Branded vs. Non-Branded: Why You Should Use Branded Search Campaigns

Edwin Choi

November 4, 2019

If you have any experience in building ad campaigns on Adwords, you probably know the importance of having a great campaign structure. Most digital marketers dive heavily into their non-branded campaigns and generate a decent return on ad spend (ROAS). That’s great!

But they are missing out on tons of conversions when they neglect this one very important thing: they are forgetting about (properly built) branded search campaigns.

Branded search campaigns will definitely take your search campaign to the next level. 

Big brands like Intel and Fiat use branded search campaigns in their marketing strategies for great results.

If you want to know how branded campaigns can help your advertising efforts, then you came to the right place.

Table Of Contents

What's the Difference?
Why You Need Branded Campaigns?
Benefits of Branded Search Campaigns
Attack Your Competitors

What’s the Difference?

Even though non-branded and branded campaigns are two sides of the same coin, both of these campaigns are vastly different from each other. They play a pivotal role in the success of your campaigns. If you want to maximize your search campaign, you would need both of them.

Two superheroes representing branded and the other one representing non-branded fighting.
Everyone wants to see if branded or unbranded search campaigns are superior.

Non-branded campaigns focus on using generic terms for your product or service in order to generate traffic. This campaign strategy doesn’t include any branded terms such as company name or the name of the product or service. Let’s pretend that you’re a company selling snack bars named Perfect Snacks. 

(I would like to add that Perfect Snacks is one of my favorite snacks.) 

But to carry on with the example, the keywords that you would use in your non-branded campaign would be “snack bars” or “delicious nutrition bars”. These are just generic words that someone looking for nutritional snack bars would type into Google.

Branded campaigns use the company’s brand to generate traffic. This includes keywords with the company’s name and the name of their product or service. It’s especially profitable when your company has already established its brand image. In Perfect Snacks’s branded campaign, they would use keywords like “Perfect Snacks” or “Perfect Snacks products”. These customers are looking for your brand and thus, more likely to convert than customers searching for generic terms.

In these two examples, you can clearly see the difference in how branded campaigns leverage their brand and rely on searchers to search for these branded terms.

Why You Need Branded Campaigns?

Adwords users typically bid on any keywords related to their product or service because that’s what brings traffic. 

So why should you bid on your own brand name?

It’s because if you aren’t doing it, your competitors will! They will steal your potential conversions by using your brand recognition.

Here’s a little example.

Imagine that you are searching for snack bars, more specifically KIND Snack Bars because you thought it looked good while shopping. 

The first thing you would do is to type “kind bar” into Google and this popped up.

Clif Bar on the first space on Google's search engine for the search term "kind bar".
How does Clif Bar outrank KIND Snacks on their own search term?

Notice that Clif Bar is ranked before KIND Bar on it’s on branded search terms?

You originally came searching for KIND Bars, but Clif Bars caught your attention. Even though some traffic purchased from KIND, there are definitely those that became detoured and purchased Clif Bars. 

Now let’s reel it back to your company. Imagine if your competitors bid on your brand name. Customers will see an alternative and choose the competition over your company. 

Don’t let it happen. You need to dominate your search engine result page.

Now you might also ask yourself “Wouldn’t my organic search position take care of my customers’ branded searches?”

I'm sorry to tell you this, but relying on organic search position won’t cut it. I bet you are aware of Google’s search engine hierarchy, but if you don’t, paid ads are on the top and bottom of any page. The organic search results are in the middle. So regardless of how great your SEO is, you need paid ads in your arsenal. You can think of paid ads and organic search as necessary partners. You can establish a position in Google’s ad space and your SEO will help act as extra real estate. When you have 2 listings on the front page, it increases the odds of customers recognizing you. It also provides more opportunities for them to click to your site. Who doesn’t want odds like this?

Google's search result for the search term "perfect bar".
Perfect Bar dominating their search term.

This is the result of typing in “perfect bar’ as your branded search term. Perfect Bar takes up 2 positions on this search term and even better they take up the top 2 positions. Without scrolling, the customers see exactly what they search for and they will click on one of these links. It can’t get any better than that.

Benefits of Branded Search Campaigns

1. Capture traffic that’s more likely to convert.

Every marketer is aware of the marketing funnel. But for those of you that don’t know, the simplified version is that the marketing funnel reflects a customer’s journey from initial exposure all the way down to purchasing the product. It is up to you as marketers to understand where that particular customer stands in the funnel and what ads can they use to get them to convert. 

This is where branded campaigns come in. Branded terms signify that the customer or searcher heard about your brand before. They are lower on the marketing funnel and have a higher chance to convert compared to someone that is simply searching for a product. These are the customers you want more of. Adding a branded search campaign ensures that you control all aspects of the marketing funnel.

Just to show you the power of branded search campaigns, we will use one of our Brands as an example. For one month, this company spent 61% of their ad spend on branded keywords. Even though that's more than half of the Brand’s total ad spend for the month, the branded campaign was able to generate 93% of the total conversions.

A business man with a net trying to catch floating trucks with money.
Branded campaigns can net you more money and traffic.

Now that’s a lot of conversions for only spending 61% of the search campaigns total ad spend. 

2. Outrank competitors.

One of your main goals of advertising is to show above your competition. In the case of Google’s search engine, you want to outrank your competitors and even secure the prestigious first-page rankings. 

According to Smart Insights, the top position on search engines have a click-through rate (CTR) of 30%. As you go down to only the third position, your CTR drops down to a measly 10%. And if you keep on going, it drops drastically to around a 2% CTR for rank 10 and beyond.

Branded campaigns allow you to bid on your own branded terms and achieve top placements. If customers search for your brand and see a competitor above you, what does that say about your company? This will definitely reflect poorly on your company. You want to rank at the top for your own brands.

What’s great about paid ads is that it helps to push positive messages forward. This helps to bring your brand’s message to the first page and allows your customers to see what your brand is truly about. It also has the positive byproduct of pushing down irrelevant news, which is always great. Paid ads cover the top 25% of Google’s search engine. Taking over that portion will seemingly propel your positive traits on search engine and help to reduce visible bad press because 67% of all clicks on search engine goes to the top 5 listings

Even if your SEO is not up to par and can’t rank on the first page, your branded ads give you a second chance. These paid ads can allow you to rank above the rest.

3. Branded terms cost less.

Branded keywords tend to cost less because there is less competition. Companies are afraid to purchase keywords that aren’t related to their own company.

In addition to lower competition, you are more relevant. Google strives to place relevant information above the rest and if your company is more relevant for your specific search term, you will be rewarded with a higher ranking and lower CPC.

You’ll also receive a better quality score because you’re advertising for your own company compared to if your competition uses your branded keywords. High-quality scores represent the fact that you are doing everything right in terms of following Google’s advertising guidelines.  And Google loves that. The combination of low competition and better ad relevance will increase your overall branded search campaign ad spend. It’s time for you to get some cheap conversions.

4. Control your message.

It’s time for you to control your brand message. It’s not surprising that 70% of consumers look for known retailers. You can use branded ads to make your company a familiar face.

Branded ads allow you to write your own headlines and descriptions. You pick your messaging and mold what people think of your company with your ads. Remember to promote sales, new products, or services. This is another avenue where your company talks to your customers. 

While you’re at it, you might as well test your message. You can’t get the perfect message on the first time. Create it and see what the metrics have to say. Over time and after a couple of attempts at it, you will find the right words to create conversions.

5. Shorten the buying cycle.

A customer's life cycle seems longer than ever. It is reported that 43% respondents from a survey noticed a slowing of the sale cycle. This forces marketers to baby leads until they turn into a converted customer. 

Don’t worry. Branded search campaigns are perfect to shorten a customer’s buying cycle and even target people in the later stages of their buying cycle. 

As mentioned earlier, customers that are actively searching for your brand name or branded products are warmer, more willing to finalize their purchase. It’s difficult to convince them to whip out their card, but since they know who you are, there is this established trust. It is your job as a marketer to push them to type in those valuable credit card numbers. They are on the verge of converting. Ads extension that offers discounts or additional useful info can push them over the edge and finally convert.

6. Potentially higher conversion rates.

Your branded terms are highly relevant to your branded website. This creates a highly relevant customer journey. This is common sense. If a customer is searching for your brand, they want to see a link to your company website, not your competitors. Since you’re able to provide this for these searchers, your ads will consistently garner higher CTR.

In the same Brand’s account, the average CTR for the non-branded campaigns is roughly 4%, but the CTR for the branded campaigns is a whopping 10%. The branded campaign more than double the non-branded campaign.

Why do you want a higher CTR?

CTR and conversions go hand in hand. If your CTR is trending upwards, you can also see an influx in conversions. And conversions mean money!

In the retail space, it is reported that when a retail brand did not run branded ads, 34% of the missed clicks went to other ads and 6% went to other organic listings. That’s a total of 40% of your traffic jumping ship to other companies. This has the potential of thousands or millions of dollars in loss of revenue.

7. Build Account Equity

Following best practices is speculated to have a positive effect on building account equity. 

But what is account equity?

Account equity is the history of the account. Adwords marketers usually live and breathe CTR and conversions. Account equity isn’t a specific number that marketers can gauge, but it is just as important to your campaign as CTR and conversions.

So what’s the point of measuring something that is only speculative?

Generating high CTR, obtaining a high-quality score, and following best practices definitely have an impact on your campaign's future success. 

Negative account equity would equate to having poor click-through rates, low conversions, and terrible quality scores. This would only increase your cost per click and even the amount you pay per keyword. As a digital marketer, you would want to generate as many conversion for as little as possible. Why risk spending 50 dollars for 5 conversions when you can be generating 50 conversions with 5 dollars? Branded campaigns provide an optimal opportunity for a low-risk high return.

Branded campaigns are great in building account equity. I have noticed that campaigns with a history of good performance result in their keywords starting at a higher quality score and faster ad approval.

These definitely apply to my branded campaigns. Our branded campaigns typically have an average quality score of 9 with a significant portion of quality scores around 10’s, but regular search campaigns usually average around 5. You can see that branded campaigns clearly edge out non-branded search campaigns in this category.

Attack Your Competitors

The search engine page is like a battlefield. You and your competitions are fighting for space on Google. The winners are rewarded with conversions.

Football players trying to defend the number 1 position.
It's always a battle to rank first on Google.

“Your greatest offense is your defense” is the best known tactical phrase, but it holds true even in marketing. Our branded ads help to act as a barrier to repel competitors. We raise our bids to push out any potential companies trying to weasel their way into our branded territory. 

Remember, you need to drive up your competitors' costs. Hit them where it really counts, their wallets. If you attack your competitors’ wallets, they are forced to pay attention and stop bidding on your branded terms. What I mean by this is that you want to drive up their ad spend by increasing the amount of money they need to pay per keyword.

How can you possibly increase their ad cost?

Since your customers are searching for your company, when they type in your branded terms, you will lower their quality score and increase their costs in bidding because they aren’t you. This is simple Adwords logic. Lowering their quality score increases how much they have to pay. Your competitions are fakes bidding on your branded terms. They can never compete with you as the original.

Once it becomes too expensive for them, it won’t be financially worth it for them to continue advertising under your brand. They need to move along and try a different tactic.

If they want to continue advertising under your brand name, you can also attack their weak value proposition and win their customers over with superior ad copy. Give their customers a better offer that they can’t overlook. Great deals to customers are like bears to honey. Bears will get stung a billion times, but they can’t resist getting some honey.

If you need any further ad copy help make sure to check out these ad copy tips. This guide will surely have some techniques to make your ads more enticing than honey to bears.

If you have something trademarked, you can contact Google and force competitors to stop taking advantage of your brand for profit. Familiarize yourself with Google's trademark policies. If they are breaking any of these rules, it is your right to tell them to stop what they are doing. 

Here’s a common offense.

Competitors can’t include your brand in their title or ad copy, but they are allowed to use it in their display URL. Always monitor your competition and ensure that they play by the rules.   


The key takeaway is to build your branded search campaign if you haven’t.

The numbers don’t lie. 

I’ll be shocked if you’re still reluctant to build your branded campaign after presenting you with these data.

Branded campaigns double the CTR, generate 93% of the total search campaign conversions, and absolutely crush non-branded campaigns in terms of their cost per conversion. 

It’s simple math. More traffic leads to more conversions. Utilizing both branded and non-branded search campaigns is a great strategy to target different search audiences and people from different stages of converting.

Why do you want to create your branded search campaign?


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