Non-Branded Paid Search a Waste of time?

There's an interesting article from AdAge about the effectiveness of non-branded paid search campaigns. In this article, Jeffrey Glueck, chief marketing officer of Travelocity, is quoted of saying, "It is a profound mistake by all of us to think we've figured out how to measure ROI on search. We're in stage one."

The article (unfortunately it requires a username and password so no link) goes in to more detail about just what Jeffrey is talking about. Here are the key points as I see them:

  • Brand word purchases often account for just 5% of total search spend but that these terms drive 80% of the profit from search.
  • 65% of visitors from paid search to Travelocity's site only interacted with paid search once and used a single keyword.
  • Another 27% of paid search visitors used paid search multiple times, but they used the same keyword repeatedly.
  • Only 8% of paid search users used multiple times searches with different terms.
  • Just 2% of paid search conversions are the result of a searcher originally clicking on a non-branded term only to later click and convert on a branded term.

Travelocity has concluded from their research that non-brand phrases are responsible for a tiny 4% of each booking. Or put another way, 96% of Travelocity's booked trips are the result of branded key words. With those kinds of numbers it seems hard to justify the time and cost of running a campaign with thousands of keywords most of which are non-branded.

The problem with the discussion it that it deals with a brand that is so strong it is synonymous with travel. So anyone that is ready to conduct a transaction is likely to use a branded search. If the space were more competitive or the brand wasn't as well know, I think the results would be different with non-branded terms contributing a much large part of the conversions.

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