The Benefits of a Non-Brand Keyword Strategy

Search marketers have a unique advantage in the marketplace – we can target prospects more efficiently than many other marketing vehicles because we can serve relevant messages at the moment of intent. In my last post, I talked about the importance of bidding on brand keywords as a part of your paid search strategy. However, integrating non-brand keywords into your strategy is also incredibly important, albeit for different reasons.

Expand Reach and Awareness

Bidding on non-branded keywords allows you to position your brand in front of a prospect the moment he or she searches for a solution that your products provide. The searcher may have no association of your brand or your offering until he sees your ad. This allows you to build awareness for your brand or product while delivering new leads and prospects into your ecosystem.

Product Research and Customer Feedback

Non-brand keywords offer a great research and feedback loop on what prospective customers are really interested in. Marketers can bid on keywords around a feature or a benefit that your company is exploring or investing in for future product iterations. Search volume and engagement in your ad message are both good indicators of what is and isn’t resonating with your audience.

Capitalize on Brand Trust

Established brands have an edge when it comes to non-brand keywords because many unknowing prospects already have an affinity to the brand from a previous experience, which is a great asset for a strong brand when they are launching new products or services. The ad will likely stand out against other, less familiar, brands that are still in the trust-earning stages of a campaign. This also provides an advantage against much of the competition and can help with Quality Score and Click-through-rates.

In the example below, an Adobe ad is served for “ photo editing software.” People searching may know of Adobe from their experience with Adobe Acrobat, but may not be familiar with Adobe’s Photography offering. By investing in this set of non-brand photo editing keywords, we are driving awareness for our Photoshop & Lightroom photography plan.


This is really the beauty of search and why I came to love it so much. Generally when marketers invest higher in the purchase funnel, direct impact is difficult to measure. But with search, when we invest higher in the funnel, we can be confident that we are reaching the right audience and can effectively measure the impact of our prospecting efforts. For any company not to be capitalizing on the reach and targeting ability that search provides is a huge missed opportunity.

How do you proceed?

As you create your non-brand keyword strategy, an important element to keep in mind is that you should have different KPIs (or different KPI thresholds) than you do for branded terms. Non-brand keywords will never perform at the same rate as branded if you hold them to the same performance standards. If your branded program usually drives customers to revenue/orders, consider using a softer conversion metric such as a trial, a video view, or a free registration as your KPI. If your branded program drives to a CPA on trial or other non-transactional metric, set different CPA thresholds for your non-branded keywords, or consider using Click-through-rate in place of CPA.

Non-brand keywords work differently than branded, targeting people higher in the funnel, therefore they should be afforded more tolerance and flexibility in the KPIs. By changing your focus to CTR or other softer KPIs, you’ll set yourself up for success.

In summary, search is truly the voice of the customer, so it’s important that we invest in strategies that put us in touch with their voice to enable us to grow our business. When we invest in non-brand keywords, our main goal is to get customers into our universe. Once they are aware and engaged, then we can capitalize on their conversion potential.