Defend Yourself: Bid On Your Brand Name in PPC

Ian Lurie

If you’re spending money on pay per click marketing, you must buy your brand name! Ignore those who say otherwise.
Make damned sure you’re bidding on the name, misspellings, and the like.
Even if you rank #1 for your own name. Do it anyway.
Here’s why:

  1. It’s cheap. PPC engines’ quality scoring algorithms mean you’re likely to get the best deal on your own company and product names. That translates to lower bids.
  2. It’s insurance. If you slip from the organic rankings for a day or two, your paid ranking will maintain your presence.
  3. Chances are, someone else has your name, too. You’re probably not the only ‘Acme Co.’ on earth.
  4. If you don’t bid, competitors will. In the United States it’s perfectly legal to bid on competitor product and company names. It happens all the time. You can easily outbid them, though, thanks quality scoring (see #1)
  5. Did I mention it’s cheap?

Oh, C’mon, Ian, Why Bother?

Am I writing in Hebrew?
How much money do you invest in trademarking your name, incorporating your business, etc.? Buying your own brand name on Google Adwords, Yahoo! and Live is a tiny expense by comparison. Why not do it?

A Few Case Studies

A client (who shall remain nameless) had us stop bidding on their brand name in their pay per click campaign. We tried to dissuade them. They did it anyway, claiming they’d get the same results from their organic rankings. Within a week their lead count fell by 40%. Turned out other, unrelated companies had the same name as them, and they weren’t #1 in the organic rankings for their own name.
Another client earned $36,000 from a $600 spend on their own name.
And then there’s Mazda (cited above). Pontiac launched a huge campaign encouraging the public to Google “Pontiac”. They purchased PPC ads for their name. Mazda quickly caught on and outbid them, linking to a page that encouraged folks to compare Mazda to Pontiac. While Pontiac did bid on their own name, they didn’t keep an eye on things. Oops.

I owned a Mazda 6s for years. Sorry Pontiac, you have a long way to go.

You don’t have to believe me, though. Read what George Michie said on the RKG blog.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

Start call to action

See how Portent can help you own your piece of the web.

End call to action


  1. This is a no brainer and yet we still have to battle clients on this idea! Although when they see how cheap it is they typically give in. Plus if you are running any type of online media or social media campaign, and you should be, then you need to realize that these things DRIVE branded search! So you had better be ranking organically and in paid search for your brand.

  2. As the agency of record for Mazda, we and our partners orchestrated the Pontiac example described above, so I want to correct some of the points made:
    * Pontiac’s campaign involved product placement on an episode of the Apprentice on NBC. At the end of said episode, viewers were instructed to “go to Yahoo! and search for ‘Apprentice Car'”.
    * ‘Apprentice Car’ was the keyword used to direct this wave of traffic to a Mazda MX-5 Miata comparison page.
    * Our PPC campaign launched and ran for several days after the episode’s airing. It was several days before Pontiac finally actually turned on their campaign (as the episode aired on a Thursday – allowing the Mazda campaign to run alone for Friday and throughout that weekend).
    * This example was not of purchasing someone else’s brand name or outbidding, but rather targeting a unique keyword phrase designed to service a competitor’s campaign.

  3. Very insightful. I had not looked at it that way. I am going to go Google my brick and mortar business that always ranks #1 in Google in organic, and see if anyone is bidding on my name!

  4. Very interesting.
    However, I think you need to do research on those words in your name. If no one ever use it, it’s ok not to brand it.
    If you find competition who use similar name like your name, you should definitely brand it.
    Otherwise, you may be wasting money on advertise your own name.

  5. I have heard all of the arguments for purchasing your own brand name and, under certain circumstances, I disagree. If you:
    1. Already rank #1 organically for your brand name and
    2. There are no competitors bidding on your brand name.
    Under the circumstances above, all you are doing is shifting conversions from organic traffic to paid traffic. Sure, the clicks are cheap, but it skews the CPA, making it look much cheaper. 99% of the time, you would have gotten those conversions anyway from your #1 organic listing. PPC agencies LOVE this, because they can show how many more conversions they have brought you (and at a lower CPA), but it is the INCREMENTAL total conversions that count.
    Even when competitors are bidding on your brand name, I would estimate that >95% of searchers are going to click on your organic listing. They are searching for you, after all!

  6. I would think a better way forward would be to trademark your name and use the search engines trademark features in the editorial guidelines.
    This will allow you to keep an eye on your trademark/name without bidding on it, allowing vendors to use your trademark when you allow and stop other people using it negatively.

  7. Actually, that doesn’t work, because it’s perfectly OK to bid on a trademark phrase in North America. You just can’t use it deceptively in an ad.
    Also, if trademarking did prevent competitive bidding, you’d still have all of your products, etc..

  8. It’s all about the real estate. If you think you can do without holding that one extra spot, you don’t need it.
    For some folks, that final 5% is worth a lot of money…

  9. @Dave..
    I see your point but surely
    a) you need a presence for your brand terms on broad match as your not ranked number 1 for every listing.
    b) having a ppc link is good for alternative messaging and deep links at minimum cost.
    c)you can split your CPA’s between brand and generic.
    d) by having a ppc link you are protecting your brand from people who do get round the TM rules, by utilising expanded match etc.
    I think these are all relevant points that the likes of ebay consider, as they use PPC on brand.

  10. Defend Yourself: Bid On Your Brand Name in PPC
    If you’re spending money on pay per click marketing, you must buy your brand name! Ignore those who say otherwise. Make damned sure you’re bidding on the name, mispellings, and the like.

    Even if you rank #1 for your own name. Do it anyway. Here’s…

  11. “2. There are no competitors bidding on your brand name.”
    @Dave: You never know when a competitor will start bidding on your keywords and when they do, you want to have your more relevant ad in place to push them down. Especially in industries where competitors will bid aggressively on your keywords.
    An acquisition is an acquisition – whether you get it for free through Organic or dirt cheap through PPC. Having a skewed CPA in PPC is probably the best “problem” you could have.

  12. It is a no brainer to bid on your own branded/trademark terms in order to ensure that you are capturing all of your own rightful traffic. The upsetting part is the fact that Google has effectively established a “tolbooth” online and is able to extract this fee from all of us. There was a ton of noise on this topic back in 2004 when there was some litigation in this area, but everything has died down since. A ton of traffic that Google gets is navigation oriented where a user fires up their browser & instead of tying a URL in the address bar, they use the Google search box and then nav through a click on Google. Google is adding NO value in the value chain, but gets paid b/c all of us have to own our own branded/trademark terms with PPC bids, otherwise those clicks wind up with our competitors. Just b/c bidding on your own terms is the right thing to do (and it is) that does not make it right. I really wish more people would wake up to this & get as upset about it as they should be.

  13. @greg don’t you think Google’s value is that they provide access to the audience?
    Following your reasoning, TV networks ad no value to TV advertisers. Same for newspapers, etc..

  14. @ Dave…I agree with David on # d)” by having a ppc link you are protecting your brand from people who do get round the TM rules, by utilising expanded match etc.”
    A PPC link is the foundation of your online presence at the infantry stage of your campaign,this create your brand and protects it from other who do get around the TM rule. So all match types becomes necessary to guide those keywords from out bidden.

  15. So how do I bid to buy my own brand name then? Where do I go? I opened an AdWords account and started a campaign. I used my domain name and brand name as keywords but it never gave me an opportunity to bid on any of the key words. I have a Chinese company threatening me that they will register a bunch of Asian domain suffixes and sell my “internet brand” unless I buy them all from them. I figure they are just trying to make a quick buck but want to take precautions in case they do it. Thanks –

  16. @Jennifer not sure what you mean about not getting an opportunity. If Google prevented you from bidding, it may be that your brand name is also someone else’s, or that it contains words that are flagged. If so, you can contact Google using the Adwords interface and request an exception. If I’m way off here, please leave another comment and I’ll respond.
    On the Chinese company: Unless you’re worried about people navigating to instead of your site, I’d say ignore them. If you ARE worried, go to a reputable domain registrar like Netsol or Godaddy and register your domains there. Regardless, don’t respond to the blackmailers. They’re generally morons.

  17. Our PPC campaign launched and ran for several days after the episode’s airing. It was several days before Pontiac finally actually turned on their campaign

Comments are closed.

Close search overlay