If your PPC and SEO programs include both branded and non-branded keywords, it is critical to analyze performance across these keyword categories separately. Using blended data will lead to inaccurate assumptions that can negatively impact your budget allocation and keep optimization opportunities hidden from view.
Branded vs Non-Branded Keywords
As the name suggests, branded keywords contain your company’s brand name in some capacity, and signal that the user is likely looking for your company website. Examples of branded keywords for Parallel Path include ‘parallel path, boulder co’ and ‘parallel path digital marketing agency’. Branded keywords may also be searches for products or services that you have branded. A search for ‘Rocket Mortgage’ is branded searches for Quicken Loans, even though the company name is not included in the search query. Variations of your brand name – popular abbreviations, nicknames and misspellings – also constitute branded searches.
Non-branded keywords are searches for products, services, and/or information that are relevant to your business but contain no references to your brand or branded entities. Consider the popular shoe retailer DSW. The search ‘DSW shoes’ is a branded keyword for DSW. On the other hand, ‘Vans shoes’ or ‘Birkenstock sandals,’ are non-branded keywords, even though DSW does carry those products. How about the search ‘DSW Birkenstock sandals’? That is a branded keyword because the searcher is considering a purchase of Birkenstock sandals with explicit intent to buy them from DSW’s website.
OK, So Now What?
While banded and non-branded keywords both deserve a place in your SEO and PPC programs, it is important understand the role they serve for consumers, and their value relative to the time and money you should invest in them.
If You Build It They Will Come…Most Likely
With regards to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), branded keywords should get strong visibility by virtue of the fact that you have a website with unique content and best-practice tagging and internal linking. This is at least true for unique brand names like DSW. Things get tricky when your brand name doubles as a commonly used search term, particularly within your industry. For instance, a companies named ‘Quality Running Sneakers’ or ‘Affordable Air Conditioners’ are going to face significant challenges showing up on branded searches. In both cases, shopping results will likely dominate the top of the SERPs, followed by entrenched shopping sites like Amazon. In this case, branded keywords deserve considerable SEO focus, as well as support from other marketing functions like PR.
To Bid or Not to Bid
Should you allocate paid media (PPC) budget to spend money on branded keywords? Yes. How much? Depends. If you have unique brand name that is not triggering competitor ads or rival organic listings, only a small amount of money is necessary. And the traffic will most likely be very cheap on a CPC basis. There is prevailing belief that spending money on branded keywords is unnecessary if you are showing up atop the organic listings. Follow this advice at your own peril. While you may be showing up #1 organically, you may still be below Local 3-Pack results (Google) and, if your brand contains even a single word that competitors can bid on, you will almost definitely encounter competitor ads on your branded searches. So, allocating search budget to branded keywords may cannibalize some of your SEO efforts, it is likely still worth protecting your brand’s online real estate from competition.
Just about all data for visits generated by branded keywords – bounce rate, pages/visit, conversion rate – is going to look great in comparison to data related to non-branded keywords. People who are deliberate in their intentions of visiting your website are typically committed to getting something done, and staying on your site until the task is complete.
However, it’s the people who are visiting via a non-branded search that present the biggest opportunity for most brands. And this is a much more fickle audience. To that end, analyzing data that blends the performance of branded and non-branded traffic can be misleading. A healthy, blended conversion rate may overshadow weakness with non-branded traffic.
When you are analyzing the results of a PPC or SEO campaign is critical to separate branded and non-branded performance to truly understand performance and where the opportunity for optimization lies.