Bing Study Shows Branded PPC Campaigns Drive More Traffic

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Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

In the world of eCommerce and digital engagement, there’s an inescapable truth: You can have the most compelling website in the industry, but you’ll never make a sale if your customers don’t know it exists.

This is great for companies that have an easily recognized brand, such as Amazon, Apple, or even Macy’s, but what about small companies looking to grow their audience?

For most businesses, their primary source of traffic comes from popular search engines such as Google and Bing, so technical teams devote a lot of time optimizing their content to appear in organic results and invest heavily in Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns on Adwords and Bing Ads for lucrative keywords customers use. A store that sells car wash supplies, for example, would purchase ads for “car wash supplies” and related terms.

Things get less certain when your customers know your brand well enough to search for it as well, such as “company car wash supplies,” since the page they want typically appears as the first organic result. Should you still purchase PPC campaigns for these branded terms? This is a question that’s controversial, even with digital marketers.

If a customer is searching for your brand, they know about your site already and they’re using the search engine to find your products. Many marketers feel that branded PPC is a waste of resources, and even worse: you risk cannibalizing your organic results since customers will click on the ad instead of your listing, leading to you paying for a click you would otherwise get free.

According to a recent study from Bing, however, this isn’t the case. While it’s true that some organic traffic is lost, most increased traffic comes at the expense of your competitors and not your own listings.

Bing Ads Results From Holiday Campaigns

In December of 2014, Bing collected impression data for more than 3 million retail branded searches, using most of the keywords from this industry. Their team split the data into two primary groups: searches where the company had a PPC campaign for branded terms and searches where brands relied only on organic listings. The company monitored customer behavior, and the results are surprising.

For searches where the website didn’t have an ad, 60% of customers chose the brand’s top organic listing. The only thing surprising about this number is that it’s so low, since these customers were searching specifically for that company.

When a website did have a branded PPC ad at the top of the result, they captured an astonishing 91% of customer traffic between that ad and the organic listing.

Branded PPC Campaigns Reduce Competitor Traffic

If a customer is searching specifically for your brand, why do 40% of them still choose a competitor? According to Bing, it all comes down to the position of that organic link in the search results:

When brand’s didn’t bid on terms using their name, 34% of traffic went to the competitor ad appearing above their natural listing, while 6% chose a competitor’s organic listing further down the page.

When brand bidding was used, those competitor organic results only saw a 1% reduction in click through rate. The rest of the traffic a brand gained all came at the expense of their competitor’s ad.

This is potentially surprising for digital marketers who are are accustomed to ignoring “irrelevant” ads that don’t go to the website we’re looking for, but this clearly isn’t typical using behavior.

Like Google, Bing places ads above organic listings, which means that, if they win the bid, your competitor’s ad appears above your organic listing. For customers just looking for “car wash supplies” they might see that competitor’s ad with a cheaper price or creative marketing, and click on it instead. Bing Ads and Adwords both depend on this behavior, in fact, which is why they show those revenue generating ads above the free organic listings.

PPC Does Not Cannibalize Organic Results

A common misconception about Branded bids is that you end up paying for traffic you’d get for free anyway. While Bing’s study did show that potentially 11% of ad traffic came from otherwise organic sources, 31% came directly from your competitors, with most of it coming from the ads they took out against that branded term.

It’s also important to remember that the total traffic these sites received increased, meaning that those websites had more opportunities for conversion, since branded searches show high levels of intent.

Branded Bid Traffic Is Not Unique To Bing

Of course, this study includes only searches performed on Bing and not the current search heavyweight. Unfortunately, Google has yet to put out a report of their own, but user behavior is very similar across these two platforms. Running branded campaigns in adwords will have the same effect of positioning your ad as the first link a customer sees on their search results, which will result in a much higher clickthrough rate.

For websites that decide to forgo these campaigns, this leaves valuable screen real estate available for their competitors to capitalize on, like Samsung did in this humorous ad they placed against a common misspelling of Apple’s new iPhone:

At Trinity Insight, we understand that our clients only have a limited budget for advertising, which is why we work with them to create effective campaigns that include potentially lucrative, high converting branded terms.

If you’re an eCommerce or digital business looking into ways to improve your marketing effectiveness, contact us and schedule a consultation today.

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