The role of paid search in brand awareness

PPC is a great avenue for reaching (or even exceeding) various business objectives and KPIs relevant to your company; such as increasing traffic, driving leads and generating revenue. This is due to the fact that it potentially offers a greater level of budget control than more traditional marketing methods and is one of the most successful forms of digital marketing – according to data from Statista in June 2017.

In addition, it can be a useful tool for helping to generate brand awareness.

Brand awareness is a term marketers like to use to describe the degree to which consumers recognise a brand by attributes such as:

  • Name
  • Logo
  • Slogan…

…Just to name a few, simple right? Well, maybe the definition is simple enough, but to get to a point of positive brand awareness from consumers is harder than it initially appears.

In 2014 Google released a study (see the results on the image below) with Ipsos Media CT, and found that search ads lift top-of-mind awareness by an average 6.6 percentage points.

search ads lift brand awareness infographic

There are a lot of different techniques to help build – and measure – brand awareness in your paid search strategy, here are just a few of our top tips:

How to…Increase brand awareness with Paid Search

Create buyer personas


buyer personas image from Click

Buyer personas are a fictional representation of who is buying from your business, they provide structure and context for your company through using market research and real data from your existing customer base.

Your customers’ desires are as individual as your customers, but it doesn’t hurt to gain an understanding of what people who are purchasing your products/ services are like, and why they might buy from you.

Buyer personas allow you to better understand the needs and wants of your customers.

Founder and CEO of the Buyer Persona Institute, Adele Revella, states in her book, “Buyer Personas”, that;

Marketers must understand how markets full of buyers navigate the buying decision they want to influence so that they can become a useful, trusted resource throughout the decision

Marketers need to become good listeners if they want to be effective communicators, which is why buyer personas are crucial to any marketing mix, including paid media.

HubSpot has a free and useful tool to help create these personas, and stipulates;

The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as on insights you gather from your actual customer base

Once you’ve created your buyer personas, you’ll have a much better understanding of where to allocate ad spend. You can audit where you’re currently spending resources (e.g. on Facebook ads, retargeting, etc.) and reallocate those resources based on your persona research.

Ads aren’t the only thing that should take your buyer personas into account – your landing pages should also be tailored to solve problems and add value to new and existing customers. Rather than create generic ads targeting the masses, really dig deep into your personas and create something unique – there are no “generic” customers!

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered the way people buy, and although online spend has mostly returned to a pre-pandemic line it’s always going up due to new ways of buying in the digital age. Traditional assumptions about spending habits and patterns have been turned upside down because people’s core pain points have changed in the light of the pandemic, and have potentially changed for a long time.

Buyer personas can also help you stand out from the competition in your industry as they can contribute towards better engagement with new – and existing – customers through personalised campaigns that target the right audience.



Keyword search advertising – or KSA – is a process where search engines place ads in the search results of certain keywords.

An article from Griffiths University in Australia, “The Impact Of Keyword Search Advertising On Consumers’ Brand Awareness, Click Through And Subsequent Behavioural Intentions” states that;

Advertising builds brand awareness (Keller, 1994), that in turn reinforces consumer attitudes toward the brand and purchasing intention (Dahlen & Lange, 2005). Particularly, KSA helps to improve brand awareness (Mack, 2004) specifically when advertisers hold the top position on a search results page

Although our next tip isn’t specifically for brand awareness, it is important.

Research your keywords!

We believe that keyword research is the cornerstone of any successful paid media strategy, and building keywords in the mindset of your potential customers means that you can help influence both current – and future – behaviours.

We suggest when first setting up keywords and ads to use the default ‘broad’ setting, this setting catches misspellings, relevant variations, synonyms and more, however the traffic these keyword match types bring isn’t highly targeted. By restricting your match types you can ensure better control on the searches you show up for and will optimise the spend for your ads. There are some keywords or phrases that you should set to exact match so your ads are only shown when the query matches exactly to your keywords. Negative match type is also an important tool you don’t want to forget as you can prevent irrelevant traffic and spend.

Bidding strategies


Your bid strategy controls how you pay for users to interact with your ads, for brand awareness and maximising brand visibility Google recommends the following:

Focus on visibility


If you want to focus on visibility, you can try one of the following bid strategies to help maximize visibility.

  • Target Impression Share: automatically sets bids with the goal of showing your ad on the absolute top of the page, on the top of the page, or anywhere on the page of Google search results.
  • CPM: With this bid strategy, you’ll pay based on the number of impressions (times your ads are shown) that you receive on YouTube or the Google Display Network.
  • tCPM: A bidding strategy where you set an average for how much you’re willing to pay for every thousand impressions. It optimizes bids to maximize your campaign’s unique reach. With tCPM, you can keep your campaign’s average CPM lower or equal to the target you set (although the cost of impressions may vary).
  • vCPM: This is a manual bidding strategy you can use if your ads are designed to increase awareness, but not necessarily generate clicks or traffic. It lets you set the highest amount you want to pay for each 1,000 viewable ad impressions on the Google Display Network.

Did you know that just changing the bidding strategies can lead to an increase in monthly conversions of up to 512%?

How to…Measure brand awareness in Paid Search

There are several different KPIs you can analyse that will tell you whether you’re making progress on your brand awareness goals, even though there isn’t a direct metric.

  1. Overall performance
  2. Click-through rate (CTR)
  3. Impressions
  4. Impression and lost impression share

Final Thoughts

A recent discovery from research firm System1, who looked into ad tracking of 18,000 ads over the last four years saw that;

Not only is it possible for long-term brand building ads to also deliver short-term sales activation

But the better an ad is for brand-building, you will more-than-likely see short-term sales increase.

While short-term ads do not deliver long-term growth, the same cannot be said for long-term ads impacting the short-term. In fact, the effect is substantial.

This isn’t to say to marketers to stop investing in short-term ads, but with System1’s discovery,

Long-term brand building is the ultimate strategic BOGOF, ensuring shorter-term impact as well as longer-term benefits.

It will be interesting to see if long-term brand building is going to be the future…

Brand awareness can be a difficult subject, it is pretty essential to a business’s success. Conversions are great, but if you’re not getting in front of the right people, the potential for conversions is actually pretty low. Through the strategies above your KPIs will be where you want them to be.