When it comes to paid search, most advertisers are looking to generate sales and leads from their websites. And while SEM can work wonders for direct response, it can also be used to help protect your brand online. PPC isn't just a one trick pony! Here are five ways to leverage paid search for branding.

1. Report Competitors Using Your Trademark

Every now and then you might see a competitor using your trademark in their ads. In general, you will want to stop them from doing this, since it at worst misrepresents your brand, and at best dilutes your brand and its messaging.

One option is to contact the competitor directly and ask them to stop using your trademarks. If that fails, then the easiest way to resolve this is to submit a trademark complaint to AdWords from their online Trademark Complaint Form. Alternatively, you can snail mail Mountain View, or send them a fax. Details on how to do all three can be found here.

Note that Google is likely to respond if an unauthorized party is including your trademark in ad copy, but it may not act if they are bidding on your trademark as a keyword. The exceptions are in Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Macau, New Zealand, South Korea, or Taiwan, where advertisers "are restricted in using trademarks in keywords (except for accounts that have been authorized to use that specific term)". More details can be found here.

2. Bid On Your Branded Terms

A common reaction to the idea of bidding on your own branded keywords is, "Why should I, when I can get the same clicks for 'free' from my organic listing?" There are several reasons why!

We've all seen the heatmap of where users look & click on a search engine results page (SERP). They tend to do so in an "F" pattern, and more than half of the clicks occur outside of the first listing. In SEO, you would want as much real estate as possible on the first page.

It turns out that PPC can help with this. Branded keywords are generally less expensive to you (due to a higher Quality Score), so you can inexpensively dominate the SERP when someone is looking for your brand, pushing irrelevant 3rd party and competitor sites lower, and reinforce the strength of your brand by being omnipresent!

This results page for the query "search engine people" almost looks like a page owned by SEP!

3. Use Trust Signals

Having a presence when users Google your brand is the first step. The next step is to win them over with great ad copy! Here are some things to include in either ad copy or sitelinks, to make a strong brand impression.

  • Industry certifications and accreditation
  • Membership in associations
  • Copyright and (TM) symbols
  • Customer/Client Testimonials
  • Year of establishment/inception
  • National or local reviews and awards
  • "Best", "#1" (must have 3rd party verification clearly displayed on website)

Below is an example of an ad and sitelinks that appear for a branded search for Search Engine People.

4. Bid On Brand + "Sucks/Scam/Complaints"

This idea is a bit more "outside the box". In most cases, you will want to add terms like these as negative keywords, to save dollars on clicks from people who are unlikely to pull out their credit card today.

However, not being in the game leaves the door open for messaging from less-informed 3rd parties and competitors! My take on bidding on such keywords is to include it in part of a larger customer service strategy, that handles customer questions, issues, ideas, and complaints.

For example, you could drive unimpressed customers to a "Send Us Your Feedback" or "Conflict Resolution Center" page on your site, where their concerns can be both voiced and addressed. This is preferable to a simple misunderstanding spiraling out of control on blogs and forums. The insight and customer feedback can be quite valuable as well. Dell's IdeaStorm and Starbucks' My Starbucks Idea are good examples of this.

Added Bonus: If the "brand + sucks/scam/complaints" search is being done by a potential customer who is still on the fence, a dedicated page or section of your site can demonstrate that you take complaints seriously, are open to getting customer feedback, and are actively looking for ways to improve customer service! This reassures them that if an issue should arise, steps will be taken to correct them.

5. Bid On New Industry Terms

For a more proactive approach to protecting your brand as an authority in your space, consider bidding on new industry keywords. By "new industry keywords", I'm referring to new products, technologies, and processes. This helps to position your business as authoritative, relevant, and a leader in the minds of consumers.

Your landing page could be an official company statement/opinion on the release of New Technology ABC, or how New Process DEF redefines the future of your vertical. Another option is to capture email addresses with a placeholder page, with the promise of sending regular updates about New Product GHI (leaked images, product availability, etc.).

Oh, and don't forget to drop a Google Analytics or AdWords remarketing code on that page. 🙂

Using PPC to gain a presence for these keywords is often the better option compare to SEO, since ranking for new terms can take months, unless your website already has a well-established link profile and is crawled often.

Free Tip: Use Google Trends and look at the "Rising Searches" for an ideas on new industry terms you might want to bid on.

In Closing

These are some ways to repurpose the tool we call paid search, to protect your brand online. Are there any other ways to leverage PPC for branding, or anything outside of leads and sales? Leave your comments below!