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Brand Search Drives Incremental Value: Evidence from an Extreme Case

Published: November 19, 2012

Author: Molly Shotwell

Today’s post is by Account Coordinator Calvin Vuwho has degrees in neurobiology and history, a master’s degree in history, and an honorary doctorate in wrestling metrics into profitable submission.
Google has published several rigorous meta-studies that show that paid search works (shocking!). These studies show that paid search clicks are incremental even when they appear alongside the same advertiser’s organic listings. Their most recent study found that “50% of the ad clicks that occur with a top rank organic result are incremental.” Several independent studies from other marketers show that brand clicks are, indeed, incremental.
Skeptical about the profitability of brand clicks, a client asked us to pause our brand search campaigns for one week (GDN remained active), then compare total conversion volume.
To tell you the truth, we were unsure about what to expect. Here’s why:
1)      Competitor advertisements in this case are rare.
2)      Variations of the brand term virtually guarantee that several, or perhaps all, organic listings will belong to the client.
Given these conditions, the user has little choice other than to go to the client’s site, either through SEO or SEM. That’s why we felt pleasantly surprised to see plenty of incremental value in these brand paid ads.
incremental value of paid search
The test shows that brand keywords increased total brand conversions (SEO+SEM) by around 10% even though competition was rare on both paid and organic listings! We expanded and started controlling the mappings of the brand KW set on 10/8 (orange line), immediately lifting SEM conversions by 35%, and causing the 10% incremental lift in total conversions. Shutting off the brand KWs on 10/29 (green line) caused this lift to disappear.
Why did we see this conversion lift even though the user had few options other than to go to the client’s site? It could simply be that the paid listing included a call to action and specific messaging tied to the search query, whereas the organic listing does not. If this is the case, then it was very important for us to control the brand KW mappings.
We also might have gotten lucky. Keep in mind that we measured incremental conversions, not clicks, and those conversions were profitable. Google suggests advertisers use “value-per-click” calculations to determine if brand clicks are profitable because some click cannibalization of the organic listings is inevitable.
In summary, this study has three main takeaways.
1)      Brand keywords can drive incremental conversions, but keep profitability in mind as well.
2)      Consider controlling the mappings and the messaging of your brand KWs/ads if they don’t perform equally.
3)      Google will always find new ways to frustrate surprise you!
– Calvin Vu

25 E Washington Street
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Chicago, IL 60602(650) 539-4124


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