When you advertise your business on Google and other search engines, it’s very easy to become so focused on your own visibility that you forget that your brand is susceptible to attack from others. What do I mean by the term “under attack”? In a nutshell, it’s the use of the pay-per-click (PPC) advertising medium, to allow a company to hijack your good name for their own gains.
Say that Consumer A make a brand name search for Company B. Company C can quite legitimately bid on the name of Company B, to serve their ad, in a higher position than that of Company B. If Consumer A isn’t particularly savvy nor particularly loyal to Company B, there’s a good chance that they’ve going to visit and transact on the website of rogue Company C.
“Surely this can’t be allowed?”, you say. Well, there are no prohibitions on other companies bidding on your brand terms. The search engines only take a dim view of them including your brand name in their ad text, since this would be tantamount to lying. Google’s stance on brand bidding is found in their AdWords help centre.
Similarly, if you employ affiliates to advertise your product or services, some of the less scrupulous ones may try to contravene your directive against brand bidding, particularly when they think that you’re not watching. Typically, this would be at night, which is where we find the industry term “dusk ‘till dawn” brand bidding.
Hitwise have some brilliant software, which, amongst other things, is able to tell you if your brand is being attacked at certain times of the day or night. They estimate that on average, one in seven brand searches end up with the user transacting on a competitor website. Put otherwise, you’re looking at a 15% loss of traffic, which is where this rather murky approach to online marketing finds its impetus.
The problem for SMEs is that the cost of decent software is often more than their level of online marketing spend. So, if you’re engaged in PPC marketing, what can you do to mitigate the risk of falling foul to brand bidders, without spending oodles of cash?
1) Have a brand campaign! I have this discussion time and time again with clients. The traffic is cheap, is nearly always incremental to your organic traffic and, crucially, your presence on the paid space for your own name will deter the vast majority of chancers. You also need to consider that if you have a strong organic listing for your brand name, you’ll reinforce your brand credibility to would-be customers by occupying more of the overall space.
2) Use Google Analytics to look at any unnatural drop-offs in traffic at night. It’s normal to see a steady decline as the hours dwindle, but a sharp drop could indicate something else at play. Compare you traffic flow to an earlier period and see how the overall “shape” of traffic stacks up.
3) Make periodic checks on your brand name and use the Google Ad Preview Tool within your AdWords account to identify any lapses in visibility.
4) Employ the services of a consummate PPC agency, who are well versed in protecting your brand. If you’d like help with this particular area of search, just pop your details into the “free consultation” box on the right, and I’ll be in touch!