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Why Your Big Brand Needs PPC

Kathleen Garvin
Why Your Big Brand Needs PPC

This article was co-written with Megan Ginecki, Paid Search Manager at Empire Covers in Jenkintown, Pa. Megan has five years of PPC experience and spoke at Hero Conf in 2015.

Four weeks ago, Billy Corgan announced he was joining the world of professional wrestling.

Corgan was hired as the Senior Producer of Creative and Talent Development for TNA Impact, one of the most popular promotions in the industry. As a Pumpkinhead, I was intrigued by the rocker’s foray into sports entertainment. As a digital marketer, I was interested to see how the TNA wrestling website was doing on the SERPs.

Overview of impactwrestling.com in SEMrush (5/8/15)

The brand was doing very well organically, but had absolutely no paid search.

What gives?

I reached out to my friend, PPC specialist Megan Ginecki, and we reviewed why companies don’t do PPC. And, more importantly, why they should.

PPC for Big Brands

Why Companies Shy Away from Paid Search

As advertising continues to go more and more digital, it's hard to believe that companies are still shying away from paid search or, even worse, slamming it.

While there are numerous reasons for both, the majority of reasons can be summed up into one of the following categories:

  1. It Costs Money

Unfortunately, paid search isn't free. However, it has a lot of advantages over other advertising mediums.

First, it gives you the opportunity to reach your target audience. Unlike print or commercials, you'll know your ads are only serving to people who meet your targeting criteria.

Paid search also gives you real data, and lots of it. Through various AdWords and Bing Ads reports, you'll learn tons about your customer and their shopping patterns. Reports available in both engines will easily help you answer the where, when, why and how without having to use any wonky formulas or industry baselines.

Lastly, it can also give you the opportunity to appear on placements (like the Wall Street Journal), which you might not be able to afford otherwise.

  1. They Think Doing SEO is Enough

Running an SEO campaign is a great start. However, by ignoring paid search you are missing out not only on another profitable advertising avenue, but also tons of data that can help your SEO efforts.

Yes, that's right: PPC helps SEO. Here are just a few examples of how:

  • PPC has the data. Not only do you know what keyword terms or placements had high click through or conversion rates, you also have a lot more behind the scenes data like what time users convert, where users convert, etc.
  • We can use our ad copy to test what content might work best. This can result in more successful title tags, meta descriptions and website content. You also won't have to wait ages for these findings, since PPC data comes in fairly immediately.
  • You can get exposure for keywords that you are struggling to rank organically simply by bidding on them. On a similar token, you can get volume to pages that are struggling simply by setting them as your destination URL.
  • Running display/content can help you find websites to reach out to for links.
  • You can combat bad publicity, since you are in full control of your advertising message.
  • Running paid search can help increase your organic CTR. While you'll find reports that may say the opposite, you can easily test this out for yourself by enabling the Google Paid versus Organic Report in AdWords.
  1. They Have Tested It Incorrectly and Unfairly Dismissed It

Back in 2013, eBay made a big splash in the paid search space by disabling all paid search initiatives, citing a poor return on investment. While their study did contain some valid points, even those new to paid search could easily spot flaws within their data and research.

For starters, eBay chose to ignore many paid search necessities, like negatives and targeted ad copy. By not implementing negatives, eBay showed ads for tons of irrelevant queries like new husbands, chewed gum and blackmail. This actually happened so frequently that a website eBad was created to mock these atrocious ads.

Their generalized ad copy ("Whatever you are looking for you can get it on eBay.", "Looking for ____? Find exactly what you want today." and "Buy it Cheap On eBay. Low Prices, New & Used.") was set up to fail. It rarely included a call to action, unique selling points and was often too broad. While they understandably have a huge set of products, even having ad copy written by category likely would have encouraged many more users to click and convert.

Overall, the eBay paid search strategy wasn't clear. Had they put more time into re-working it while following some basic paid search guidelines, they likely would have seen success.

  1. It's Competitive

At first, it can be easy to understand and sympathize with small businesses who think big brands will easily crush them because of their infinite budgets. However, that is a very unfair assumption to make given that AdWords and Bing Ad rankings aren't based solely on budgets.

Advertiser's ad rank, which determines where they appear on the SERPs, is also based largely on their quality score. In short, this means even if you have the highest bid, you aren't always guaranteed the first position.

Lastly, just because your PPC budget might not match that of Walmart, it doesn't mean you can't see profitable clicks and conversions.

How to Get Started

Before you start building your first PPC campaign, the first and most important step is to clearly identify your goals, as well as how you plan to measure performance. After this, everything else is much easier.

You'll start off by researching and deciding the keywords and placements you may want to target. The key objective is to keep these keyword or placements groupings very granular, so your ad copy can clearly address your searcher's pain point, while also include any unique selling propositions your businesses has.

Next, you'll want to set bids and budgets that are realistic. You'll want bids that will give you a healthy CPC to budget ratio (You don't want to go dark after only one click) and budgets that will give you enough data to eventually draw accurate findings.

Lastly, you'll want to remember to pull reports and optimize frequently. Optimizations include but are not limited to adding negatives, bid modifiers, day parting and geographic adjustments, expansions, etc.

An Example of Where Paid Search Could Be Used

Let’s go back to TNA as an example. The organization advertises merchandise — everything from DVDs to t-shirts to posters — on its website.

Jeff Hardy is one of the top performers bringing visitors to the TNA site per the Organic Research Report from SEMrush. I did a search on Google for “jeff hardy shirt.” (Searched: 5/19/15)


While TNA’s merch shop is the top listing, none of the displayed product listing ads are sending traffic to the shop. Spreadshirt and eBay are prominently shown instead, capturing the attention of — and money from — the person searching for the shirt.

To counter, Seth Rollins is a popular wrestler for rival brand WWE. Here is a quick Google search for “seth rollins shirt.” (Searched: 5/19/15)


WWE, which has a considerable paid search budget, is directing tens of thousands of searchers right to their WWE Shop.

By comparison — again — ShopTNA, TNA’s official online store, does zero paid search.


Overview of shoptna.com in SEMrush (5/19/15)

WWE has a goal to sell merchandise and, with their specialized ad copy, they are directing interested users straight to the item being queried on their website. If one of the goals of TNA's shop is to sell merchandise (which, one would assume by having an online store, it is), they should let their customers help them — direct traffic to the merchandise on their site based on the items their fans are querying.

5 Reasons Why Companies Should Engage in PPC

To recap:

  1. SEO and PPC work together Studies show that engaging in SEO and PPC at the same time can boost your organic search.
  2. No minimum budget required – If you want to dip your heels in the PPC pond, you can do so with any budget. Want to start small and go from there? You can do so and still see results.
  3. It’s measurable – You can see what is and isn’t working. In some cases, almost immediately within 24 hours.
  4. You can compete – Can’t touch certain terms that established, big brands rank for organically? You can compete for those words via paid search.
  5. Brand awareness – It’s advertising for your brand, period. Even if a user doesn’t click on your ad, you’ll still get valuable impressions.

While paid search definitely has its advantages, it is not a cure-all for every company on the market.

Is PPC Right for Everyone?

Unfortunately, paid search isn’t always right for everyone. However, because it is so scalable and offers many unique testing avenues (search, content, PLAs, remarketing) it is a least worth a test for almost all businesses.

To further elaborate on this point, let's look at Green Towers USA. Green Towers USA, which sells a very niche product, may struggle because the search volume surrounding their core website term "living furniture" doesn't yet exist.

When we plugged in "living furniture" into Google's Keyword Tool, we were instantly matched with thousand of queries that related to living room furniture. While negatives such as "room" would better qualify this traffic, the amount of negatives necessary would never end, and the competition would be fierce and expensive since many companies sell living room furniture.


Going after more specific terms would be a better search alternative. However, the traffic surrounding these keywords was very limited and might not result in much traffic or traction.


While paid search might not make sense for Green Towers USA, Display and Remarketing could work wonders since they could target websites related to their company and product and/or hit users who already have some level of awareness with either them or their product.

The only time all areas of paid search make zero sense? Often, this can be attributed to poor account managers who hoped to "set it and forget it," or who went in without goals or adequate research.


Big brands could be missing out by neglecting paid search; by both visibility on the SERPs and lost sales.

Do you have examples of large companies who don't do paid search? Any other experiences you'd like to share, or questions? Feel free to leave us a comment!

Kathleen Garvin

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Kathleen Garvin is an online editor and analytics wrangler for The Penny Hoarder, the largest personal finance blog. She's also a contributing writer for I Want Her Job and started a beginner-friendly digital marketing blog, The Maroon House. Kathleen is the former blog editor at SEMrush.
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Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Lol! I like the article. Its a good example of why a big brand need ppc however I have to laugh because as a wrestling fan I know TNA has been struggling very badly in the money department for years and its probably a huge reason why they don't do PPC. Its been so bad that recently they been unable to pay their employees and their weekly program was just canceled by the network.
Kathleen Garvin

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Thanks for the comment, Dan!

Interesting timing, huh? :) I've been researching the company over the last month via forums, social media and other news outlets. What do you think, though — is PPC one of those things you can't afford NOT to do within a major brand?

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Kathleen Garvin
Yes I think PPC is something you can't afford not to do. You still want to "own" the keywords you are most known for because you can easily lose a sale to competitors that your customers aren't aware of

WIth TNA I think if they would have utilized PPC to advertise their brand at the beginning, more people would have been aware that they existed and they would have built a much bigger fan base.

PPC could have been used by TNA around major events by their competitor WWE. Say someone searches for info a WWE show and an ad for TNA shows up. That would have been major.
Kathleen Garvin

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Absolutely, Dan. Good points. We'll see if they can weather this storm and recover.

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