Do I Really Need Branded Search Campaigns?

Ask CI

Ali Blount AUTHOR: Ali Blount
Aug 04, 2023
5 Min Read

After the usual “dada,” “mama,” and “banana,” the very next thing my now-17-month-old daughter said was, “Hey Google.” She says it clearly enough that our Home device responds to her. She hasn’t quite mastered the next step of asking Google for whatever she wants (usually, to listen to her favorite song, “Stayin’ Alive”), but I’m sure she’ll figure it out any day now.

That’s because search is so ingrained in our lives that we may not even realize how frequently we use it. We turn to search instinctively any time we have a question or a need. According to HubSpot, Google handles an estimated 2 trillion searches per year and over 63,000 searches every second on average. Your search strategy should reflect the robust role search plays in our day-to-day lives—and your Google Grant, while a wonderful asset, can’t cover all of your bases.

Enter: paid search.

One of my clients recently asked me, “Where will I get the most bang for my buck on Google?” I didn’t hesitate with my answer: search engine marketing (SEM). In an ideal world, we would be running a paid search flight for all of our programming, but in the arts, we don’t have media budgets to match the ideal. The key is strategically choosing select campaigns to run on SEM—and thinking beyond just your programming.

One of the most effective ways to tap into this strategy is through branded paid search campaigns, which include keywords containing the organization’s brand name.


You may be wondering, “Why do I need to pay for an ad if someone is searching for my organization—won’t we show up as the first result?” Maybe. Maybe not. Even though your ad may be the most relevant, your competition can still outbid you.

By the time a potential patron is searching for you, they’ve made a decision or need more information, so you must be at the top of the results page with an ad that eases that customer’s path to purchase. If you’re not there, someone else will be—and no sale is guaranteed until a customer completes the transaction.

Searchers are also more likely to click through to your site when you appear more than once on the results page with a paid ad and an organic listing.

  • In Action: Boston Ballet runs branded search campaigns through their Google Grant and paid search campaigns. From January to April of this year, their impression share—the percentage of impressions ads receive compared to the total number they could receive—for their paid search campaign was significantly higher than the impression share for the brand campaign in their Grant.
  • Not only that, but in the paid brand campaign, Boston Ballet appeared at the absolute top of the page 82% of the time—even above third-party ticket sellers. We often hear from organizations frustrated by the proliferation of third-party ticket sellers; branded SEM is one of the strongest ways to combat that issue.
  • The Results


Clearly, branded SEM gets your ads to the top of the results page, but are people actually clicking? The answer is a resounding yes! A paid brand campaign typically sees sky-high returns on investment (ROI) across all genres, markets, and organization sizes.

  • In Action: The Kennedy Center runs branded campaigns via their Google Grant and paid SEM. Check out how the addition of SEM improved campaign results compared to the same month a year prior before we launched a paid brand campaign. Purchases, revenue, and click-through rate (CTR) all skyrocketed. The paid brand campaign alone had a whopping 38,849% ROI.
  • The Results

  • In Action: In April, Apollo Theater saw similarly astonishing results for their branded SEM. We highlighted some of the shining SEM stats below. With brand covered in the more competitive paid account, the Grant spend was more efficiently focused on upper-funnel, awareness-driving campaigns.
  • The Results

  • In Action: We see these strong results even for organizations just starting with branded SEM. Jacob Burns Film Center added branded paid search to its digital marketing strategy last year. With a relatively modest spend, they saw an over 3,000% ROI on that SEM campaign in the first month.
  • The Results


Given the outsized role of search in our lives—even babies are using it!—it’s essential to have a comprehensive SEM strategy to ensure your organization appears as prominently as possible for as many users as possible. A branded paid search campaign is a simple and effective way to work toward this goal. Best of all, this is one tactic that can work for everyone.