Why Bid on Your Brand?

Top 3 Reasons You Should Always Bid on Your Brand Keywords in Paid Search

It’s an argument you’ve likely heard before: what’s the point of bidding on brand terms, when you already rank in the top spot organically for your brand name? Aren’t you just throwing money away?

Not so fast. In the decade that we’ve been buying paid search ads for schools here at Thruline, we’ve certainly heard this line more than once, and we can tell you definitively that you should not be fooled! We’re here to tell you the top 3 reasons why you should always bid on your brand keywords in paid search.

Maximize Conversion Rates on Brand Terms
First, bidding on brand keywords allows advertisers to drive that highly-engaged branded traffic to a conversion-focused microsite experience that is better suited to generate inquiry volume for a school. A school’s main site is often designed to serve many different audiences, including current students, alumni, faculty, etc. Because of this, conversion rates on these main sites typically average 1% - 3%, while conversion rate on a microsite should be expected to fall between 5% - 10%.

If you are focused on driving high-quality inquiry volume for your school, driving brand traffic to a microsite is a much better strategy than allowing all of your brand traffic to experience your brand solely through your main site.

Own the Space for Your Brand
Additionally, if any of your competitors are bidding on your brand name, or even broad matching on these terms, by not bidding on your own brand name you could see your competitors appearing in paid slots above your #1 organic listing. Bidding on your brand name is crucial to having greater control over what users see and experience when they search for you.

Paid + Organic Listings = Incremental Lift
One of the most common arguments we hear regarding brand keyword bidding is that it should not be necessary for brands who already rank #1 in the organic listings; wouldn’t this just mean that brands are paying for branded clicks that they should be getting for free from their organic listing?

This may not be so—according to a scientific research study conducted by Google, there is evidence that brands who appear in both paid search and organic listings will receive incrementally higher traffic than those who rely solely on organic traffic; therefore, it is not likely that all of the traffic that can be cumulatively captured by a paid ad + an organic listing would be captured solely by the organic listing if paid ads were turned off. In fact, Google found that paid search ads give you an 89% incremental lift in site visitors, above and beyond traffic you would receive solely from your organic listings

So, to recap:

  • Even if all branded traffic is captured by the organic listing only, we would still expect cumulative brand inquiry volume to decline based on the lower conversion rates typically seen on a school’s main site vs. a conversion-focused minisite.
  • Not bidding on your brand name opens the door for competitors to appear in the top ad position for branded searches, above your organic listing.
  • Finally, we would expect to see a cumulative decline in brand traffic when going from a paid ad + organic listing to an organic listing only.


Sarah Russell, Director of Digital Media