent, it produced 2.04% of conversions. I don’t know many advertisers who would say that wasn’t worth it, especially if you are advertising in a competitive vertical. Which brings me to my next point…


Personally I think the best way to answer that original question about whether Branded PPC spend is worth it, is with another question: do your competitors bid on your Branded terms? If they do, you should be. Even if potential customers or searchers could find your company in organic listings within the SERPs, if a competitor has a good enough message (without using your Branded terms in their ad copy, of course) they could reach that customer before they scroll to the organic listings and effectively steal away your click. The more real estate you can take up on a SERP the better, in my humble opinion. Even more impressive is if you can take the time to line up your message across PPC and organic listings so that customers read your similar message twice in or around the same place.


My closing thought, and the ultimate most important one of this entire post, is that while you should be bidding on Branded terms for you or your client’s account, you should be doing so to scale. For example, we’re currently working with a few new clients who are getting a great ROAS in their accounts and they’re very happy with performance. But guess what? They’ve gotten there with 75% of the budget to Branded terms, which means they’ve probably not even begun to tap in to the rest of their market (read: REVENUE). Your focus absolutely can not be predominantly on Branded terms, and you can not rest on the performance of those terms to carry you through the long haul. I would recommend reporting on total traffic through any particular account, but then also provide data with Branded traffic and performance split out, so the people you send those reports to know that you’re not stacking the deck or pushing Non-Branded reach.


What are your thoughts on Branded vs. Non-Branded PPC? Share your ideas or strategies with us in the comments section below, and thanks for reading!