What is the difference between branded and non-branded searches?
Branded search terms
A branded search term is a search term that includes your brand name. This includes typos and alternate spellings. For SiteGuru, some examples of branded searches would be:
- Site Guru
- SiteGuru SEO tool
Branded searches can also include names of specific products you sell: for Apple, a search term like iPhone or Airpods would be a branded search term.
Branded searches often have a navigational search intent: people already know the brand, and want to visit the website of that brand.
It's not about any brand name: imagine you're running an online shoe store. You're getting traffic from search terms like “nike sneakers” or “adidas shoes”. To you, these search terms are non-branded, because they do not contain your brand name. However, if you were a marketer at Nike, the search term “nike sneakers” would be considered branded.
Non-branded, sometimes called unbranded searches, are the opposite: they do not include your brand name or any variant of it. The search intent is mostly informational. Instead, people are looking for specific products or information without having a specific brand in mind.
For SiteGuru, some examples of non-branded search would be:
- SEO tool
- Best SEO tool
- Website audit tool
- What is a redirect
Should I Focus on branded or non-branded searches?
Non-branded search terms drive considerably more new visitors to your site, whereas branded search terms drive mostly returning visitors.
Most SEOs focus on non-branded search traffic. The reason for this is that branded search terms will often rank well without too much effort: most sites have no problem ranking for their own brand name.
Non-branded searches however are often more competitive: you don't automatically rank for a non-branded search term. There's also more to gain from non-branded searches: these are potential new clients that may not be familiar with your company yet. Showing up in the SERP for a non-branded search term can be the start of a new relationship with a new client: they first encounter your brand, visit your site, and may become a customer at some point. Without ranking for that non-branded term, this would not have happened.
As an SEO, it's good to have an idea of the share of branded vs. non-branded traffic. It helps you better understand any changes in traffic. If you're working for a big brand that just launched a new TV campaign, you'll likely see a big increase in organic traffic. By splitting organic traffic into branded and non-branded traffic, you'll be able to see the effects of that campaign: people who've seen the TV ad will likely look for the brand name and be counted as branded traffic.
On the other hand, having an idea of your non-branded performance helps you understand which types of content help drive more traffic.
How to measure branded and non-branded search
Google Search Console lets you filter on the search query. Go to Performance and apply a new filter on Query. To get all your branded search traffic, select Queries Containing and enter your brand name:
To get your non-branded traffic, select Queries not containing and enter your brand name:
The report shows total performance for the selected type of traffic, and which keywords and pages rank for branded or non-branded keywords.
Imagine you have 12.000 branded clicks (Queries containing brand name) and 4000 non-branded clicks (Queries not containing brand name). This means 4000 / (12.000 + 4000) = 25% of traffic is non-branded, and 75% is branded.
Wait, my numbers don't add up!
Google applies sampling to the data. You may have 20.000 clicks in total, but when applying the filters, the total may be (a lot) less. For privacy reasons, Google applies sampling to the data. This means the share of branded / non-branded traffic will likely be correct, but the total numbers are not. Keep that in mind when drawing conclusions.
SiteGuru's branded/non-branded report
To make this easier, we've created a tool that builds a branded/non-branded report for you in just 10 seconds. The report is based on Search Console data and shows you the share of branded vs. non-branded traffic, how this has changed over time and the top pages and keywords for both branded and non-branded searches.
What is a good share of non-branded search?
As always in SEO, it depends. Large, well-known brands will likely have a higher percentage of branded searches. On the other hand, smaller, relatively unknown brands tend to rely more on non-branded traffic: fewer people know their brand so it's less likely that someone starts typing in the brand name.
See your branded/non-branded performance
The opportunity for non-branded search
If you're trying to grow your brand without big media budgets, non-branded searches present a great opportunity. By creating content that is relevant to your audience, you can start ranking for non-branded keywords. This helps your audience find you, even if they hadn't heard of your brand name before. Now they have, and they may become a customer at some point.
Conversions and non-branded search
Ok, so you've created content to capture non-branded traffic, and you see your non-branded traffic numbers rise. Great! Now, you'll want to know how these searchers convert. Do they become customers, do they sign up for newsletters, do they submit contact forms?
It's hard to tell: we don't have conversion data in Google Search Console, and we don't have keyword data in Google Analytics. This means we can't just find a conversion rate for branded vs. non-branded traffic.
There's one way to get an idea of non-branded conversions: by looking at landing pages in Google Analytics. Start by using the top-performing pages for non-branded search terms, that do not rank well for branded search terms. You've now identified pages that get mostly non-branded traffic.
For example: in our case, the SEO Academy (the thing you're reading now) gets a lot of non-branded traffic, and hardly any branded traffic. By contrast, the homepage and the pricing page get mostly branded search traffic.
In Google Analytics, go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing pages and find those non-branded top performers. This helps you get an idea of their conversion rates.
Non-branded keywords and the sales funnel
You'll often find that the conversion rates for non-branded search traffic are lower than for branded traffic. This has everything to do with the customer journey. A typical customer goes through four stages, as described by the AIDA model:
- Awareness: the customer is aware of the brand
- Interest: the customer is interested and does more research
- Desire: the customer has decided he wants your product
- Action: the final step: the customer buys your product. Ka-ching!
People who are searching for branded terms are further into the AIDA funnel: they're aware of the brand and looking for extra information, or are ready to buy. This leads to higher conversion rates.
An example: if you're searching for samsung 4K tv, you've likely already decided you want to buy a Samsung TV, or you're at least considering it. The chances of buying one if you find a good deal are pretty high. For Samsung, it's easy to get the top spot in Google for this term: they're the most relevant result.
Non-branded traffic is in the earlier stages of the funnel: they're looking for a solution to a problem without having a brand in mind. This search could be one of the first steps in their buying journey.
An example: if you're searching for best gaming tv, you know you want a TV to play games on, but don't have a specific brand preference. The chances of finding a TV and directly buying one are small: you'll likely first want to compare a few models and look for more information to make a good decision.
Now imagine if Samsung would be able to rank for this term. It's harder than ranking for a branded term. But they could reach a lot of new customers, that otherwise might have bought a different brand.
As you can imagine, this effect is even stronger if you're an unknown brand. Reaching those people at the beginning of the sales funnel may not have high direct conversions. But in the end, those people may buy, and your non-branded content contributes a great deal.
Optimizing non-branded search traffic
Although the conversion rate for non-branded traffic is often lower, you can do some things to improve it. You need to provide hooks to make a connection with the visitor. Otherwise, the visitor may read the article and leave, only to never come back.
Here are some ways to optimize your non-branded content
- Offer free downloads like whitepapers, in exchange for their email address
- Offer discount coupons if they sign up for your newsletter
- Explain how your product might help solve the problem you're discussing and offer a free trial
- Provide links to related content that they also might like
Optimizing branded search traffic
Non-branded search presents a great opportunity for growing your audience, but you should not neglect branded search.
It's smart to monitor your branded positions: although it's normally relatively easy to gain the top spot in Google for your branded terms, you need to keep an eye on it. If a competitor starts outranking your branded search terms, this can really hurt your business.
Also, you might see that your competitors start advertising on your brand name. This might be a sign you should start a branded CPC campaign.
Lastly, it helps you keep track of offline marketing performance. A decline in branded searches often points to a declining brand name, which you may need to strengthen with offline or online advertising.