Carrying out an SEO audit for your branded searches is by far the most overlooked techniques you’ve been missing on. This technique is the perfect low hanging fruit, right over your head, and is a sure pathway to increasing your CTR, organic traffic and ultimately, your conversions.
And if you are like many folks around who think that having a well-established brand is the end of the play and that improvements are just another costly undertaking, you probably will be regretting how much you’ve lost the moment you finish reading this article.
The assumption that people already know your brand and will therefore visit is a misleading line of thought. Branded keyword research and optimization are revolutionizing the new era of SEO and here’s why.
Why optimizing for Your brand’s keyword is so important?
Clearly, even if the user’s intention with all the queries made is not commercial, the aim of it all is to have control about what the visitor is likely to do and which page they should be directed to, right in our hands. Furthermore, as a webmaster, you also need to focus on how to get this traffic, direct it to the most relevant page and provide an answer that will trigger an action beneficial to your course.
What does this control mean?
- To have control means to know how our audience behaves – are users looking mainly for a contact information or technical support? Are they looking for old products or looking to buy new ones? Having all this figured out way before the visitor lands on your page makes this a highly valuable information that you can get for free just by analyzing the user’s searches and the funnel at your site
- The control also means to convert this traffic, in one way or another, to a plus effort either through remarketing, mailing list, or even converting old products searches to a purchase of a new product.
What is a branded search? What is the difference between branded and non-branded traffic?
A Branded search refers to the queries users are searching that includes your company’s brand name, or any other variations and long tails of your brand.
Obviously, not all brands are equal. For example, if Nike is your case study, you’ll get massive traffic compared to if you were promoting a local footwear brand. It’s also imperatively important to understand that- sometimes, branded keywords don’t necessarily need to include the company’s name. It can be also other products or services that your company is well known for.
A good example would be PowerPoint & Excel. The two should be considered as a branded search, even though in some instances they won’t include the entity “Microsoft”.
Examples of branded keywords and unbranded generic keywords
As already mentioned before, a branded search can be both generic as Airbnb and also based on longtails such as “Airbnb apartments in New York” or “Airbnb telephone”.
Not all generic searches were born equal. A user’s intent for Airbnb apartments in New York will be more conversion oriented than someone who is looking for the contact details of the company.
Non branded searches (generic keywords) won’t include the company’s name and for obvious reason and will be exponentially more competitive. For example – “apartments in New York”.
How important is a branded traffic and what its potential?
To begin with, you can first check with SEMrush about your domain and the distribution comparison between branded and non-branded traffic. It won’t be 100% accurate but it can give you the big picture and reveals your current position. So, for example, for nike.com it will look as follow:
To get a better and more accurate estimation of your branded vs. non-branded traffic, you can instead use the performance graph functionality available in your Google Search Console and filter by the brand name. Bear in mind, that there would be some typos for the brand searches that won’t be easily filtered. Nonetheless, for this case study, it will serve the purpose.
Pro tip to find typos – try not to type the full name of your brand but part of it, so in some cases even typos will be included. If say, we’re searching for Airbnb, try using Tip to find typos – try not to type the full name of your brand but part of it, so in some cases even typos will be included. If say, we’re searching for Airbnb, try using just ‘air’ or ‘bnb’. Some combinations you may use include searches such as air and bnb, airbandb and other common variations.
How to monitor a drop in CTR for branded queries
The best answer will be to use the Google Search Console. But before examining this, we need to understand a few assumptions that have to be made first:
- There is no manual/algorithmic penalty for the site. Hence, it will be ranked in most cases, at the first position for the branded terms.
- Unlike fluctuations in non-branded queries, branded keywords are quite stable – and we would expect to see the average rankings graph as a plateau most of the times.
I had a case study of a client who had experienced a decline in organic traffic due to a site migration.
Upon examining the data, I actually noted that the non-branded traffic had hit a rising mode while the branded organic traffic had taken undergone a huge decline. The question is, how did I manage to detect this trend?
Here’s how I cracked the puzzle.
I first filtered for the branded main query. From the screenshot above, you can see, as expected, the average position is 1.1, and for the last 3 months, it hasn’t changed.
However, what’s interesting is that the CTR had declined significantly by the end of April.
In this scenario we had checked for paid clicks and if the PPC ads are taking over for some of our traffic.
While there wasn’t a significant change in the number of clicks or the average price of the bids, we’ve noticed that the competitors have become much more aggressive, and the number of ads per keyword had increased. In other words, even in the first organic position, the organic CTR can change a lot, depending on the query and Google ads (not to mention Google Knowledge Graph, Google images and other features that are taking over the SERP’s).
So it came out that one more AdWords ad had pushed down our organic result, and therefore we have experienced a decline in CTR and clicks.
How to conduct SEO audit for branded search
Let’s get back to SEMrush. Limit the keywords to the branded searches (in our example – Adidas) and align the data by rankings that are lower than the first:
What about mini-brand searches? For example, Adidas have lines of products like NMD and tubular. Technically, some of the searches will include the main brand’s name with them, for example, Adidas NMD. Some of them won’t.
So the best solution is to know your client and especially the branded products they sell and to search for them in SEMrush or Google Search Console.
Optimize current pages
Let’s begin with our first finding for the following keywords:
Yeezy is a line of footwear- a collaboration between Kanye West and Adidas. This is a very partial screenshot. There are literally millions of searches that are up for grabs, and you can see that the main site doesn’t even rank in the top 3.
For the main branded search this is the page that comes up – https://www.adidas.com/us/yeezy
This is the title: ‘Adidas + KANYE WEST’
So, modifying the title tag could be a good place to start but what about the user’s intent? Does this page deliver? For now, the answer is no.
First, add a relevant text explaining about the brand and the type of models.
Secondly, you need to add relevant categories and product pages.
Add relevant landing pages where necessary
Many times, Google will rank a certain page for a certain query because of no alternatives, even though it’s not 100% relevant.
Also, homepages may sometimes rank for general queries, in case there are no proper pages. This can resolve in lower rankings (due to low relevancy) and low conversion rate
So, with our last example, let’s review what can be done:
This first keyword is ranked for “kids shoes” category. That’s not bad, but it can be much better. Open a subcategory under Yeezi’s main page, for “Yeezy kids shoes” and show there all the models of the relevant shoes.
Now, this brings us to the second potential keyword.
Even if this product is not available yet – it doesn’t matter. Our competitors are ranked with a product page, so why shouldn’t we be ranked as well? You can ask for an email and update the users when this item is up for sale. Win-win, right?
But, wait. That’s not all. Consider the case of an old product from 2005 that will never be in stock again? Should we still rank for this category? The answer is yes, but how?
We can still give the item a description, additional videos, manuals, FAQ’s and most important – offer the user some alternatives. If your lawn mower is over 10 years old, why don’t you buy yourself a better model?
Optimize for Local SEO
It’s crazy how many big brands with brick and mortar stores have only one landing page for all the stores (so-called store locator).
Also, many websites deploy a search engine strategy for stores and branches, and this content provides a great user interaction but sadly, it won’t be indexed on Google’s end.
That only gives your users a wonderful experience, but if you won’t have dedicated landing pages that are linked internally, you’re missing out.
Moreover, it will be a better approach to link to the proper store’s landing page in Google my Business and not the general store locator.
Optimize Google images for branded search
A user searching for a brand’s images may indicate a high commercial intent as the user already knows the product and the brand, so make sure you not only rank for one image per keyword but even ALL of them.
On SEMrush click on the right side to reveal the images section:
To get a good ranking on images as well, optimize the image’s alt, title and file’s name to include both the brand’s name and the name of the product. Of course, I encourage you, where’s relevant, to add such characteristics such as size, color or gender (for women/men).
And now comes the big question, do you optimize for your brand?
Whatever opinion you hold or position you take in this, never assume that traffic will always be there because of your brand’s fame. Optimize for your brand and you’ll never regret it.
Would love to hear your thoughts and what other practices you would recommend to improve your brand’s awareness and traffic.