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Published on

July 20, 2015


advertising, Analytics, measurement, Search marketing, SEO

As search professionals, we all know that measuring our campaigns is the first key to developing a strong and competitive presence in search. However, there should be a difference in how you measure top line performance for your brand vs. your non-brand search efforts.

Without a consistent and planned measurement framework, we’re unable to uncover or make impactful optimizations to our search campaigns. But what if I told you that you might be incorrectly measuring your efforts in search?

Top line measurement should always tie back to your goals for the channel, like 10 percent revenue growth year-over-year (YoY), and your primary KPIs, whether that is cost per acquisition (CPA), cost per lead (CPL), return on ad spend (ROAS), etc. A great report that provides more detail, will also include secondary and diagnostic KPIs, and will help call out any issues. However, there should be a difference in how you measure top line performance for your brand vs. your non-brand search efforts. Sounds simple, I know, but most advertisers actually forget that these two campaign types serve completely different goals.

So, what’s the difference? Brand searches are seen as high-intent and almost always lead to a high ROAS if managed correctly. If a searcher is looking for your brand, they are lower down the conversion funnel and closer to purchase. Non-brand searches show less intent for a searcher, but showing your ads on these terms can create awareness for your brand. Non-brand campaigns don’t typically drive a high ROAS, so I like to segment my brand and non-brand campaigns into different reports and measure them separately.

If non-brand efforts don’t lead to a high initial ROAS or a strong CPA – what should you measure? For me, it’s a few things:

Impression Share:

I like to show clients how many searchers are actually seeing our ad out of all the eligible impressions on those non-brand searches. If you’ve segmented out your campaigns by category or product, you can then see your impression share at high-level and make budget or bid changes based on which categories you want to grow over the long term.

For example, if you sell shoes and notice that brand searches (demand) for your brown leather pumps have gone down over the last few months, you may work to increase the impression share for your non-brand “brown leather pumps” keywords by increasing your budget. This will create more awareness for searchers who may not be familiar with your brand – letting them know that you do in fact sell fantastic brown leather pumps. By increasing awareness, you can actually increase demand on the brand side. Which leads me to the next thing I like to measure, search funnels.

Search Funnels:

Purchasing non-brand searches is pretty expensive for most advertisers. That’s why it’s important to understand which non-brand searches are leading to conversions, whether initially or further down the funnel, so that you know which terms to support in paid search. In AdWords, under Tools > Attribution, you have a number of reports that can provide you with data on how these “upper funnel” keywords help conversions beyond just the last click. These reports can also help you understand how users search for your products before converting so that you can ensure you’re supporting those conversion paths with enough budget and proper bids in your campaigns.

Non-Brand Optimizations:

Once you are successfully measuring your non-brand efforts separately from your brand efforts, and truly understand the path to conversion and impression share levels for your non-brand campaigns, it’s time to optimize for further refinement.

Dig into data in any of the following areas to ensure you’re collecting non-brand searches from the people most likely to convert.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geography
  • Time of day
  • Hour of day
  • Day of the week

You can reach a targeted audience by excluding some people from seeing your ads. If you do this, you can move forward knowing you are driving impressions and spending money on clicks from the subset of your audience who is most likely to convert. Another option is implementing bid adjustments to the categories above to bid higher or lower for specific audiences based on how they convert off non-brand terms.

If you have questions on how to best measure and manage your brand vs. your non-brand campaigns, or have a strategy that has worked well for your business, please comment below.

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