How to Rank Well (And Right) For Your Branded Keywords

Carrying out an SEO audit for your branded searches is by far one of the most overlooked techniques you have been missing out on your SEO plan. It’s (one heck of a) low hanging fruit right over your head, and is a sure pathway to increasing your CTR, organic traffic and ultimately, your conversions.

Especially if you are like many folks who think that having a well-established brand is enough and that brand-related improvements are pointless and time-consuming, you will probably understand how much you really have to lose the moment you finish reading this article.

The (silly) assumption that just because people already know your brand will therefore make them visit your website is a misleading line of thought. Branded-keywords searches are actually paving the path for the new SEO era – and here is why:


Why optimizing for Your brand’s keyword is so important?
What is a branded search?
Examples of branded keywords and unbranded generic keywords
How important is a branded traffic and what its potential?
How to monitor a drop in CTR for branded queries
How to conduct SEO audit for branded search
Optimize for Local SEO
Optimize Google images for branded search

Why optimizing for Your brand’s keyword is so important?

Clearly, even if our user’s search query is not conversion-oriented, like our classic endgame in SEO – the aim is:

  • To have full control over which page our users land on
  • Make sure they get the answer they were looking for

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, through either remarketing campaigns, mailing list subscription, or even converting old product searches to drive a purchase of a newer product / software upgrade.

    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 for that matter any other variation and long tail of your brand name.

    Obviously, not all brands are equal.  For example, if we take Nike as an example, you will get massive traffic numbers compared to if you were promoting a local artisan footwear brand.

    It is also imperatively important to understand that – sometimes, branded keywords does not necessarily need to include the brand name. It can be also a specific product name, a popular model name, or a service that your brand is known for.

    A good example would be “PowerPoint” or “Excel”. The two are clearly considered as branded searches, even though in some instances they won’t include the entity “Microsoft”.

    Another example can be “Model T”, without using the known brand name “Ford

    Examples of branded keywords and unbranded generic keywords

    As mentioned, a branded search can be both generic and broad as “Airbnb” and can be based on a long-tail such as “Airbnb apartments in New York” or “Airbnb phone number”.

  • Digging deeper – generic searches were not born equal as well. A user’s intent for Airbnb apartments in New York will be more conversion-oriented than someone who is simply looking to contact the company customer service.
  • Non-branded searches won’t include the given brand name, and for obvious reasons 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 your domain using SEMrush – there you can see the distribution comparison between branded and non-branded traffic. It won’t be 100% accurate but it can give you a solid view of the big picture and reveal your current position. So for example, for the domain it will look as follow:

    semrush branded search

    Alternatively, to get a better and more accurate estimation of your branded vs. non-branded traffic, you can use the performance graph functionality available on your Google Search Console and filter by the brand name. Bear in mind that there should be some typos for your brand searches that won’t be easily filtered. Nonetheless, for this case, it will serve the purpose. google search console branded

    A nice tip to find brand typos – try not to type the full name of your brand but a part of it, so in many cases, even these typos will be included. If say, we are searching for Airbnb, try using just ‘airb’ or ‘bnb’. Some combinations you may use include searches such as air and bnb, airbandb and other common variations – be creative 🙂

    How to monitor a drop in CTR for branded queries

  • The best answer will be to use the Google Search Console tool. However, before examining this, we first need to make sure the following terms apply for your domain:
    • There is no manual/algorithmic penalty for the site. Hence, it will be ranked (in most cases), at the first position for the main branded terms branded keywords are quite stable – and we would expect to see the average rankings graph as a steady plateau most of the times.
    • Unlike fluctuations in non-branded queries, branded keywords are quite stable – and we would expect to see the average rankings graph as a steady 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.

    Going through the data, I noticed that the non-branded traffic has skyrocketed while the branded organic traffic was actually the one to suffer the huge decline. The question is, how did I manage to detect it?

    google search console traffic drop

    Here’s how I cracked the puzzle.

    First, I filtered the main branded query. From the screenshot above, you can see, as expected, that the average organic position is 1.1, and that it stayed that way for the last 3 months.

  • However, the interesting thing was that the CTR has declined significantly by the end of April.
  • In this scenario, we had to check for paid clicks on Google AdWords and see if the branded PPC ads were biting some of our branded traffic.
  • While there wasn’t an enormous change in the number of paid clicks or on the average bid for our branded keyword, we did notice that the competitors have become much more aggressive and that the number of ads per branded keyword had increased – pushing our first organic result a few positions down the SERP. In other words, even though we got the first organic position, the actual organic CTR can still change a lot, depending on the given query and the number of active paid text ads competing on that very branded-query (not to mention Google Knowledge Graph, Google images and other features that can take over the SERP’s as well).
  • So it came out that one more AdWords ad had pushed down our organic result, caused the decline in CTR and overall clicks.
  • How to conduct SEO audit for branded search

    1. Keyword research

    Let us get back to SEMrush.

    First, limit the keywords to the branded searches (in our example – Adidas) and then align the filter the organic position to show only rankings that are lower than number 1:

    semrush rankings

    But, wait!

    What about other brand-related / product searches? For example, Adidas have got product line names like NMD and tubular. Technically, some of the searches will include the main brand’s name with them, for example, Adidas NMD – But some of them will not. Also, don’t forget to check Google related searches .

    Therefore, in order to leave no stone unturned in the planet of branded keywords, first make sure you got a deep understanding of your client brand, include every possible unique product & product line names, save everything on a nice spreadsheet, and only then make the research in SEMrush or Google Search Console.

    2. Optimize current pages

    Let’s begin with our first finding for the following keywords:

    yeezy semrush

  • Yeezy is a line of footwear – a collaboration between Kanye West and Adidas. This one here 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.

    Here is the page that comes up for the main branded search Yeezy –

    yeezy kanye west

    This is the Meta 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?Modifying the title tag could be a good place to start, but what about the user intent? Does this page deliver? For now, the answer is clearly no.First, you can add some relevant text explaining about the brand and the type of model.Second, you need to add relevant categories and product pages.If some of the landing pages are pdf files, read further about pdf optimizationUpdate >>> Adidas probably bumped into this article and has updated the page title into – YEEZY BOOST 350 V2 AND 700 | adidas + KANYE WEST.
  • 3. Add relevant landing pages where necessary

    Many times Google will rank a certain page for a certain query just because it has no other better alternatives, even though the page is not 100% relevant.

    In addition, a homepage might sometimes rank for general queries, in case there are no other relevant pages anywhere on the website. This can resolve in overall lower organic rankings (due to low relevancy) and low conversion rate .

    So, with our last example, let’s review what can be done:

    yeezy for kids

    This first keyword is ranked for “kids shoes” category. That’s not bad, but it can be much better. A better practice will be to create a new subcategory under Yeezi’s main page, for “Yeezy kids shoes” and list all the relevant models there.

    Now, this brings us to the second potential keyword.

    yeezy boost

    Even if this product is not available yet – it doesn’t matter. Our competitors are ranking with a product page, so why shouldn’t we be there as well? You can still ask for the user’s email and send an update when this item is available for sale. Win-win, right?

    But wait. That’s not all. What about a scenario where an old product from 2005 that will never be in stock again? Should we still want to rank for this category? The answer is yes, but how?

    We can still give the item a proper 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 from the very same brand?

    Another great (and super creative out of the box) example is ZenDesk Alternative who target users who are looking for alternatives for their tool. You will be surprised the find a website to a band that does not exist. alternative zendesk

  • Optimize for Local SEO

    It’s crazy how many big brands with brick & mortar stores have only one landing page for all of their physical stores (so-called “store locator”).

    store locator

    A user searching for a given brand images may indicate a high commercial intent as the user already knows the product and the brand, so we want to make sure you not only rank for one image per keyword but even ALL of them.

    We will use SEMrush again on this one, so click on the right side to reveal the images section:

    Optimize Google images for branded search

    SEMRUSH Google Images

    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 /+ model. 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 improving your brand’s awareness and traffic.

Posted by Roey Skif


  1. Gefen

    Good info as always !!

    Made me think about the case of – old products in eCommerce sites (out of stock etc.) which in this case would be better to use noindex &/or 404 instead of offering other products or information in an effort to convert.

  2. August 2018 – Search News

    […] How to Rank Well (And Right) For Your Branded Keywords […]

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