Branded PPC – Remember Why They’re Searching For You

Yesterday there was a Twitter exchange talking about these ads for the branded search term “Angie’s List”:

Angie's List PPC Ads

The context of the conversation was highlighting HomeAdvisor’s clever ad for a search on a direct competitor’s branded term. I completely agree that their ad is clever and a smart use of advertising dollars. It’s not a bad strategy to try to interest people who want the type of product or service the brand offers. Their ad is much better at making the case for why a person interested in such information should try them.

Angie’s List’s ad for a search on their brand though? A waste. Where did they go wrong? In my response I posted a graphic (since tweets are too short to say complex things in an easily readable manner) that broke down my thoughts on their missteps:

  1. The search query was “angies list” one could reasonably assume that the searcher is in need of a service that provides information and ratings for local service providers (intent)
  2. The Angie’s List ad is basically just advertising their contest and not providing any real reason for me to click on their ad. Their ad copy is literally “Enter For a Chance to Wine Your Dream Vacation. Learn More!”

By using the ad copy they have chosen to use here, they are making some pretty big assumptions about the level of brand recognition for their product AND the level of understanding a person doing this type of search has about their product. Even when running branded ads, it is still important to think about a searcher’s intent, also known as need. If I need a plumber now that won’t rip me off, I’ll worry about vacation later. Yes, it was a branded search, but you still have to get me to click (a.k.a. seem like the best solution to my problem/question).

NOTE: I have since done this search again and I’m not seeing the Dream Vacation Contest verbiage any more…

I wanted to see if there were other examples like this, so I did a search for Roto Rooter:

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 9.36.07 AM


This one is better. With others also using the word “rooter” in their names, having the words “official site” in the ad copy is probably a good idea. They might still want to reference drain cleaning in their ad rather than plumbers just to be extra clear, but otherwise, not bad.

I think it is easy to take for granted that if someone is doing a branded search that they are committed to the brand they are searching for. Well, if we all actually think this is true, why even bother advertising on competitors’ branded terms as so many companies do? They do it because people are generally not committed to a single company/option even if they are performing a branded search.

When Creating Branded Ads For Your Company

  1. Don’t assume that searchers have a complete grasp of what or everything you do
  2. Be the answer to their problem (reason for searching) and have a clear call to action
  3. Focus on the primary product or service you offer, as this is what most people will have some familiarity with
  4. Use all the extensions you can to take up as much screen space as possible
  5. Don’t try to get cute, ads are designed to get clicks to a landing page that will lead to conversions

When Creating Ads For Competitor Branded Terms

  1. This is a basic, but don’t use the competitor brand name
  2. Make sure your value proposition (answer to their problem) and call to action match up with they likely intent for the user’s search
  3. If you have a differentiating factor (no trip charge, free 2 day shipping, etc.) include it
  4. Use all the extensions you can to take up as much screen space as possible
  5. Don’t get too cute or out clever yourself – the goal is to get that click

Have you seen any examples, good or bad, of this phenomenon? Do you have any strategies you use or avoid when it comes to branded or competitor PPC? Love to hear it all!


  1. Elise Connors says:

    This is great. Everyone doesn’t know what every brand does. Good stuff!

  2. Nice! The question I’ve been having recently is around whether specifically bidding on competitors makes more sense than letting them broad-match in to existing terms. For instance, “blue cross sacramento doctor” will match against “sacramento doctor” with a good QS and relatively low CPC. Bidding on “blue cross sacramento doctor,” with no mention of blue cross in the ad copy or LP, will lower the QS and increase the cost. When we aren’t able to specifically go after a competitor (we can’t imply anything about a hospital being ‘bad’ or ours being ‘better’) so our ads are the same either way, lately I’m finding it harder to make a case for building out a separate competitor campaign. Of course, this isn’t always the case (match types, ad copy, control of budgets are all factors), but I’m finding I’m not recommending competitor campaigns to clients as often as I used to due to the mixed CPL results it can yield. Am I missing anything in not separating it out?

    • Neptune Moon says:

      I have found that the CPCs are typically lower for competitor campaigns, even if the QS are lower as you described. I would not call it the Plan A or major pipeline strategy by any means, but I do think it can very often have a place in the mix of a total strategy. Certainly, there are exceptions – this is, after all, PPC where as we all know “it depends” is our mantra!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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