Branding through PPC – Setting the record straight

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I’ve heard some silly things over the past year about pay per click advertising’s ability to boost a brand and it’s time to clarify some of this nonsense whilst propping up the truth about how to use PPC to build your brand.

Here’s a popular “branding” approach to PPC that I’ve heard bandied about:

  1. Choose keywords relevant to your business (OK so far).
  2. Bid low to stay out of top position (Well, yeah, I suppose that makes sense…sort of.)
  3. Write ads in a way to discourage clicks (Gong! You lose, thanks for playing.)

Proponents of this type of “branding” don’t really understand what branding is. For one thing, PPC is primarily a demand-harvesting channel by nature, while branding entails creating demand.

However, the big disconnect here is they’re confusing branding with awareness.

What’s the difference between branding and awareness, you ask?

Let’s start with the ol’ textbook definition of branding and build from there:

“The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”

To illustrate the idea, I’m aware of every Thai food restaurant in the county, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all the same to me. In fact, based on my experiences, I’m now willing to drive much further than the nearest few restaurants in order to get to my favorite Thai place because they’re reasonably priced, have great food, always-clean tables, stylish but comfortable atmosphere and consistently fast service.

In other words, they have distinguished themselves and demonstrated value to me beyond their competition. That’s branding.

Branding means making your business unique, memorable, and attractive to customers. It’s about winning long-term loyalty by giving customers a noteworthy buying experience followed by solid, consistent delivery of the promised benefit of your product.

How does aiming for the 7-10 range on the SERP with ads designed to discourage further interaction with your company constitute branding? I suppose you might be differentiating your company as irrelevant and second-class, but I’ll bet that’s not the outcome you had in mind.

Then how can branding be achieved through pay per click, you PPC nerd? Well, hold your horses and I’ll tell you!

Actually, I’ll help you figure it out for yourself.

Where are you best positioned online to give customers a noteworthy experience followed by solid delivery of the promised benefit of your product?

Did someone just say “my website”? Nailed it!

Your best chance of building positive brand equity through pay per click advertising occurs after a customer clicks your text ad.

It’s true that you must select good keywords that relate well to your product, and you must also write compelling ad copy that persuades people to interact with your company on a deeper level. However, branding cannot be achieved through PPC in a meaningful way until someone has engaged your website.

You must dedicate yourself to creating an air-tight, thoroughly easy and enjoyable shopping experience. Continually test elements of your landing pages, or entirely new pages as appropriate, in the search for the golden online shopping experience (analytics data from your shoppers will tell you when you’re getting closer).

In summary, branding through PPC is achieved not by deviating from tried and true PPC tactics, but by improving the customer experience after they click your PPC ad. Make sure that your website gives them a noteworthy experience that they’ll tell their friends about and that will keep them coming back!