Rising brand CPCs: 4 things you need to do

Bidding on competitor’s brand terms is great when you’re the one bidding on someone else’s brand. When you see a spike in Cost-per-Click (CPCs) because a Fortune 500 has decided they want to bid on your brand terms it’s not quite as fun. It can often seem like a lost cause as you start to see your branded keyword CPCs increasing week over week and brand spend increasing with it. There are, however, some tactics you can do to help with this, and while you might not be able to return to your previous low CPCs (it is an auction after all) you can make sure your campaigns are performing to their best.

  • Check the facts: As with any problematic trends in PPC, your first port of call should be data. Double check that the trend you are seeing is actually due to competitor activity and not another market factor, or something you’ve done in the account. Download an Auction Insights report, segmented over time, and a performance report that includes Avg. CPC for the same time period. Plot your competitor’s impression share against your average branded CPC and you should be able to identify what effect the activity of competitors is having on your terms. Looking at the chart below, it’s obvious that Competitor 2 is having very little effect on branded CPC, whereas Competitor 1 has aggressively increased their activity at the same time as our branded CPCs increased, indicating that this is the probable cause of the increase. If there is no correlation between your CPC increase and competitor activity you will have to look at other possible causes.
Branded CPC vs competitor
  • Write Clickable Headlines: When competition on your branded terms is this high, it’s imperative that your ad copy is as good as it can be. After all, you don’t want to lose your cheap branded conversions to the competition! Start by taking a look at what the competition is using in their ads. If you see they are using your trademark terms in their ad copy then you have grounds to complain to Google. Next, you should look at the types of offers they are calling out and make sure you are highlighting your competitive advantage. The user has typed in your brand term, so first and foremost they are looking for you and not the competition. Try testing some ad copy to reassure the user that this is actually your ad such as including the registered trademark (®) symbol and “Brand X Official Site.” You could also be a little more creative with headlines like “Yes This Is Us” or “Are You Looking For Me” which can be really eye-catching.
  • Extend Your Ads: Sitelink extensions are incredibly powerful in this situation so make sure you have enhanced extensions with the description lines filled out. Your results page presence will be greatly increased and the competition will always be at a disadvantage because it is very difficult to show Enhanced Sitelinks on anything other than your own branded terms. It’s also best to get as many of the extension features activated as possible. For instance, the relatively new callout extensions don’t cost anything and give you an extra line of text to promote your key selling points.
PPC ad extension
  • Adjust Your Bidding Strategy: You will always have the luxury of higher quality scores than your competitors for these keywords, and if that isn’t the case then you need to take a serious look at your account! With this in mind, there is one side of the ad rank equation left that you can influence, which is the bid. A lot of PPC managers will bid way above what is needed on branded terms to ensure 100% impression share. The downside of this strategy is when you get into the situation described here and start to see a spiralling upward trend with no cap because your bids are so high. If this is the case, try incrementally lowering your bids while keeping a very close eye on your average position and impression share. You will probably find that there is a point you can lower your bids to without a negative impact on your performance metrics but you will have lowered your average CPC. Once you have found this point, make sure you continue to monitor your metrics very closely in case your competitor increases their bids again.

These are the main points that PPC managers can quickly influence to try to combat this situation, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Some other things to consider could be the content of your landing pages and whether or not you should be excluding current customers from these campaigns through negative keywords (such as “login”, “support” etc.) and RLSA exclusion lists. Are you confident that your competitors wouldn’t be able to poach disgruntled customers from you through a well targeted campaign on the keyword “Your Brand Name support”?

Daniel Mew
Daniel works with our paid media clients, helping them develop strategies across various mediums including search, display and social. Based in Mediative’s Vancouver office he is originally from the UK and when he’s not in the office Daniel enjoys being in the outdoors, usually skiing or mountain biking.