It’s been six months since Google made the change that shook up the SEO market. If you are still perplexed about what to do about it, read on.
Keyword analysis is extremely important for optimizing both paid for and organic keyword traffic. Many pay per click buyers use Google Analytics (GA) to analyze their results. GA is fairly robust and can satisfy the needs of most buyers. But what about your organic keywords? It’s equally important to know which ones are driving the most traffic to your site.
Not Provided. This term refers to keywords where Google is no longer sharing information on their origin. This is not new news. Back in 2011, Google made a change that keywords from anyone searching from a secure site (denoted by an ‘s’ after the http in your URL bar) would show up in reporting as Not Provided. Then in October of 2013, they made the change universal for all Google organic search, hiding the keyword information that used to be so useful. Information on organic keywords is still available in Bing/Yahoo search. But, because Google search has 67% of the search market, you are now missing a large amount of information.
When Google first started down this path, Matt Cutts, the Head of the Spam Team at Google, guessed that Non Provided visits would remain in the single-digit percents. He was wrong. According to a BrightEdge survey from Q1, 2013, 56% of search traffic in the tech industry was already coming from Google secure search, and therefore showing up as Non Provided in GA. And now it’s a 100%, since all Google searches are secure.
There have been a number of very useful articles written about getting around this pesky problem:
“But why should I spend money on my own branded terms? If someone is searching for my brand, they already are interested in my company.”
Two reasons: Competition and consumer behavior.
Competition: Anyone can buy your branded terms. It’s not uncommon for competitors to buy each other’s terms in fact so that they are showing up alongside whoever the user searched for. And, if you aren’t buying your own branded terms, chances are your competition knows that and may be seizing the opportunity to show up in a search for your brand. Why risk having a prospect click on the competition? As the graph above shows, the higher you appear on the search page, the more clicks you’ll get.
The example below shows results of a search for Ethan Allen sofas. Walter E. Smithe bought the branded term, while Ethan Allen was content to display only in the organic results.
Ethan Allen Search Yields Competitive Result
Consumer behavior: According to research by Resolution Media and Kenshoo, even if you are in the top position in the organic search results, the paid ads still get over 60% of the user clicks. So you want to appear in a top spot, and you want others selling on your behalf to be visible as well.
Who Gets Position 1 in Paid Branded Search?
The obvious answer is, whoever bids the highest. But that’s not entirely accurate. One thing is for sure: you are the brand, so you want to be in first place. And if you use affiliates (aka resellers), they shouldn’t be bidding for placement above yours in branded search. You might be surprised to learn that as the brand, you pay less than anyone else does to be in the top position because your quality score for your branded terms will be highest. This is a significant cost difference, say $.40 per click if you’re the brand, to $4 per click if you’re not.A study done by Engine Ready shows that consumers are 3x more likely to click-thru on an ad that is in position 1 vs either positions 2 or 3 (n=192 million impressions). And position 1 garners 59% of the clicks, compared to position 2 at 15% (source: Compete.com).
Who Gets Positions 2 and 3?
Is it okay to let resellers bid on your branded terms for positions 2 and 3? It is okay, and you should allow it. Why? One primary reason is it can help you manage your competitors by keeping them out of those spots. Many companies utilize a network of affiliates and/or resellers to help them generate more customers by buying into those spots. These resellers are usually paid a bounty on an agreed upon action (sale, install, appointment). The key here is to know who is selling, how they are doing it, and to be able to manage it as best you can. If you are the brand, you get to set the rules. If others want to sell your wares, they need to play by those rules, or lose the privilege.
You probably don’t need to allow more than two resellers to bid on your brand, since there are only three paid positions in total, and you are already taking one. And your top two resellers will be more loyal if it’s easier for them to buy your branded terms over the other players. And if they are spending more, your competition may decide not to bid for those branded terms.
How do you Enforce it?
First of all, enforcement is key or no one will follow the rules. If someone violates, you need to call them out and tell them to stop. There are a number of alarm products that can help you monitor search activity on your branded terms. Some examples are Search Monitor and Marin Software.
What About Mobile?
The same principals apply to mobile. The big difference is that mobile only has 2 paid positions available. You still want the top position while one of your resellers can bid for position 2. With the Google Enhanced Campaigns that launched earlier this year, you can no longer create a mobile only campaign. You’ll need to manage your mobile bids as a part of your overall campaign. You can read more about that here.
This shouldn’t be minimized. You do need to be in mobile. Half (and growing) of all searches are conducted using a mobile device (source: Microsoft), and 90% of those searches lead to action, with 50% of those leading to a purchase (source: SearchEnglineLand). You can’t afford NOT to be there.
To recap, why do I need to bid on Branded Terms?
Here’s why, even if you are already number one in organic:
You will pick up more clicks if you are in position one in paid and position one in organic. It’s a fact that has been proven over and over again. If you are unsure, try testing it. If your clicks (and conversions) don’t improve, then stop the campaign.
Branded terms are really inexpensive when you’re the brand because your quality score on branded terms will be higher than anyone else’s. That means that you’ll pay far less per click then the next guy pays for your branded terms.
You’ll be able to manage your competition better. If you aren’t bidding on your branded terms, there’s nothing to stop the competition from doing so.