“Search = performance”. “With paid search sales are for the taking”. This is what you were told or maybe you were the one telling this to others. Paid search has always been considered a performance channel. While Google has shared a brand uplift study before (spoiler alert: 80% lift in top-of-mind awareness!), the perception of paid search does not seem to have changed. However, take a deep breath and ask yourself the following question: Am I getting the most out of all the available marketing opportunities in paid search?

This post will help to answer the above question by discussing the following topics:
1- Paid search in essence
2- Upper funnel opportunities
3- Creative awareness

1-Paid search in essence
The essence of paid search is that advertisers can share a message with their target group based on keyword targeting. In general, these keywords are directly related to the brand or its products and services. If you think of the e-commerce purchase funnel (see below), most keywords being targeted are based on purchase and consideration.

Probably, most advertisers do not cover all layers of the purchase funnel. However, if the aim is to reach your target group, why would you limit paid search campaigns to purchase and consideration only?

2-Upper funnel opportunities
Upper funnel could be considered as keywords that are indirectly related to an advertiser’s brand or its products and services. The aim is to create awareness with consumers who are not searching for a brand yet. By providing consumers with the information that they are looking for, advertisers can create awareness for their brand.

The first example is from the insurance industry. The market for funeral services is very competitive. Advertisers are competing for a limited amount of search volume and the average cost per click is very high. A smart way to reach new consumers within your target group is to target topics related to funerals. Some keywords with high search volume are funeral music, funeral flowers and farewell poem. These keywords will be part of the upper funnel (see the example below).

Consumers searching for these keywords do not have the intention to find a funeral insurance, they are probably looking for inspiration on topics related to funerals. If advertisers can provide the target group with useful and relevant content, they will have the opportunity to get top of mind. The target group will find what they were looking for and will also connect with the brand.

Another example is from the telecommunications industry. The market for in-home internet is very competitive. It is therefore important for brands to stay top of mind. In this market there is a huge search volume on speedtest related keywords. Consumers searching on speedtest related keywords want to measure the speed of their current in-home internet connection. By providing the target group with a speedtest tool, advertisers will not only help in a relevant way, they will also be able to offer their own products if the target group is not happy with the current internet provider.

Upper funnel keywords could help advertisers to reach a larger part of the target group at a relevant moment. Since there is less competition for upper funnel keywords, the average cost per click is often lower compared to traditional keywords in the purchase and consideration layer.

3-Creative awareness
Starting from this point, things get really interesting. All layers of the traditional purchase funnel are covered. What other opportunities are left?

This is the right moment to introduce a new layer called ‘creative awareness’. As the name already suggests, this part of the funnel requires creativity. The focus is on reaching your target group in a creative way. It is all about reaching those consumers who do not search for lower, middle or upper funnel keywords yet. These consumers are either not familiar with your brand or your brand is not top of mind.

Some examples of keywords that could be targeted are news, weather forecast and events like Tour de France. Targeting these keywords give advertisers the opportunity to be more visible and share their message with more consumers in the target group. It is an opportunity to create brand awareness and work on brand associations.

The first example is from Chocomel. It is a hot beverage considered perfectly for the cold days. Chocomel could target the keyword ‘weather forecast’ in order to remind consumers about the brand and strengthen brand associations. The first screenshot below shows the search results page without ads and the second screenshot has a Chocomel ad.

’weer’ is the Dutch word for ‘weather’

Another example is the keyword ‘news’. In Dutch this keyword means both ‘news’ and ‘something new’. Advertisers could target this keyword with the message “Time for a new health insurance?” (see the example below). It is a fun and creative way to reach your target group, trigger the thought of switching to a new health insurance and stay top of mind.

’nieuws’ is the Dutch word for ‘news’

It is very interesting for advertisers to explore opportunities outside the funnel. It helps brands to be more visible and reach a larger part of the target group, resulting in higher brand awareness. Also, there is almost no competition on these keywords. While the main KPI should be increasing reach, these ads will also contribute to website traffic for lower costs compared to traditional keywords. Setting the right KPI is very important to judge whether the branding campaign was successful or not.

It might feel scary for advertisers to target very generic keywords like news. However, search engines offer lots of targeting features to narrow down the target group. So, it is definitely not all or nothing. The opportunities outside the funnel can be explored with small budgets and you are in full control of targeting (e.g. demography, geography, devices and audiences).

Long story short
Branding in search is all about exploring marketing opportunities in upper funnel and outside the funnel. With branding in search, advertisers could give branding messages a new meaning at relevant moments. This will help to increase the brand awareness of the target group and strengthen brand associations. The opportunities that paid search offers are very comprehensive. So, are you getting the most out of all the available marketing opportunities in paid search?

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