The importance of brand bidding, even if you're ranked top organically

A question we are asked by publishers (possibly more than any other!) is…..

Why should we bid on our brand keywords when we are appearing number one in the organic listings?

Many publishers question spending budget on the brand terms that are already triggering organic listings. And others worry that paid search ads will cannibalise the subscriptions they generate for ‘free’ from their organic traffic.

However, Google (and Jellyfish) have conducted studies that show this isn’t the case and that there are many benefits to bidding on brand terms:

1. Bidding on brand keywords means your magazine’s ads and message dominate the search landscape

2 is better than 1, especially when it comes to digital marketing. In the same way that having multiple call-to-actions on a landing page or in an email can increase your conversion rate; presenting more opportunities to subscribe will increase your overall subscription numbers. Additionally, appearing in both organic and PPC listings reinforces your brand and profile to your prospective customer, particularly if you have direct competitors in the same magazine genre. Studies have proven that the overall number of people clicking through to a brand’s website increases when they appear on both the PPC and organic landscape, as opposed to just the organic listings.


2. PPC ads allow you to control the message

Paid search ads give you the opportunity to create a message that will grab the attention of searchers, entice them to click, and send them to a landing page appropriate to your subscription offer. With organic results, given publisher’s websites typically have many features (editorial content, jobs/classifieds, events, subscriptions etc), you are not always able to direct searchers to the most ideal landing pages for subscription conversion. However you are in full control of where you direct searchers clicking on your paid ads and can send them to the highest converting pages, either on your own website or on your bespoke Jellyfish subscription campaign site. Ad extensions such as enhanced site links, review extensions, image extensions, PLAs and social extensions, which are only available via PPC ads, also help to provide an altogether more engaging sales proposition for the customer than those you see at the top of the organic listings.


3. Control your competitors

If you’re not bidding on your brand terms then your competitors will be. Potentially, when a prospective customer carries out a search for your magazine, if you aren’t appearing on the PPC landscape, then they could find your own organic listing below a PPC ad promoting a competitor magazine. This may mean that traffic that you would have received either via PPC or your organic listing is instead diverted straight to the welcoming landing pages of one of your fiercest competitors.

4. You can’t capture all subscribers from just organic listings

The fact is that some searchers prefer to click PPC ads and some prefer to click organic ads. Studies have proven that when PPC traffic is stopped, the organic listings don’t pick up the lost traffic. A Google study from 2011 on this subject analysed 400 case studies and found that 89% of all PPC ad clicks were incremental. In other words, if the PPC ad wasn't there, the organic listings would not have received the click either.


5. PPC visitors are proven to convert at a higher % than organic visitors

Customers who click on PPC ads are proven to have a much higher propensity to buy than customers who click on organic listings. Someone searching then clicking on your brand terms via an ad in the PPC listings is likely to be further into the buying cycle than someone clicking on the organic ad. Combine the increased conversion rate of the Jellyfish CoNNect subscription campaign site, as well as the behaviour of the PPC users themselves, and you’ll generate far more subscriptions than just through your organic traffic.

6. The ‘brand offset principle’

Bidding on cheaper brand keywords will help drive in additional subscription volume from your overall PPC budget. Brand subscriptions generally come in at a lower Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), which in turn creates an element of offset. This offset allows your PPC manager to be able to afford to bid on higher priced content specific tail keywords and drive in greater subscription volumes from your PPC spend budget.

In this simple example below, if your target CPA is £11, without brand bidding you would not be able to afford to bid on the content specific tail keywords and would have lost out on 50 subscriptions:


Additionally, brand terms help the overall Quality Score of your PPC account. Due to the high relevancy of your brand terms to your ad copy, landing pages and your whole subscription campaign site, the brand keywords get the highest Quality Scores (QS) in the PPC account, which will therefore offset the longer tail keywords with the lower QS terms.

7. The Zero Moment of Truth

The way customers buy has changed. When consumers hear about a product today, their first reaction is 'let me search for it online.' Your prospective customers are unlikely to decide to subscribe to your magazine after only seeing one single ad or after seeing the magazine in the newsagent. Before consumers subscribe, they do lots of online searching and compare your magazine to others before actually making the decision to buy.

As Google defines it: The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) It’s that moment when you grab your laptop or mobile phone and start learning about a product/service you're thinking about trying or buying.


This means that not appearing on your brand terms for PPC, or worse still if only your competitors are appearing on your brand terms, can directly impact and change the buying decision process.

8. Last click attribution is dead

Viewing your digital marketing in terms of ‘last click attribution’ can hugely restrict the growth in your potential subscription volumes. Some users convert on the 2nd or 3rd visit, searching for a content specific term on the 1st visit and 2nd visit, then converting on the 3rd visit via a brand term. Removing brand PPC activity could mean that subscriptions which are generated after multiple visits and eventually via a brand term are lost completely.

For example

  • 1st visit – Content keyword > ‘how to cook a chicken’
  • 2nd visit – Content keyword ‘best chicken recipes’
  • 3rd visit – Brand keyword ‘Chicken monthly magazine’ > SUBSCRIBED

Looking at the above example, if you were not running brand PPC activity, this subscription would have been lost altogether.

To prove these arguments, Jellyfish carried out a test with a client, stopping brand PPC ads and measuring the impact on the total number of sales. The aim of the test was to show whether SEO would pick up the conversions previously generated by PPC.

The test was carried out on a campaign where the client is a household name and one of the top five in its sector. Brand traffic had been making up approximately 80% of all PPC conversions. The assumption before the test was launched was that once the brand ads were switched off, PPC traffic would drop, but around 50% would be picked up by SEO, in line with Google's hypothesis.

As expected, when PPC was switched off, we saw a massive decline in the total number of leads and conversions generated via PPC ads – leads fell by 68% and sales by 61%. But what we didn't expect was such a poor uplift in SEO. During the test period, leads remained flat on SEO, while sales only increased by 4%.

So, in summary, bidding on brand should form a huge part of your overall marketing strategy to generate quality, incremental subscriptions. To ignore it could mean limiting the total number of subscriptions you’re able to generate, both online and offline.