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How Branding Impacts Search Advertising

25 May 2018

It’s little wonder that so many businesses are abandoning traditional media in favour of search advertising like AdWords or SEO.

The return on investment on AdWords, for example, is quick and highly measurable.

But there is a danger in discontinuing or not engaging in branded advertising at all.

I work with a lot of different business from a range of different industries and over the time, you start to notice the difference between businesses who have, or still are, engaged in branding exercises and those who are not.

So you’re probably wondering someone like myself can see that difference – since I’m only operating in search advertising at the moment.

And it’s easy to see.

The Difference With Well-Branded Businesses

Firstly, a business who has been engaged in lengthy branding activity actually has a decent number of searches per month for their own brand name.

These are called branded searches.

When search users type in a branded keyword into Google, they already know what what and who they’re looking for. So, just because an AdWords ad is the traffic source that finally converts them – it’s far from meaning that AdWords was the cause of sale.

Secondly, these businesses have far better metrics in AdWords than those with practically zero or little brand equity.

These better metrics include:

  • Higher click through rates on ads
  • Higher conversion rates on the website
  • Lower cost per conversions

I’ve seen two dentists, who had the same number of clinics, spending the same amount of money and had very similar campaigns. One consistently converted leads at under $15 whilst the other converted at over $40 per lead.

The difference between the two is that the one that was getting the cheaper leads had a stronger brand identity from years of radio and print advertising.

It makes sense. When you search for a product or service you would be more likely to engage with a business that you’ve heard or seen before.

Resistance To Branded Activity

Whenever I recommend any forms of branding activity, I get a lot of resistance such as “we tried radio for a week and it did absolutely nothing” or “we put one ad in the paper and barely covered costs from the calls it generated”.

Branding, unlike search, isn’t an instant fix.

You’re building a relationship with your audience. And like any relationship – the longer you’re around each other and the more you invest, the more you’re going to get out of it.

A consistent branding campaign continues to build and solidify your brand, products and/or services in people’s minds.

Equally…once you’ve built up some brand equity and suddenly stop your branding activity – you’re not going to see an immediate drop.

This is why so many businesses felt no immediate repercussions when they pulled a lot of their traditional or branded advertising.

People don’t just forget overnight, but they do forget gradually over time…which is why some businesses feel like things are drying up after a year or two from pulling their traditional spend and pumping everything into digital.

The Risk Of A Weak Brand

Of course, even if you’re absolutely killing it from just AdWords at the moment…it’s very risky to have all of your eggs in one basket.

Especially since AdWords is a bidding system and if you get a flood of competitors entering the market your cost per click, and as a result your cost per acquisition, could go up considerable….

This has happened in a few industries where it simply isn’t viable for some businesses to advertise on AdWords anymore due to the leads costing so much where they’re barely covering costs or even working at a loss.

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE AdWords and think it’s one of the best mediums out there…but there are just some external factors that you cannot fight.

Branded Activity Doesn’t Always Mean Traditional Advertising

So branding exercises is a good way to build your reputation in the market and further improve the metrics that you see in other advertising channels – such as AdWords.

But don’t think that you have to split your bank account wide open and dive straight into the paper, outdoor advertising or radio to participate.

There are cost effective methods of branded advertising that even the smallest of businesses can engage in.

Such as display advertising on the Google Display Network and Facebook or pre-rolls on YouTube.

A lot of brands that I’ve work with, such as Door Stop, have ceased traditional media like print advertising but it doesn’t mean they’re against branding exercises – they just can’t justify the high cost of those placements when there are much better value alternatives.

You Have To Commit To Building A Brand

Building a brand is not a quick fix or delivers immediate results, like AdWords.

You have to commit and be prepared not to see a return on investment immediately… continual exposure over a long period of time builds a strong brand.

And you need to continue branded activity even when you are seeing the benefits.

There is a reason why large brands such as Apple, Coca-Cola and HBF (to give a more local example) continue to appear on billboards, bus wraps, shopping centre banners and ad shells.

Measuring Branded Activity

It’s very difficult to near impossible to directly measure the impact of branded activity.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good indication, though.

One method I really like is to ensure that you have a branded campaign set up in AdWords with a separate budget that will cover 100% search impression share so that you can actively monitor the impression that they get and see if there is a build up over the months.

Another way is to see if you’ve seen a spike upwards in direct traffic or even in organic traffic with consideration to whether or not your rankings in Google have fluctuated or not.

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