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Mobile First Turf Wars: What's Yours Is Negotiable.

Many AdWords account's areas can be singled out for optimization. I wrote previously about improving CTR and Quality Scores


Yet, there is one thing I find to be imperative, a must really, more important than ever today, as search traffic in [almost] its entirety (for so many of our clients) converts on mobile, as opposed to desktop. It is the act of defending your Brand Name turf.


Note the choice of words here: "defending." This strategy is literally about defending what's yours. A high priority item for any company, small and big, a product retailer or a service provider.


It is a rather basic old concept. Holds for desktop just as well as for mobile. Yet, mobile is where the importance of own-brand-name-targeting comes to focus the most due to limitation in screen space. Let me tell you why..


In addition to building websites, landing pages, and spending hefty budgets on AdWords campaigns, some of our clients spend hundreds of thousands on local and national trade shows, local print, TV, cable and billboards. Other clients have invested years, some spent decades building their brand awareness by guest lecturing at educational institutions and events, or establishing their expertise online by blogging.


Sometimes clients install large building signs, towering over their HQ home towns; or sponsor community initiatives at local schools and hospitals. Promotional mugs, neon-powered “open” signs, shrink-wrapped delivery cars creative work resulting in promotional videos on cable TV, or YouTube ads and more - all that effort, be it online or off, is what builds those companies’ brand recognition.


Whether companies are hoping to win entirely new customers or stay on top of mind of their existing ones, the investment into their brand often times insures their company growth, or preserves market share when growth isn't the main goal. 


Thousands of clicks on various platforms and offline touches are the steps in a prospect’s journey towards discovering (and hopefully growing fond of) a brand. Those instances are the proverbial bricks on the path to purchase, they define the brand experience, carving a special place in a prospect’s mind for brand recognition. In hopes of your prospective client finally deciding to search for your brand one day. Most likely on their smart phone. It’s just easier for them to type or dictate your brand name into Chrome browser on their smart mobile phone than it is to walk to their desktop computer for this purpose. 


"Ok Google," they'll say - "brand name X."


At that moment their search intent will be clear. They may be new to you as a client, but they've touched your brand enough times to know your name. They are nearing a purchasing point. Or they may have purchased from you before, and your brand satisfied them plenty, stayed on top of mind enough for them to come back to you for more of your wonderful service or product.


Right about now they are ready to make a purchase from "Brand Name X" online. The epic near-sale moment arrived. They do have a credit card in hand. Whether they are looking to make an appointment to test drive, or to visit the store to check out a product, touch it, see it’s color and discuss features, find out about current deals, schedule a service from you, or they are about to make a purchase online.. Make no mistake, if they’ve named your brand, this is your chance to seal the deal.


"Ok Google," they say into their smart phone - "brand name X."


What they see next is the defining moment for your balance sheet, a deciding factor in your annual bonus, the contributing detail to the amount of hiring or layoffs your brand will go through. If, by an unfortunate circumstance you’re not serving your ad to your own brand name, this is the moment when your investment up to now will likely turn into a loss. For your prospect is suddenly going to either consider a previously unknown competitor, or they'll reconsider a known one. The seemingly routine “ok Google” is a one-click instant, when your brand can be robbed of all the blood, sweat and tears leading up to this moment. For one reason - you did not serve a BRAND NAME AD. This here is your last line of defense for your investment to be protected by none other than your Brand Name campaign on AdWords.


Let me give a real example. Recently my client’s brand name campaign ran out of budget unbeknownst to me, and what happened next was interesting. As I typed in my client’s brand name into my smart phone’s Chrome browser, I saw competitor’s ads. Lots of them.  Here is how they looked:



As I was in a state of mind of an unassuming prospect, looking to get to my client’s website, I almost clicked on the first ad that showed up in the results.


Why, ask you? Well, I may be a sophisticated advertiser, but when it comes to searching on Google I expect correct answers and a lightning-quick way to get where I’m going. Almost like Google can read my mind. Just like that. And usually Google delivered. So why not this time around? I was ready for the straightest path to what I had in mind, almost on autopilot.


Thankfully, I noticed a brand name mismatch and stopped short of clicking the first ad, and started paying attention. Once I realized what I was looking at, which was two ads from competing companies, I slowly scrolled down. Assuming once again that the one I’m looking for will be half a page down. And still, I was presented with a third ad. Only then did I give a good scroll and finally found the business listing on the screen shot below:



There it was, a vivid and an alarming illustration of how competitive my client’s sector has become. And an illustration of how important it is to have a Brand Name campaign running 24/7 on your AdWords account.


It is important to watch your Brand Name 1) search share, 2) search share lost due to rank (which should be zero % for your brand name campaign), and 3) search share lost due to budget (which also should be zero %) for your brand name campaign.


Contrary to what my client and I both thought, all was not fine in that sunny client account; their brand investment was under a vicious attack. If I knew to watch the search share in the Brand Name campaign, I’d learn that a few days earlier.


So let me give every company and every agency out there an unsolicited advice. If you don’t have one yet, create a separate Brand Name campaign in your (or your clients') AdWords account and assign a good budget to it. Once that’s done, make sure to always enable search share columns (all the 3 named above) and eye ball them every so often. Or run a search share report (in the report tab). You will gain, or rather facilitate the final step on a path of becoming your prospect, and in some cases your client, and you will acquire a great deal of peace of mind at a low low cost.


Making sure you never run out of budget for that campaign is all you need to do to continue reaping the rewards of your brand name investment. There is no excuse for not doing that. It is quite similar to purchasing an affordable insurance to guarantee your ROI at the maximum return levels.


What about all those other ads? When your ad is the first one a prospect sees (bid to position 1 script here) they will click your ad first. It is unlikely they’ll pay attention to competing ads, and you should spend peanuts on that brand name click. To give you an idea, on average our clients pay less than 10% of a non-branded CPC for a brand name click. The volumes of those Brand Name clicks are usually way smaller than the rest of account campaigns, while conversion rates are much, much higher.


The above is all you need to do. Now enjoy the peace of mind.


Note: I’d advise against engaging in brand name wars with your competition.  I’ve seen (and executed) strategies to target competition brand name keywords on clients’ requests. It is a path to self-destruction, prohibitively high cost per click and overspending.


If you feel comfortable with using scripts, this script written by Daniel Gilbert, a former Googler and published by Search Engine Land here (http://searchengineland.com/track-adwords-competitors-time-using-auction-insights-217780), will allow to easily graph share fluctuations for competitors expressly targeting your brand name. I do like visual representation this generates, and use it for most accounts, but it is not a must.


about Julia Muller

Marketer by education and experience since 2000 with extensive experience on the agency and client side both.

Spike M
June 2016

Really liked this piece, up until now I hadn't thought about how the removal of the right hand rail and the shift to mobile was going to dramatically change the need to advertise on your own brand. Led to me discovering some surprising things that needed fixing with some of our clients.

Bihari B
July 2016
Have a look..!