Branded vs. Non-Branded Keywords

The right keywords are critical to any SEO or PPC campaign. The keywords you target determine the audience you reach and directly impact your results.

You need to do in-depth keyword research at the start of your campaigns, monitor the results of those keywords, and look for new opportunities on a regular basis.

As you do this research, you’ll likely come across both branded and non-branded keywords for your company’s site. And if you’re likely many marketers, you may be wondering which are better for your campaigns.

This topic is often discussed within the context of PPC campaigns, but branded and non-branded keywords should both have a place in your company’s overall Internet marketing strategy.

Call 888-601-5359 to speak with a strategist about your company’s digital marketing strategy, or keep reading to learn more about how to incorporate both of these types of keywords for the best possible results.

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What are branded keywords?

Before we can discuss where branded and non-branded keywords fit into your strategy, it’s important to have a clear understanding of each.

Branded keywords contain your company’s name. So to use our own agency as an example, any keyword containing “WebFX” is a branded keyword, regardless of the other words around it.

Keywords that contain other brands, however, are not considered branded keywords for your company. This is an important distinction to make if you’re a retailer and carry products from other brands.

For example, the popular shoe retailer Zappos sells shoes from hundreds of different brands. In their case, keywords like “Zappos boots” and “Zappos reviews” are branded – but “Nike sneakers” and “Birkenstock sandals” are not, even though Zappos carries those products.

Although these keywords do reference specific brands, they aren’t unique to the company. Users searching those keywords aren’t specifically looking to buy from them or learn more about their brand – they’re looking for one specific product that many other retailers carry.

Users searching for your branded keywords, on the other hand, demonstrate clear interest in your company – and in most cases, they’re already familiar with the products you offer.

What are non-branded keywords?

Non-branded keywords are keywords that relate to your products or services, but don’t include your company’s name.

Using our own site as an example again, “Digital marketing agency” and “SEO services” are both relevant non-branded keywords. They’re phrases used by people interested in what we offer, but they don’t directly reference our brand.

Your strategy will have far more options for non-branded keywords than branded because the keywords your audience uses to research you are almost limitless.

Branded vs. non-branded keywords: Which produce better results?

We’re often asked whether branded or non-branded keywords produce better results. This is an especially common question from marketers creating PPC campaigns, as each keyword has a specific cost associated with it.

But the truth is, both branded and non-branded keywords are essential to both SEO and PPC campaigns. They demonstrate different search intent and reach users at different stages of the buying process.

To illustrate this point, you can search for both branded and non-branded keywords as part of your campaigns in Google’s Keyword Planner. For the sake of this page, we’ll look at the results of a search for the non-branded keyword “running shoes” and the branded keyword of “Skora running shoes.”

Running Shoes Keywords

Using this example, we’ll discuss which of these keywords is the better choice in terms of visibility, competition, cost, and conversions.

Visibility: Non-branded

If your goal is to reach new customers, target keywords that a lot of people search. Targeting keywords with high search volume maximizes the number of people that will see your ads (assuming that your bid is high enough to display for those keywords).

Looking at the average monthly searches for both of these keywords, ads for “running shoes” could potentially reach 100,000 more users than “skora running shoes”.

So if your main priorities are gaining visibility in search engine results, increasing brand awareness, and bringing new visitors to your site, non-branded keywords are the better choice for reaching those goals.

Competition: Branded

The competition level in Keyword Planner is determined by how many advertisers bid on any given keyword. The more competitive a keyword is, the more difficult it will be to display your ad for it.

Non-branded keywords are naturally more competitive because they aren’t unique to a specific company. There could be thousands of other companies trying to advertise for products and services similar to the ones you offer, but ideally, your brand name should be unique.

That being said, your competitors can bid on your branded keywords to get the attention of users who search for your company directly. This is typically only done within extremely competitive industries, but it’s something to keep an eye on as you create your PPC strategy.

Cost: Branded

As a result of the low competition, the cost-per-click (CPC) of branded keywords tends to be low too. If only a handful of advertisers bid on a keyword, the cost of displaying an ad for it is often just a few cents.

So if staying within a set budget is one of your primary concerns with PPC, branded keywords will be some of your best bets for ads with low CPC.

Conversions: Branded

The ultimate goal of all of your marketing campaigns is to generate sales and revenue for your company. This means you’ll want to target keywords with high conversion rates.

In the context of PPC, ads for branded keywords typically have higher conversion rates than ads for non-branded keywords. So if you create separate branded and non-branded campaigns, your results will likely be better for the branded ads.

However, it’s important to note that searchers using branded keywords are typically further along in the buying process.

They’ve probably already researched their options and visited your site during previous searches, and they are familiar with the products and services you offer. So even though a branded ad may be their last touch before converting, they could’ve first found your company through a non-branded search.

Of course, this doesn’t negate the results of branded campaigns – after all, they do drive conversions. But in most cases, those conversions are the final result of a strategy that involves both branded and non-branded keywords.

How to balance branded and non-branded keywords

Given that they have unique advantages, branded and non-branded keywords are both essential to a successful online marketing strategy.

Here are few tips to help you determine where to use both and how to ensure that your SEO and PPC strategies work together for the best possible results.

Establish organic rankings for your branded keywords

Branded keywords are often the easiest to rank for, especially if your company has a unique or unusual name.

Ideally, the results of a search for your company’s name should look something like this:

webfx search

If you aren’t already ranking for branded keywords, make it a priority to optimize your homepage and other company pages for your brand name.

If customers specifically search for your company, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to find you. And considering that branded keywords have higher conversion rates, ranking well for them is extremely valuable for your business.

Focus your SEO efforts on non-branded keywords

Once you’ve established organic rankings for branded keywords, it shouldn’t be a challenge to maintain them – unless, of course, there’s another company with the same exact name.

Assuming that this isn’t an issue for your company, you’ll want to focus your ongoing SEO efforts on non-branded keywords.

Increasing your organic rankings for non-branded keywords also increases your online visibility, and it is typically much more cost-effective in the long run than PPC campaigns.

Although creating and optimizing pages that rank well involves much more of an initial time investment than creating a PPC campaign, those pages can continue to bring traffic to your site for years to come – with no ongoing costs.

PPC campaigns, on the other hand, only generate results as long as you pay for them. And in the case of non-branded keywords, the cost of running long-term campaigns can be extremely high.

Create separate PPC campaigns for branded and non-branded keywords

When you run PPC ads for your company, you should create separate campaigns for branded and non-branded keywords. These shouldn’t be your only segments (you could create separate non-branded campaigns for each of your different product types, for example), but they should be separate.

As we established above, both types have different advantages – so you should expect different results based on the keywords you use.

A campaign with only branded keywords, for example, will typically have a higher number of impressions, CPC, and conversion rate than a campaign with only non-branded keywords.

When you combine them into one campaign, it can be difficult to determine how successful that campaign is. Keeping them separate allows you to set realistic expectations for each.

Use non-branded PPC campaigns to expand your reach

PPC campaigns are great ways to reach users searching for non-branded keywords that you aren’t ranking for organically.

This is especially true if you’re just starting your SEO campaign and haven’t yet established rankings for your most valuable keywords. It can often take months to achieve the rankings you want, and PPC ads can help you attract traffic in the meantime.

PPC campaigns can also be useful for keywords that have clear purchasing intent. They can help you reach people who are looking for the products and services you offer, even if they haven’t heard of your company before.

Although you’d ideally rank organically for those keywords, that sometimes isn’t realistic – and PPC campaigns can help you increase brand awareness and earn at least a few visitors searching competitive non-branded keywords.

Use RLSA for non-branded keywords to target previous site visitors

If you want to target non-branded keywords but have a specific budget, Remarketing Lists for Search Ads are a great way to focus your ads on the users that are most likely to convert. RLSA lets you set your audience to only people who have previously visited your site.

So instead of competing with a large number of advertisers to reach a general audience that may be early in the buying process, you can narrow your audience down to people who are already familiar with your brand.

You can also tailor these ads to individual users by highlighting the products they previously viewed on your site. This means that unless your competitors are using the same strategy (and a user has visited all of their sites in the past), your ad will be much more specific to their interests than any of the others – increasing the chances that they’ll click on it instead of your competitors’.

Want to improve your SEO and PPC strategies?

An effective Internet marketing strategy requires a mix of both branded and non-branded keywords for all of your channels – but determining where to incorporate them is a challenge for even experienced marketers.

If you want to improve your online campaigns and reach more customers, WebFX can help. We’ll get to know your business and use our industry experience to determine the best possible keywords for your campaigns and create a unique strategy to help you reach your goals.

Contact us today to speak with a strategist and learn more about what we can do to help you grow your business online!