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Brandet vs. Non-Branded Traffic: What’s the Difference?

Brandet vs.  Non-Branded Traffic: What's the Difference?

Search campaigns have goals that can range from generating attention to driving traffic to achieving specific conversion types.

While the level of data we get in analytics and aggregate Search Console reporting has changed over the years, one constant is that for SEO and PPC, we are still focused on the specific keywords and phrases that drive that traffic.

Context-focused SEO today is not so much about a single term — or the 10 best terms — and is much more about topics.

Building topical relevance helps you rank top-level generic terms, long-tail keywords, and even queries that are more natural to appear in voice search.

A big distinction in all types of terms and topics and ways to focus on keywords and optimization or ad targeting is branded vs. non-branded.

There is a big difference between the two and the ways we have to deal with and treat them.

In this post, you will learn how they differ and the importance of four important ways we look at keywords with brands and non-branded products in our search campaigns.


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1. Targeting and focus

Keyword research is a big part of what we do in the field of search marketing.

When we create a campaign or ongoing, we look at keywords, intentions, match types, and make sure our ads and organic positioning are where we need them to be.

Brand vs. non-brand has a big impact on our targeting.

There are different ways of thinking whether you should bid on branded goods or not.

My view is that if there is a question, test it. If you have a generic brand name or do not have much awareness, there are cases that need to be taken to bid on branded products.

If you are in a competitive space and despite any degree of cessation and refraining from letters or efforts to get others to bid on (or let the opportunity be dynamic to show up for) your brand, it should not cost much to protect it by advertising about it.


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On the flip side, if you are not organizing number one organically for your brand and are not at the top of the Map Pack, correct it right away.

There should be some alarm or concern regarding your site, unless your company name is literally a general word in the language you are targeting and you have not existed long enough to win for that term yet.

Examine keywords specifically about the volume of your branded goods — any short or long tail or phrase that contains all branded goods from the company name to products that are trademarks.

Know how many people are searching for them so you can assess the current search traffic share.

Also take a manual look at the SERPs for these terms.

Know who is advertising and what the map package and organic listings (and other SERP features) show. Also, use keyword spy tools to see which ads may be showing at other times as well.

This will help you map out your strategy and level of effort to notice in relation to non-brand conditions.

2. Fire Cannibalization and Conflicts

While you may identify that you need to protect your brand by using ad dollars to be in the top branded ad space, you need to be aware of what’s going on with your search share and where the traffic is really coming from.

Benchmark your paid and organic search traffic for branded traffic. Know the total volume and have a baseline.

If you decide to start bidding on branded paid search, you need to be very aware of how any increases in branded paid traffic will affect organic traffic.

If both go up, great! Dive deeper and do more of what works both organically and paid.

If activating a branded paid search account results in a relative decrease in organic traffic, take a closer look.

Do your ads attract traffic that you would normally get through organic sources?


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Can you completely tell?

Make sure you are not paying for the same traffic you would normally get right now.

Distributors, resellers and other partners

The question of money is always what drives our results.

Should we worry about the brand? Won’t we just get that traffic by default?

The hope is yes and that there is no need to pay for it. However, there are strong arguments to pay for and pay close attention to branded goods.

Certain companies and industries thrive on branded traffic and being a leader. If you are in a multi-step channel industry, this can be really important and sensitive at the same time.

Say you are a manufacturer that sells directly and also through distribution partners or retailers. You already have a sensitive relationship.

Margins sell better directly, but volume is probably better through partners. Partners do not like to compete with you. Yet you are the authority on your own products.


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Can you see some conflicts here?

How much does it mean for you to be at the top of your brand in ads, Map Pack, organic results and other SERP features?

Look at your end goals and work backwards. It may be okay to let a channel partner or reseller use the extra advertising dollars while owning the organic listings.

You need solid attribution tracking for your own brand. If you have a distribution network, go outside your brand and track the broader industry and market for your brand.

Either way, you need to know what is the best investment in paid and organic efforts for branded products so that you can spend as much time and effort as possible on generic terms.

4. Attribution

The last thing any search marketplace, CMO, director, or business owner wants is not quite knowing what drives the search capability.

Dedicate energy to ensuring that there is a clear separation between fire and non-fire in your efforts.

Branded searches are driven by brand awareness, marketing, sales, referrals, reputation and all sorts of factors beyond the control of search markets and content strategies.


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To some extent, this may also be true for some generic terms.

Please take a moment – if nothing else – to split brand versus non-brand designations into your placements, impressions, traffic, and conversion reporting.

There is nothing worse than gathering all the search data into a single report and later realizing (or being questioned) how much there was brand vs. non-mark. It questions the hard work and the dollars you have spent on your search strategy.

You will not take credit for branded search traffic that was not your fault – good or bad.

You will be responsible for the work you have done to get traffic that was more within your control.

Concluding thoughts

Whether this article was a pep talk or brand new information, I hope you take to heart that branded and non-branded traffic should be segmented and categorized correctly.

Search marketers handle enough that are already out of our control. We do not have to take inflated credit for brand traffic results (unless part of our strategy), which can then turn into unfounded guilt when external, non-search factors think so.


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Work on getting your targeting right, be intentional, know where to cannibalize, and get attribution right. Do not let the water muddy!

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Featured image: ArtemisDiana / Shutterstock

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