Should I Use My Business Name as a Keyword in Google Ads?

Google has gone to great lengths to make starting a Google Ads campaign very easy. They have streamlined the setup process so you can get your own ads running in just a few minutes. However, the caveat is that they make it very easy to set up campaigns the way they want them, which almost universally is not the way a small business should set them up. They will have you showing ads in partner networks (never do it) and accepting their suggested changes to your account automatically in the future (don’t do this either). But once you get past all of those issues, there are a ton of nuanced decisions you have to make about how you want to run your campaign. One in particular that I hear businesses struggle with is whether or not to use their business name as a keyword in their campaign.

Being Found in Search By Your Business Name Is Not Difficult

If there is one thing that you must absolutely make sure that people searching for you can find you with it’s your business name. It’s basically old-school phonebook functionality and it needs to be solid and dependable. Fortunately, that is not a very high bar in search. With a website and a solid brand stack (GBP, Bing, FB, LinkedIn) you can dependably ensure that if someone searches for your business by name you can rank well and they will find you in organic search. But what about paid campaigns, like Google Search and Bing?

Should You Include Your Business Name as a Target Keyword in Paid Campaigns?

It’s a question I often hear from small business owners and while there is no hard and fast answer, my position is the opposite of what Google will tell advertisers. I say no. In fact, in some cases, I would say to go so far as to use your brand as a negative keyword (more about that another day).

My perspective may surprise you but as I said in the beginning it’s not hard to get your brand (business name) to rank in organic search but it’s a little more complicated than simply ranking. Paid ads typically take up a full screen of SERP space before organic listings so Google says you should include your business as a targeted keyword. But you really have to give searchers some credit. If they are looking for you by name will they be sidetracked by ads? Your competitors are allowed to use your business name as a targeted keyword in their campaigns but they are NOT allowed to use your business name in their ads. So how likely is it that these people will be led astray by an ad? It’s possible that they will but is it worth blowing ad money on name clicks?

What’s the Down Side To Branded Keywords?

What happens frequently is you use your name as a keyword, it is placed prominently in the number one ad position, and a searcher sees it and clicks on the first instance of your name they see. You have just been charged when there is a very high probability that they would have scrolled until they saw you in an organic listing.

Now I have had Google reps tell me that branded keyword clicks will be cheaper, but that is relative to the competitive nature of your business. If you are a roofer or a lawyer “cheaper” may be relative to spending $50 – $75 per click.

The Bottom Line

This is one of those aspects of search that can be argued either way. My experience comes from small business marketing where the budgets are tight and so are the geos. Under those circumstances, I would rather spend the money on discovery searches. But there is an argument to be made for buying your branded keywords when you have an expanded budget. The best way to determine if it’s right for you is to track your conversions and see what actually makes you money.


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