What happens when you stop bidding on Brand?

Jul. 09, 2010 | by Gregory Lyons

Recently we performed some analysis for a high street retailer around what happened when you stopped bidding on your brand terms. Would the lost Paid Search visits be ‘soaked up’ in Natural Search (commonly referred to as the cannibalisation effect) or would they just be lost? We found the results quite interesting so we thought we’d share them.


In order to perform this analysis a two week benchmark period and a test period were set up. The periods were selected to be as similar as possible, both Monday – Sunday periods, however some seasonal variation was inevitable, therefore we analysed the traffic for non brand terms for the two periods to see if there was any change. The results showed a 5.1% uplift in the second period over the first, therefore a 5.1% uplift was added to the first period to normalise the results.


The results showed that the majority of visits and revenue from the paid campaign moved across to natural search. When we look at the top 20 brand terms (by visits) we saw that 98.5% of the traffic received previously now went to natural search (100% would represent no loss what so ever).


There are many factors that need to be considered when deciding whether to bid on your own brand terms, such as the relative strength of your brand (e.g. what is the propensity of consumers to click on your brand), is your brand also a generic term (e.g. cheapflights) and how well are mis-spells covered in natural search. Google has become better at correcting spelling mistakes in search queries but many do still fall through the net.

In the test we ran we found that the poorest performing brand terms, the ones where the lowest percentage of clicks were taken up by natural search were terms that had been misspelled and brand URLs. In these cases we found competitors were aggressively bidding on popular misspellings, therefore it made sense to maintain the brand campaign where competitor activity is high.

Additionally when the brand campaign was turned off click through rates fell substantially, this could potentially have an affect on the quality score of the account increasing the cost of the generic PS campaigns. Therefore the overall cost of turning off the brand campaign is not just the potential lost visits/conversions but also the potential increase in cost of the generic PS campaigns.

In the past other pieces of research have suggested an overall increase when combining both paid and natural search however in this particular instance we found that natural search took the majority of the clicks lost in paid. This test was only for one client and for one vertical and results will vary between sectors. It was interesting to see the role competition plays on the brand terms and click throughs. In this instance for a strong brand where there was no competition, turning off the brand campaign and letting natural search pick up the slack made sense, but if there is fierce competition around your brand you would be wise to keep bidding on those terms.

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    Comment (1)

    • Nilhan

      Great test and post Greg. I'm not entirely surprised by the outcome for this particular brand. They don't really have any real natural competition. But hadn't thought about the impact on quality score.Jul 12, 2010 01:50 pm

    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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