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The value of non-brand queries across key verticals

May 25, 2021

If you’re looking to increase your search traffic, a great place to start is through keyword research and expansion. You’re probably familiar with the two main keyword types: brand and non-brand keywords. While we believe both are important for a holistic campaign strategy, today we’re going to dive into the importance of non-brand keywords and how they can help you grow your reach and sales when used correctly.

Regardless of your advertising vertical (retail, auto, tech, etc.), the benefits of using non-brand keywords are relatively the same. For one, they provide you with more opportunities to reach consumers than brand keywords and can help raise awareness for your brand by capturing interest of users who aren’t yet brand loyal.1 Using non-brand keywords is also key to beating your competitors. Your competitors will be including non-brand keywords in their strategy, so not including them is essentially helping the competition capture your target audience.2

Financial Services case study

Microsoft Advertising Insights set out to test if consumers were more likely to consider a particular credit card brand after seeing that brand appear from a non-branded search. 69% of bank credit card ad clicks are influenced by non-brand searches.3 The importance of non-brand doesn’t stop there; non-brand searches also drive impact beyond the click. We saw that people were 36% likely to search for a credit card brand after being exposed to a non-brand ad and 137% more likely to visit that credit card’s website after being exposed to a non-brand ad.3 It’s safe to say that non-brand ads have proven themselves to be a very effective form of advertising for the Financial Services industry.

Bank credit card ad clicks

Graphic showing percentage of total ad clicks, broken down by brand versus non-brand, for bank credit card ads. Brand searches account for 31 percent, non-brand for 38 percent, and non-brand leading to brand for 31 percent.

Recommendation: Use Keyword Planner to find powerful new non-brand keywords.

Automotive case study

We mentioned above that non-brand advertising is especially important when trying to beat out your competitors. This reigned true in our case study on auto brands, where we found that competitor third-party advertisers win 45% of the non-brand clicks when you do not serve a paid non-brand ad.4 In other words, you could be missing out on almost half of your potential customers if you’re only running branded keywords. The average third-party advertiser in the automotive space wins 23% of all non-brand clicks when serving ads, which is 23x more than relying on organic promotion alone.4

Recommendation: Check out this Volvo campaign success story for tips on improving click-through rate (CTR).

Retail case studies

Online shopping has become more popular during the pandemic and does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With more people buying retail products online, non-brand advertising is crucial to helping grow your customer base. One retail category we saw flourish in the last year is do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. According to the 2021 Consumer Retail Trends Report, 35% more consumers are likely to spend money on home improvements or renovations in the future.5 Microsoft Advertising saw a 41% year-over-year (YoY) growth for home and garden non-branded clicks versus just 3% growth for branded clicks.6 Similar to these results, from January to March 2021, ‘graduation’ and ‘father’s day’ queries had much higher correlations to non-brand searches (80% non-brand; 20% brand).7

Graphic showing that grads and dads queries have a higher correlation with non-brand searches. Non-brand accounts for 79 percent, brand for 20 percent.

Recommendation: Drive people to your site and widen your reach with broad match.

Travel case study

Booking travel is a lengthy process. We found that most (63%) of United States travel searchers consider multiple travel sub-categories in their search journey.8 The sub-categories evaluated in this case study included hotel/accommodations, activities/experiences, car hire/taxi, flights/airlines, and holidays. Regardless of what sub-category we’re talking about, consumers favored non-brand queries, which made up over 80% of total travel queries between September 2020 and February 2021.8 Make sure you cover non-brand search traffic to engage users at scale as we head into summer, since travel searches will most likely spike as government restrictions are lifted.

Recommendation: Allow your campaigns to respond automatically to changing consumer behaviors with automated bidding.

Take action with Microsoft Advertising

As you can probably see by now, regardless of your vertical industry, the product you’re selling or service you provide, it’s likely that non-brand keywords will be crucial to your success. Activating these will help you stand out amongst your competitors, expand reach, and bring in more leads organically. If you aren’t running any non-brand campaigns right now, let us help you get started!

[1] Bloggers Passion, Branded vs Non Branded Keywords, May 2021.
[2] PPC Hero, The Missing Ingredient to Your PPC Strategy: Non-Branded Campaigns, August 2018.
[3] Microsoft internal, Bank credit card account, Oct 27-Dec 31, 2020.
[4] Microsoft internal data, August 2020 – October 2020, based on 500,000 users with at least one automotive paid click. Nonbrand queries include used/cpo while excluding aftermarket/parts & service queries.
[5] Microsoft Advertising + Suzy, 2021 Consumer Retail Trends, Feb. 2021.
[6] Microsoft Advertising internal data, Home & Garden clicks for UK, Nov. 2019-Jan. 2020 vs. Nov. 2020-Jan. 2021.
[7] Microsoft Advertising internal data. Jan. 2021-March 2021.
[8] Microsoft internal data. Travel US. Consumer Decision Journey; Cross-Line of Business interest based off IE and Edge browser activity (where applicable). N = 1000 users. Sept. 2020 –Feb. 2021. US, PC traffic only.


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