Should I Use Branded Keywords In My Search Advertising?

Should I Use Branded Keywords In Local Advertising

On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer: if a customer is searching for your brand by name, why would you need to pay for those keywords in your campaigns? The answer may surprise you.

With “near me” searches on the rise year over year, local paid-search marketing is a key component of any multi-location business’s advertising strategy. But pay-per-click (PPC) advertising hinges on keywords — and choosing the right keywords for your campaign can be difficult.

One debate in the industry is whether to use “branded keywords” as part of your paid search strategy. What are they, and are they right for your business?

In this blog post, we’re going to run through the basics of a branded-keyword campaign, and why you should incorporate it into your own campaigns.


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What Are Branded Keywords?

Branded keywords are any series of keywords that feature your brand name. For instance, If your brand is “Company X,” it would naturally include  “Company X” as a keyword, but it would also cover things like “Company X services,” “Company X reviews,” “Company X locations,” and more. If you’re Microsoft, that might include “Windows” or “XBox.” 

Basically, branded keywords are your brand name, and also the names of any other products or services connected to your brand. These are terms that users already likely associate with your brand name, and are also already likely to generate organic search results pointing to your brand and website. Which brings us to the obvious issue: 

Drawbacks To Branded Keywords

You are, at the heart of things, paying for web traffic that was already searching for you by name. If you’re doing a solid job staking out a name for yourself online with a lot of organic search traffic, paying for your own brand’s keywords in a PPC campaign might initially appear unconventional. At best, it’s targeting customers who are already very familiar with your branding, so it’s not a campaign that’s going to be very useful for acquiring new customers. If you’ve got a limited budget, this is definitely the first thing to cut. So why would someone even consider doing it — and why do so many experts recommend it? 

Reasons To Use Branded Keywords

While the drawbacks to using branded keywords are widely recognized, the reasons to start using them are actually far more numerous and, taken together, paint a pretty compelling picture. Reasons like:

  • Brand Visibility: If your brand is less-established, then it can be hard to rank organically for keywords even when they’re your own brand name. Bidding on the keyword ensures your brand is front and center, which will help establish the organic traffic you’re craving.

  • Reputation Control: You’re not the only one out there using your brand name. Competitors trash-talking you in their ads and marketing materials, negative customer reviews, and other kinds of messaging you’ll want to mitigate are out there. Bidding on your keywords gives you more control over how you’re viewed and puts your positive messaging first.

  • Messaging Control: A homepage is a fine place to direct traffic, but if you’ve got a specific product, event, or offer that you’re trying to promote, bidding on your own keywords can get the things you’re trying to call out more-specifically to the top of the queue. Instead of funneling them to the main page, you can post ads directing them to your promotional offer.

  • Competition: If competitors are bidding on your keywords for their own ads, they could end up outranking you for your own keywords. Bidding for them yourself ensures you’re top of the page, and pushes up CPCs for anyone else trying to use them against you.

  • Increasing Conversions: Because you’re targeting a narrower audience with branded traffic, they can be less-competitive keywords — which means they may be less-expensive but far more likely to get visibility and net conversions. In addition, they’re high-relevance keywords, which tend to be bigger converters.

That’s all well and good, but where does the humble non-branded keyword fit into all this? 

Pairing Branded And Non-Branded Keywords

If you’re choosing your keywords wisely, they can reinforce and support one another as you grow your business online. While branded keywords are working hard driving conversions and protecting your online reputation, carefully curating your list of non-branded keywords can help expand your customer base, drive new traffic and engagement, and generally work to improve your positioning in the search engine results page (SERP.) 

However, that’s a lot of different types of keywords. You’ve got branded keywords, non-branded keywords, even (potentially) competitors’ keywords, if that’s a route you’re going. So if you’re doing all that, how do you know what’s working? 

Separating Your Campaigns

The trick is, you want to avoid blending the performance of your various keyword campaigns, so you should structure things into separate campaigns depending on the type. So branded keywords go in one pile, non-branded keywords in another pile, and competitor keywords (if you’re doing that) as a third. 

This gives you more control over your performance and budgets. Remember, budgets for PPC campaigns are set at the campaign level. Competitor keywords can be rough on a PPC campaign budget, so keeping them in a separate pile allows you to assess your strengths and weaknesses and dial back on spend accordingly.

Similarly, keeping your branded and non-branded campaigns separate will help you determine more-quickly how things are performing. Mixing them together will muddy the waters and make it hard to gain insights into what is and isn’t working. Keeping them separate will allow you to optimize these very different types of keywords in ways that will work for them, and control the spend on each.  

So, Should I Use Branded Keywords?

Short answer: if you’ve got room in the budget, absolutely. A non-branded keyword campaign should form the base of all your PPC efforts, but if the purse strings aren’t quite as tight a branded keyword campaign, kept separate, would be a sensible additional tactic. 

Then, if things are optimized and you’re still looking for more to do, you can consider how running a competitor-keyword campaign might factor into things. Think of it like a pyramid, with non-branded keywords forming the largest portion of your efforts, branded keywords slightly smaller, and competitor campaigns at the tip.

Final Thoughts

Now you can see why incorporating branded keywords into your own efforts can be beneficial.

If you’re a franchise business looking for more ways to revolutionize your paid-search efforts, Balihoo is the leader in multi-location marketing for a reason. You can get started today by reaching out to our team. With a focus on efficiency, transparency, and maximizing client results, Balihoo is the name to know in multi-location marketing.


Written by
Sean Kelly, Senior Content Writer

Sean Kelly is a Senior Content Specialist, St. Louis-based engagement expert with 20 years of experience in content writing, and 8 years in adtech.

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