Why You Need Brand and Non-Brand Segments for Your Shopping Campaigns

May 3, 2019

Ask any digital marketer worth their salt and they’ll tell you that creating separate campaigns for brand and non-brand media is critical.

Doing so will improve your conversion rates, lower your costs-per-click, improve brand awareness and ensure those critical last click conversions go to you and not your competitor, who probably is bidding on your brand terms. This piece will discuss how you can replicate this best practice for your shopping campaigns, as well as the positive results that came out of a sports equipment retailer that we executed this strategy for. If you’re unsure how to get started with Google Shopping, our Product Listing Ads 101 article can help.

Why should I do this?

Because answering “why” is unavoidable, we’re going to address this briefly to put it to rest. If you don’t take measures to capture your branded searches, you’ll lose those customers. This is especially egregious because you’ve probably spent some amount of money attracting them in the first place through your prospecting media. There’s no reason to expose yourself to this risk — bid on your brand terms and capture these users!  There’s absolutely no guarantee that they’ll convert on an organic link (which, if I must remind you, appears below all paid ads, regardless), and excluding it will ultimately result in fewer brand searches across all channels overtime, a phenomenon that has been observed repeatedly.

On Google Shopping, the process is somewhat different. Because you don’t bid on keywords with product listing ads, your ads will appear for branded and non-branded queries as Google matches your goods to user searches. The challenge here is how to set separate bids on the same product for a branded or non-branded query. Rest assured – it’s easy, if not intuitive, and requires only a small amount of effort to maintain.

How do I do this?

To segment your shopping campaigns by brand and non-brand, you’ll need to create two versions of your shopping campaigns, make use of the “Campaign Priority” setting that exists for Shopping campaigns and manage a negative keyword list.

1. Duplicate your campaign.

To keep it simple, create two shopping campaigns and segment your products the same way for each. If you already have a shopping campaign active, just re-create it. The goal is to bid differently on the same product depending on the kind of query a user is searching. We recommend using higher bids for your brand campaign and lower bids for your non-brand campaign; bid lower on non-branded, upper funnel searches and increase bids when they are getting to your brand. If you manage text ad campaigns, this strategy should seem familiar to you.

2. Utilize the Campaign Priority setting.

Your non-brand campaign needs to be set to the “high” priority while your brand campaign needs to be set to the “low” priority. This seems counter-intuitive, but these settings will tell Google which bid to use between the two campaigns when either one could show a relevant product for a user search. AdWords typically shows media with the highest bid, which means your higher-bid brand campaign would be generating impressions for non-branded queries, increasing costs-per-click. The campaign priority setting allows us to circumvent this; if a user searches a non-branded query, we want the lower bid “high” priority non-brand campaign to get the impression. This is the first critical step to proper segmentation.

3. Negate brand terms from your non-brand campaign.

Because your non-brand campaign has the higher priority setting, it will be capturing your branded queries by default, which defeats the purpose. To address this, simply add your brand terms as negative keywords to your non-brand campaign. Now, any branded queries will automatically be relegated to your brand campaign.

4. Manage a non-brand negative list.

This is the most annoying part of this process, but the results are well worth it. The final touch is to produce and update a list of exact-match non-branded queries and apply it to your brand campaign to continue to force the traffic to their respective campaigns. The campaign priority setting, while effective, is less-than-perfect, and you’ll still get some non-branded traffic flowing to your brand campaign, or, if your non-brand campaign is budget limited, the traffic will flow to your brand campaign. Either instance is likely to result in higher CPCs due to the higher bids applied to your brand campaign. Your first few passes will eliminate the bulk of the high-volume keywords, so most of the heavy lifting will be done in the beginning, but consistency is the key to ensuring the best results.


We executed this exact strategy for a sports equipment retailer earlier this year. We compared metrics year over year, to a period in which the client had not been segmenting their media in this way, and discovered clear results in favor of this tactic. Year over year, the campaign CVR increased 28 percent, drove 17 percent more revenue and improved ROAS by 53 percent, driven by a whopping 389 percent increase in branded impressions.

Because non-brand traffic exists in greater quantities, this traffic tends to crowd-out branded queries, especially if you’re operating with any budget limitations (news flash: you are). Without segmenting, you’ll over-bid on non-brand queries, under-bid on brand queries and miss a huge portion of your branded traffic! By segmenting the campaigns, you can ensure you’re fully funded on brand and use remaining budgets to focus on your top-converting products through your non-branded media, creating a positive feedback loop in which you retain control over CPCs and traffic.

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