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Defending Your Brand in Keyword Bidding Wars

Defending your brand in keyword bidding wars

Defending Your Brand in Keyword Bidding Wars

Paid search brand attacks are becoming increasingly commonplace. They can be harmful if left unchecked, and if a bidding war ensues the only real winners are the search engines.

When we’ve needed to let clients know that this has happened, the general principles and subsequent advice is always similar, so I thought I’d lay things out here for the benefit of everyone. Firstly, I’ll run through the factors at play. At the bottom of this article we’ll look at what to do if you think your brand is coming under attack.

 

Why is a competitor bidding on your keyword?

The aggressor brand is able to circumnavigate (typically) more competitive and expensive, intent-based keywords, and focus on taking traffic and sales away from competitors (the defending brands).

As the user has reached the point of searching for a particular brand, they would usually be in the ‘purchase’ phase, not the ‘research phase’. The closer advertisers can reach consumers at point of purchase, the more likely that user is to convert.

For example, the keyword ‘buy a TV online’ might theoretically cost £5 per click. A competitor’s brand, ‘LG TV’ would likely be considerably less, conceivably 50p. Was LG to bid on ‘Sony TV’ and successfully convert the user, they could be reducing a competitor’s revenue, whilst increasing their own, at reduced cost.

There are other gains to be made from bidding on competitors brand names beyond exposure and high quality traffic. There will be extremely useful data around those brand queries, including volume, and associated keywords. Also, one brand is able to invite comparison against another, and frame it in a way that favours them.

If this is happening to your organisation, your competitor hasn’t necessarily decided to bid on your brand directly. It could be an aggressive agency – they could be following Google’s keyword suggestions. So the first step isn’t necessarily to go knocking down doors, but open a dialog; and it’s good to know the practicalities first.

 

What are the legalities?

It is legal to bid on other organisations’ branded keywords. Sometimes Google, (for example), will trademark certain keywords. But this is infrequent, inconsistently applied, and typically only done for mammoth organisations with significant spend in paid search. It’s legal to do and hard to prevent if you are defending yourself.

It isn’t legal for the aggressor’s ad text to make it appear that they are the organisation who’s keywords they are bidding on as this could mislead the user (who is often the consumer). This was cited in 2013, when Interflora sued M&S for branded keywords together with ads appearing to lead to an Interflora service. With dynamic keyword Insertion (DKI) ads, (automatically repeating the keyword being bid for in the ad text), it could be easy to make this mistake. So legally, fixed ad text should be used.

 

Are there any moral implications?

Arguably. From a user’s perspective, they have been quite specific in looking for a particular brand. Bidding on keywords when you are not the brand they are looking for is clearly outside ‘user intent’.

This can be more clearly illustrated in the charity sector, with bidding on competitor brands takes increases the price of traffic, takes money away from both advertisers, and as such the cause they are trying to support.

 

What about ‘keyword focused’ brand names?

Where an advertiser’s brand name clearly indicates the activities they are involved in, they are not so easily defendable. For example, if a TV retail company called itself ‘buy a TV online’, then they are clearly putting themselves in the firing line of intent-driven keywords. The same could be said for ‘Diabetes UK’ or Cancer Research UK. (The charity sector is particularly at risk here as many charities like to clearly indicate their cause’ in their name).

In these situations, Google is unlikely to allow these terms to be trademarked and competitors are less likely to avoid these keywords. However, having a keyword focused brand offers organisations a slight advantage in bidding for those search queries, as below:

 

Are competitors able to bid on another brand’s keyword as effectively as the brand owner themselves?

No. Organisations that own their brands should be signalling clearer intent to search engines, and so be rewarded with an increased quality score (QS). This will mean that it should cost the defending brand less to rank above their rival, maybe by something like 20%.

There will still be a significant increase in cost for the defender to compete for their own branded traffic. Maybe several times greater than they would otherwise be paying. So long as the ‘aggressor’ brand is bidding within their means, (with an acceptable amount of revenue being generated from this activity), they could keep increasing the bid, and the cost for their rival organisation to defend their brand.

 

Does anyone win?

Google, certainly. It is no surprise that Google and other search engines benefit significantly from the mechanics of paid search that they have engineered. If brand names become competitive, as with other high-demand keywords, Google will pocket the increased cost-per-click on those keywords.

The issues around this are really highlighted by the charity sector. For example, one of the charities we work with is Crisis. They have a particularly well know Christmas campaign which they use to increase awareness around homelessness. Although the word ‘Crisis’ is common, there is little correlation for the keyword ‘Crisis’ to indicate intent to donate to a homeless charity; apart from where it applies to the brand. However, several other homeless organisations, (or their zealous agencies), do bid on this keyword, especially over the Christmas season.

Brand bidding wars really hurt the charity sector. Assuming an average donation amount achieved per click to be £10: If a rival is prepared to bid £8 for this click (and still make profit) and the charity is then also forced to match that spend to defend it’s own keywords. This could mean 80% of the intended donation going to Google.

 

In a brand bidding war does either organisation have an inherent advantage?

Perhaps. Let’s assume there are two advertisers where all other variables are equal: The same quality of service (or product), the same costs for production, the same cost of sale, the same ability to convert users that land on the site, – and so on. There is a strong commercial case that the smaller organisation with less brand awareness will have the advantage. There is more branded traffic they can take from their competitor, and less cost to themselves for the increase cost in defending their own brand in search engines. I’m over-simplifying here to illustrate the point, but often the smaller challenger-brand has more to gain and less to lose.

Also, ‘competitor bidding awareness’ is a big contributing factor to whoever has the advantage. The aggressor will have the upper hand here at the beginning. If one advertiser is aggressively moving in on another’s brand search traffic, until the defending brand spots it, the aggressor has probably found itself an opportunity.

If the defending brand does have effective detection in place, they are able to increase the cost of their click to defend their position, and maybe retaliate, but this is probably at considerable expense, and more money to Google. The defending brand could also decide to bid on the aggressor’s branded keywords in return, again, escalating the cost for this traffic.

 

What’s the process for stopping it?

Trademark. Try to get Google to apply that trademark across keywords as well as ad text. This should be done anyway, before any competitor bidding shenanigans take place.

Monitor. Regularly search for your own brand name and identify any competitors bidding on it.

Speak to the competitor and agree not to compete on bidding against each other brands. In many situations, this is going to make sense. Initially we recommend starting conversations at the level of whoever oversees the Google Ads account. Often someone like the Marketing Manager or Marketing Director. I recommend friendly communication in the spirit of cooperation, and to get buy-in from the other organisation. If no luck is found at that level, escalating this to a ‘CEO – CEO level chat’ would commonly be the advised next step. The case is simple: Please stop bidding on our brand, because if you continue, we’ll have to out-bid you, and in return, bid on yours. This would then cost us both a lot of money.

Not actively bidding on another’s brand wouldn’t stop advertisers from appearing when competitor’s brand names are included in the search query. For example, bidding on just the words ‘buy TV online’ might make Sony appear for the search query ‘buy an LG TV online’. Likely if LG are using their own brand in addition to the other words used, they will have the advantage, (greater relevancy = improved quality Score). However, for competitors to agree not to rank (at all) in search queries where the other brand is used, they need to go one step further…

Negative keyword matching goes one step further.  This is where one Google Ads account specifies that if a particular keyword is included in the user’s search query, they won’t enter the bid.  If organisations could align themselves so that each introduces the rival’s brand as a negative keyword, they would both be rewarded with significant cost reductions on their own branded traffic.

This has limitations with multiple advertisers, as it only takes one to break ranks, and due to the auction-based system for establishing price, the market rate for that brand would quickly shoot up.

The process can often work for charities, where economies of scale are such that there is often only a limited handful of organisations (of any considerable size) clustered around a particular cause. Often only two or three. This makes coordination between the groups relatively easy. If a collaborative approach can be taken, it should save all of them considerable funds.

 

In summary

Bidding on another brand is common, and in my experience, often organisations don’t even know they are doing it. So, keep communication friendly, but you do want to stop this where possible. Brands are built on the back of good awareness marketing; no-one want to pay for them again with significant search costs!

If this post is of interest and you would like to discuss in more detail, we’d love to help! Drop us your details in our contact page and someone will be in touch.

 

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Automated Marketing for Charities – Why You’ll love Automation

What is automated marketing?

What is Automated Marketing?

 

Automated marketing is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing digital marketing sectors, and there’s a reason why so many people are interested. But what exactly is automated marketing, and why would you or your organisation want to use it?

Put simply, automated marketing is the process of streamlining your inbound marketing from all channels, compiling it in one place and then engaging with your potential new supporters with minimal effort.

The idea is to drive visitors to your site and then guide them down an engagement or sales funnel. This takes the form of four main steps; Attract, Connect, Engage & Inspire.

If you want to find out more on how automated marketing could benefit your business or charity, please contact us or send us an email at [email protected]

 

Inbound Methodology for Charities

Personas

 

Before the process starts, it’s important to get a detailed idea of your ideal customer. For not-for-profits this can be quite a challenge, as depending on the organisation, you might have a wide range of different services or products with an even wider range of target audiences. Not everything you offer is going to be right for everyone, and by painting everyone with the same brush there are missed opportunities.

One of the first starting points in automated marketing is to create personas – your ideal target supporters. Ideally, you’ll create separate personas for each different audience, so depending on your size there might be quite a few to create! For example, if you run several challenge fundraising events you might have a persona such as Challenge Colin:

 

Example Fundraiser Persona

By understanding each of your target supporters, such as Colin, you are better able to tailor content and their journey to suit them, ultimately making it more engaging and personal.

 

 

The Four Steps of Automation

 

Attract

 

The attract stage is fairly self-explanatory, your goal is to attract strangers to your website and convert them into visitors. There are many ways you can do this:

  • Paid Search – advertising through Google or Bing
  • Organic search – through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) with Google or Bing
  • Display – banner or video advertising
  • Content – blogs and promoted offerings
  • Social – tweets & posts

In the case of Colin, a video ad of your next big upcoming event on Facebook would prove to be a very interesting and attractive proposition.

 

Connect

 

Once a visitor is on the site, you want them to connect with your organisation, and if possible, turn them into a potential lead. This is done by asking the visitor to provide their information in return for some offering. This could be signing up to your fundraising event, email newsletter or a call for support.

By providing this content behind a form, there is an exchange of information, which will be fed directly into your automated marketing customer management system (CRM). Based off the users interaction, you can begin to categorise visitors into your pre-defined personas and can use this information to tailor content specifically for them.

 

Engage

 

This is where the majority of automation lies. You have a potential lead, but you want to be able to nurture them into becoming a supporter of your charity. The best way in which to do this is content, content, content! Providing useful content, that will actually provide the user with value, will keep them coming back for more and more. Challenge fundraising and training packs are great for this, and also provide a great opportunity to rank well organically for SEO.

Have lots of content is great, but how do you make sure that your supporters are seeing it, and that it’s actually the type of content they’re after? This is where emails and workflows come in!

Workflows are a bit like a process flowchart where you can create an entire user journey from visitor to promoter, including every single bit of content and email they will receive on the way. This is completely automated, with custom criteria and timings available to make sure that only the right person is receiving the right content at the right time. Workflows can be as simple or complex as you want to make them, but provide an amazing opportunity to really build up a relationship and rapport with potential supporters.

 

Inspire

 

So, after engaging with your leads they’re now supporters, but that doesn’t mean automation stops! The engagement process is ongoing, so it’s important to continue to offer supporters new content to help inspire and delight them. This might be fundraising news, new events, cause related updates or regular social media interaction. If done correctly, your supporters will begin to promote your organisation to new ‘strangers’ and the cycle begins again.

Although it can be a painstaking process to get everything set up and in place, once it’s there, it’s effortless. Not only are you better targeting individual audiences, you’re providing them with more relevant content, when they want it. When you have a huge number of potential contacts or subscribers, automation becomes invaluable.

Automated marketing provides a fantastic opportunity for charities and not-for-profits, and allows you to tailor the experience and journey of each and every one of your supporters.

 

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The Vlog Blog

Digital Marketing Videos

The one about the vlogs…

Exciting news here at Uprise Up – we’ve added vlogging to our long list of activities! In May we filmed the talks from our most recent event and uploaded them for your viewing pleasure (watch our playlist here).

This month, we’ve embarked on our own series of ‘How To’ videos where we give you our top tips on various aspects of digital marketing. This series of digital marketing videos can help you get started on your very own digital marketing strategy – all in less than 3 minutes each!

To make it even easier, I’ve decided to give you a run-down of the videos in our digital marketing series with links to each one. All you need to do now is sit back and enjoy!

 

The Basics of Paid Search & Why Your Business Should Be Using It

John Onion | 1:55

Why do paid search? Online advertising can take up a lot of time and can be fruitless if you don’t know what you’re doing. One of our most common complaints from prospective clients is ‘we’ve tried AdWords – it doesn’t work’. This is where we come in.

In this video, John takes you through the basics of how to advertise online & shows you how effective paid search can be to your website – whether your business is big or small!

 

 

How To Rank Highly In Google: A Beginner’s Guide To SEO

Kapwom Dingis | 2:55

What is search engine optimisation? Kapwom is the person to ask! SEO is the process of getting seen in the search engine results process and Kapwom runs us through the 3 key areas we like to optimise. In this video, you’ll learn what’s important and what you should be doing first (Spoiler: it’s the technical SEO!). Discover why social media and bloggers are so good for your website, and why you want them all to be talking about you!

 

 

3 Local SEO Tips To Help You Rank Highly In Google

Ed Coles | 2:48

Consistent NAPs are important – and we’re not talking having a snooze! NAP is Name, Address, Phone number and they’re vitally important to your local rankings.

A few years ago, it was huge corporations that would appear in the results pages, the ones with more time and money to be able to dedicate to their website. Nowadays you’re more likely to find the shop from down the road – and it’s all thanks to local SEO.

Google now prioritise local businesses over these giant companies, but only if the local business has good local SEO.

Learn how to boost your local SEO with 3 quick fixes from Ed – start ranking locally today!

 

 

How To Get Free Google Advertising For Nonprofits Using Google’s AdWords Grant

Susan Lambiase | 3:05

Do you want free money with no catch? Amazingly enough, this isn’t a scam – Google really do offer from $10,000 – $40,000 PCM in advertising to charities! In this video, Susan runs through why you should sign up for Google Ad Grants (did I mention $40,000 of free advertising?) and how to sign up in only 5 steps.

Advertising to potential volunteers is vitally important. We have found that it’s incredibly effective – and Google let’s you do it for free!

4 Tips For Boosting Website Traffic Using Google Analytics

Ben Tuck | 2:12

Ben and his team are all about data! Data seems to drive the world nowadays, and it can help you give your website a massive boost in ranking – it’s all about what you do with it. Google Analytics is an essential tool for anyone who has a website so you can check website traffic and collect data. You can see your top line website statistics, or delve deeper into how each page performs. In this video, Ben runs us through the 4 top tips on how to increase website traffic using your Google Analytics data.

 

 

3 Tips To Setting Up And Effective Google Shopping Campaign

Ben Tuck | 1:50

Compete against Amazon and eBay! Google Shopping Ads show your product right at the top of the page (you may have seen Google Shopping Ads in the news recently – we also did a blog about it!). You can utilise them to showcase your products on the results page with Ben’s 3 tips on how to set up google shopping feeds – and all in less than 2 minutes!

 

A Simple Guide to Digital Display Advertising

Susan Lambiase | 2:51

Have you ever been chased around the internet by one particular advert for a website you went on recently? In this video, Susan explains how this happens – and how you can do it for your website too!

Susan takes us through what digital display advertising is and why it can be brilliant for your brand. Digital display is brilliantly creative, and gives a really good feel for what your brand is all about. It includes YouTube, Facebook & other social media advertising and can complement your paid search advertising – or even drive your entire advertising campaign!

 

So there you go, 7 videos on digital marketing strategy to help you boost your performance.

For help with your digital marketing campaigns, or for more information, contact us today.

In addition to our digital marketing videos, keep an eye out for details of our next events for more in-depth talks on various aspects of digital marketing. Check out our previous events here to see what you’re in store for!

 

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Bouncing Back After the Christmas Slump

Maintaining Performance Over Christmas

 

The run up to Christmas can be a busy one for people; they have bigger priorities and responsibilities in terms of buying presents, decorating, and planning for the big day. Unless you’re marketing in retail this can lead to a drop in your online traffic. This slump will likely then continue onto new years and even beyond as people start to devote more of their time into their New Year’s resolutions – as unfeasible as some of them may be!

All together for such an extended period of time it can appear daunting or scary to see this drop in traffic. In most cases you can expect an improvement come January. As the population gets back to work, into typical routines and old habits, normality will usually be restored.

However, this is not always the case and you can’t always expect traffic to return to normal by itself or as quickly as you would like it – old setups may just not be as effective. Just as you adapt strategies from year to year, so you must when your traffic has stifled. With much lower traffic to your website for such a prolonged period your brand could be weakened. It’ll take more time and effort to re-engage with certain parts of your target audience.

 

Some things to look at for example on your AdWords accounts:

  • Search Terms – Possibly the most important factor when your ad shows up on someone’s screens is that they need to be relevant to what the user is actually looking for. People can be searching for completely different things over the holidays as opposed to the rest of the year and these irregular search terms can get caught in your keyword net. You could be getting unwanted impressions which yield little to no clicks affecting your CTR, so sift through and clear out some of your search terms!

 

  • CTR (Click Through Rate) – Due to your decrease in traffic your CTR could be effected and greatly decreased as a result. A good starting point is making sure your CTR hasn’t dipped massively, but if it has, why not revamp your ads for the new year? The more relevant and engaging your ads are, the higher your CTR will be. It’s also worth noting that CTR is a big factor when determining your quality score which can help improve your ad rank and bring down your CPC (Cost-Per-Click)

 

  • Quality Score – As mentioned, improving your CTR is one way of improving your quality score, however, this isn’t always so simple to do. Some of your keywords may just not be as relevant as before and as such keywords with a low quality score should be discarded. A low average quality score on just some of your campaigns can affect how all your ads are shown across the account. This is because quality score is a big factor in determining both your ad rank and CPC (Cost Per Click).

 

  • Ad Rank – A good ad rank is one of the most important things and why you keep track of everything else mentioned before. The two factors in ad rank are quality score and bid cost. So you can see now why improving quality score is so important if you want to keep to a budget of any kind.

 

These are some of the basic fundamentals, but some of these steps can be easily overlooked and forgotten over time. If campaigns have been going well for years, you may think “why change now?” Often neglecting these simple tricks can build up over time and problems only rear their heads after a catalyst situation. When your traffic has decreased, flaws in your account can be all that more visible and weighted toward how your ads are ranked.

This doesn’t just apply to Christmas, but Easter, summer and all holidays. You need to constantly be adapting and up to date with current events and social changes. This links to the eternal goal of marketing; to persistently stick in people’s minds, forever keeping up to date or risk losing relevance to your target market.

2017 is set to be an even bigger year for digital marketing and offers a great opportunity for companies and advertisers to really reap the benefits of a digital campaign, no matter what time of year!

 

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