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A Guide to Brand Protection on SEM

Published: October 2, 2017

Author: Charlotte Haab

This post kicks off 3Q’s Brand Protection series, in which we tackle a range of issues to help companies safeguard their most important asset: their brand’s reputation. For a full list of posts, click here
With myriad channels and platforms available to advertisers today, it’s easier than ever to serve your brand to the masses. For less visual platforms like paid search, branding capabilities can be limited – and protecting your brand’s good name takes some diligence.
In this post, we’ll go through some ways to protect your brand on the search network, including best practices for brand search terms, monitoring tools, ad copy, and special considerations.
brand protection

Best Practices for Brand Search Terms

While brand strategies can widely vary, there are a few common techniques and things to consider when bidding (or not bidding) on your own brand name.

1.      Showing up is half the battle

It’s super-important to have a presence when someone searches for your brand terms. Branded terms are unique in that you’ll almost always have a 10/10 quality score. There’s no landing page more relevant to your brand than your own, which ensures a high rank and cheap CPCs. This makes it easy to achieve position 1 and be the first option for searchers.
You might say, “But what about SEO?” The fact is that the best SEO in the world won’t stop competitors from paying to show first if you’re not in your own brand space. Competitors showing first on your brand terms will lead to decreased brand trust and likely stolen business. (In fact, I wrote a whitepaper on how to steal your competitors’ business.)
Furthermore, having a paid presence in addition to SEO has been shown to improve overall CTR. For a multitude of clients, we’ve seen up to a 20% increase in clicks when both ads and organic listings are showing in the SERP. When just one or the other is showing, aggregate CTR falls. Link your AdWords account to the search console and check out the Paid vs. Organic report in Dimensions to see how brand ads impact your CTR!

It’s best practice to maintain as close to 100% impression share on your own brand keywords as makes sense, and to monitor competitive impression share and outranking share via auction insights.

2.      Check your brand queries & manage accordingly

With so many hip new startups invading the digital space, you may find yourself managing a brand name that’s not so unique. While brand names can do a great job at capturing your brand’s essence, it might also be a commonly used term that can lead to complications with bidding.
If you have a super-unique brand name, you don’t need to worry about this. But let’s take past client “Cocoon” as an example here. Not only is “Cocoon” the name of TempurSealy’s luxury bed-in-a-box brand, but it is also a movie from the 1980s, a new song by Migos, the name of a modular home company featured on Ellen, the name of a few other various brands, and perhaps best known as something caterpillars use to turn into butterflies.
When you have a brand name that can match to a lot of irrelevant items, bidding on your own brand can get tricky and expensive. Best practice here is to check your brand queries often. This way you can stay on top of irrelevant queries. Create a shared list of negative brand keywords to apply to your entire account. This might look like: “caterpillars”, “butterfly” “migos song” “cocoon 1985 cast” “cocoon home on Ellen,” etc.

3.      Google yourself

Googling your own brand name from time to time can be a great sanity check and can even serve as a quick update on competitors. This has helped us find competitors who are using our brand name in their copy without permission.
If a competitor is using your brand name and it got past Google’s screening process, they can increase their impression share by having an improved ad rank, which can even push up your CPCs.
If you see a competitor using your trademarked brand name in their copy without permission, stop them by filling out this trademark complaint form. Google should have it taken down within 48 hours.

Monitoring Tools

This brings us to the section about how to monitor your competition. While there’s no perfect tool, there are a few tactics and websites to keep tabs on your competitors

1.      Competitive research engines

SpyFu, SEMRush, and Jumpshot are a few that come to mind. These websites collect search results to track the efforts of your competitors and their various domains. I would like to heavily caveat that these sites do not provide, or claim to provide, exact data. However they can be really helpful in getting a general idea of where your competitors are serving, and what types of keywords they’re bidding on – including brand terms.
You can also see ads by time to get a sense of any seasonal ad copy, along with a lot of other cool information like spend makeup, mobile/desktop split, locations, and even landing pages. This makes for a nice bonus: learning how your competitors brand themselves can be helpful in informing your own brand strategy.

2.      Competitor creative research

Want to see what kind of creative your competitors are running on the GDN? Check out moat.com and punch in your competitor’s domain to see a variety of competitor banners as they appear around the world wide web.

3.      Good ol’ auction insights

When all else fails, you can’t go wrong with monitoring your auction insights within the engine. You can select entire campaigns or specific keywords and download your competitive impression share over any segmentation of time.
This can be helpful in determining when competitors increased impression share on your brand terms, or when they start to outrank you in the SERPs. Learning exactly who is going after your brand terms can give you a starting point for a competitive analysis or for investigating any brand-related performance fluctuations.

Brand Ad Copy Best Practices

While serving strategy and competitor research can be pretty limited and somewhat cut-and-dry, the real opportunity for branding on the Search Network all comes down to your copy. Unlike Facebook or Pinterest, where you can visually convey your brand, on search, you’ve basically got 120 characters to get the point across. That’s less than a tweet! So make the most of your ad copy with the following tips (blown out in more detail here).

1.      Make sure it’s on brand

This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. Your copy should match language on your homepage or landing page. It should also include your actual brand name in as many places as is natural. Having copy match your LP will help push your quality score to 10/10 to get you the cheapest CPCs possible. Having your brand name in the copy will also increase relevancy and ad rank and will show as bolded text within your ad, bringing you more attention and hopefully more clicks.

2.      Make it as official as possible

Including certain elements in brand ads has been shown to increase user trust and CTR, making your brand look as strong as possible. These include using “Official Site” in ad copy, using the trademark or copyright symbol attached to your brand name, or even including your branded domain name as one of the headlines.

3.      Include all relevant extensions

Having a full roster of extensions serving with your brand keywords will give you more space to highlight what you have to offer – as well as any additional brand messaging that can’t fit in the body of the ad.
Extensions will also make your ads take up more valuable SERP real estate, encouraging more clicks and pushing competitors further down the page.
Bonus points for review extensions or seller ratings, both of which are also great ways to increase user trust.

4.      Get creative on competition

While competitor or conquesting campaigns may not have you bidding on your own brand terms, the ads you serve in those campaigns should be heavily branded in an effort to steal customers from your competition.
Don’t be afraid to get aggressive in these ads. Call out why your brand is better. Urge the user to choose you. In case you missed the whitepaper on this stuff higher in the post, here it is again.

Other considerations

Beyond your brand keywords and ads, there are some other things to consider when presenting your Brand to the general populace on any of Google’s other networks.

1.      Search Partners

If you’re concerned about where your ads will physically show, Search Partners may not be for you. There is very limited information and next to no control while running on search partners. The only options you have here are to run, or not to run.  We recommend consistently reviewing search partner performance for your brand terms to make sure this move is worth it.

2.      Google Display Network

The GDN gives you a good opportunity to get impeccably branded banner ads in front of internet users. While it isn’t the best direct response play, it can be great for brand awareness – and the more banner sizes you have, the more placements you can show in. Since this can be creatively taxing, most advertises opt into responsive ads. The main benefit of these ads is that Google can adapt them to fit any placement available on the GDN without all the work for your creative team. However, if you have a delicate or highly visual brand, this ad format can be limiting. (Note: Google recently released a beta for advanced creative control on responsive ads. While this isn’t yet fully rolled out, it can help with branding by allowing advertisers to have more control over how responsive ads show, including fonts, colors, and more.)
Something else to consider when running on the GDN is frequency capping. In most cases it’s bad branding to bombard your customers with banner ads every which way they turn. We usually cap GDN ads to serve no more than 7-12 times per day per user. This helps prevent ad fatigue and can prevent people from viewing your brand as annoying or pesky.
You can also view the placements your ads are showing, and exclude any that don’t work with your brand. (We probably don’t need to see ads for engagement rings showing on howtogetadivorce.com, for example.)
For that matter, you might want to consider excluding the placement adsenseformobileapps.com. This placement puts your ads within mobile apps – which can often be seen as annoying and lead to high bounce rates from accidental clicks.
To sum up, there’s nothing you can do to keep competitors from trying to encroach on your brand territory in search, but there’s plenty you can do to stop them. Put the above tips in play to make sure your users come away with a strong, positive impression of your brand – even if not every impression leads to a conversion.

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