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Making the case for more non-brand funding in paid search

Last updated: 06-24-2019

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Making the case for more non-brand funding in paid search

When you’ve worked in paid search for as long as I have, you’ve undoubtedly received emails from your clients that all go a little something like the one given below.

Short, sweet, and oh-so-stressful, or at least it used to be. But now? Well, this isn’t your first rodeo, my fellow PPC partner, you’re prepared. Placed firmly in your holster is a solution that’s fully loaded. Ok, enough with the quick draw metaphors, let’s dig into how to respond, assuming the following criteria are being met:

Find yourself checking all the boxes? This is usually indicative of brand demand decline, a trend that is all too common among online retailers due primarily to the rise of Amazon. Yo, Bezos! What gives? As a secondary check, we use Google Trends to confirm brand demand decline. But if all the boxes above are checked, odds are the plague is real. Fortunately, you’ve got the silver bullet (metaphor alert). Unfortunately, your client may shoot you down before you’re able to use it. Why? Because that silver bullet is non-brand.

All too often we neglect non-brand CPC advertising because, in the client’s eyes, it’s seen as one or all of the following:

And most of the time, they’re completely right. Hard to argue with that, right? Wrong. Focusing purely on search text, non-brand has the power to close the gap widened over time by brand demand decline. However, there are stipulations. Most importantly, we’ve got to stop measuring the success, or validity, of non-brand based on last-click attribution. If we stay this course, the tactic will continue to be deprioritized and defunded and basically never given a chance.

Think of non-brand collectively as those keywords in your account that ads rarely get a chance to serve against because bids aren’t competitive enough. Instead, Non-Brand success should be measured based on its multi-touch influence. There are several apt attribution models out there, the trick is honing in on one that both you and your client can agree on. This usually requires both parties to do a bit of extra digging up front.

For example, one of my clients made the decision to increase its non-brand investment after (a) being plagued by brand demand decline and (b) learning that each time our non-brand investment increased, omnichannel sales — both grew online and offline. This happened outside of peak online retail season, too, so it wasn’t just an anomaly. From that moment on, we stopped viewing non-brand as a last-click attribution tactic and started assigning a certain multiplier to the last-click revenue it generated to better defend our investment. Positive by-products of this change included:

If you’re like me, even overwhelmingly positive change can be scary, so during this time, I kept my eyes peeled for the first hint of danger. Surprisingly, negative by-products of this change were sparse and totally manageable:

One of our wiser presidents, FDR, once said,

That’s really all your client is asking of you. If it fails, it fails, then you move on to the next thing. In the meantime, however, here are some thoughts to get you started:


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