Paid Search

Should You Pay for Branded Terms? The Pros and the Cons in 2016

Paying for branded terms is often a bit of a debacle. In so many words, the pro side is that sometimes competitors will pay for your brand queries (which should be monitored), and if you don’t pay then sometimes it may also take a while for your branded term to show in the top of search engines. The con side is that organic traffic is free, so paying for keywords can sometimes offset the free traffic, so why pay for it?

It’s a tough question that SEO experts have been battling for years, and in most cases the right answer will depend completely on your company (go figure). However, understanding how it all works and weighing the pros and the cons can help give you a better idea of when you should pay and when you should save your budget.

So What Exactly Are Branded Terms?

Before getting into whether or not you should pay, you need to understand what branded terms really mean. Essentially, branded terms are keywords you can target that have some form of your company name in them. For example, a branded term for our company would be HigherVisibility, HigherVisibility Marketing, HigherVisibility SEO Agency, Marketing Group HigherVisibility, etc. As you might imagine, those who have heard of your company before are more likely to search for a branded term. You can learn more about how they work here.

All other terms that don’t include your brand name are considered “non-branded” terms. Even a misspelling, such as Higher Visibility, would be considered non-branded. As you might imagine again, it’s the non-branded terms where you see most of your unique or new visitors.

The Pros to Bidding on Branded Terms

The first conclusion that many jump to is “no” when thinking about paying for branded terms, however there are quite a few reasons it may help your company in the long run. Consider some of the pros to paying below:

Those searching for branded terms are usually closer to converting.

If someone is searching for a branded term, chances are they know a thing or two about your business or about the industry. This means they are closer to converting and making a purchase than someone who is just doing initial browsing (in which case they will likely be searching with non-branded keywords). You will therefore want to have as much visibility as possible.

Competitors might pay for your branded terms.

As discussed in the introduction, sometimes competitors will actually buy your branded term. This means that if someone is searching for your company, they will earn that visibility as your competitor by showing up in the Paid section of the SERP. Take the following screenshot for example:

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 8.26.44 AM

As you can see, if I type in “shakeology” looking for the shakeology company, several ads show up before and around the actual website in the paid search section such as and This therefore gives users another option to click other than your website. In other words, this is what you don’t want to happen; hence why it may be a good idea to bid on branded keywords.

You could get double the visibility on a SERP.

If you pay for a branded keyword then that means you will show up in the Ad section of a SERP. However, you might also appear in the organic results; thus giving your company extra visibility. Below shows a company that clearly paid for a branded term and also ranks as number one organically when you search for their company name:


This helps you to stand out, particularly to new visitors (this can however also be considered a con, which is discussed in the next section).

You control your brand’s message.

With paid search you have control over what you say in the Meta description. It may be small, but having this control can help you ensure you’re making the first impression that you want to make.

Branded terms are often the most affordable keywords.

If you’re hesitant about spending money, rest assured that it won’t be that much. In general, branded keywords are far easier to bid on than non-branded.

The Cons to Bidding on Branded Terms

There are less cons than pros in this case, but they hold just as much weight and are important to consider when determining what’s write for your business. A few cons include:

It could offset your organic listing.

As discussed above, while double the visibility can’t hurt, it can hurt your budget. It’s always a good thing to get more visibility, but many companies don’t need it if they’re already ranking for organic. Why pay for something that you’re already getting for free? Having extra visibility is more important for attracting new visitors, and those who are searching for branded terms usually aren’t “new” visitors (as discussed in the first point above).

It’s less important for mobile searches.

While this isn’t proven, Shout Agency suggested that those searching on mobile are more likely to be looking for something local or something quick to research as opposed to searching for a specific company, and we agree. This is just speculation, but take a look at your mobile traffic and what search terms your audience is using on mobile to see if this is true for you.

It will cost you.

Although a pro may be that it doesn’t cost as much as other keywords, it’s still a cost you’re going to have to add into your budget. For many startups this may not be priority; however it is ironically most important for startups to rank for branded terms.

The Verdict: Paying for Branded Terms is a Great Idea At First

In the end, paying for branded terms is a great idea at first and then slowly becomes less important as your business gains a more solid organic ranking and a better reputation on other platforms, such as social media, events and conferences, etc. If you’re a startup looking to make an impression, you may want to start bidding on branded keywords first. After all, if you don’t rank for organic yet then you need to ensure that you’re business comes up on a SERP when someone searches for it, and PPC is the way to do that. This is most commonly a problem for companies with generic names.

In terms of competition paying for your branded terms, you need to be sure that you’re monitoring how often this is happen and to what degree it may be affecting your traffic. Do a few tests between bidding and not bidding to see if you can find trends.

In short: If you’re not yet ranking for your company name on organic or you’ve found your competition is stealing your traffic, bid on branded terms. If you are number one and you have been for a while, you likely don’t need to spend your budget on these terms and can move on to non-branded keywords.

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