Branded vs. Unbranded Keywords (A Case Study of a Real Company)

Ryan Chute
Ryan Chute
June 9, 2022
Branded vs. Unbranded Keywords (A Case Study of a Real Company)

If you've done any SEO (search engine optimization) or PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns for your company, you know how tricky it can be to select the right keywords. As a business owner of a home service company, you may find yourself in a game of cat and mouse, trying to figure out how to use keywords that represent your brand without getting penalized by Google or getting buried under the competition. To maximize your clicks, leads, and conversions, you need to choose a mix of unbranded and branded keywords. But how do you know which ones will work best for your business? Well, we've got the answers for you here. We decided to take a closer look at the branded vs. unbranded keyword debate by analyzing the performance of a real company's SEO and PPC campaign. This data will help you understand just what needs to be done to get the best results for your business. Let's take a look!

What are Branded and Unbranded Keywords?

When it comes to keywords, there are two main types: branded and unbranded. Branded keywords are those that include the name of your company or product, misspellings, taglines, visual representations, and brandable chunks. Non-branded keywords are more generic keyword terms that don't include any specific brand references, rather speak to your category, customer pain points, and most likey search terms or your products and services. For example, if you are an HVAC company named "Acme Heating and Cooling", some of your branded keywords might be "Acme Air Conditioning", "Acme Heating", or "Amce Heating and Cooling". On the other hand, some unbranded keywords related to your business might be "air conditioning repair near me", "air conditioner installation", or “furnace no heat”. There are benefits and drawbacks to using both types of keywords. Branded keywords are essential in 2022 to get your website to rank above the fold for your company name, which help increase brand awareness. However, you need to have a brand in demand before a branded keyword campaign will be an effective strategy. Unbranded keywords, on the other hand, tend to be hyper competitive and are necessary when getting started in a new business. Be warned, it is scientifically impossible to leverage unbranded keywords to drive brand awareness and become a household name. Ultimately, the best approach is to use a mix of both branded and unbranded keywords to give your website the best chance of ranking high in search results. If you're in need of exceptional branding experts to help you with your Branded Advertising, book a call with our team at Wizard of Ads®. We specialize in helping businesses of all sizes increase their visibility and reach, online and offline.

A Case Study of a Real Company

To see how an unbranded and branded keyword strategy works in detail, check out this case study pulled from a real-life company so graciously provided by our Wizard of Ads Partners:

WoA Partners

Although we took out the company name, the category, and the cities, the data is 100 percent real and accurate.

  • As you can see, this company spent $37,398 on unbranded keywords in City 1 so they could have the privilege of losing $8,299.
  • Then, they spent $30,008 on unbranded keywords in City 2 so that they could have the privilege of losing $17,238.
  • Lastly, they spend $6,273 on unbranded search in City 3 so that they could have the privilege of losing $6,409.

It's safe to say that after losing $31,946, they probably grew tired of feeling privileged. Wouldn't you?Now when we look at the branded keywords, it tells us a different story.

  • In City 1, this company's investment of only $7,452 in branded keywords made them a gross profit of $49,480. This is after deducting the costs of their branded keywords.
  • In City 2, their investment of only $14,648 in branded search made them a gross profit of $62,976.
  • And finally, in City 3 their investment of only $2,998 in branded keywords made them a gross profit of $9,042.

Digital weasels look at this and wonder why the heck would we track this company's unbranded and branded keywords separately. They cheerfully point out that combining them into one big package will result in a perfectly acceptable return on investment. That’s what grifters, cons, and shim-sham artists all think.

It’s Important to Track Branded and Unbranded Keywords Separately

It’s Important to Track Branded and Unbranded Keywords Separately

It's important — especially in the digital world we rely on today — to create campaigns that not only monetize all the customer enthusiasm from digital platforms, but offline ones as well. When I say offline, I'm talking about the big 3 mass media — TV, radio, and outdoor advertising. There's a tactic in the industry called "cross-channel marketing," and it doesn't just mean being present on multiple platforms. It means tracking each one of your channels — whether it's online or offline — separately so you can see which ones are working and which ones aren't. In this case, branded keywords are what’s driving in revenue. And if we didn’t track branded and unbranded keyword ranking reports separately, we wouldn’t even be aware of how much money the unbranded keywords were losing for this particular company. To truly optimize your keywords and maximize your revenue, you need to do the same. So what kinds of tracking can be done? Here are some examples:

  • Separating branded ad campaigns from unbranded campaigns to measure volume and costs.
  • Tracking organic searches for your website.
  • Tracking direct traffic to your website.

By tracking each channel separately, you'll have a clearer picture of which ones are performing well and which ones could use some improvement. And from there, you can make changes to improve your overall marketing strategy.

Don’t Hire Digital Weasels

So what do we mean when we say Digital Weasel? These are marketers that fail to deliver on what they proudly promised their customers. They make all sorts of grandiose claims, but in the end, they don't come through. They are the type you'd wanna pull aside, put your arm around their shoulders, and whisper in their ears "Be careful not to let your alligator mouth overload your mockingbird butt. "But if you're a bit more mellow and mature than we are, you may instead want to listen to the words of Les Binet — a data scientist (and non-digital weasel) who monitored the advertising of more than 1,000 businesses for over 15 years. “If you build your business, or try to build your business, using short-term efficiency measures – cost per response, click-through rates, that kind of thing – you’re _[on a hiding to nothing]( a hiding to nothing Definition of on a hiding, to failure %3A certain to fail). You’re going to run your business into the ground, we believe, because those are not the things that grow the business, long-term.” Les Binet goes on to say, “You need to talk to people, not just who are in the market right now, but people who might come to market over the next two to three years. You need to engage them with things that are more humanly relevant, more general, more universal, and crucially, you need to engage them at the emotional level… So if you want really disproportionately large marketing effects, if you want big sales and big profits, aim for fame.”

Aim for Fame

Aim for Fame

Are you a fame seeker? Do you want your SEO and PPC keywords — branded and unbranded — to make you a household brand name? Well tough, because that’s not how fame works. It is scientifically impossible to become a household name with SEO and PPC as your primary marketing mechanisms. If you’re not speaking to your marketplace through an intrusive mass media channel, you don’t stand a chance. Period. We'll close this article with three key pieces of advice: Make your ads, whether digital or traditional, entertaining, persuasive, and unpredictable. Your target audience will only pay attention when they have a reason to. Don't play it safe, be unexpected. If your ads are the talk of the water cooler, you're doing something right. Don’t worry about the complaints. You will never make everyone happy, and if that’s your goal, you’re doing it wrong. Be strategic about the information you put in your ads. Don't put so much information that your ads feel like ads - make them feel like entertainment. The more new, interesting, and different the information in your ad, the more people will be willing to change their behavior. And you can’t change someone’s behavior (to buy from you) until you first change their beliefs. And finally, don’t mistake name recognition with becoming a household name. You can have a large majority of people know your name. Ultimately, name recognition is 100% irrelevant if your aren’t the brand in demand. Becoming a household name means they are only calling you, and the “oh sh*t” moments trigger your brand over your competitors in the residential home service market. This, combined with unbranded and branded keywords that are tracked separately to better understand your cost of acquisition and brand efforts provide better data from your advertising campaigns. Need some guidance? Wizard of Ads® is here to help. Our services are specialized for you — CEOs of Residential Home Service Companies. We'll not only help turn your marketing and advertising campaigns into a well-oiled machine, but also help you build a tribe of loyal customers who want to smoke what your rolling, and pass your name along to others to as well. Book a call with Ryan Chute, Wizard of Sales® today!

(Branded Keywords)
Ryan Chute
Ryan Chute

Helping small businesses become BIG brands with a holistic marketing strategy that speaks the same language across all sales and marketing channels.

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Frequently asked questions

Questions? We’ve got answers.

Who does the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors work with?

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors work with healthy and growing Residential Home Service Contractors hungry to grow by multiples, like you.

You are ready, willing, and able to grow your business. You are open to change and are seeking a distinctive angle of approach to gain the time and attention of a too-busy public.

You know that lasting relationships take time, patience, and good energy to nurture and cultivate. We carefully enter into every arrangement with the intention of working with you for as long as you own your business. You prefer lasting partnerships.

You are already a solid operator. You have successfully grown your business and appreciate the impact the right brand story will have to get to the next level in your operation. You know a strong relational message takes time to gain momentum, but it’s worth the one-time short-term discomfort for the long-term gains.

Marketing cannot fix a failing business.

We accelerate what’s already happening in a business. If your business is on the rocks, marketing will only speed up the inevitable.  

You’re focused on lasting change that leads to exponential, profitable growth, not just sales at any cost. Intuitively, you know that communication that enhances every element of your customer's experience and your employee's culture is the key to your success.

How does the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors charge?

Traditional marketing agencies are designed to capture the greatest amount of revenue from a client, regardless of results. Every last item is billed and expensed to the client. Typical agency fees can represent a whopping 55% of the entire advertising budget. That means a $5 million dollar advertising budget, you would spend $2.75 million on agency fees.

Think of Wizard of Ads® for Contractors as the Anti-Agency.

Our income is not tied to your advertising budget. Our income is exclusively tied to your growth. Our goal is to maximize your advertising impact with the lowest reasonable spend. This allows you to spend only what is necessary or to put extra horsepower into aggressively growing in your market.

The genius of this model is that it perfectly aligns our motivations as true partners for exponential profitable growth without the pain of being unaffordable. Ultimately, we are confident in taking the risk of being underpaid in the first few years because we know the results always speak for themselves.

Next, we do not accept commissions, referral fees, kickbacks, or other compensation from any service providers we recommend or engage for production work. Most agencies do. This includes the 15% agency commission for media buying. This approach is considerably different from the compensation plan employed by most advertising agencies, as it eliminates any potential conflicts of interest and allows us to focus our entire attention on helping you grow your business profitably as a true partner. For example, a $500,000 annual media buy would involve a $75,000 commission that we would have removed directly from your media providers' invoices.

This is the perfect pricing model for Residential Home Services.

By tying ourselves to gross revenue, we only have one motivation. Your motivation. We have no motivation to convince you to spend more money on marketing than what is necessary, and since we are a variable expense to sales, we NEVER become too expensive to have us on your team.

In almost every case, we end up lowering the amount of money you spend. We will stay within your planned marketing budget, including your media spend, production, and our Annual Fee. Add on the fact that you get any and all commissions back for media buys and various services provided by outside providers, and you will actually save money having us on your team.

Don’t forget, we have the largest buying power in North America for media buying, meaning for every dollar you spend buying media, we only spend 27 cents on average. This stretches your reach, impact, and frequency in a way no other agency (or yourself) can achieve on your own, saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars, eventually millions, every single year.

Clients who heed our advice and embrace our Marketing Strategy quickly add $1 million in incremental revenue to their business, making your investment a smart bet and a bit of a no-brainer.  

There is no longer any guesswork, hope, or fear that our marketing strategies are going to work. If our client’s are able to abandon any limiting beliefs about marketing, deliver operational excellence, and play the long game, our marketing strategy will accelerate their profitable growth.

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors pricing model is based solely on the topline revenue of your company. It consists of an Upfront Fee and an Annual Fee. These fees are inclusive of scheduled travel, services, and all other expenditures as outlined in the Consulting Agreement.

The Upfront Fee covers the intensive Uncovery Process, the first year’s Media Buy, the Creative Process, and the Market Research while the Annual Fee goes toward implementation, ongoing creative and consulting, and next year's media buy. You get a team of 3.5 people, with direct access to a top tier Creative Lead and Media Buyer, and on-demand access to me as your Master Strategist. You will also have a full-time Account Manager keeping everything on track.

While the upfront does have an initial pinch, it is easy to amortize the investment over the many years we will be working together to grow your business. Wizard of Ads® retain clients for 10 years, on average. The sale of the business is the number one reason for termination. We actively terminate the bottom 1% of clients who are unwilling or unable to follow our strategies.

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors believes that all rewards should be directly correlated to the success of our clients. This means that the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors only receives a raise when the company achieves growth. For example, if your gross sales for the year have increased by 25%, the Annual Fee you pay us in the following year will also be increased by 25%. Likewise, if your gross sales decrease, our Annual Fee will decrease by the same percentage during the following year.

This is an exceptionally easy and fair way to track and reward success. This model was developed by Wizard of Ads® over 35 years ago and has served us well because it serves our clients well.

As a rule of thumb, we take the risk of working for considerably less than our actual value in the first few years as we help accelerate growth. This means you need to be willing to pay us exceptionally well when you start doing even better.

When should I engage The Wizard of Ads® for Contractors?

There are four key revenue stages for engagement with the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors.

  1. Under $3.6 million in revenue
  2. Between $3.6 and $10 million in revenue
  3. Between $10 and $20 million in revenue
  4. Over $20 million in revenue

Under $3.6 million in revenue is an investment in your brand. This will serve you well in establishing your brand story early on and help you with your name, logo, and truck wrap design. It's easier to create pictures from a story than it is to make a story based on pre-drawn pictures. You'll be glad you did. Everyone on a fast path to growth is.

Most clients start with Wizard of Ads® for Contractors between $3.6 and $10 million in revenue. They have often seen a natural ceiling with their leads for demand service and are looking for ways to push past the ceiling. This can only be done with a properly executed brand strategy, specifically in mass media with a sticky story.

Between $10 and $20 million in revenue, Wizard of Ads® for Contractors has some natural economies of scale. This is a sweet spot where Wizard of Ads® for Contractors can offer some added value in getting the ball rolling.

Over $20 million in revenue is actually the lowest cost point of entry as a percentage of revenue, but not the cheapest time to start with the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors. Leveraging all economies of scale aside, we have been left out of the upside along the way, so engaging when over $20 million in revenue means we have to mend a lot of fences damaged along the way. This is also where clients see significant savings in their media buys and production costs.

There are also three market sizes to consider.

  • Primary Markets are the top 50 cities in America.
  • Secondary Markets are the smaller cities in America.
  • Tertiary Markets are the more rural trade areas in America.

When considering an engagement with The Wizard of Ads® for Contractors, consider what size market you are in. For example, a $3.6 million company in a Primary Market will struggle to get the necessary reach needed to make a splash. You either have to be more patient than a larger company or spend more money to accelerate your reach.

Alternatively, a $5 million company in a Secondary Market will look like a pretty darn big fish in a medium-sized pond.

A $20 Million company in a Primary Market will feel like a $50 million company using our strategies to potential customers.

The key to remember is that the earlier you start with the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors, the lower the investment to get started. As they say, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.

Are production costs included in your fees?

The Wizard of Ads® for Contractors Creative Lead will create the ad copy, cast the voice actors, source the production house, direct the performance, pick the music bed, manage all the edits, and provide you with the completed ad for final approval before sending to air on your behalf. This is included in our fees.

You pay for the production house, actors, royalty-free music, and jingles directly to avoid any potential for markups, commissions, or management fees.

We have many friends in the industry that give our clients good deals due to the large volume of work we provide them. We will introduce you to them.

How long before a brand-forward strategy starts working?

In approximately three months of activation, we’ll just be getting live on air. In six months (3 months on air), you’ll be getting anecdotal feedback from people that you are being heard, but there will be no direct line to revenue.

After 6 months on the air, you’ll think you made the biggest mistake of your life signing up for this branding nonsense. After 9 months on the air (12 months in) you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

At 12 full months on the air, you’ll know why you did this branding thing. Two years from now, we'll be clinking champagne flutes as you wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.

How long before we’re live?

The general guideline is 70-120 days, depending on the level of production needed and if there is a name change to your business.

This includes an onsite visit, a deep dive into research, and getting things created, negotiated, approved, produced, and live on the air.

  • Uncovery - 15-30 days based on travel. 1-2 days onsite.
  • Research - 30-60 days based on the scope of work.
  • Creative and Media Buy Process - 45 to 60 days
  • Offline Production - 15 days for radio. 30 - 60 days for television.
  • Online Production (if switching) - 60 days

This means planning for roughly 90 to 120 days in the proper development and production of a completely unique Marketing Strategy before anything hits the airwaves.

Are you exclusive?

Creatively, yes. During the term of this Agreement, all Creative Partners assigned to your Account shall not engage, directly or indirectly, as an employee, officer, manager, partner, consultant, agent, owner, or in any other capacity, in any competition of the client, including any company engaged in marketing consulting.

For clarity, the Creative Partner is defined as the individual Wizard of Ads® Partners who is responsible for creating your creative strategy and ongoing creative copy. Competition is defined as companies that engage in the same industry and business units (e.g., HVAC, Plumbing, etc.) as you. The market area is defined as the area where the marketing message naturally reaches through DMA or 60 miles from the city center of the client's service area(s).

Naturally, we exclude any potential future competition in markets where you are not currently active at the date of signing.

We do not limit Media Buyers in any market. Media Buyers get better deals for larger volumes, making it beneficial for the client to have the Media Buyer available to do as many buys as possible to secure the best deals on the client’s behalf.

Do you do digital marketing?

In rare circumstances, Wizard of Ads® for Contractors will provide specific digital marketing solutions. Wizard of Ads® has very specific Partners that provide digital services that serve Residential Home Services effectively. Under no circumstances will digital marketing services be offered without Wizard of Ads® for Contractors' core solution.

It is most likely that Wizard of Ads® for Contractors will work with your existing digital partners and suppliers. If you do not have a reliable digital provider, we would be happy to introduce you to a number of great providers that play nice with Wizards.

Do you do jingles?

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors can assist you in getting a jingle for your business. Like any other tactical element of a marketing strategy, we do not produce a jingle for the sake of a jingle.

If you do not have a story or a strategic reason to have a jingle...or an ad campaign to tie it to, do not waste your hard-earned money on a jingle. You are wasting your time and money.

When you do build a single unified marketing strategy that incorporates a jingle for a specific (often scientific) reason, we have a Jingle Wizard who has studied the art and science of jingle design.

He will score you an original, royalty-free jingle, including professional singers, musicians, and producers. He will not knock off a generic jingle from a publicly available music bed that sounds like everyone else's jingle.

Your jingle will serve a very specific reason and produce a very specific result. Have you guessed how much we love jingles yet?

Who owns the copyrights?

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors owns your copyright for two very specific reasons. We also provide a fair use clause in all contracts to ensure you are in no way limited to the access of your creative works, whether you are working with us or not.

The first reason we own your copyright is to ensure that we do not have to go up against our own creative works in other markets we serve. This means you are not allowed to lend, give, borrow, tweak, rent, lease, or sell your creative works to any other company at any time.

The second reason we own your copyright is that we can establish a one-time value for your creative works in the event that someone steals the content. Upon selling you the copyrights, you can go after the perpetrator for theft and make a considerable bounty in a slam dunk case.

Here is how Wizard of Ads® word the fair use of your copyright for as long as your business is in operation:

All writing and/or marketing materials we create for you are not works-for-hire. Wizard of Ads® for Contractors hereby irrevocably grants you, and your successors in interest, the non-exclusive, royalty-free, non-transferable, and worldwide right to use the Works in connection with the marketing of your business pursuant to the Marketing Strategy for so long as your business is operational.
How do I measure brand results?

There are a number of interesting ways to measure results. Some people like to get unique identifying telephone numbers, or create branded URLs that redirect to landing pages or the website. However, much of this is a waste of time and energy as it never tells the true story of the brand journey and how it affected the decision-making process.

Other indicators of brand effectiveness include tracking new customers, reactivated customers, or running a brand equity survey to get a sense of your share of mind. Digitally you will see direct search increase, which cannot be affected by anything digital, as well as branded keyword inquiries increase. You’ll, of course, need to get your digital people to add these to your campaigns if you hope to see an increase in conversions.

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors tracks the simplest of indicators. Top line revenue. When your branding takes effect, and the company responds in kind from the phone call or form fill-on, top-line revenue will increase. Efficacy is plotted on a T12, and total lead volume from all sources is tracked.

12 things you should know before signing up.
  1. Quality relationships take time. Branding is a long-term strategy. That’s why most contractors do it wrong, or not at all. There is always a lag between the start of the new campaign and the time it takes your customers to connect the dots. You MUST BE READY, WILLING, AND ABLE to endure this lag period. In our experience, the lag is typically 6 to 9 months, depending on how competitive the marketplace is, your company’s reputation, your budget in relation to reach, and the eight uncontrollable environmental factors. During this time, we will be helping you implement a transition plan to ease the pain. The good news is that this lag only happens once.
  2. Decisions by Committee. We completely reject the notion of decisions by committee. We work with a single, courageous decision-maker. We welcome decision influencers, but we only look to the Owner for the final decision. All decision-makers and influencers must be involved in the Uncovery and Marketing Strategy Presentation if they want to offer input in the future. It is critical that we have a 100% fully approved plan that can be defended and championed by all leaders in the organization.  
  3. Proven Strategy. That means we are not the low-cost provider. With nearly 200 home service clients and a book of strategic devices, tools, and tactics, this isn’t a guessing game for us. We know what to do to make your externally triggered grudge purchase appealing to your potential buyers. If you can deliver the goods, we can continue building relationships. If you are uncomfortable with the idea that you are paying us less now so that you can pay us considerably more once revenues allow, please do not commit. We intend to be your true partners, in sickness and in long as you own your business.
  4. Automatic Payments. Everything is on automatic payments. If you struggle with managing cash flow, figure that out in your business first. We accept all major credit cards and ACH payments.
  5. We Cause Problems. If you don’t have a capacity issue now, I promise you will in about 9 months. Let’s deal with recruitment out of the gate as part of your comprehensive marketing strategy.
  6. We Own the Copyrights. All writing and/or marketing materials we create for you are not works-for-hire. We irrevocably grant you, and your successors in interest, the non-exclusive, royalty-free, non-transferable, and worldwide right to use the Works in connection with the marketing of your business pursuant to the Marketing Strategy for so long as your business is operational.
  7. Brand Building. We will be steering you to limit the use of discounts, rebates, coupons, and sales to attract clients. We know this feels counterintuitive to many, and we will clarify our reasoning. Rest assured, we have considerable experience in creating similar offers that are not damaging to your profitability, your brand’s integrity, and your preferable long-term client relations.
  8. Creative Authority. We must have creative authority over the words. You can accept copy as written or reject it outright, but you cannot modify the words yourself. If you do not like something as written, we are happy to discuss it and make the necessary change to maintain the integrity and intention of the words chosen. Alternatively, we will scrap the concept and create new copy that you are happy to get behind 100%.
  9. Proprietary Algorithm. The media buy must be structured in a very specific way, including running a full 52-week schedule. It is based on brain chemistry, not P&Ls. Once we have committed to the buy, it’s important to avoid adjustments unless they are calculated additions.
  10. Knucklehead Factor. You should expect knuckleheads. For example, when you start running ads that are certain to get attention, you need the courage to continue running those ads, even when you receive complaints. We celebrate complaints. It means we’ve made people feel.
  11. Digital Weasels. In about three months from the time your advertising campaign hits the airways, your digital marketers will show you a marked increase in direct and organic traffic. Some Digital Marketers will mistakenly claim this success as their own. Done properly, you can continue to spend less and less on digital lead generation by increasing your branded keyword online presence.
  12. Annual Marketing Meetings. Travel permitting, we prefer to hold Annual Marketing Meetings (AMMs) outside your city. Years of experience have taught us that we get better results when decision-makers are outside their sphere of influence, away from the day-to-day distractions of the office.

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