Home » Branded Search vs. Non-Branded Search: What’s the Difference?

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

Branded Search
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Most SEO advice recommends optimizing for keywords that do not include your Branded search name since this is how you may draw total strangers to your company. But what about search terms that include your brand?
In other words, how about attracting folks who are specifically looking for your company? You may, of course, optimize your website for these kinds of requests as well. I’ll explain how to accomplish that in this tutorial. We’ll go through the following topics:

  • The distinction between branded and non-branded search
  • Why should you optimize for non-branded searches?
  • Why should you optimize for branded search?
  • How to Optimize Your Website for Branded Search

What is the difference between branded searches and non-branded searches?

A branded search incorporates your business, service, or product name, but a non-branded search does not. This is true for both organic and paid search results.

Infographic on difference between branded and non-branded searches

Why should you optimize for non-branded searches?

Ranking for non-branded keywords helps you to attract customers who are looking for items or services similar to your company but may not be familiar with your brand. As a result, this is an excellent method of attracting new clients.

Organic keywords report results for Ahrefs' article on SEO checklist

Our blog entry regarding our SEO checklist draws searchers who are unfamiliar with our product. Data sourced from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

We have a whole SEO course dedicated to optimizing for non-branded keywords. So, in this essay, we’ll concentrate on SEO for branded search.

Why should you optimize for branded searches?

Ranking for branded keywords helps you to attract customers who are especially looking for information about your organization.

They are already familiar with your brand but want to learn more about what you do. For example, customers might be seeking reviews, brand comparisons, or particular information such as technical data or media assets.

So, based on the query’s goal, you’re targeting folks who are:

Close to purchasing from you – People may be looking for your brand explicitly or seeking similarities between you and your competitors. You may address any reservations, answer questions, or reassure them that you are the perfect option.

  • Your existing clients — Keeping your existing customers updated is a sure way to keep them pleased.
  • The press – The goal here is to be the primary source of information.
  • Brand supporters and those who are just interested in what you do
  • Organic keyword report results for Ahrefs’ “vs” page

Organic keywords report results for Ahrefs' "versus" page

How to Optimize for Branded Search

This procedure is divided into four phases. For the sake of this lesson, I’ll use the fintech startup Revolut as an example (but this can be any company).

1. Look for terms relating to your brand, business, or product.

To get a thorough picture of your branded search environment, you’ll need to construct two keyword lists:

  • Find the keywords for which you rank.
  • Look for keywords for which you do not rank.

One thing to bear in mind is that everything we’ll accomplish in this tutorial is country-specific. You must repeat the procedure for each nation whose keywords you wish to rank for.

Find the keywords for which you rank.

Finding keywords you rank for is a piece of cake when you have an SEO tool like Ahrefs. Simply enter your domain, go to the Organic keywords report, and enter words/phrases signifying your brand or items in the filters.

Organic keywords report results (with filters applied) for Revolut's site

Don’t worry about keyword misspellings. Once you develop content that ranks for those keywords, Google’s algorithms will most likely take care of the right spellings.

Misspelling of "revolut" as "re volut"; Google autocorrects term and indicates it'll show results for the name with the correct spelling

Export the keyword list and put it into a spreadsheet editor. I’ll be utilizing Google Sheets.

Google Sheet containing exported Organic keywords report results

This finishes our first list. Now on to the next one.

Look for keywords for which you do not rank.

To produce a list of keywords you don’t rank for, combine and compare two lists: the list of branded keywords you rank for (which we just created) and a list of all branded keywords for your organization. This is what we’ll do.

Plugin the same branded keywords you used for the first list into your keyword tool—I’ll use Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer—select the same country, and click “Enter.”

Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer tool

Then go to the Matching terms report. You will be given a list of all branded terms.

Matching terms report results for "revolut"

Now we need to compare keywords you rank for with all keywords to find branded keywords you don’t rank for. Do the following:

  1. Export the list
  2. Import the list to a new sheet in the same spreadsheet as the initial list.
  3. In the freshly imported list, add a field called “Do we rank?”
  4. Insert the following array formula into the first cell of that column: =ArrayFormula(COUNTIF(Ranking!A2:A, B2:B)=1)

Where “Ranking” is the name of the sheet containing the keywords you rank for, and the cell ranges are the column containing your keywords.

This formula will fill the full column with “true” if you already rank for a specific term and “false” if you don’t. Chances are you won’t encounter many “false positives” here, but you never know unless you check.

In this manner, we’ve constructed the two keyword lists required for this operation. Now let’s see how we may put them to use.

2. Select keywords that are worthwhile to target.

Here’s how we’ll classify branded keywords worth targeting:

  • Underperforming keywords – Because improving their ranks will allow you to acquire more visitors from the SERPs (search engine results pages)
  • Pages with mismatched intent – Because mismatched search intent does not provide users with what they came for.
  • Important new keywords – Because targeting new keywords may help you receive more visitors.

Keywords with poor performance

Underperforming branded keywords are those that do not rank first. How far are you from first? It is determined by the search query and the competition.

If you believe a keyword has a good probability of ranking better than its present place, you should attempt it. In general, being in the top three is considered a success for certain inquiries. However, for those with really severe competition (such as search queries used for comparisons), being in the top ten is considered a success.

So, open the first list, click on the “Current position” column, then sort from Z to A. Anything that isn’t ranked first is your chance. Take a look at each keyword. Mark it if you think you can generate better articles about it.

Example of in-cell dropdown list

Create an in-cell dropdown list to indicate your keywords.

In addition, glance at the “Volume” column to see whether that keyword has any search demand in the country you’ve picked.

Pages with misaligned purpose

Let us now pick keywords for the second category: mismatched intent. Since you’ve previously gone through the keywords that don’t rank #1, it’s time to focus on those that do. If you want to be safe, narrow your search to the top three or perhaps the top ten.

Here’s an example of a page with mismatched search intent. People seeking Revolut’s logo are most likely looking for an official, high-quality picture that can be downloaded. However, Revolut does not provide that on the sites that rank first for this query in the United States.

Google SERP for "revolut logo"

As a result, this term might be flagged as “mismatched intent.”

Cell in Google Sheet containing the category "mismatched intent"

Let’s move on to the last category: valuable new keywords.

New keywords

For this, we’ll open the second sheet with all branded keywords. Filter the “Do we rank?” column to only display “false” results to reveal just those you don’t rank for in the selected country:

Filter options in Google Sheet

Before we look at specific keywords, I recommend sorting them by search volume to find the most potentially useful terms first.

Now we can examine whether any of these keywords capture our attention. Here’s one: a comparison between Revolut and another fintech company:

Cell in Google Sheet showing "revolut vs n26"

3. Improve old material or build something new

Now we need to offer search engines something to rank. This entails either optimizing current content or producing new content.

The list of keywords we produced in the previous phase will inform us whether we need to perform the first or the second. So:

  • Keywords categorized as “underperforming” or “mismatched purpose” will need optimized content. We’ve got you covered. Here’s a comprehensive approach to optimizing your content for search engines.
  • New keywords that you do not currently rank for will almost certainly need the creation of new content. I mention “likely” because you may need to review if it’s best to put certain issues on current pages rather than separate pages. And here’s a comprehensive guide on developing content that will rank in search engines.

4. Include internal hyperlinks

Adding internal links is the last stage in our strategy of optimizing for branded search.

Internal links are vital for SEO since they assist people traversing your website. First and foremost, search engines employ them to find, (re)crawl, and index sites. Furthermore, they assist Google in understanding what your website is about. Last but not least, they convey link equity.

I’ll keep this advice brief since it’s fairly simple. Internal links to content targeting branded keywords may be added to your website in three places:

  • Site navigation – This refers to the top navigation and/or the footer.
  • Important pages – If you want your information to be found fast and simply, provide links to it on the most visited sites (such as the homepage) or the most relevant pages (like features).
  • Pages where you mention the keywords — For example, if Revolut mentions “purchasing stocks with Revolut” anywhere on its website, it may link to a blog post or a landing page devoted to that issue.

Regarding the final step, Ahrefs may help you speed up the procedure (you can also do this for free using Ahrefs Webmaster Tools).

Navigate to Ahrefs’ Site Audit and access the Link Opportunities report. Set a new filter in the advanced filter section using the conditions: keyword context includes [your keyword or phrase]. In this manner, you may uncover relevant link chances for sites that haven’t even been published yet.

Link opportunities report: advanced filter options above and report results at the bottom


Final Thoughts:

As a firm expands, more roads will lead to it through branded search (81 percent of searches for SMBs vs. 58 percent for global brands).

But, regardless of company size, SERPs seem to serve as a firm’s business card—people ask search engines all kinds of inquiries, and what they discover becomes what they know. As a result, it’s a good idea to own your branded inquiries.

Finally, if you decide to optimize your website for branded search, keep in mind that the modifications you make will most likely take time to take impact. Remember that SEO takes time.

And, if your SEO software has a rank tracker, utilize it instead of manually reviewing your ranking progress, which is impossible to do correctly anyhow.

Next, you can take branded search optimization a step further by using Google’s Knowledge Graph.


Have a question? Please contact me via Twitter.

Recommended readings:

4 thoughts on “Branded Search vs. Non-Branded Search: What’s the Difference?

  1. Thanks, for this detailed guide. I really learned a lot and as always looking forward to your next Definitive Guide on SEO.

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