22 October 2020
Author: Alex Webb
We’ve managed SEM (search engine marketing) campaigns for more than 10 years now, and one of the questions we get asked on a regular basis is “should we have a branded search campaign?” Or to phrase it differently, “should I bid on my brand name?” And there’s a reason we get asked this question again and again. After all, shouldn’t a company rank really well organically for its own name? In theory, the answer to that is “yes,” but that doesn’t mean branded search campaigns are a bad idea. In fact—spoiler alert—we recommend them in almost every single circumstance. For clarification, when we talk about “branded searches” we’re referring specifically to your company’s brand name (the name of your company)—not the brand names of products you offer. But first, a little 101…. Wait, What Is Branded Search? Branded search is a marketing tactic where you tell a search engine, such as Google or Microsoft, to show an ad when someone searches for your company (brand) name. You then pay if someone clicks that ad. Yep, branded search is just a standard SEM, also known as a PPC (pay per click), campaign that uses your brand name as the triggering keyword. So… Should You Do Branded Search? Yes. End of article. Okay, it’d be awesome if you trusted us enough to just take our word for it, but if that isn’t the case … if our relationship isn’t quite there yet … here are six reasons you should be doing branded search! #1 – Your site isn’t search engine friendly. Look, the number one argument against doing branded search campaigns or bidding on your brand name is that your website should organically rank in the number-one position. After all, who better to provide relevant and current information relating to your brand than you? However, does your site come up at the top of page one for branded searches? Even if your website is a shining example of SEO best practices, the answer is likely “not always,” thanks to competitors, but we’ll get to that in a bit. And if your website isn’t besties with Google, there’s a very good chance the answer is “no.” If your site is slow, unwieldy on mobile devices and lacks original content, there’s a good chance you are not organically showing up as number one for your brand name. You may need to pay for that privilege in the form of a branded search campaign. #2 – Your competitors are bidding on your brand name. Remember a minute ago when we said that even a well-optimized site may benefit from a branded search campaign thanks to competition? Well, let’s talk about that now. Believe it or not, Google is in the business of making money… and that means they’re more than happy to let competitors pay to show ads for your company/brand name. (And to be fair, it isn’t just Google; Microsoft will also let competitors pay to show up for someone else’s name!) This means that even if your website is showing up in the first organic position, since a paid ad shows up at the very top of the page, someone could be showing above you! Even BIG companies and well-known brands have to deal with this type of conquesting by competitors. If you’re in a competitive industry (which means most spaces), a branded search campaign can help you keep competitors from showing up at the top of page one for your company or brand name. Even if you rank number one organically, running a branded search campaign can be a great way to really own the SERP (search engine results page), which brings us to … #3 – You can dominate the SERP. Have you ever seen a webpage that has an advertiser doing a takeover? This is where every single ad slot on the page (and sometimes even the background) are for the same company, product or service. You can accomplish something similar on the SERP. Having a website that ranks well organically, showing information in the Knowledge Graph (box on the right-hand side of the SERP) and running a branded search campaign can allow your brand to essentially “take over” the SERP. This type of SERP takeover can be a psychologically powerful marketing tactic that really makes an impression on searchers. #4 – You can control the impression you make and the post-click experience. You can spend hours (or days) crafting the perfect page titles and meta descriptions to ensure your site makes a killer first impression on the SERP, but Google (and other search engines) may ignore your wishes entirely. Google may decide to show different copy that it has deemed more relevant than your well-thought-out meta description or it may truncate your meta description. In addition, not all branded searches have the same intent—so it may not be appropriate to send every branded search query to whichever page is ranking well organically (most likely your home page). These are things that can be difficult, if not impossible, to control from an SEO standpoint. However, when you run a branded search campaign you have total control over the ad content and which landing page people are being directed to. For example, let’s say your brand has had some negative reviews on Yelp. For any branded search around the term reviews (ex. “Fictional Company Reviews”), you could show a specially crafted ad that controls the narrative. You could direct individuals to a testimonials landing page with legitimate customer reviews. The point here is not to lie to or mislead potential customers—but rather to provide them with a relevant experience that speaks to their needs. You can also provide more information in a paid ad than you can in a run-of-the-mill organic SERP listing. (Note—you can enhance a SERP listing by using things like structured snippets and site search but that’s a whole blog post on its own!). For example, with Google, you can use site extensions like sitelink extensions, call extensions and even promotion extensions to provide the searcher with a wealth of information. #5 – You can generate more leads. If your website isn’t the easiest to navigate, a branded search campaign may offer the opportunity to generate more leads. For example, a call extension may prompt a searcher to click-to-call from his or her mobile device, without ever actually visiting your website. This can be especially beneficial if your phone number isn’t readily apparent, such as in the header of your website. In addition, Google’s lead extensions can allow potential customers to request more information right from the search results without ever leaving Google. This can be especially beneficial if your website is a bit slow and users are likely to click the back button before ever making it to your contact page or lead form. Even if your website is simply magnificent, searchers—especially those using cell towers versus a WiFi connection—may prefer the most convenient way to make contact … which would obviously be right from the SERP! #6 – You can increase overall site traffic. Approximately five years ago, Bing (Microsoft) did a study on the overlap between branded search campaign clicks and organic clicks. Bing wanted to understand whether branded search campaigns cannibalize organic clicks. The study found that there is approximately 11% overlap between the two. However, when a brand ad was present, approximately 31% more clicks were received—clicks that would not have been received without a branded search campaign! Here’s an excerpt from the study: “When brands did not display a brand ad on their results pages, retail brands received 60 percent of the clicks to their top organic listing; on brand travel results pages, 61 percent of people clicked the brands’ top organic listing. But, when the brands had ads in the top mainline position, retail brands received 91 percent of the clicks and travel brands scored 88 percent of the clicks on their results pages. That’s a gain of 31 percent more clicks for retail brands and 27 percent more for travel brands when a brand ad displays.” (Source.) That’s right—by not running a branded search campaign you could be missing out on clicks … a lot of clicks. So … are you on board with running a branded search campaign? Hopefully these six reasons have shown you how important they can be to maximize your search engine presence and the amount of site traffic and leads you receive. If you’re ready to move ahead with a new branded search campaign, do keep these important tips in mind. Our Top Branded Search Campaign Tips. #1 – Have a dedicated campaign. Even though the clicks can be pretty cheap, bidding on your brand name can eat into your overall SEM budget. With that in mind, it’s a great idea to create a standalone campaign for your branded search queries. Having a separate campaign will allow you to control campaign level settings like budget, geo targeting, etc. Extra tip: If your budget is extremely tight and you’re confident in your organic ranking, consider limiting your branded search campaign to just mobile devices. On mobile devices, a competitor’s ad plus the local pack (map with local business listings)—if applicable—can push all organic placements below the fold. And you never want to ask people to scroll! #2 – Don’t just bid on your brand name. Don’t just dump your brand name into a campaign and call it a day. Remember, one of the benefits of branded search campaigns is controlling not only the message but also the post-click experience. Think of different searches a potential customer might make around your brand name. Build different ad groups and ads around those various queries. And of course, use the most appropriate landing page. Someone who is looking for reviews of your company should see an ad assuring them that you have the information they’re seeking … and the landing page should provide that information. However, you probably do not want to show up for all queries related to your brand name, which brings us to … #3 – Use negative keywords! Negative keywords are how you can tell a search engine, like Google, when not to show your ad. This may vary from business to business, but in most places you probably do not want to pay for clicks by job seekers. In that case, you would add things like “employment,” “jobs,” and “careers” as negative keywords to your branded search campaign. To help you start thinking about what negative keywords to add to your branded search campaign, we’ve created a list of 129 potential negative keywords. Sign up below to get a free copy. Extra tip: Don’t just blindly add all of these negative keywords to your branded search campaign. Evaluate each one to see if it’s a fit for your company. Some queries you may want to show an ad for but you’ll want to create a separate ad group and control the user experience. When used appropriately, branded search campaigns can be an asset to your other marketing tactics. They are a cost-effective way to reach people who obviously are at least slightly familiar with your brand … and to control the message and post-click experience those people see and receive. However, to make bidding on your brand name an effective strategy, there are best practices you should follow. If you need additional assistance maximizing the ROI of your SEM campaigns, branded or otherwise, St. Gregory is here to help. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consult. We’ve worked with Google and Microsoft Ads for more than a decade and are Google Ads certified!
06 August 2020
Author: Stephanie Meinberg
As a University of Alabama grad and Anderson Twp., Ohio native, Emily Meek has divided her post-collegiate years to exploring Europe and launching her career (often simultaneously). Stonehenge to Dublin to Paris, then Birmingham and now back to Cincy, she’s a hometown girl with a passion for football—she’s also the newest member of the St. Gregory media team. Q: You’ve joined us as our assistant media buyer—tell us a little about your media experience. A: I spent just over a year as an assistant traditional media buyer for the Martin Retail Group, an agency in Alabama focused primarily on automotive clients. My work was with General Motors—Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac—covering TV, cable, radio and print buys for my region, which was about 29 markets. It was basic media assistant work—with my strong background in PR, which was primarily earned and owned media, this role allowed me to transition over to the paid media side, which was really interesting to me … I was excited about learning more from that perspective. Q: So why the move back to Cincy? What appealed to you about St. Gregory? A: I loved Alabama—the school, not the state. [She laughs.] I was really looking for an agency setting, the next step after focused corporate communications where you’re working for the same client every day. The pandemic limited my options, of course, but then I spotted this opening—in my hometown—and with everything that was going on in the world, it seemed like the perfect time, the perfect opportunity, to make the jump. St. Gregory as an agency had a deep roster of clients, a lot of which were automotive, which was my current forte. So, it was that ideal next step—going from what I was doing on just the media side at MRG to a full-service agency that did that and more. It blended my previous PR experience with my current work … all in one job. Q: Thoughts on media—in general? Where it’s going in our highly digital, on-demand world … A: Obviously there’s a lot of focus on digital, but I’m more interested in traditional … more interested in what’s going on in the moment when it comes to advertising, like when I’m watching football in live action on TV (versus paying to skip ads on Hulu when I watch The Bachelor). I think you can go further, do more with traditional media—and I think a lot of people don’t realize all that encompasses … it’s not just TV, it’s also billboards and radio and more … Q: So, your primary role here … and favorite part so far? A: I’m only just now a month in, so I don’t have my own accounts yet. Currently, I’m helping with whatever [St. Gregory media director] Janet needs … forms, adjusting plans and media tools, sending traffic, working with budget sheets, printing invoices, scanning things in for co-op … literally every day is something different. I haven’t done anything twice yet. Which is one of the best parts—I love the option of being able to do different things in different systems with different forms and different setups … nothing is ever boring here.
28 July 2020
Author: Daniel Lally
There’s a saying among litigators that goes something like this: If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the law is on your side, pound the law. If neither is on your side, pound the table. The thing about that maxim is that it works equally well as a mocking review of almost any argument with which you disagree, or as pretty solid career advice for anyone who aspires to persuade people for a living. Like lawyers. Or advertisers. That’s because marketing strategy depends on having a conversation with your customers that is both relevant to them and highlights the specific benefits of your brand. In the late 1960s, major home appliances like washing machines had become harder for advertisers to differentiate. The performance and features offered by the big manufacturers were pretty comparable, particularly when it came to higher-end models. But one copywriter at Leo Burnett found a way to frame the purchasing decision in a way that ensured his client would definitely stand out. The insight pointed out the worst part of owning a major appliance was when it stopped working. Other, larger competitors pointed to their national networks of factory-trained repair technicians, but based on that insight, they were making the wrong case. And so, the Maytag Repairman came to be. With a single idea, Maytag changed the conversation from which machine was bigger or got whites brighter to which one you could actually depend on. Framed that way, Maytag would continue to chip away at the market share of its much larger competitors for another 35 years or so, when one of them finally gave in and bought the company. Combine a new insight with a creative idea and you’ve got a powerful force. These are the proverbial unicorns—those truly revolutionary products that are exactly what everybody wanted or needed and just didn’t know it until a new gizmo came along. This week in particular, air conditioning comes to mind. But if your brand has real competition, and your customers have real options, you’ll likely benefit from framing the discussion to the context that best suits your benefits. Which conversation you decide to have can make all the difference.
20 April 2020
Operating during Coronavirus is as new for your customers as it is for all of us. Every opportunity counts, while your consumers are changing their behavior simultaneously online and in real life. As these shifts continue, our reaction time as marketers is even shorter. This presents opportunities for your brand—as well as your competitor’s—to capture their attention through your digital content. And your customers want to hear from you. In fact, Kantar found that only eight percent of consumers think companies should stop advertising during the outbreak. Be present This is not the time to go dark—either in your social media channels or your website content. Consumer behavior has changed considerably on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Traffic is up, but visits are more kinetic. It’s as if our collective attention spans have gotten even shorter as we process a flood of new information. Maintaining a brand presence between customer touchpoints is always important and relevant and useful information will keep your brand in the consciousness of both consumers and search engines. Be helpful That relevant information should include ways your organization can help in these unusual times. Have you changed operating hours or procedures to serve your customers and protect them and your staff? Tell us about it. Are you pausing operations but scheduling service for the future? Let us know how your biggest fans can get to the head of the line. Do you have a product or service that is particularly useful during quarantine? By all means, tell us more! Be clear Sharing details about doing business with your brand is really only helpful if it’s relevant to the customer. You’re changing your hours to sanitize your vehicles? Lay out how that affects the customer. Having inventory issues? Communicate exactly what is in-stock, what’s not and when you expect that to change. Phone lines jammed? Share that immediately through every other channel at your disposal. People understand these are unusual times for you, too, and they’re willing to be patient when they have a clear understanding. Be consistent Don’t fall into the trap of communicating with your customers once and calling it a day. Update at least as frequently as you did during normal times. Remember, a good part of your content will be pushed down people’s news feeds by the latest news, along with graduation pictures from 1997. Stay active to stay relevant. Be a connector A major theme in much of the consumer-generated content right now is staying connected. People are feeling isolated and are eager for human contact. If possible, demonstrate how your brand brings people together by acknowledging your online community and inviting them to join with your company—and each other—in some community effort. Salute local amateur athletes who lost their spring sports season. Repost the community theater’s rehearsal video. Recognize local students or civic organizations for community service. Be grateful Remember to thank your customers—and your casual followers—for remaining with your brand through this situation. Thank them for their efforts and their sacrifice to stay healthy and help to shorten the duration. Most important, thank your employees—the line staff, technicians, phone center representatives, all of them—who one way or another are facing new challenges right now. Also remember your vendors. A little appreciation, even when you’re the one writing the checks—can go a long way to keeping your supply chain running smoothly now and when we get back to something approaching normal. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
14 November 2019
Author: Gail Back
Independent and family-owned companies tend to grow up with an ingrained do-it-yourself ethic. It’s part of the attraction: Working in a place where decisions can be made quickly and most tasks can be handled in-house. But that’s not always the best option when it comes to decisions that require specific expertise or where your managers make purchase decisions less frequently. It’s not unlike the annual ritual of selecting health insurance for your team: There are dozens of options, each with different features and benefits, and only limited visibility to what others are paying for similar results. More often than not, you’re better off working with a professional. That’s also true when it comes to advertising media buying. The contracts are complicated. And while you may only make your advertising decisions a few times each year, usually you’re negotiating with professionals who handle the same kind of deal every single day. Often, professional media planning not only saves your company more money than it costs—it also simplifies your life. Your media planner will present you with a couple of options that meet your marketing objectives for timing, reach and frequency. A comprehensive plan will also combine print, broadcast, streaming and digital elements to make the greatest impact for your advertising investment. If you’re not sure about the offers and options you’re fielding from different advertising outlets, take a look at what your agency’s media department can do for you. We can simplify the decision-making process and can also be a business owner’s best friend when it comes to watching the budget.