Unbranded Search and Your First Impression

In a sneaky way, Google built a mystique around running ads to people who are searching for your services and created the Era of Cheap Leads from about 2002-2022. It basically became "The Internet taking the place of the Yellow Pages," but the difference was the level of complication in a time when most of us didn't yet understand much about the Internet....

Picture this. You walk into your kitchen to make a pot of coffee and there’s a puddle on the floor in front of your refrigerator. It’s Friday and you have friends coming over tonight, but you are interrupted by this sudden problem. You open your freezer and things are starting to melt. What do you do?

You do what anybody does in this situation. You pull out your phone and go to GOOGLE.

Now, what you type next into your phone is something that businesses all through your city pay good money for in order to survive.

Option 1: You search something generic like, “Refrigerator repair near me.”
Option 2: You search for the name of the Company you already know you need.

If you know who you are looking for, you simply call the company that you trust to come and look at your refrigerator. But if you are like most people, you do NOT know who the best company is. You probably haven’t used an appliance repair company in years if ever, and you search for the first “word pattern” in your mind that describes what you are looking for; you key in something like “Refrigerator repair near me.” This is what we call Unbranded Search.

Unbranded Search (n) – a prospective customer performs a search online using generic keywords to try to discern the right company or brand to purchase service from based on information they gather.

In a sneaky way Google built a mystique around businesses running ads to people who are searching for your services and created the Era of Cheap Leads from about 2002-2022. They were able to do it because they built the highway of convenience for the public to find things. We all know that it is important to be visible. As business owners, we started to get used to this new online convenience of being visible to the public through Google Ads, but it became a really dangerous habit. It made us believe we were sophisticated and visible.

The PPC process was working for home services well enough and for long enough that we grew accustomed to just paying for leads, and we began to forget about basic principles of business that have been around for hundreds years. We began to conflate marketing for advertising and to treat them as interchangeable. The truth is that advertising is a subset of marketing, and brand awareness is a subset of marketing as well. But everything changed changed again in 2022, and it revealed the truth about our marketing plans when the cost of leads began to rise sharply.

Unbranded Search is the result of how we think the public wants to find us and business owners therefore bidding on general search terms in tools like Ad Words. We do it as a way of pretending we can get away with not having a Brand Awareness strategy, or we think that running ads in Google actually IS a Brand Awareness strategy. It’s not a very good one, and we should strop trying to make up for the lack of it by just spending more on PPC.

Your First Impression is WHAT?

Look at the following image. When you run Ad Words or LSAs, in all likelihood this is what your first impression looks like at the moment a prospective customer is choosing the company they are going to pay to do work. YIKES. This is what our first impressions have been reduced to.

It was one thing when the cost for leads in this format was relatively tolerable. But the cost has gone up, and we are paying for a very poor first impression for our brand.

The New Alternative: Branded Search

The thing that is going to make the difference for you is Branded Search. Branded search changes everything for your ability to outperform your competitors, especially in times when demand is lower.

Branded Search (n) – a prospective customer performs a search online using your Company Name in the search, giving your Company a HUGE advantage. They are looking for you directly.

When a company looks for you directly, your Company Name will dominate the search page, and you will not need to run PPC ads because the prospective customer just wants to learn about your and your service and hopefully they book.

The way you get to Branded Search is by playing a completely different game than your competitors, and making your way out of the PPC game, maybe all together. The game is about finding the lowest CPM (cost per mille or cost per thousand) you can find, and putting quality Brand material out there for your audience to see. They used to say that a person needs to see your brand seven (7) times before they remember you. Now it’s probably more like 25, but nobody really knows. But what I do know is that the aforementioned first impression on LSA ads sucks compared to your first impression being something more like this:

It’s your business. You gotta do what you gotta do. But if you’re running ads to acquire eyeballs on Unbranded Search, you should definitely count the cost. What DOES it cost to run PPC ads? Are you running them profitably?