Can Paid Search Drive Brand Awareness?

January 19, 2016
Nichelle Schulz

As most advertisers will say, search engine marketing is primarily for conversion based campaigns, or reaching users as they are near the bottom of the purchase funnel. This is mostly true, as users are looking for products or services when they either want to purchase or learn more about it. So how can search work for branding?

Let’s look at Mother’s Day for example. Last year in the US alone, consumers spent approximately $20 billion on Mother’s Day. According to an article released by Bing, terms related to jewelry, cards, gifts, and flowers all spike in search volume around the middle of April, and carry through until Mother’s Day. These users are not searching for specific brands, but instead are looking for products that fit their shopping needs.  This provides a reach into unaided brand awareness, meaning they might not have known about the brand or have previously seen any other advertisements.

Where paid search comes in, as opposed to organic search results, is when a user is looking for something fairly broad, such as compact cars. A lot of the time, especially if a site isn’t optimized well for search and a term has a high amount of other sites that will show up organically, the organic listing won’t be in the first page results. With paid ads, a listing can show up where it wouldn’t otherwise, helping to boost awareness of a brand, and the products or services it provides.

Another type of targeting with paid search can work around users searching for terms that might be associated to a product somehow. Think with Google posted an article with some case studies around different leading brands, and their approach to using search for brand building. One good example they reported on for this was for Kleenex tissues. They created a paid search campaign around any cold or flu related search terms, as this was ultimately their target audience. This helped the brand achieve a 40% increase in sales overall.

The ultimate takeaway from these articles is that search ads can help to reinforce, create, and/or bring awareness to the forefront for brands. The keys to a successful search branding campaign are numerous, but some simple steps are as follows:

  • Clear, concise, and relevant ad copy, with a call to action. This can be difficult with the very limited copy amount allowed, but is necessary. Especially since users spend very little time with search engine results themselves, it’s best to capture them within the first couple seconds. This leads me to my second step.
  • Aim for a decent top of the page rate, or at least an ad position within the first three to four spots. There are many eye tracking reports that suggest this is where the eyes land first, so if your campaign is doing poorly (five or below) it’s a good practice to optimize both the campaign, as well as the landing page. Optimization can also help to boost the ranking of your ad in the auction, which can help reduce bid costs.
  • Constantly look for new opportunities for a brand, and test them out. As mentioned in the Think with Google article’s Kleenex example, they tried different types of campaigns before finding search terms that proved successful for their brand.
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