Brand Search Strategy; How to compete with your customers. The Frenemies Strategy.

Your Branded Search Frenemies

The rapid growth of eCommerce, marketplaces, and online retailers, along with the number of brick-n-mortar stores pivoting to online, has created a battleground for your brand search terms.

A battleground in real-time auction bidding wars; a battleground of elbow and knee brutality; a battleground your true competitors left long ago. Those who remain cause chaos to your cost per acquisition (CPA); they are meant to be Friends of your brand, but instead, your Customers now operate like an Enemy.

This Means War
The biggest mistake made by marketers on brand terms is shifting (mindsets) strategies. They need to be concrete. Are bids on your brand terms friendly fire OR are they hostile? Lock the answer in. Get everyone on board. You cannot move forward with a sword in one hand and a white flag in the other.

Choose your Brand Search mindset. Then stick to it.

Mindset 1:

1) Customers are partners. They should benefit from our brand building. If they choose to compete on our brand terms, we’re happy for them to win the sale. You may even think “We still pick up revenue on the organic component.”


Mindset 2:

2) It’s not our responsibility to bring stockists, new customers. We sell to them, to bring us incremental growth through their customer base, not by stealing our brand investment. Because of this, we will defend our position.

We recommend Mindset 1 only when your customers offer significantly better pricing/shipping that you will not or cannot match. Even in this scenario, maintain a small daily budget for the Auction Insights. Your role in the auction is not to match bids or win, only to observe.

The remainder of this article is focused on Strategies for Mindset 2.

Ratchet your Relevance on Branded Terms

All things being equal, you will win the battle (auction) as the most relevant advertiser for your brand. (All things being equal = you are willing to spend and bid like your customers.)

We want to make all things “unequal.” To create an unfair advantage for your brand, to ratchet up the relevance, to strangle-hold the competition.

One thing to note, for your Stockists, competing is not personal. In fact, they think very little of you; they think very highly of their modeling. Their model of acquisition is not like yours. They are obsessed with lifetime customer value. This often means their acquisition cost target is much higher than yours.

These strategies allow you to compete and win, without going toe to toe, without burning bridges, without burning budgets.

1) Is your Google Search structure setup for Humans or SEM Specialists?

When was the last time you opened up Google and thought “you know what I’m going to make a broad match modified search today; actually don’t have much time, I’ll go for an exact brand search instead!”.

Yet 90% of ad accounts we audit still have this archaic framework set up on brand terms.

As the brand, invest the time to create an impenetrable structure. A structure focussed on your consumers; with crafted ad copy, with perfect line of sight, that your wholesalers simply are not going to bother with.

Look at your Search Term report for Brand campaigns, it’s likely you can divide them into the below structures;

What does the experience look like for a consumer? Are you one of the many brands who blast your email pop-ups offering discounts within 3 seconds, but when you want to buy make it impossible to find that same discount!

2) Pay attention to Search Ad Extensions

Remember your relevance will likely result in you showing in position #1, therefore you receive the most real estate. It’s time to review your Extensions.

When you compete against your actual competitors, a focus on brand attributes; ‘Australian Made’ ‘Founded in 2011’ ‘No Nasties’, plus including Call Extensions or Structured Snippets for product types all are good approaches.

When you are now competing against your customers, you need to focus on what makes buying direct unique. Official Store, Exclusive Range, New Range Available, First Drops, Returns/Warranties.

Remember your Customers will use the same sitewide extensions for their store, they aren’t thinking about you!

3) Use Google’s Smart Bidding

Ok, you have focussed on connecting with your consumers. You are leveraging the heck out of your relevance, time to land the killer blow to send your customers running.

What we are not going to do is resort to using dumb-bidding to defend our position. SEM Specialists when under pressure have a habit to abandon their beliefs, to panic, to seek control, to go manual.

The answer to the first question posed “Why do we buy our own brand terms”? Is we only want to buy our brand terms when a consumer intends to purchase.

This requires bravery, courage, gumption.

It means being prepared that our Customers may have a higher Impression Share than us. It means being prepared that every time our CEO or Board Members search, “they never our ads”.

Now is not the time to retreat, it’s time to clearly articulate back the strategy and remind everyone the Customers operate under a different model. We are in a battle.

They’d love you to 2-3x your daily budget to win the vanity fight. To run out of resources and confidence for the long-term battle. To see your CPA rise and rise and rise to the point your CEO pulls the pin.

Be Smart. Stay Smart.

Use Smart Bidding and overtime you will see Customers drop back impression share, some dropping completely out of the auction.

We highly recommend tROAS setting a limit which is truly profitable but not greedy.

Now in full disclosure, you may see competitors outranking you on top page/impression share. As stated above they’ll often have a very different break-even number, given their ongoing retention strategies. Fight the urge to be the #1 brand on your Auction Insights list for the sake of it, but instead maximise this while profitable.

You will also get a picture of the customers who are leeching your marketing, as they quickly drop back budget or completely out of your brand terms. Remember our mindset from above, we want retailers who grow our brands, not steal your sales.

Want to become more intentional about Branded Search?

Would you like to get more control over your Google Ad Account? Read our case studies below or book a discovery call to talk through your search strategy today.