Wasting Money with Google Brand Search

By Peter Knapp

You are wasting advertising dollars if you are paying for the clicks of people who are searching your specific brand, or typing your URL into the search bar rather than the address bar. Google makes it easier for them to click on your ad than your organic search result, resulting in wasted money when your site is the number one option.

I often want to look up a specific brand’s website, but I don’t know their exact URL. So, like most people, I just start typing the company name into the address bar or the Google search bar on my browser.

I quickly get the search results and I click on the first result, which 99.9 percent of the time is the site I’m looking for. Where companies are wasting money with Google is when they have used their own brand name as a paid adword (I call it a “paid duh-word”) and nobody else is advertising for that keyword. By clicking on the first entry I am costing the advertiser money – money they shouldn’t be spending, because their site is in the organic results directly below.

This wasn’t such an issue back when Google’s only paid ads were off in the side bar, not sitting directly above the search results. Now, for someone to move their mouse to the first unpaid search result, they scroll right over top of the paid result. Many people¬†click on the paid result rather than going that extra distance to the next link. Lots of people SAY they don’t click on paid results, but Google’s background colour behind paid ads is so close to the white background, I don’t think a lot of people even realize what they’re doing.

Here are some screenshots that show what I am talking about:

Screen shots showing wasted money on paid adwords

This is a big deal because it’s not just me who does these searches, there are millions and millions of people and millions of brands being searched. Doing some quick math, and considering large entities like Sears, Telus, Cenovus, PlayNow, Sony, Shaw, Apple, and Shell are all paying when people search their brand name, I’m betting it adds to hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter. Since Google reported gross revenue of $10.5 billion in their most recent quarter (Q4 2011), it could be even more.

For my little company, our website analytics point out that four of the ten most common organic search terms are variations of my company name. It sure would be a pity, and a waste of money, if we paid for each of those people to find our website when they most certainly are going to find it and click on it as the top entry in the organic search results.

Some self-serving research recently released by Google points out that even when advertisers show up in the number one organic search result position,¬†50% of clicks they get on ads are not replaced by clicks on organic search results when the ads don’t appear. This doesn’t tell the whole story. In their research, how many times were there competing paid ads (a situation I’m not talking about)? How many times did the adword description fit better than the page name shown in the organic results? How many times did searchers actually skip by the first organic search result and to click on the second result, and did that also belong to the brand owner?

So, if you’re one of those advertisers that is paying for clicks based on your brand name, this issue requires some experimentation. Tweaking and managing your adword campaign on an ongoing basis can make sure you are getting the most for your money and you are not simply cannibalizing your own organic search. Experimentation and tweaking is the only way you’ll truly find out if you are wasting large amounts of money on your adword campaigns or not.

Peter Knapp

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