Searching for the right answer regarding your trademarked keywords?

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One of the most frequent questions I get regarding search engine advertising is, "Should I be buying ads on my own branded or trademarked keywords?" The answer is nearly always "Yes" and there are several good reasons why.

Optimizing the display text and the landing page

With sponsored links the advertiser can control and optimize the display ad text and the landing page. As many online merchants and search consumers have experienced, sometimes the search engines return very suboptimal descriptions and landing pages in their organic search results. (Of course, online merchants can influence organic search results through search engine optimization, but that is a topic for another article.) Merchants can expect a sizable lift in sales over organic links in two ways: higher click-through rates from optimized search advertisement copy , and higher conversion rates from optimized landing pages and landing strategies.

This can have even more benefit in international markets where the organic links may be less optimized and take consumers to pages or stores in the wrong geographic location.

For example, typing "Symantec" on Google UK yields the Symantec.com global site home page as the first organic link in all web searches. And it yields a UK/Ireland Public Sector Enterprise Security page when searching UK pages only. Symantec knows from testing various ads and landing pages that the majority of searchers on the term "Symantec" are looking for Symantec's flagship consumer product, Norton Antivirus, so they've placed an ad pointing customers directly to an optimized store landing page for the product.

Communicating special offers and promotions

Related to the point above is the important benefit of being able to communicate special offers and promotions to potential customers. Some of the most sophisticated online merchants use limited time special offers that expire on a specific date. Custom search ad copy as well as a custom landing page can be created to communicate limited time special offers. Using paid search to communicate promotions can be an important component of a multichannel advertising campaign.

It's important to note that it is much more efficient to utilize an existing optimized paid search program for limited-time offers because the keyword positioning already is in place. For search engines, like Google, that consider click-through rate in determining ad placement, it takes some time to get high placement across multiple branded keywords, engines, countries, etc. Important time and expense may be incurred before the paid search campaign gets the desired placement in top positions.

Dell does a fantastic job of rotating limited-time offers in its ads. A current search of "Dell" on Google shows an ad with the following copy: " Up to $400 Off select Dell PCs + 50% Off select Flat Panel Upgrades!" The landing page effectively reiterates the offer and the expiration date of June 28. When that limited-time offer ends, Dell will certainly have a new offer to promotion. This is far more compelling and effective marketing than the static, non-promotional organic link copy.

Where corporate brand is different than product brands

I have seen many cases where product brands are different than corporate or site brands and consumers are not aware of the ownership or affiliation. This can create confusion for searchers and potential buyers when organic search results for specific products display unfamiliar corporate brands and URLs. Sometimes consumers perceive these as links to resellers or even less related entities. In these cases advertisers can use sponsored links that communicate "Official Web site" and place the product brand in the URL. A custom landing page can bridge the gap and tie the product brand to the corporate brand owner.

Nuance, an office productivity software publisher, has numerous product brands, including the top-selling OCR software OmniPage. Many people have heard of OmniPage, but are unfamiliar with the Nuance corporate brand. From the top organic link on Google on the keyword "omnipage," it is not clear that Nuance is the maker of OmniPage. To a potential customer, Nuance may appear like any other reseller. Nuance experienced an increase in click-through rates of approximately 40 percent by introducing a search ad, calling out "OmniPage - Official Site. Download world-class OCR software direct from the Publisher. www.OmniPage.com."

Competitors will fill the vacuum

The search engines stand ready to sell sponsored links to the highest bidder. That means that someone will be positioned in the ads that will display on the search results page above a brand owner's organic links. Almost no one benefits from being in this space more than a brand owner's competitors. I've watched new entrants in certain markets gain market share through this type of aggressive paid search strategy. (Building a brand and gaining market share through paid search is much more difficult in categories with large, entrenched, widely-recognized leaders and much easier in fragmented and newly emerging categories.) Advertisers can position themselves above their competition by running an optimized search program on their own branded keywords.

A category leader can effectively block competitors on its brand by displaying ads using the company name and its leading product name in the #1 and #2 positions on Google. Without this defensive strategy, several competitors likely would show up in the top positions above the category leader's organic links.

Often branded keywords offer low cost and high ROI

Advertising on one's own branded keywords can be inexpensive and generate a very high ROI. I've seen ROIs as high as $25 in sales for every $1 spent in advertising. The implication is that a very high cannibalization of organic search sales can be absorbed and still make buying branded keywords the right answer.

Paid listings allow your ads to extend beyond Google and Yahoo

Often times, advertisers forget that there is a whole other world beyond the results on Google and Yahoo pages. A significant percentage of traffic comes from their partner sites. Most of these sites do not have organic link presence, so if you are not paying for placement, you are completely missing this valuable traffic.

In conclusion, bidding on their own branded keywords is nearly always the right answer for advertisers. It represents both an offensive and defensive marketing strategy. Deployed effectively, advertisers can grow sales and keep competitors from drawing away current and future customers.

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