March Digital Hack: Brand CPC

Our March Digital Hack takes me back to my Paid Search beginnings.  We’ll show you how you can halve your brand CPC using 4 simple tactics. This is an oldie, but a goodie.

Firstly, let’s address the question which clients will often ask: Why would I bid on my own brand? Won’t I just pick up this traffic organically?

While there’s no right answer, and I might be slightly biased, implementing a proper paid search brand strategy can pay off big time.

Advertisers will generally bid on their brand for 3 main reasons: volume, tactical & brand protection. These can be broken down into more specific points:

– Brand terms are cheap compared with generic terms and CPCs across other channels
– Use brand copy to highlight new products, offers & cross/up-sell
– Drive brand searches direct to a landing page instead of homepage – shorten the user journey & increase conversion rates
– A/B & multivariate testing across both of the above
– Command more real estate on the search results page
– Research from Bing shows you could generate up to 30% more clicks on brand using paid search and organic together vs organic alone
– If competitors are bidding on your brand term you need to protect your brand. Otherwise they could be stealing clicks away from you at a fairly cheap rate (we’ve also got some competitor conquesting hacks to come so look out for those!)

The Intro

If someone’s searching for your brand they are already aware so this is not a prospecting tactic. As such, you want to reduce costs as much as possible to allow for more investment in those prospecting tactics.

Now, brand CPCs are generally very cheap when compared to generic CPCs and other channels. But you could still be paying over the odds and wasting budget that can be better spent elsewhere.

We often see a standard bid applied across all brand keywords with no strategy or attention applied. This is because they will usually be strong performers when compared to the rest of the account. This is know as set and forget. By setting a few hours aside over a matter of days or weeks we can apply different tactics to reduce costs.

The Setup

This is mainly for accounts not using bidding automation, though these tactics have proven to beat automated bidding so could work for anyone.

You will need a few days or weeks, depending on the amount of brand search volume & clicks you receive.

Ideally set up a couple of custom reports or data pulls that include the following columns:

– Impressions
– Clicks
– CTR
– CPC
– Cost
– Conversions
– Conv. rate
– Cost per Conversion
– Average position
– Impression Share

You will need to download, analyse & action this dataset every day or two depending on volume.

The Execution

Tactic 1: Keywords in top position
– Pull a keyword report including the above metrics, with the two key metrics here being CPC and average position
– Filter for all keywords with position 1.0
– Reduce bids to the average CPC and re-upload to your account

You should start to see the CPC decrease almost immediately. Rinse and repeat for a few days/weeks (depending on volume) until you find the sweet spot. To measure this, use these 2 metrics:  impression share and CPC. As you reduce your bid further and further you may start to see your impression share drop so find the perfect balance by comparing these two metrics every day and find an impression share you are happy with and stick with that bid.

Tactic 2: Keywords below top position
This is very similar to Tactic 1 but requires the application of a simple formula.

– Pull a keyword report including the above metrics, with the two key metrics here being CPC and average position
– Filter for all keywords with position >1.0
– Create a formula = CPC * Average Position to get your new bid

While this may actually increase some brand CPCs vs what they were before, it will ensure you are paying the minimum amount to hit top spot and push your competitors out. We often see dramatic bid increases to get back into top spot which will prove more costly than the formula tactic.

Tactic 3: Copy
Use the matched brand keyword in Headline 1.

Sounds simple right? Well, you’d be surprised how many advertisers don’t do this. They think they will hit top position and get the click anyway so they use this real estate for other messaging. While this may still get the desired results it will almost certainly result in a higher brand CPC.

Either build out your brand copy suite to include all iterations or use dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) to insert the matched brand keyword for hyper relevance at scale without the need for hundreds of copy iterations.

Tactic 4: RLSA
Our final tactic is more of a cost saver than CPC reduction, but worth including in this hack.

Use RLSA to identify existing customers.

Now, if you sell multiple products or get regular repeat customers, you may want to continue serving ads to these existing customers. Here you can use the messaging to cross-sell/up-sell etc. (being sure to include the main brand term in headline 1!). But, if it’s a low frequency or one off purchase such a car or property, you will want to exclude recent purchasers from brand terms. This will ensure you are not paying for clicks that won’t result in additional leads/sales/revenue.

The Result

These tactics have proven to beat automated bidding and eliminate the need for device, location & time bid modifiers on brand terms.

Using these tactics has proven to:

– Reduce brand CPC by 50%
– Reduce overall cost on brand by 50%-60%
– Allow reinvestment in generic keywords boosting overall click & conversion volume
– Provide a better user experience

Here at True we use a mix of automation & manual bidding to get the best results for our clients. This means developing a bespoke brand strategy across each client as there is no one size fits all approach to this. With our in-house creative team, we work closely with our top copywriters to enhance our Paid Search copy for the best mix of brand & best practice.

There are a number of other ways to maximise your brand across Paid Search, such as segmentation, ad extensions & SEO/SEM incrementality, so get in touch if you’d like to hear more.

Jamie Taylor
Digital Lead, True Sydney

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