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PPC for Brand Impact

  |  September 27, 2013   |  Comments

The concept of using PPC for branding can make some advertisers uneasy, especially if they have been focused on chasing the conversion, CPAs, and strict ROIs. However, PPC can be very effective for branding, rebranding, and generating awareness of a business, product, or promotion.

When we think of branding, we usually think of traditional media for owning a place in consumers' consideration set. But not all advertisers have the budget for big brand campaigns, TV, or fancy celebrity endorsers. In fact, many advertisers have been shifting their focus to efforts in the digital realm where consumers are constantly engaging in social media or searching via search engines. This makes pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in search or social the perfect option to reach their target markets.

The concept of using PPC for branding can make some advertisers uneasy, especially if they have been focused on chasing the conversion, cost-per-actions (CPAs), and strict ROIs. However, PPC can be very effective for branding, rebranding, and generating awareness of a business, product, or promotion. Campaigns can be designed to reach new, fresh audiences, here's how:

Designing a PPC Program to Increase Brand

  1. Meet audience on the platform they tend to frequent, whether that's social media, search, or content. Each advertiser's audience will be unique, but focus on exposure to new audiences where you are likely to first encounter them.
  2. Consider audience behavior on devices. Paid ads for mobile is a great place for branding right now because both advertisers and consumers are still trying to figure it out. Consumers are noticing the ads and then typically jumping to another device to do further research.
  3. Focus on top of the funnel searches that are more general in nature. For example, "luxury vacations" versus "vacations in the Bahamas". In the first example, people are looking to discover and research their options and its important to introduce yourself long before the purchase decision.

John Gagnon, Bing Ads evangelist, also recognizes the impact of reaching people at the right time in search: "The key to branding on Bing Ads is to engage your customers where they're at in their decision-making journey (your purchase funnel). Luckily, in search you know where your customers are in that funnel generally by the intent expressed in the search. You know its the perfect time to increase brand exposure."

Metrics to Watch for Branding Purposes

There are several metrics to watch to gauge branding efforts.

  • Impressions are the number of times an ad is served, so each impression touches on a potential customer. Banner ad managers know that impressions are king for branding and delivering your key message by the thousands.
  • Clicks represent the click on the ad and therefore someone getting through to your site. Aware of the brand and now a website visitor, look at their first interactions with the website.
  • Return vs new visits is in website analytic metrics and will show if the audiences are new to your brand and site. With a branding effort, we'll want to capture new eyes as new visitors. For returning customers, try to funnel them though other campaigns.

Reasons to Increase Brand

Increasing a brand's awareness sounds like such a general goal, but there are many specific uses for a branding approach in PPC social or search.

  • New-to-market brands
  • Product launches
  • New store locations
  • Entry into new market
  • Increase market share
  • Rebrand

PPC can also offer a good opportunity for a company's rebranding. Consider a case study released by Google on a major rebrand of ServiceMagic to the new brand name HomeAdvisor. This company had over a dozen years with the same brand name and millions of branded content pages which required not only promoting new brand, but limiting possible loses from previous branding efforts.

The approach was to use PPC to learn and test traffic impact, use PPC to compensate for decreases in organic referrals, and campaigns targeted to old and new branded terms. The company saw increase in clicks, click-through-rates, and even conversions, demonstrating that thinking of PPC as solely a "conversion channel" is a thing of the past.


Opportunities through multiple marketing platforms and targeting strategies are available to companies who want to brand using paid ads in search or social. It requires a different mind-set from the conversion chasing counter parts that see sales as the final goal. For branding, advertisers have the opportunity to increase visibility at the top of funnel and win first impressions.


Lisa Raehsler

Lisa Raehsler is the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co., an online advertising company and Google AdWords Certified Partner, specializing in strategy and management of SEM and PPC for search engines, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. Lisa has led strategy on dozens of PPC accounts and puts her experience into practice every day as a thought leader in integrating clients' search campaigns with ecommerce websites, behavioral targeting strategies, and web analytics. She has participated extensively in the local interactive community, as well as at national search engine marketing conferences. Lisa's recent speaking engagements include SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX conferences, as well as numerous private and public training engagements. As a columnist for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, she writes on the topic of paid search. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRocksSEM.

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