The PPC Playbook for Companies with Multiple Brands
Produced by Hanapin Marketing
Juggling multiple brands is tricky and creates unique problems. If you have brands that are really similar to each other, how do you keep them from competing against one another or cannibalizing them? Or you have brands that are completely different from one another – how do you allocate budget for each?
Having multiple brands can have many great advantages, like securing more shelf space with little remaining room for rivals. It also allows a business to saturate a market by occupying all price and quality vacancies.
Here’s some examples of companies with multiple brands:
Some companies have completely different products that don’t compete with each other, but still need a decently sized budget for advertising. Other companies have products that are incredibly similar to each other, like Marriot and FedEx. So how do these companies successfully manage those brands?
There are a lot of questions to ask and many answers to be sought! And while there are also a lot of “it depends” type of situations, we’ve learned how to manage certain situations and have structured processes that work successfully for companies that manage multiple brands. In this playbook, we’ll talk about some of the major pain points companies with multiple brands face and how to work through them.
Competing with yourself without cannibalizing your brands
It’s hard to compete against yourself. When your account has multiple brands in the same auction with similar goals, budgets, targets, and audiences, you want them all to succeed. But, how do you do that and not cannibalize any of your brands?
There are a few creative ways to manipulate the auction to help each of your brands without being your own worst enemy.
Here’s some quick tips:
- Don’t target the same keywords and audiences across multiple brands. You likely will need to develop a very organized negative keyword strategy to avoid cross-contamination between brands.
- Utilize location targeting. Decide where it makes most sense to advertise for each brand based on current market share and brand awareness.
- Segment by demographic groups. If your brands appeal to different age groups or genders differently, use this to your advantage by bidding up or down for demographic segments according to where you want to channel your traffic.
Modify Your Bids Based on Geos or Performance
We worked in an account that had 6 of their brands all targeted in Michigan. A few of the brands were statewide, where others were just targeting a selection of counties within Michigan. There was a lot of overlap. At the start of our runtime, we only had 1-3 brands running in Michigan, but as peak season hit, we continued to grow our brands within the state of Michigan, leaving us with 6 by the end.
We had to figure out something to get leads in for all brands, rather than just the few that had higher budgets. For the brands that had overlapping counties or were targeting statewide, we asked the client to send us a list of priority markets. This was a list of all the counties within Michigan, each school that was targeting each county, and priority number. So, for each brand, the client told us which Michigan county that brand would have priority (i.e. in Alpena, Brand 3 had highest priority, Brand 1 had second priority, and Brand 2 had third priority).
From here, we created a formula that told us how much to increase our bids by in each county. This would mean that all our ads for each brand would show up in the county, but depending on the cost per click, the position would go to the brand with the highest priority, then the second highest priority, etc.
In addition to modifying bids based on the priority markets within a state, we asked the client to look at which counties/geos had the most leads/conversions come through. From there, we took those top counties and raised our bids up in those counties, knowing that they convert well.
You should only serve multiple ads for your different brands if each brand has a unique voice. Consumers will notice similar brand names, ad copy, websites, etc and you may run into issues with Google as well.
Caution! Don’t Double Serve Your Ads
Google has a strict policy against ads that try to gain an unfair traffic advantage over other participants in the auction.
For Example: If you are promoting the same or similar content from multiple accounts on the same or similar queries, or trying to show more than one ad at a time for your business, app, or site, your ad(s) could be disapproved.
Google suggests that keywords should fit the target audience’s likely intent when searching, and each website or app that you promote should offer distinct value to users. For more information, check out Google’s policy page on it.
If you decide not to serve multiple ads, then you need to decide what brand gets to show on what keywords. One way to tackle deciphering keywords for each brand is to look at historical data and see which brand converted better for each keyword.
If brand A is performing better than brands B, C, D, etc. on a particular keyword, be sure to give that keyword to brand A. Continue to do this with each brand in the market. The drawback to this is, if you are still your own competition (each brand competes with another) and you use modified broad or even phrase match keywords, your other brands may show in auction on a designated brand’s keywords. In this case, you would have to add negative keywords from the other brands to minimize overlap.
Another way to prevent keyword overlap while maximizing your keyword coverage with phrase and broad or modified broad keywords it to layer audiences and/or other targeting into your search campaigns. This allows for multiple brands to target the same keywords, but only the brand most applicable to each audience (e.g. recent website visitors or current customers) will show. If a keyword is relevant but performs better in a different brand, you can use RLSA campaigns to continue advertising to someone who has already shown interest in your brand. This allows for targeted overlap based on user activity. If audiences are created at the MCC level, you can effectively negate audiences for the brands they don’t apply to as well, further cutting down on the cross-contamination concern.
Having different brand voices should expand your reach. Rather than having two ads that don’t resonate with a searcher, you may have one that does and one that doesn’t. This may also help with cannibalization as you’re not going after the same person. If someone is searching for something really broad, we know that there are niches one will likely fall into. If your brands are not exactly going after the same target market, you can use that as an advantage and play in similar spaces without really cannibalizing each other.
For example, let’s say you’re advertising for family resorts and singles resorts in Jamaica. If someone searches for “Vacations in Jamaica”, you may be playing in the same auction without actually hurting each other.
An easy way to make your brands stand out from one another is to write your ad copy specific to each brand. Sometimes that’s really hard when the only thing differentiating your brands is the geo. Consider things like the age of the person your brand is targeting, an aspect of the brand you think a certain type of person might be interested in, or the costs of the brands.
Consider the voice of your brands and make sure you are marketing to your searcher, not the keyword. In order to channel your traffic to the correct brand, make sure you understand your users’ intent and what their purchase journey is.
Schedule Your Ads
A more time-consuming optimization, though worth the extra work, is ad scheduling. Create a heat map to show the times of high traffic and then from there, create an ad schedule raising bids at high traffic times and lowering bids at low traffic times. This will optimize what traffic you are getting for all the brands.
It is not easy to manage multiple brands within an account. It is important to consider all types of optimizations and use ones that will benefit your account the most. Keep in mind that layering on multiple layers of pulled levers can really make an impact on your account. We used multiple levers in one of our client’s accounts, which resulted in traffic increasing MoM, leads increasing MoM, and we pushed spend to meet our spend goals. It is a delicate balance, but using a combination of multiple optimizations can help you manage your multiple brands within the paid search auction and ultimately, get the return you’re looking for.
We all budget differently. Whether it’s using an app, checkbook, or our own brain, we all do it. However, there are some ways to budget that are more effective than others. Some of the most effective ways involve utilizing many different methods for budgeting. The same rules apply to PPC budgeting. Here’s our suggestions on how you can budget better and more specifically, with each of your brands.
Your Budgeting Strategy
First, look at the overall goals of each brand. Budgeting across several brands should be determined by the most important business KPI for the company as a whole and the most important KPI for each brand. How does each platform your advertising on, supplement that business? Is your goal to support existing efforts or to displace them? This will give you a good idea of the kind of spending you should be doing.
Next, you want to think about where you competitors are spending. Use Keyword Planner or SEMRush to get an idea of where your competitors are putting their budget in. From here, develop strategies to unseat their ads from the SERP and find better and cheaper keywords.
Then, go in and see how much the CPC’s for the keywords you are bidding on are. It may be time to rethink your keyword choice. For example, keywords that indicate urgency or familiarity are more likely to convert than ones that don’t. Also, branded keywords convey more intent than a competitor keyword. Your keywords will be more valuable if they are specific and unique to your brand.
Your CPA shouldn’t automatically be your most important KPI. You should look more in-depth into your account to make sure you find the best KPI to focus on. However, if CPA is the most important, make sure you set a goal grounded in logic.
After you’re done thinking about overall strategy, we suggest you think more in-depth about your budget. Keep in mind these account-specific questions to tailor your budgeting strategy to each different brand:
- Is my brand one whose clicks fluctuate daily, weekly, or monthly?
- Is my budgeting taking into consideration the times my target audience is more likely to spend?
The best tool to help you budget your AdWords accounts is utilizing Excel Solver to calculate and record your budgets for your accounts. In order to do this, its best to start by looking at your data from the previous year. You can look at this data by downloading the campaigns from the previous year with Clicks, Impressions, Conversions, Cost, Revenue, and IS. Once you have done this, follow these steps to organize the data:
- Add a few columns and then use text-to-columns to segment the categories listed within the campaign.
- Add “max cost” column (if we wanted to completely max out on the spend on a campaign, what would this number look like?) → Use Cost/IS.
- Add “allocated spend” column. Fill this column with zeros all the way down (the solver will be adjusting this for us).
- Repeat step 3 for “Allocated Revenue,” “CPC,” “Conv Rate,” “Clicks,” and “AOV.”
- Add totals of each of the allocated columns.
Next, you want to set up budgets based on location. In order to do this, you must add columns with SumIf calculations to find allocated spend per location. Look at the potential spend available per location by using the formula:
=SUMIF ($A$4:$A$33, “United States”, $J$4:$J$33)
You can use Solver to hit ROAS goals and for monthly budgeting and adjusting. It is a fairly simple tool to use once you’ve set up the appropriate sheets with your data from the previous year.
Once you hit solve, the results should tell you what your yearly or quarterly budgets and goals will look like according to the previous year (or quarters statistics at the campaign, location, or account level).
Seasonal budgeting is the first layer of strategy to add to your list. The goal of seasonal budgeting is to budget according to the previous year’s performance. You can do this by setting up a table in Solver similar to the previous sections in this whitepaper. When setting up Solver, include monthly information by adding a monthly column. This monthly column can help Solver to adjust budgets campaigns to adjusts budgets at the campaign level per each month.
Day of Week Budgeting
In order to see where your budget is pacing in Excel we use this formula:
=(Current Spend/Amount of Days)*Total Days in the Month
In some cases, monthly budgeting works. However, this monthly budgeting formula does not always account for the fluctuating amounts of clicks received by day of the week or any recent changes to the account that could affect the spend levels. Because of this, you cannot treat each day of the week the same when budgeting. This is why we suggest budgeting by day of the week.
You can utilize an Excel sheet in order to set up day of the week budgeting. The projection sheet should show the average spend per weekday while taking into account the amount of days that have passed and the days remaining in the week. Here are the formulas for each day of the week:
- Sunday – E3/D3
- Monday – E4/D4
- Tuesday – E5/D5
- Wednesday – E6/D6
- Thursday – E7/D7
- Friday – E8/D8
- Saturday – E9/D9
For MTD Spend formula:
And the EOM Projection formula is:
Dayparting vs. Day of Week
Your day of the week budgeting strategy shouldn’t be replacing your dayparting strategy. Instead, these two should be working together to get the best bang for your buck.
The main job of dayparting is to raise or lower bids for specific hours of the day when ads are showing. Its unique function allows us to improve ad position and CTR during the times of the day that are the most productive, and/or reduce impressions and CPCs for times that generate fewer or less profitable results. Dayparting should be used as a leverage tool for ad schedules and bid modifiers.
In contrast, day of the week budgeting should be used as a leveraging tool for campaign daily budgets. Day of the week budgeting should be used to increase or decrease budgets on specified days of the week for certain campaigns. We love day of the week budgeting because it allows us to maximize spend efficiency by aligning daily budgets with the value of traffic for each day of the week.
Day of the Week Budgeting + Non-PPC KPI’s
Trying to combine day of the week budgeting with non-PPC performance data can be tricky. Here is a step by step breakdown of how to do this:
- Download campaign report segmented by time and then day of the week.
- Combine PPC and non-PPC data into a single sheet (make sure “Day of the Week” column spans both sets).
- Pivot your data into a Day of the Week table showing impressions, clicks, and costs.
- Add whatever non-PPC conversion metric you’ve chosen.
- Calculate the Avg. CPC, Cost/Visit, Visit/Click columns
- Subtract the Avg. Visit/Click from the current day’s Visit/Click to get our Budget Adjustment for each day of the week (use the formula =(Daily Visit/Click – Avg. Visit/Click).
- Multiply 1+ Budget Adjustment by our total spend goal (the sum of campaign daily budgets for the given segment) to get the New Daily Budget.
- Find the percentage change between each day’s “New Daily Budget” and its predecessors (use formula formula = (Today’s New Daily Budget – Yesterday’s New Daily Budget)/Yesterday’s New Daily Budget).
The last step should be calculated for each day of the week. Also, you should adjust budgets manually on the day of implementation. To do this, substitute, “Today’s Current Budget” for “Yesterday’s New Daily Budget” in the formula. These steps should allow you to make day-to-day adjustments quite smoothly from week-to-week.
In your budgeting campaigns you should be utilizing a combination of dayparting, day of the week, and seasonal budgeting to optimize your accounts. The best way to budget effectively is to use a hodge-podge of all the methods. Test these strategies out, and then implement them in ways that work best for you. However, don’t forget to start by looking at the bigger picture. Look at your brands first, then build your budgeting around what works best for their particular needs.
Use the tool Supermetrics to automate budget predictions!
Supermetrics is an add on to Google Sheets. It can automatically pull in data from across your PPC platforms, (AdWords, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, etc.) letting you analyze the data all in one place. Discover how to do this HERE.
Share leads across brands for better ROI
At Hanapin, our lead generation clients with multi-brand companies have seen the most success in terms of ROI when the brands can share leads. For example, when a user submits a contact form on the site for Brand One, their information is shared with not only Brand One’s sales team, but the sales team for Brand Two and Brand Three as well.
Which brand continues the sales process is determined by the details the user provides in the contact form. This shared lead strategy is especially helpful if a certain brand has poor quality scores in AdWords, slow mobile site speed, etc. While these performance issues should never be ignored, reallocating spend to the better performer while sharing leads contributes to a healthier overall ROI.
Understand your competition
No matter what vertical or what industry you are in or how big or small you are, your business will at some point, face competition. And the competitors, the competition landscape, will continue to change. To successfully face off against your competitors, you need to be proactive. You need to know your competition and check them often.
Competitor insights are a key part of how you can improve performance and spike conversion rates. This happens through using a multitude of tools and data insights to form a summary about a specific set of competitors that are directly influencing change in SERPs or ad performance.
Here’s a few of the top tools you can use to show value to your brand and show a story of the competitor landscape.
AdWords Keyword Planner
Through this free tool provided inside of AdWords, you can glean several insights regarding the competitive nature of current keywords or new terms you want to add to a new or existing campaign. It is often easy to overlook the usefulness of this tool and how much information you can actually get from it. You’ll find real insights like how often a keyword or term is searched, if there ads out there for this term, how much does it cost, iis there seasonality to it, etc.
By adjusting the initial parameters, you can get insights for either Google or Google and Search Partners. You can adjust your location targeting (Note: look at the United States or specific regions instead of “All Locations”) and you can also change your date range. To get a more accurate picture of current numbers, trying doing a 3-6 month time range. If you want to see larger competitor trends and seasonality of searched terms, open the range to 12mos.
Once you give Keyword Planner’s forecasting tool your keywords, it will tell you how competitive the keywords are in terms of advertisers showing for these terms based on your input parameters. You will also see what the suggested bid is for an idea of budget and, even if there are fewer competitors for a keyword, how much those advertisers are willing to currently pay to show their ads.
This is Google’s Competitor Auction Impression Share tool that shows competitor domains or brands depending on search or shopping, for ecommerce, and how they rank, outrank, overlap, and more compared to your specific keyword, ad group, campaign, or even whole account. This can be as granular or wide-viewed as you’d prefer. This can be pulled at the highest campaign level to see which competitors show based on all active campaigns for a particular date range or can be drilled down to either one keyword or a specific set of keywords to find which competitor domains show most often and where on the SERPs compared to your ads.
This is most helpful to find new competitors that have stepped into the SERPs after seeing a performance or spend decline. It can also indicate which competitors have increased their bids or impression share and may be competing more often with your ads.
With the new additions of absolute top impression share and top impression share percentages, we can get more granular with where everyone is appearing in the search results. These metrics can give us insight into a competitor’s strategy or budget based on where they’re ranking and how often they’re ranking in the top position.
As an example, we have used auction insights reports to pull the impression share and overlap rates year-over-year to see which competitors have increased their rankings and overlap with ads. This helps in determining budget or strategy changes that may be beneficial in improving results.
This is another keyword competitor insight tool that helps identify changes in the competitor landscape. SpyFu focuses solely on Google Search for both Organic and Paid Advertising.
SpyFu’s advantage is their tool called “Kombat”, which will pull multiple domains and show the overlap, larger keyword ‘universe’ and non-competing keywords for those specific domains. This is helpful when pulling your domain and finding out how you stack up to the competition, as well as if there are any areas of keyword growth that may not have been currently explored. SpyFu also has a couple of other very helpful automated reports that can be run automatically and give insights into current and untapped terms and their competitive rankings according to the data it currently has.
SEMRush also focuses on keywords and search, but has branched out further to Display, video, and shopping analysis and research to help make strides in all campaign types. Both video and Display advertising sections are beta, but video is only available to paid subscriptions.
SEMRush’s advantage is having multiple channel reports and research capabilities that SpyFu doesn’t currently offer. Display, for example, allows you to look at example ads, ad types, publishers and more. When this is used on a specific competitor, it can help shape display strategies like where to show similar ads, which ad types to create and how to shape an audience and benefit statements that can grab a user’s attention away from the current ads being seen.
We have found both tools to be useful and have their advantages and disadvantages. Our suggestion is to test out both and see which fits the needs of your business.
Another great tool is manual research. Don’t be afraid to search and go to your competitors landing pages. See what elements they use in their ads and pages to guide users to that next step. Are there elements that you can learn from or help guide you in creating a seamless user experience from the keyword to the final landing page that will increase those results?
There are a lot of other tools available for both advertising and landing page insights that can be used to help stay in front of the competition. These can help build strategies and tactical changes to your brand and accounts to improve results. Pairing these tools with some of your own research will help you improve performance and stay ahead of your competitors.
Set up a good communication structure
Whether you are partnering with an agency or working as part of an in-house team, managing the relationship with your agency or boss is a critical skill set that is necessary for success.
Communicate updates regularly
Communication is the name of the game. While it’s not possible or efficient to update your boss or get updates from your agency on every small change or problem in your account, communicating clearly at regular intervals will help all parties stay on the same page.
In addition to regular communications, sending critical updates when they are needed will do wonders for strengthening a relationship. This will also avoid any situations where your boss notices an issue and begins to worry, because you have not reached out with an update. It is better to acknowledge a problem with no known solution than pretend a problem doesn’t exist. If you are working with an agency, then you should expect to hear from your AM when a critical update happens.
Address problems directly
When problems inevitably arise in your account, you as a client or your boss deserves to know as much as possible about what happened, why it happened, and what the solution is. This is potentially the hardest part of any relationship. Stepping into the spotlight after a critical problem goes against our nature as humans, but it’s imperative to address these issues head on. The stakeholders need every critical bit of information available to make important decisions.
Agree on performance goals
It is important to give an honest and thought out assessment of the potential campaign performance when setting goals. It is infinitely easier to push back on your boss during goal setting than answering for campaign performance that did not meet unrealistically high goals.
Agreeing on achievable, yet challenging goals will give you the tools you need to optimize the account. Realistic goals will keep you and your boss or you and your agency pulling in the same direction, while avoiding any distractions from missed goals that were never achievable.
Get buy-in on Strategy
Craft a strategy that is aligned with your company’s internal business demands to get maximum buy-in. Remember to relate how your strategy will not be working as a stand-alone initiative, but instead will work seamlessly with the larger business strategy and goals.
Report on critical metrics
Reporting can be one of the most uninspiring and tedious aspects of any relationship. Focus your reporting and any account updates on the metrics your boss will need when they are answering for performance. And if you are working with an agency, they should be positioning you for success with valuable information that will help you explain to leadership how PPC is impacting your business.
When you have different goals for each brand, make sure to break out reporting and strategy to align with said goals.
At Hanapin, we work with companies that not only have multiple brands, but several different brand managers that oversee each brand. When there’s a number of different brands and each brand has its own team of people, communication can get very complex!
Here’s some examples on how we set complex businesses up for communication success:
- Setting up office hours – Instead of having all brands and brand managers meeting at the same time, we set up office hours where each brand could schedule a chunk of time to talk specifically about their brand.
- Have a clear agenda and goal – When we have weekly calls with clients, we make sure we work through an agreed upon agenda and have a clear goal for the meeting.
- Use the right technology – For some people, this might be just a phone call, but if you prefer to actually see everyone attending the meeting, try using technology platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Go To Meeting/Webinar.
- Matching your team with the right team – We use an approach called the “Team of Teams,” which means we have blended teams based on what the client needs. This allows us to be very flexible and accommodate the ebbs and flows of an account. If a client’s market expansion, seasonality, or budget needs to accommodate a new channel or strategy, we have a team of teams to accommodate that growth.
Launching a new brand with a similar service to the brand you’re already running
Thinking about launching a new brand to increase your market share? The biggest benefit to launching campaigns for a new brand is the amount of competitor information from the existing account. While competitor tools outside of AdWords and Bing can steer you in the right direction for keywords, bids, and budgeting, the Auction Insights reports, as discussed in the “Understand Your Competition show a much clearer picture of the competitive landscape. For example, let’s say you are interested in testing a Search campaign for a new product for Brand Two and already advertise for a similar product/service for Brand One. Before copying Brand One’s campaign and launching it for Brand Two, take your ROI goals into consideration. If competition is already high for these keywords in Brand One’s campaign and ROI isn’t at goal, you likely won’t see better performance in a new campaign with no history. Instead, utilize lower funnel strategies like remarketing for stronger results.
Also, be open to non-last click attribution models. In fact, moving away from last click is critical for any brand that has a sales cycle that is more than one click. This is especially true for newer brands who don’t yet have strong awareness. You can’t expect a new brand to perform on par with an older brand. It’ll likely take users a few more interactions before they convert.
For multi-brand companies, this will give extra insight into where users are first interacting with the brand and give one greater detail into what types of keywords and ad copy are resonating the most. This extra data is valuable, which you can use to help differentiate yourself or separate yourself.
Customization means more market share
As we said in the beginning, there’s a lot of “it depends” situations. No two businesses are the same, which means there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution either. The real impact to your company’s bottom line comes from customization. You need innovative strategies to apply the right mix for each product or brand without losing sight of the business as a whole.
The best way to expand your market share is to have a custom strategy for each of your brands. Whether you are managing your brands in-house or working with an agency, make sure you’re customizing each brand with the right mix of channels, audience targeting, tools and strategies to maximize the impact of each.
Hanapin works with a number of clients that have multiple brands. Learn more about how we work and solve problems with these type of companies. Plus, you’ll find more resources like this Playbook!