Lady Typing

Branded vs. Non-Branded Paid Search: What They Are and When to Use Them

When consumers are looking for most any specific brand online, it’s clearly desirable to the brand in question for the potential customer’s web search to be easy and effective. And as such, when web searchers type the brand’s name into a search engine, the website for the brand itself would ideally be a leader in the search rankings.

Of course, the same can be said for cases in which consumers are performing more general searches for the kinds of products and/or services that the brand offers — even if the potential customer isn’t searching specifically for the brand in question. So, if the brand is in the business of selling Mexican food, for example, it likely wants to rank high on the search engine results page when a hungry consumer searches for tacos, burritos or chimichangas (and enchiladas too).

In the world of paid search, each of these two scenarios have their own distinct names. Read on as we take a deeper dive into the concept of branded vs. non-branded paid search.

What is branded paid search?

A branded search is when a consumer includes a specific brand’s name in his or her internet search. For example, if a consumer were looking for Brandon in his or her search for marketing services, he or she might search for “Brandon marketing services” in Google, Bing or any other search engine he or she chooses. The same concept applies for organic and paid search results — for each, when the consumer performs the search, we’d expect to show up high in the search results (if, that is, we’ve done a good job with our SEO efforts and paid keyword choices).

What is non-branded paid search?

A non-branded search, on the other hand, is when a consumer performs an online search without a specific brand name included. In a search following the theme mentioned just above, this type of search might see a consumer search for “marketing services,” “leading South Carolina marketing agencies” or “top marketing agencies in the Southeast” in their search engine of choice. Again, if our SEO and paid keyword efforts have been effective, we’ll rank high in the search results — both organic and paid — for any of these queries.

How much of my paid search should be branded/non-branded?

Both branded and non-branded paid search can drive qualified users to your website, and deciding on which to devote more resources to depends on a brand’s goals. Each works to attract consumers with different search intents and at different stages on the path to purchase. And as such, to create effective, full-funnel PPC campaigns, strategically employing branded and non-branded keywords is important.

When to use non-branded keywords in PPC campaigns

Using non-branded keywords in PPC campaigns can be an effective strategy for brands that want to capture and convert search intent among consumers who don’t already know about them, but are seeking products and/or services related to their business offerings. For example, when a consumer conducts an online search for “sandwich shop near me,” he or she is demonstrating a high level of intent to buy a sandwich. And by employing non-branded keywords in its paid search campaign, a nearby deli can capture this consumer’s attention at the lower end of the marketing funnel — and have a pretty good shot at capturing his or her business. As a result, non-branded keywords are also an effective tool for attracting new customers.

Further, non-branded keywords are a good choice for brands seeking to increase the visibility of their ads, as these keywords have a higher search volume — and thereby maximize the number of consumers likely to see their ads. That’s assuming their bid is high enough for the ads to be displayed. On a related note, non-branded keywords are typically more expensive than branded keywords are to employ in PPC campaigns, as the former generally target a much larger pool of consumers than branded keywords do, and thereby tend to bring more bidding competition from other businesses.

When to use branded keywords in PPC campaigns

Consumers who use branded keywords in their online searches are generally performing navigational searches. In most cases, they know that they want to go to a particular brand’s website, and they’re just using the search engine to help them find their way there. So, because the consumer is likely to head to the brand’s website with or without the help of the paid search campaign, brands that employ branded campaigns are typically not generating new business via the tactic. Rather, they’re helping ensure that they attract consumers who they were already likely to land organically. Still, because branded keywords are typically much less expensive to bid on than non-branded keywords, most brands bid on their own branded terms anyway.

By targeting branded keywords in their PPC campaigns, brands can effectively pursue a pair of leading tactics:

Brand defense

Using branded keywords in paid search campaigns is often viewed as a defensive move, employed in case competitors decide to bid on a brand’s own branded search terms. By bidding on its own branded keywords, brands can help ensure that consumers’ navigational searches are successful in getting them to the place they’re looking to land — the brand’s website. Further, employing branded keywords in PPC campaigns can enable brands to take greater control of these customers’ online experiences, along with the messaging they receive. For example, brands can use ad copy in their branded-search campaigns to let consumers know about their ongoing or upcoming sales, promotions and seasonal offerings.


On the flip side of the same coin, by bidding for competitors’ brand names in their CPC campaigns, brands can capture the attention of consumers seeking out competitive offerings, make these consumers aware of (or more aware of) their own products and services — and, hopefully, lure them away from the competitor’s site and to their own. When employing this tactic, it can be especially effective for a brand to use the opportunity to highlight its own competitive advantages.

Looking to up your business’s paid search game and generate more interest in your brand — along with more visits to your website? At Brandon, our team of data-driven marketing professionals is adept at achieving top search-engine rankings and delivering just the right consumers to our clients’ websites and social channels, then generating valuable conversions. Contact us today to discuss how we can help your brand and business grow.