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20 Mar 2013

The True Value of Non-Branded Search Terms

Successful advertisers make it a practice to consistently measure the performance of their campaigns. In order for you to build a successful online marketing plan, you must have a sense of what drives regular people to become converted into new customers. Unfortunately, analyzing this data isn’t always cut and dry. The lines start to get blurry, especially when analyzing the performance of campaigns that use non-brand search terms.

In fact, a recent study conducted by the popular travel brand lastminute.com, showed that non-brand searches were largely undervalued in regards to tracking conversions. At first glance, generic search terms may seem to offer a low ROI. Something to consider, however, is that once a user visits the site and learns more about the actual business posting the non-branded ads, they are more likely to become a repeat purchaser further on down the road. This consumer behavior is not easily calculated by a tool that measures click-through rates and conversions resulting immediately after.

To measure the effectiveness of non-brand related search, lastminute.com decided to put the theories about poor performing ads to the test. The popular travel brand conducted an online geo-based study that measured both online and offline conversions. A variety of cities were included in this experimental research project, and they were organized randomly into either a test group which was connected to non-brand search related ads or a control group that did not utlitize that kind of advertising. This study took place over the span of 12-weeks and measured the effectiveness of sales in the test and control cities across the entire time period.

Because the extended time period allowed users a chance to marinate on the brand and return later to convert, lastminute.com found that the effectiveness of non-brand search ads was actually 43% higher than was previously measured in “Last Click” (conversions resulting directly from the most recent click-thru) performance reports. They were able to get a better sense of the effectiveness of these ads in different cities, even if customers didn’t make a purchase on their initial visit to the site. A “Last Click” measurement for branded search terms might lead you to believe that only these kinds of ads are generating a return, but you’d be missing out on valuable data resulting from the generic ads as well.

The overall impact of non-branded search ads is much more impressive that you may have previously been led to believe. You need to take into account the way that these ads affect user behavior over time, a metric that would otherwise be left unmeasured by a “Last Click” model. If an advertiser originally clicks on your non-branded ad then returns to the site next week searching on your actual brand name (because that’s something with which they are now familiar), this conversion would not have been registered as resulting from a non-branded ad click. Secondly, non-branded searches can account for both online and offline sales. These offline sales would never be attributed to the initial unbranded search ad that may have sparked your potential customers’ initial interest. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how this approach has been undervalued by many online marketers in the past.

Now that you have a better sense of how these non-branded search ads can benefit you, it’s time to start effectively integrating them into your campaigns. When measuring campaign performance, it’s important to look past “Last Click” metrics, to gain a true understanding of how your ads are influencing your customers to make moves. Lastminute.com will not be the last company to run their own experiment to measure the true effectiveness of non-branded search ads on their overall ROI. Consider pursuing your own research study, and you might be surprised by the positive results that you’ll receive.