Improve Brand Paid Search Performance

If you are an advertiser that plays in a competitive online space, you have most likely wondered how to improve paid search performance for essential brand keywords.  After optimal bid strategies have been identified for category campaigns, lowering your average cost-per-clicks on brand keywords is the logical next step.  The following scenario may sound quite familiar to you…


Over the past couple of years, you have noticed some aggressive rivals sinking to new lows by bidding on your company’s precious brand keywords.  Although these aggressors cannot utilize your trademarked names within their ad copy, Google decided years ago that it’s perfectly legal for them to bid on your brand keywords.  At the same time, there are new competitors entering the search engine marketing landscape and you can only assume they have formidable budgets based on their domination of the Google search results page.  These factors are pushing your brand’s average cost-per-clicks (CPCs) higher, thus resulting in fewer clicks to your company’s website, and ultimately, fewer sales.  If your competitors have larger digital marketing budgets compared to your business, it’s going to be even harder for you to overcome these challenges.

Luckily, we have some proven methods to beat these aggressors at their own game.  The very first place to look for hidden opportunity is by measuring the current gaps between your account’s max and average CPCs for your brand keywords.  Often, advertisers over react to aggressive competitors by unnecessarily raising max CPCs to extremely high levels.  Over time, this strategy results in the inflation of your brand’s average CPCs as your high bids are actually adding to the competitiveness of the auction.  It’s never too late to reverse that trend.  First step, pull a recent report (past three days is a good starting point) and filter out the keywords that are less than an average position of 1.5.  Next step, separate the keywords into Quality Score (QS) buckets, place the 7 – 10 QS keywords into one bucket, the 5 – 6 QS keywords into a second bucket, the 3 – 4 QS keywords into a third bucket, and finally, the 1 – 2 QS keywords into a fourth bucket.  Keywords with QS below 3 are actually harming your overall account and should be deleted.  If they are crucial terms for your business, you can always try placing them into new ad groups with extremely tailored ad copy and perhaps more relevant landing pages in an effort to improve click-through-rates (CTR) and thus QS over time.

For the 7 – 10 QS bucket, drop the max CPC to be $0.01 higher than the current average CPC.  In the 5 – 6 QS bucket, lower the max CPC to be $0.05 higher than the current average CPC.  For the 3 – 4 QS bucket, decrease the max CPC to be $0.10 higher than the current average CPC.  These are not perfect estimates, but rather starting points to gauge the initial level of success.  The goal is to lower your brand’s average CPCs without compromising an average position of one.  In most cases, you should be able to slowly walk the max CPCs down until you have shaved pennies or even dollars off the average CPCs across keywords without losing position.  Finally, check back daily to determine if the strategy is working effectively and adjust max CPCs up or down as needed.

Lead Horse has successfully implemented these tactics to improve pay-per-click performance for clients in the travel, entertainment, and e-commerce verticals.  Brand campaigns perform extremely well for advertisers since consumers that search for these keywords are further down the conversion funnel and have a higher propensity to convert.  Our agency dedicated an additional blog post to the series named Paid Search Strategies for Brand Campaigns.  This post includes a detailed, step-by-step action plan for match type refinement, which is another critical component of search success.