Brand bidding: should you or shouldn’t you?

To bid on brand terms or not to bid, that is the question. Here we explore both sides of the paid search debate.

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A debate I often find myself having regarding paid search, either with clients or other marketeers is: should you bid on brand terms?

Bidding on your own brand

The first part to consider is bidding on the advertiser’s own brand terms. Paying for clicks from searches for your website or company name, where you should, or would very much hope to, rank top of the organic (free) results.

There are three main reasons why you should consider it:

To try and ensure you’re always top of the search results

In order to gain market share, some competitors could choose to bid on your brand, to try and get in front of new potential customers. (This is something that they are completely entitled to do and we’ll discuss this in more detail later.) If advertisers choose to do this, as ads generally appear above organic results, they would push your site down the page for these very searches. Most people would say that if someone has searched for a particular brand, they will study the page until they find it, but it won’t stop them from seeing those competitors and being tempted to click.

To complement your organic listing and help instil trust with the searcher 

Studies have shown that when a paid search ad sits alongside an organic listing, it increases trust in that site, as the user “sees the site everywhere” and this is true for brand and non-brand searches. Obviously, the user may choose to click on your paid listing, which costs you money and would result in a dip in organic/free traffic, but it could mean an increased chance of sale/lead, as the trustworthy seed has already been planted.

Clicks are usually really cheap

The quality score should be really high for your own brand terms and hopefully, competition is low too, so cost-per-clicks (CPCs) will be cheaper.

Bidding on competitors’ brand terms

This is another subject that some clients love, and therefore suggest, and others loathe and really don’t feel comfortable with. 

As already mentioned, bidding on your competitors’ brand terms can get your brand in front of those that are already researching or know of one of your competitors. This means they could be in the market for what you have to offer too, so why wouldn’t you want to get in front of those people?

Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t:


Some people just really don’t feel comfortable with it and take it very personally if other companies do it to them. They would therefore prefer to contact the company bidding on their brand and ask them to stop. 

If someone is looking for a brand they are likely to click on that brand

This means that click-through-rates (CTRs) and conversions are generally pretty poor, but you don’t pay anything if your ad is not clicked on.

The searcher could just be looking for contact details etc

The person searching could just be trying to locate your competitors’ contact information or find their customer service department or sign in to their account, so are not actually ‘in-the-market’.

Click costs can be higher

As you won’t mention the competitors’ brand in your ad or on your landing page, quality scores will be low and your ad is likely to have a low ad strength (if using responsive search ads) which will inflate click costs.

Here are some reasons why you should:

  • If the competitor is bidding on your brand then you can choose to do the same to them
  • The searcher could be searching for the brand in their consideration phase of purchase so could be swayed to browse other sites
  • Brand awareness

Bid strategies for brand campaigns

For own brand terms

  • Maximise conversions – This always seems like an obvious one, as when wouldn’t you want to maximise your conversions? But with brand terms you can just end up paying more for clicks that would have converted anyway and you just end up paying more for them.
  • Manual CPC – This bid strategy will never be recommended within Google again but it does give you more control over the cost you pay-per-click, and for clicks that are likely to convert anyway.

For competitor terms

  • Target impression share – If you want to use these ads for brand awareness, target impression share can ensure your ads are visible at the top of the page, even if they are not clicked.
  • Manual CPC – Again, if you don’t want to pay too much per click, for clicks that are unlikely to convert, manual CPC gives you the most control.


Bidding on brand terms can be an effective strategy for some advertisers, but not all. When it comes to bidding on your own brand, as long as you’ve got the budget, especially if competitors are appearing in that space, you should have a campaign for your own terms, but keep an eye on CPCs.

However, when it comes to bidding on competitor terms, my opinion is that it’s worth a try. As long as the bid strategy is right and you monitor budget, search terms, click costs and conversions closely, it’s worth testing.

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