When Does Defensive PPC Make Sense?

When working on an SEO project for a client, I noticed that the search results for a branded search continuously brought up a review of their product first. The review wasn’t screaming negative, like a Rip-Off report, but it wasn’t portraying the client in the best light either. While we know we can get the client’s properties to overtake this review, defensive SEO takes a long time and can take a lot of effort, depending on what domain you are trying to overtake. What’s the next tool in the kit to use? Possibly PPC.

There is a lot of debate about branded PPC. Many in our industry debate its merits and its pitfalls. The logic being, if we are coming up number one and have good SERP real estate with our properties on branded queries, why pay click dollars when we would have gotten the click anyways. I have actually audited PPC campaigns on sloppy broad match instances where the client’s brand name was the number one search query in click spend. In many cases, we have taken steps to take away impressions for branded queries.

However, in other instances, it actually makes sense to bid on your brand name. An obvious situation is where competitors are bidding your name, or your brand name has multiple meanings, or we are trying to exert more control over the destination URL we are trying to send visitors from branded queries, like an offer.

Utilizing branded paid search can also be a tool in defensive SEO too. In instances where there are search results coming up above you for branded queries, bidding on our name can bridge the time gap until your long term defensive SEO efforts produce results.

When doing branded search, a few things:


If no one else is bidding on your name, you may have some impression issues. Bid appropriately. Don’t just float out $.01 and see what happens. Even if there aren’t any competitors, there is just an auction going on. The auction isn’t competing against other players, it is competing now to get a click versus organic. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive. Remember, you are playing within the Google monetization machine. Feed it for some early success.

Ad copy

You have a few options here. In the past, I have studied competing paid, organic and news results and structured ads around that noise. Using the term “Official Site” in the past has helped CTR. Blatantly calling out the competing positions has also been a good tactic, like “Get The Truth Here” or some copy that directly combats the competing position. Test your ad copy and see what generates a positive click through rate.

Additional keyword sets

While you may be able to anecdotally see in your search results that an undesired result is coming up it is important to consider what other branded keyword variations may generate negative results. A tool to discover these is to look at Google Search Console. Study your search query performance reports for branded queries. Instances with healthy impression volumes, but low clicks and a lower average position may indicate where you are not coming up as high as you would like. Do some incognito searches and make sure you like what you see. If not, you may need to expand your keyword and keyword matching to cover all of your bases.

No one likes a bad review or news article on their name. But it happens. Stay in tune with these occurences and utilized paid search as a defense mechanism when needed.

Joseph Ford

Joe Ford is a Managing Partner at Netvantage SEO. In addition to overseeing day to day business operations of Netvantage, he directs paid search strategy and management. Ford is on the Marketing Committee for Impression 5 Science Museum, and the Executive Board of the Capital Area IT Council. He was previously a member of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Board of Directors for 8 years. Additionally, Ford is an adjunct faculty member in the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University.

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