RKG has always stressed the importance of distinguishing brand and non-brand keyword performance. That has not changed and likely will not ever change. However, that doesn't suggest buying brand keywords in paid search is a waste of money. In fact, just recently, I noticed yet another reason to continue buying these keywords as a way to ward off the competition and ensure that every user searching for your site by name, winds up getting there. The gold standard manual process for auditing "squatters" on your brand name is to go to Google.com, query your brand name, and see which arch-rivals pop up in the ad slots. However, I wouldn't necessarily stop there when assessing whether competitors stand to prosper on your good name. Also, I'd be careful about making the assumption that by ceasing to bid on your brand name directly in paid search that it will translate into a 100% shift in traffic to the #1 organic listing. (See this RKG study for more details) First, let's check out the Google.com results for a sample search on 'bath body works': Seems pretty straightforward; everyone searching this brand name is likely to find their way to the advertiser's domain easily. Even if the paid search ad wasn't there, the organic listing would be the most prominent element on the page. Now, check out some results from Google's Search Network partner sites. We'll start with mywebsearch.com: For RKG's client base, mywebsearch represents 1.5% of Google AdWords traffic, which is pretty strong. (I'd be delighted with even 0.1% of Google AdWords traffic to any site I owned and operated, but I digress...) Another case can be seen at CenturyLink, albeit at a lower volume than mywebsearch: The point here is that many second tier search engines make their money by maximizing the SERP to drive sponsored ad traffic. In all, Google's Search Network partners represent 20-30% of Google AdWords click traffic. RKG tip - Be sure to go beyond a brand name search on Google.com when assessing the impact of buying vs. not buying brand keywords in paid search.
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