How General Keywords Can Influence Brand-Related PPC Purchases

by Joseph Kerschbaum

Director of Client Services, Clix Marketing

We began our discussion on utilizing Google AdWords’ Search Funnels to enhance the performance of your PPC campaign last time. Now let’s continue on this topic by exploring how to determine if your general search terms (non-brand) are influencing your brand-related conversions.

For many of the PPC campaigns that I’ve managed, brand-related keywords have driven a great deal of conversions. This makes sense because once a user is searching directly for your company/brand, they are well aware of who you are and they are ready to take action.

However, it’s a mistake to think that your brand-related terms are generating conversions without help from any other terms.

Most users probably don’t know your brand (unless you work for a Coke, Pepsi, or Nike, etc.). This means that they will start their search process with general terms. For example:

  • A user who wants to buy some humorous T-shirts may start with a search for [funny t-shirts].
  • They may look around at some search results, perhaps try a few other search queries, and then they may find your site that sells unique, funny T-shirts (e.g., BustedTees because they’re funny).
  • Once a user becomes aware of your brand they may search for [busted tees], arrive at your site, and then make a purchase.

As you can see in this example, the conversion would be attributed to the brand-related keyword within AdWords. However, there may have been one or more search queries that lead the user to make a purchase.

While the search query process isn’t always this linear, it does happen. This type of analysis is mission critical to your PPC campaign for a few reasons:

  • You may have keywords that are gaining users’ attention in the research phase of the buying cycle, but these terms may look like they aren’t of value because they aren’t converting (they are!). You may pause keywords that look like they aren’t converting. While this may improve your short-term cost-per-acquisition (CPA), you may hinder your long-term ability to increase conversion volume.
  • You may think that your brand-related keywords are carrying the weight of your conversions on their own, but in actuality they may be getting help from other non-brand keywords.

To analyze this data, you should enter the conversion funnel section of your AdWords account. You should view the Top Paths report, as seen here:

Google AdWords Top Paths

This report shows the campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and search queries that contributed to conversions within your account.

I work with a client that sells certificates, lapels, and other items. Within the example below, I have marked where users started their buying process by searching on general terms and ended up converting on brand-related terms.

Conversions via Campaign Transition Paths

From the Top Paths, you can see terms that are contributing to conversions (but directly generating sales). However, this report can also provide validation for removing keywords/ad groups/campaigns that are underperforming. Here’s a quick (and generalized) example:

  • When analyzing data, you’ll find elements of your campaign that aren’t meeting your core KPIs (key performance indicators), which means they aren’t generating the results you need.
  • Mark these campaigns/ad groups/keywords in your report.
  • Before removing these elements of your account, review your conversion funnel reports.
  • You may find that certain keywords actually contribute to conversions, so you may want to suffer a higher CPA for these terms, keeping in mind that they do have value.
  • You may find that certain keywords aren’t contributing to conversions at all. You can remove these elements of your account with confidence. The search funnels report can validate your decisions when optimizing your account.

As you review these reports you’ll have to make decisions on how much leverage you’re willing to give to keywords that aren’t converting — but assisting with conversions.

Some terms may generate a great deal of traffic but only assist in a handful of sales. Are you willing to take the hit on terms such as these and chalk it up to gaining more visibility with a poor ROI? You’ll have to make that call.

The search funnel reports within AdWords can provide deeper insights into your account’s performance. These reports can be overwhelming when you first begin to review them, but this only because they contain some much useful information. Do yourself a favor, and take the time to master these reports and improve the performance of your AdWords account.

This article was originally posted November 10, 2010 on