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November 20, 2007

PPC – Should You Bid On Your Own Company Name?

Bidding on your own company or brand name in a pay per click campaign is an issue that gets raised from time to time with my clients. It’s an important issue because a good percentage of traffic to many websites is generated by company name or brand based phrases, and often this traffic converts very well. However, many businesses are reluctant to pay for visitors that are already looking for their website. One client described it as feeling like they are paying twice for the same visitor.

More often than not visitors using the company name in a search are responding to an offline promotion, a word of mouth recommendation or are trying to find a site that they did not bookmark the first time around. Whatever the source, these are highly qualified visitors that have a higher chance of converting to a sale than visitors using other search phrases and every effort should be made to ensure that they can easily find your website.

Should your business bid on its own company or brand names? If your business experiences any of the following scenarios then bidding on your company or brand name may be a worthwhile strategy;

1. Your company name or brand is a generic and popular phrase.

If your business has a generic name or brand that is similar to a popular search phrase then it may be very difficult to secure the top spot for a company name search in the natural listings. If this is the case it may be that visitors looking for your site end up clicking through to a competitor’s site instead. In this scenario I would recommend bidding for a top 3 placement in the paid search listings so your site appears above the main natural search results. This would significantly increase the chance of visitors finding your site rather than your competitors.

This could be an expensive strategy depending on the popularity of the search term. However, not only will you be securing a top position for your company or brand, you will also be securing a top position for a highly targeted search phrase. So this strategy should result in a healthy ROI.

2. Your company name is not a registered trademark and your competitors are bidding on it.

A common paid search strategy is to bid on competitor names and brands in the hope of picking up some of the visitor traffic that was destined for their sites. This is clearly an attempt to cash in on a competitor’s brand equity or offline promotional spend, but it is a perfectly legal strategy if the company name or brand is not a registered trademark.

Even if you have the No 1 position in the natural listings in Google for your company name or brand it is still possible for a competitor to secure a spot in the paid listings that would site just above your site listing. The danger here is that many people don’t distinguish between paid and non-paid listings and may click on the first link they see, especially if the company or brand name is used in the competitor’s ad listing text.

In this scenario, securing the top spot in the paid listings above your competitors should be straightforward and relatively inexpensive. This is because the main search engines reward better performing ads with higher positioning and your ad listing will almost certainly have a higher click through rate than your competitors listings.

3. Recently launched websites.

A new website may not get listed in the natural results for its company or brand name for several weeks after launch, this is especially true in Google. If this is the case, and you are spending money on offline promotions with the objective of driving visitors to your new website, it would be a good idea to include your company and brand name in a PPC campaign until the search engines index your new domain.

In many ways bidding on your own company and brand names could be considered a defensive PPC tactic. However, it’s important to remember that these are your visitors and your bookings and this may be the only way to ensure that they don’t both end up with your competitors.

Author:  Mark Scriven is founder of Turismotec Ltd, a search marketing agency that specialises in the travel, tourism and leisure sectors. Turismotec publish a travel marketing newsletter called etravel success.