Guidelines for a Paid Search Domination Strategy

Post by Jay Schmiedeskamp, Media Director and Heather Kollme, Senior Media Manager

Is paid search domination on the search engine result page (SERP) the best strategy for acquisition-focused brands? First, let’s define what paid search domination means: It’s a bid strategy for a given set of user queries under which a brand maximize its presence on the SERP.

Paid search dominance can result in a brand’s ad appearing in all three of the top ad positions on the SERP. The allure of this strategy is the brand becomes the number one stakeholder for its branded terms, while pushing competitors (who may be bidding on the brand name) into lower ad positions, or completely off the first page of the SERP.

SERP Ad Listing Policies

In Q1 of 2014, Google released an ad policy update which denied large enterprise accounts (which often have multiple domains by which to serve ads to) the ability to create a SERP domination strategy. Normally, other engines follow Google policy updates, but in this instance Bing/Yahoo! and other search engines did not, creating opportunity to further test/explore the costs and benefits of running a paid SERP domination strategy.

Guidelines for a Paid SERP Domination

When paid search domination makes sense:

  1. If an advertiser’s primary KPI is impressions or clicks to its website
  2. If a brand’s landing pages are distinctly different experiences (ecommerce website vs. brand landing page)

When SERP domination does not make sense:

  1. If efficiency (cost-per-conversion/action) is a primary KPI or if budget is limited
  2. If landing pages and featured products are similar experiences

Testing a SERP Domination Strategy

For a large enterprise client, Performics sought to test a SERP domination strategy on Bing/Yahoo by creating two listings on brand keywords to block competitors from serving in positions 1 or 2. After testing for a set period of time, cost-per-clicks (CPCs) remained high, and Performics recommended pausing the second listing to lower cost. By focusing on a single listing strategy, the client saw cost drop 32%, CPCs decrease 20% and the cost-per-conversion decrease 27%.

These results show that the best strategy is always to test-and-learn. Depending on the marketplace, brand goals and competitive landscape, SERP domination may or may not boost performance. All advertisers should leverage the current differences in ad policies on Google and Bing/Yahoo to help determine if a SERP domination strategy is best.


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