The difference between branded and non-branded traffic

Oct 15, 2021 by
The difference between branded and non-branded traffic

All online marketing campaigns are going to have different goals, even if those goals amount to the same basic result. One constant that you’ll notice, whatever the goal, however, is branded and non-branded keywords. There shall be a few subtle differences in how you approach branded and non-branded traffic and we’ll be going through those differences here.

Branded and non-branded

The cosmetic difference between branded and non-branded is quite straightforward. A branded keyword will include a brand, whereas a non-branded keyword will not. For example, “Coca-Cola bottles” would be a branded keyword and “glass bottles” would be a non-branded keyword. A subtle but very important distinction that changes how we approach targeting, attribution and so much more.

1. Targeting

The main discussion here is whether or not you should be bidding on branded terms. Of course, if your brand is less familiar or more generic, there is certainly a case to be made for bidding on it. This is particularly true if you’re competing in a crowded market.

On the other side of the coin, if you find you’re not ranking number one for your own brand then this is something that needs to be rectified immediately. Unless your company name is a pretty bland word or you’re a relatively new company.

The tactic here should be keyword research on volume for all branded terms. You want to know who is searching for these branded terms and in what quantities so you’re better equipped to market to them.

2. Conflicts

There is an inherent conflict at play in any campaign trying to decide between branded and non-branded. Investing in branded is a great way to protect your brand and make sure that users are able to find you quickly and easily online as and when they need to but you don’t want to neglect non-branded because that’s where all the truly organic traffic comes from.

If you notice that investing more in branded paid search leads to a decrease in organic traffic then there’s a balancing act that needs to be played. You will undoubtedly pay more for branded and if you were going to be getting more organic traffic through non-branded sources, it might not be a price worth paying.

The best tactic here is to benchmark paid and organic search numbers for all branded traffic and remain salient about how increases in paid traffic impact organic traffic. Of course, if your brand is strong enough then you should be getting all the branded traffic by default really. But that’s not always the case.

3. Accountability

The only way to know exactly what’s driving search performance in real terms is to ensure there’s a clear distinction between brand and non-brand. Remember, all branded search terms are going to be affected by dozens of other factors that we humble SEO marketers have no impact on and while that’s also true for certain generic terms, it’s particularly true for branded ones.

You must be accountable for the work you actually did and that means separating brand and non-brand terms in your reports. Otherwise, you might end up accidentally taking credit for traffic that had nothing to do with you and that’s a very dangerous game to play.