Branded AdWords advertising boosts total site traffic

Whenever a company publishes research that casts its own products in a positive light, my sceptic-alarm goes off. Often this type of ‘research’ is just poorly veiled PR spin disguised as a scientific study.

There are some exceptions fortunately, and Google is one of them. For all the criticism I often levy against the big G, I have to admit that their computer scientists regularly come up with some fascinating stuff.

A recent example is a study done on the impact of branded advertising – i.e. advertising in AdWords on your own brand name. Common sense would dictate that if you advertise on AdWords on a branded keyword where your site already ranks first for in the organic results, that the AdWords clicks would take away traffic from your organic clicks so you’d end up paying for traffic you would otherwise get for free.

People who’ve worked with AdWords know that this isn’t necessarily the case. Very recently I worked with a client’s AdWords campaigns, and after stopping their branded advertising we saw a significant negative impact on the site’s total traffic. When we re-enabled branded advertising, traffic shot back up.

Google has researched this effect, and their conclusion is staggering – if not entirely unexpected for PPC pros:

“On average, the incremental ad clicks percentage across verticals is 89%. This means that a full 89% of the traffic generated by search ads is not replaced by organic clicks when ads are paused.”

What this study shows is that advertising on your own brand name in Google AdWords doesn’t cannibalise your organic traffic. In fact, branded advertising can add to your total search traffic by up to 89%.

Naturally it’s in Google’s best interests to promote use of their AdWords platform – and they’ve made some interesting moves recently – but this really doesn’t seem to be a case of a self-promotional research study. Especially as I’ve seen this effect occur more than once.

So if you do Pay Per Click advertising, be sure to include an ad group for your brand terms.

About Barry Adams

Barry Adams is one of the chief editors of State of Digital and is an award-winning SEO consultant delivering specialised technical SEO services to clients worldwide.

13 thoughts on “Branded AdWords advertising boosts total site traffic

  1. Hi Barry.

    Google research results do indeed make sense most of the time. Nevertheless I doubt the figures they present just as often. As well in this case. The results are very interesting and this is what we saw at different clients, although we never really experienced a 89% loss. Figures of 10 to 30% traffic loss seem to be more common. Once again the conclusions seem to be right, but I doubt the figures. Anyway, paying for branded keywords sure does help. Usually the paid search results convert much better than the organic search results, which leads to more recurring sales, and so on, and so on :-).

  2. “branded advertising can add to your total search traffic by up to 89%”

    I think a clarification should be used here – one will not see an 89% jump in total traffic on a given keyword due to advertising. I know that’s not what the article is saying, but the words are a little confusing.

    I would say instead, that 89% of the paid traffic you would get – if you did have an ad for that keyword – would be lost if you removed the keyword.

    The stats I have heard on this are that only about 30% of people click on Google ads. Not sure on this number, but if it is so:

    Then by having branded advertising, you could increase your traffic for a given keyword by about 27% (89% of 30/100ths). That’s a big jump in itself and worth doing as part of an ad campaign for a keyword with a large enough number of daily searches (hope I got my math right!) 🙂

  3. I’ve tested this for a big company with a very well known brandname for over a year now.
    Every A/B test we did, we saw the same loss in traffic/sales when the brand ad is turned off.
    I can imagine that if you don’t have a strong brand, the loss will be bigger.
    We can see only a 1,4% loss of traffic and sales when we don’t have a brand ad.
    When we do have a brandname ad, we can see a split in the clicks (50/50) on the organic and paid result.
    The extra costs of running a brand ad are just enough for getting enough extra profitable sales.

    So I think every brand should measure their own brandname ad before making the decision.
    I can imagine that the extra sales aren’t profitable if you have a really strong brand.

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