Icelolly’s brand bidding journey – a Benchmark 2016 talk review

Nov 29th, 2016

One of the most actionable talks given at the conference, Arianne Donohue presented part case study, part tutorial on one of the search marketing industry’s most controversial topics

Beginning with a brief introduction of Icelolly, Donoghue moved quickly to the meat of the talk – slightly differently titled from that appearing in the programme. The original title (Putting the brand bidding debate to bed) was changed due to an unexpected end to the testing. The new title ‘Brand bidding – is it for you?’, however, was as interesting – if not as conclusive – as the first title implied.

Before presenting the gathered professionals at the Benchmark Search Conference 2016, Donoghue had a quick search for arguments against the conclusion she had drawn from Icelolly’s experiment, yet found – almost completely – advice which would follow here own. Yet, her talk was not as simple as ‘yes, you should’, instead those gathered were treated to a methodical and enlightening walk through the thought process.

The first advice was, as would be expected, to avoid taking the nuclear option if you already have PPC and SEO strategies in place. Instead, she advised a lengthy – but obviously worthwhile – process of testing and incremental progress through trial and error.

Donoghue then gave an overview of Icelolly’s pre-existing strategy regarding brand bidding – they had previously bid on all but a fraction of very broad keywords with no competitor activity, previous testing had delivered mixed results, but organic traffic always converted better than paid.

She then outlined some early lessons learned (that Google treats a space and a full stop the same, for example – meaning that the excluded “” bids were still appearing for the non excluded “icelolly com”), before moving on to describe a ‘third way’ – the use of intent to determine which brand terms to bid on.


With a few exceptions (terms where there was competitor activity), they separated branded terms into ‘buckets’ which represented consumer intent – bidding only on high intention, highly convertible terms (barring exact match – which they assumed would show a level of intent that exceeded the need to pay for) and looking to target terms organically which occurred further up the funnel.

While their brand offered some specific challenges (tracking the relationship between calls and traffic for example), she was able to highlight some generic difficulties before outlining a process which Icelolly implemented for their strategy.


Without walking you through each individual slide (let Donoghue do that herself in the video and slides above), it is enough to say that – though the results were not conclusive – at this stage of their testing, the results seem to bear out the hypothesis.

Unfortunately for Donoghue – and for all of us gathered at the Bridgewater Hall, the experiment was put on hold by a decision to run more television adverts (and programme sponsorship) and to turn bidding back on for all of the terms. Though a sad note, the conclusion of this fantastic talk (full of great data and actionable insights) was Donoghue giving a list of seven points to help any brand conduct their own test.

It was a real pleasure to watch this talk again, and it seems almost surreal that Click Consult is not far off beginning the planning and organisation of Benchmark Search Conference 2017, but such a strong talk has me already looking forward to next summer (if winter weather were not enough already).

Click Consult aims to bring you the best, most actionable insights possible – whether through our blog, resources or through supplements such as the recent Click Consult pull out section in The Drum.

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