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A Guide to Building and Measuring Brand Awareness in Paid Search

September 13, 2021 6 min read

A Guide to Building and Measuring Brand Awareness in Paid Search A Guide to Building and Measuring Brand Awareness in Paid Search

Brand awareness is a tricky topic. It’s essential to business success yet difficult to measure. And because there isn’t a clear black and white metric to define it, many businesses shy away from full-blown brand awareness campaigns. And that’s a mistake. 

You can’t put the cart before the horse. Sure, conversions might be the ultimate goal. But if your target audience doesn’t understand your product or simply doesn’t even know you exist, that conversion will never happen. When it comes to paid search campaigns, building brand awareness can be a critical first step to driving more traffic to your website and increasing your campaign ROI. Measuring brand awareness is also necessary for accessing how effective your results are. 

Don’t let obscurity deter you. There are some trackable key performance indicators (KPIs) that will make measuring brand awareness much clearer. But before we get into measurement methods, let’s make sure we have a solid understanding of what brand awareness is and how to build it with paid search. 

What is Brand Awareness? 

Most define brand awareness as the portion of a target audience that knows or has heard of your brand. But if that’s the extent of your definition, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. 

Why? Well, if a large percentage of your audience knows about your company but chooses not to do business with you, brand awareness becomes just another vanity metric. Brand awareness should be much more than just knowledge of your company’s existence. It’s about building positive name recognition. More than anything, it’s about your reputation as a business. 

How to Build Brand Awareness Using Paid Search? 

If you want to boost brand awareness with paid search, there are a few things you need to be careful of. Many businesses who are new to paid search assume that a “branded campaign”, or a campaign utilizing their company name as the target keyword, is the quickest win for brand awareness. But if your company isn’t widely known or doesn’t have pre-established brand recognition, this probably won’t work. How will people know to search for your branded keywords? If you’re just starting out, this is how we recommend building brand awareness with paid search. 

1. Go After Highly Searched Services as Keywords

The first step to building brand awareness is putting yourself out there. Start by researching what some of the most searched keywords are in your industry. Your paid search strategy should start here. These keywords should be precise and specific. Think hard about what your target audience is searching for when they need your service. 

Make a list of these highly specific keywords and then analyze them in a keyword research tool. Highlight the terms with the highest search volume yet lowest paid difficulty. This will give you the most bang for your buck. 

Here are some ideas to fuel your keyword brainstorm: 

  • Think of keywords surrounding current events in your industry. 
  • Make a list of the top trending keywords relevant to your services. 
  • Are there any common, misspelled keywords worth targeting?

2. Go After Competitor Keywords

Snooping on your competitor’s keywords and strategy is a smart tactic that can help you boost brand awareness and even steal some market share. Especially if you’re a newer or lesser-known brand in your industry, consistently appearing next to some of the most well-known brands in search can significantly impact brand awareness. Here are some tips to help you tackle your competitors: 

  • Find which products or services they are bidding on, and go after these keywords. 
  • Learn what audience they are targeting. 
  • Analyze any gaps in their strategy. Are there any highly searched keywords they are missing out on? 
  • Bid on competitors’ branded keywords if they have a well-known brand name your company could benefit from being displayed next to. 

3. Showcase Your Brand with Strategically Crafted Ad Copy 

Ad copy is just as important (if not more) than the keywords you bid on. When crafting your ad copy, make sure you display the right information to leave a lasting impression of your brand. Remember, in brand awareness campaigns, your paid search ad should introduce your brand and how it can help solve the problem searchers are looking for answers to. Eventually, the goal is to have your brand name become synonymous with the industry you’re in or the problem you solve. 

So what information is important to include for brand exposure? Don’t forget the basics in your ad copy: 

  • Brand Name 
  • Slogan 
  • Website

4. Start Bidding on Branded Keywords

Once you’ve started your paid search campaign and you start to slowly attract visitors to your website, you’ll likely begin to see people searching for your company. That’s when it makes sense to start including branded keywords.

You might think it’s a little silly to spend money on branded keywords when you’re already ranking for them organically. But there’s proven ROI in buying your way to the top of search results. In a study, Google found that paid search campaigns are incremental to organic rank. They found that in the absence of paid ads, an estimated 85% of all click traffic is lost and not replaced by organic clicks. 

Branded search campaigns also allow you to control the conversation. Sure, you might be ranking in the #1 position organically on Google for your brand name, but what does that listing look like? Take this example from Gartner, a multi-billion dollar IT advisory firm. Here’s what their organic search listing looks like:

Gartner Paid SearchNotice how “My Account” shows up with a meta description, “Sorry, we do not recognize this username or password.” Google is scraping Gartner’s website and pulling what it thinks is most relevant. But unfortunately, this isn’t very beneficial for Gartner’s brand recognition. If they chose to run a paid search ad on their branded keyword, their ad would run above this organic listing. They could then control each ad extension, display copy that reflects their brand, and point users to the pages they desire. 

Branded search campaigns help with company image and give you the chance to take full and complete control over the language served to searchers. It’s also an excellent way to boost awareness for a particular product or service your brand might have just launched. 

Measuring Brand Awareness in Paid Search Campaigns

Now that we know how to build awareness, it’s time to learn how to measure it. Though there’s not a direct metric, there are several different KPIs you can analyze that will tell you whether you’re making progress on your brand awareness goals. 

1. Impressions

No matter what the goal of your campaign, Impressions are always important to track. In a brand awareness campaign, impressions will tell you exactly how many people saw your ad and were exposed to your brand. 

Impressions alone can be a vanity metric. These people may see your ad, been exposed to your brand, but they may never convert. Though exposure is one step towards brand recall, keep in mind these searchers could have also seen a competitor’s ad. Maybe they even converted on that competitor’s site. It’s important to evaluate Impressions alongside other important KPIs. 

2. Impression Share

Think of Impression Share like market share. It’s the percentage of impressions your ad received compared to the total number of Impressions your ads could have received. 

Let’s take a look at an example. Say your keyword is video surveillance. You receive an impression share of 90%. That means when someone searches that keyword, 9 out of 10 times your ad is shown. Ninety percent of your audience only sees you. That’s a solid tell-tale sign of brand awareness.

3. Lost Impression Share

A negative metric you don’t want to score high on, Lost Impression Share (Lost IS) is the percentage of time your ad wasn’t shown due to an insufficient budget. These are key impressions that could help you capture more market share. Aim for a Lost IS of no higher than 50%. 

You don’t necessarily need to spend more money to improve your Lost IS. You can tighten up your campaign with other paid search best practices, like adding in negative keywords or using audience targeting tactics.

4. Average Position

Your ad doesn’t have to be in the top spot, but an ad that consistently ranks in positions 1-3 will give you significantly more brand awareness than ads appearing on any other page. Measuring where you rank in comparison to competing ads will give you a good idea of how much brand exposure you’re getting. If you’re competing against well-known competitors and consistently ranking in one of the top spots next to them, you can conclude your ads are generating a high amount of brand exposure and thus a high ROI. 

5. Click-Through Rate 

If you’re running a branded campaign, your click-through rate (CTR) can tell you a lot about your campaign’s success and whether or not you’re generating brand awareness. A high click-through rate means your generating a lot of traffic to your site. And if people are clicking on a branded link, that means they recognize your company enough to trust they’ll find the solution on your site. 

Keep in mind the average CTR with Google Ads is about 2%. So anything in this range or above is a good benchmark to strive for. Here’s a great resource from Wordstream that breaks down average CTR by industry.

Google Ads Benchmarks

The Best Measurement of Brand Awareness? Overall Performance

The individual metrics listed above will give you valuable insight into how well your ads are performing. If your goal is brand awareness, then the real, measurable difference you’ll see will be in the overall performance of your whole website. With almost 70% of consumers known to look for brands they recognize when deciding what search results they click on, you can infer that if more people are clicking on your site, you’ve established some known credibility.

So our biggest tip for measuring brand awareness in paid search? Maintain a holistic mindset. The overall performance of your paid search campaign will tell you a lot about brand recognition. If overall website traffic is up, now the priority is conversion. Our team of paid media experts can help you optimize your campaigns and take this next step in your PPC journey. 

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This post was originally published September 13, 2021