Danny Pearson, performance marketing lead at HP, and Xavier Latty, account director at partner agency Performics@Zenith – together, they oversee the brand’s paid search strategy.
HP's digital direct business has boomed since more people have switched to working from home and shopping online. This shift has also seen Google Search become a key channel for sales and business growth.
Search interest for generic terms like “best laptops” are higher now than before the pandemic. This provides a strong indication that people are going online to research categories without a brand in mind.
We’ve proved that being present on non-branded Search queries can have a positive impact on brand KPIs
But we wanted to know if being present in moments of deliberation is enough to win brand perception, favourability, and consumer preference. It took us on a journey that has fundamentally reshaped how we approach paid search advertising.
Generic Search: An opportunity for incremental growth
HP is well-known, so our previous campaigns on Search for branded queries captured significant demand where we knew people were aware of HP.
Search campaigns for non-branded queries were something we used if we had extra budget – it wasn't 'always on' – as we hadn't seen the same return on investment as other campaign types when measuring on a last-click basis.
However, we had a strong assumption that whilst discovery and inspiration were increasingly happening on Search — it was an important space to be in for customer acquisition. But it’s very difficult to justify significant investment on assumptions alone.
We partnered with Google on a brand lift study to put our hypothesis to the test: a strong presence on non-branded Search queries can have a positive impact on brand KPIs.
Users exposed to HP ads on non-branded queries showed an 8.4% lift in consideration. Favourability rose by 4.4% and intent to purchase by 4.2%
The relationship between non-branded and branded Search queries
We conducted a study with users spread evenly across the U.K., split into two cohorts: a group who made a non-branded Search query in the laptop category and were served HP ads, and then another control group who made the same Search query, but did not see HP ads. Surveys were sent out to both groups, with more than 1,300 completed.
Given a range of laptop brands and asked which they would consider purchasing, users who had been exposed to HP ads on non-branded queries showed an 8.4% lift in consideration. Favourability was also up by 4.4% and intent to purchase up by 4.2%.
On the flip side, when HP lacked presence on generic Search, we saw brand favourability for competitor brands go up by as much as 8%.
Making generic campaigns ‘always on’
The study, along with general improvements in attribution, is helping us to connect the impact of generic Search presence on brand metrics. We’ve demonstrated it’s possible to increase consideration and brand favourability at the top of the funnel by being present for non-branded Search queries.
We’re at a stage now where all of HP’s product categories have a level of coverage across non-branded Search, for example, a strong presence on terms like ‘best monitors’ and ‘home printers’. These campaigns are always on, and we've doubled our investment in them year on year.
3 lessons we learned for non-branded Search marketing
Be present where people make purchase decisions
Brands — and the products or services they provide — should be strategically present when consumers are exploring a category. This means showing up on Search for generic category-related queries is a must, even for firmly established brands such as HP.
Get ahead of demand with automation
People often start to think about a category long before they’re considering purchasing products. For example, a search for “cheap monitor” may follow a long period of researching “home office kit”. Automation — and tools such as broad match — help you understand intent before it’s fully formed, so you can identify generic words and phrases that you might not have thought of to appear against.
Combine branded and non-branded Search campaigns
With branded Search campaigns, you’re essentially defending your castle. With non-branded, we’re conquesting by showing up for Search queries where people are not yet decided on a brand. By having both campaign types, you can ensure you have the presence you need across the entire funnel.