Are Brand Keywords Valuable For Every Audience? [Case Study]

Hello, my fellow search industry friends.

If you’ve followed me, you know I’m a staunch supporter of using branded search keywords (And those New York Jets).

So this column might throw you for a bit of a loop. We’re talking about using ads to target brand searches – but only from people who don’t know the brand.

Listen to me.

I also thought the concept was illogical and against industry best practices.

But there is a way to make it work and make it purposeful.

Interestingly, two different clients in very different workspaces approached me with a similar scenario:

  • Customer B: “How do we maintain a brand presence but not advertise to consumers who are already going to visit us?”
  • Customer N: “We want to see how first time buyers interact with us on our brand name versus repeat buyers. But we want it as clean and clear as possible. We allow former buyers on our brand name to search for our names. How do you differentiate those who buy from people who haven’t bought before?”

Both are essentially the same as in-market, brand-conscious audiences who are driven to visit us by a different form of media.

After I reminded them about 1+1=3 SEO+SEM Incremental InsightsI sat down and tried to figure out how these Google Ads would work, how they would look, and how to determine success.

Two different game plans for the audience list

Since the requests were similar but different, we had to come up with a game plan to execute them. This, in turn, will affect the design.

To my surprise, it was actually simpler than I expected.

are heavy users of both clients Google Analytics (which I highly advocate), makes this design quite effective.

First, I wanted the audience list.

We made a list of all site visitors for client B and set a 365 day limit on that.

We used this list for exclusionary purposes, and the Google generated would be for similar audience (i.e., look-alike) observations.

365 Days All Visitor Remarketing List from Google AnalyticsImage from Google Analytics, March 2022

Client N was slightly different. They had window buyers but never buyers on their website, so we needed a somewhat less aggressive approach.

We’ve listed anyone making at least one purchase on the Website and using GA’s maximum limit of 540 days.

We used this list as an exclusion.

This allowed former visitors to still come and get deals, provided they hadn’t made a purchase yet.

Google Analytics 540-day remarketing list based on previous purchasesImage from Google Analytics, March 2022

Next, we had to wait.

We informed both clients that the initial launch would take four to six weeks to allow that segment of the audience to make some history and achieve any degree of effectiveness.

We have also supplemented these lists with CRM list uploads to increase accuracy where possible.

Eventually, we noticed that site visitors get blocked or diverted from the target based on their behavior with the site.

Pro Tip: Create a timeline for the deployment of anything that involves any first-party data audience lists. This allows lists to grow and become more useful as time goes on.

How do we structure these campaigns?

It’s no rocket science (as opposed to trying to fold a fitted bedsheet).

In fact, there are different ways of doing it. But I’m in favor of taking it apart in the most concrete way, so I like to take things apart at the campaign level.

Client B is simple structure – import audience from GA to Google Ads.

Go to Campaigns and exclude all 365-day visitor audiences.

Boom, set to roll.

If you want to get the fancy pants on this, add similar audience lists and in-market audiences that you’ve verified as an overview.

Want to feel like an industry all-star? Add to bid modifier.

But yes, client B is set.

Client N is a bit more complicated; They want to show up on brand searches but differentiate repeat buyers from non-buyers.

Monitor to track new customer growth, measure some branding efforts, and decide if you need incentives for non-buyers who know our name.

Note that there is a similar setup for non-brands, which already incentivizes new buyers.

For client N, we have replicated our brand keyword campaigns.

A repeat will be called for a unique audience target of a remarketing list of purchases (as well as a CRM list of confirmed purchases) in the past 540 days.

The second campaign excluded that remarketing list (and the CRM list); This campaign is called NTF (the built-in naming abbreviation you need to know about).

Over time, the 540-day list grows, so non-buyer deals keep going to people who haven’t made purchases before.

In client N, the two campaigns reflect each other in terms of bid keywords, bid strategy (not the most recommended approach) and landing page.

The primary difference between them (besides the audience who sees it) is that creatives are slightly different.

Are brand keywords valuable to every audience? [Case Study]Image from Google Analytics, March 2022

How do we determine campaign success?

To be honest, “success” is a relative term in this scenario.

Like starting my own little chicken farm in my backyard… in a city. There is no clear but/defined line, but the audience has more of an observation.

For Client B, the success concept was along the lines of achieving a strong market share in our hyper-targeted geographies who know our brand name but have not visited the site before.

In addition, if we can get our conversions affordable compared to all audiences, it will be a success.

Client N was different.

There was no perfect measure of success.

It was just an overview of the value of a new customer versus a repeat and seeing how they perform.

So like I said before, “success” here is relative.

In my eyes, for the record, my small flock chicken farm is a success.

Pro Tip: Do not put your face near the chicken; They will bite you They don’t even enjoy wearing costumes. There is a direct connection between those two statements.


With client B, it was quite interesting.

We said, “If you’ve been here before, we’re not going to pay for you again!”

We measured data from all audiences for new visitors only, versus seven weeks before the change versus seven weeks after the change (a three-week difference between the two timeframes to deal with the holidays).

View 7 weeks over 7 weeks on client B's performanceImage from Google Analytics, March 2022

Not surprisingly, CPC went up slightly, and CTR went down; These are not the end of world differences.

Our conversion rate increased by 19%, and our cost per click (CPC) skyrocketed by 50%.

But when you look at the relative numbers, they’re not that terrible.

Given the low CPC of the Brand Terms, our overall CPA target was less than $10, which we were not concerned about in this scenario.

One thing to note is that, if market share is our primary success metric (translated here as impression share), then we were “successful.”

Yes, our traffic declined slightly (about 44%), but we gained more brand-awareness, never meeting our site’s audience.

Client n remains isolated.

Once again, we wanted to understand the difference in behavior between the audience and make it as clean and clear as possible.

How was the behavior of Client N as a first time versus a repeat shopper?Image from Google Analytics, March 2022

The data was clear and practical.

We finally understand what non-search marketing is contributing to the demand for branding.

It also showed us that repeat purchases lead to 7% higher Average Order Value (AOV) and reconvert at a conversion rate (CVR) of 220%+ higher than a first time buyer over a brand term .

It also indicated the need to incentivize first time buyers on brand terms, as there is so much potential to convert again on brand terms, and for more.

Essentially a repeat brand buyer, at least (since our data is only eight months old), has 206% more sales than a single buyer.

So what does this all mean?

More or less, which you already suspected.

It’s incredibly important to be present on brand terms.

But if you ever have to walk away from the brand—at the very least, to save a few dollars—don’t give up on your first-time engagers.

They will engage you in your CRM and help you show the value of non-search high funnel marketing.

In addition, chickens bite.

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Featured Image: Photosplash/Shutterstock

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