Brand bidding & PPC optimization: future of brand protection (part 8)


Welcome to the conclusion of my eight-part series on brand bidding. If you’ve stuck with me this far, you’ve seen why brand bidding deserves the 10,000+ words I’ve written on the topic.

As an ad monitoring platform with global reach, The Search Monitor (disclosure: my employer) is privy to a wealth of performance data on brand bidding. We’ve had two major “aha” moments lately:

  1. The top PPC performers are vigorously defending their branded terms, while simultaneously bidding smartly on others’ branded searches.
  2. Many marketers pay little attention to their own branded searches and are outright missing opportunities to bid on their competitors’ branded terms.

Before we introduce today’s topic, let’s review what we’ve discussed so far:

  • Part 1: How We Got Here. A nostalgic walk through the history of PPC bidding, starting with the good old five-cent click days.
  • Part 2: Value of Keywords. Filled with juicy stats on the value of brand bidding — make a case for your boss to spend more here!
  • Part 3: Best PracticesProvides detailed implementation tactics — the how-tos of brand bidding. Most important read of the list.
  • Part 4: Partner Relationships. Discusses different partner options, the benefits of working with them and effective tactics for blocking out competitors on branded keywords.
  • Part 5: Reducing Competition. How to deal with brand bidding competitors, including a case study for Avery office supplies with impressive brand protection results.
  • Part 6: Enforcement OptionsDiscusses your legal options and how to enact them, including search engine complaints, pacts and agreements, and the dreaded lawsuit.
  • Part 7: Effective Bidding Techniques. Focuses on the most effective brand bidding techniques we’ve seen in 2016, including screen shots from top PPC advertisers across five different products.

Today’s article focuses on the future of brand protection. I will provide five important trends in brand bidding, each accompanied by a tip for taking advantage of the trend. So, let’s go! 

Trend #1: Agencies will incorporate brand bidding into best practices 

I predict that brand bidding as an optimization tool will grow into an agency best practice. Agencies have a huge opportunity to use brand bidding to improve client campaign performance, increase retention and boost their business development efforts.

For campaign performance, just look at the results produced for Avery in this brand optimization case study. You’ll see how an agency used brand bidding and optimization to boost Avery’s clicks and bring CPC (cost per click) down.

Many of our agency clients have told us how they routinely highlight their brand protection services (and actual results) when approaching a new client and actually challenge the new client to find similar results with other agencies.

I expect demand for brand optimization skills to continue to grow, especially when you pitch stronger brands. So, start working on those results slides now! 

Trend #2: Regulated industries monitor beyond the SERP 

The Search Monitor has seen an uptick in demand for Content Monitoring (That’s what we call it). Content monitoring entails vast monitoring of landing pages, websites, blogs and email based on rules created by the brand owner.

Highly regulated industries like finance (e.g., credit cards, mortgages and educational loans) and pharmaceutical have to abide by strict marketing rules from government agencies such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency (FINRA), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB) and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Even retail, to some extent, has to be careful, because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now requires disclaimers on review and blog sites that promote retail products.

The volume of content on the internet can quickly put a regulated brand out of compliance. Even if the violations are accidental and performed by an affiliate, the result can be punishments for the advertiser, including heavy fines.

It will be common practice in the future for agencies and marketing departments working with finance, educational, pharma and retail advertisers to monitor beyond the search results. They will need to expand coverage to web pages, blogs and email in order to fully protect themselves against any potential government fines.

Trend #3: Manufacturers will adopt MAP compliance

The Search Monitor has also seen a rise in inquiries from manufacturers who need help monitoring their retailers for minimum advertised price (MAP) violations. Retailers sometimes lower prices below MAP to attract customers and stay competitive. When retailers are in price parity with one another, it causes a ripple effect among other retailers, and very quickly, a premiere brand is selling at prices below MAP.

Each year, we see more vendors providing MAP compliance service. We even saw a Harvard Business School research paper that tested different approaches to increasing MAP compliance (spoiler alert: enhanced monitoring and more credible punishments were the most effective at curbing violations).

I predict that MAP Compliance will be viewed not only as a brand defense tool, but also as a revenue driver for manufacturers, boosting sales by keeping reseller prices in check and preventing parity. 

Trend #4: URL hijacking continues to impact brands

URL hijacking (aka direct linking) is a form of brand bidding where an unauthorized advertiser uses your URL as their display URL.

Who does this? Some (not all) affiliates use this tactic to get easy commissions without having to create a website and brand of their own. Other common offenders are phishing sites who want your traffic and manage to slip by the engine’s editorial review.

If URL hijacking is happening to you, your ads get bumped and replaced by the hijacker’s ads, which will greatly impact your metrics and optimization efforts.

While the search engines could put a stop to this activity with URL ownership verification, I do not see the engines making an effort toward this any time soon.  The best defense, instead, is to monitor, quantify the impact, and then use enforcement techniques discussed in Part 6 of this series.

Brian Wensel, digital media director at R2C Group, shared how his agency quantifies the impact of URL hijacking for their clients: “R2C Group uses The Search Monitor’s Knock-Out statistic to augment our impression share (IS) data from Google. We’ve learned that Google’s IS measurement does not account for hijacker activity, even when we know hijacking is happening. Only the knock-out stat alerts us right away to the possibility of URL hijacking.” 

Trend #5: Hotel brands will adopt price parity compliance

Another brand protection issue we’ve seen on the rise is unique to hotel brands. Similar to manufacturers, they need to make sure their resellers, the online travel agencies (OTAs), are in compliance with their listed room rates.

In particular, we’re seeing increasing adoption of The Search Monitor’s hotel price parity reports. These monitor the hotel listings module on Google, looking for price parity for the same property between resellers such as Expedia, Kayak and Travelocity.

Usually, price parity is an accident or oversight, but because it can cost hotel brands to lose clicks to their OTAs or to lose money on an incorrect room rate, forward-thinking hotel brands will focus on controlling price parity in the future.

Final thoughts on brand bidding & PPC optimization

I started this series by showing how brand bidding is the latest in a long timeline of PPC growth tactics. But this tactic has a defined shelf life, which is why I created this series, so you can jump on board now.

I’ve provided all the tips you need to protect your brand and bid effectively on others. For some last-minute tips before I conclude, check out articles on keyword selection, working with partners, legal options and effective bidding techniques, and an eye-opening brand bidding case study from Avery.

“The Shawshank Redemption” famously told us to “get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.” Advertisers have a similar choice. They can stand up and actively protect their valuable branded searches and nurture their potential. Or they can remain complacent and watch their competitors steal their clicks, letting their performance deteriorate. So, what are you waiting for?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Lori Weiman is CEO and co-founder of The Search Monitor, which provides marketing intelligence to SEM, SEO, and Affiliate Marketers. Prior to TSM, Lori developed real-time bidding and tracking products for paid search and affiliate marketing. Lori is a frequent speaker at conferences such as SES, SMX, Search Insider Summit, and Affiliate Summit.

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