May 13, 2024

Understanding branded traffic for SEO

SEO content strategies often focus on increasing website traffic for unbranded keywords, or terms that don’t include a company’s own product or brand name. First you identify unbranded search terms that are both relevant to your business and high volume, and then you write a lot of upper funnel content that you hope ranks for those terms in organic search. All of this is in an effort to attract new visitors to your site who may have never heard of your solution before.

But branded content, or content that directly talks about your product or brand, is likely a large and important source of traffic for you, too. Branded traffic and branded content is sometimes overlooked for the purposes of SEO, but it can provide a ton of clues and opportunities for your search-optimized content strategy.

In this post, we’ll look at the ways that you can learn from branded traffic – and leverage it to improve your overall search performance. We’ll also talk about why we recommend analyzing traffic not in terms of branded vs unbranded, but rather as  strategic vs non-strategic.

What is branded traffic?

Branded traffic is the portion of the overall traffic to your website that comes from search queries containing terms specific to your product or company. The people searching for these terms already know you exist.

In this sense, branded traffic can act as a measure of brand awareness. (More on this below.)

Branded traffic vs unbranded traffic

Unbranded traffic arrives at your site from search queries that don’t include any mention of your product or terms related to it. When your site shows up in search results for unbranded search terms, it’s an opportunity to have your product or solution newly discovered by people who might not know you exist.

Increasing unbranded traffic is a method for increasing brand awareness, the ultimate goal of which is converting these visitors to customers.

Branded vs unbranded search terms

Branded search queries include product or company names, like “Rayban sunglasses”, or “Toyota Tacoma.” Unbranded search terms don’t use specific product names. For example, someone might type a term like “polarized sunglasses” or “mid-size truck” as a search term.

Measuring branded vs unbranded traffic

There are several ways to understand how much traffic to your site is coming from branded vs unbranded terms. At ércule, we combine Google Search Console and Google Analytics data in a Looker Studio dashboard to see the m/o/m change across both. We recommend understanding the baseline for branded vs unbranded traffic before attempting to impact either number.

An increase in branded traffic: what does it mean?

The simple answer: an increase in branded traffic means that more people are looking for you by name. This is typically due to the successes of your PR, community marketing, and product teams.

Your brand awareness initiatives are working

If you’re working on brand awareness initiatives and you’re also seeing more branded search traffic come in, it’s likely that the work you’re doing is having an impact.

For example, if you ran a Super Bowl ad, you’re probably going to see an increase in branded traffic in the first quarter of the year.

More people are using your product (and asking questions)

Companies with technical products also tend to see increases in branded search terms as their user counts increase, as more people type questions into search engines about “how to do x in [product name].”

Branded traffic is also a big opportunity for your competitors

If people are typing your brand name and branded terms into Google, you want to be at the top of their search results. If not, a competitor will be happy to take your place.

Take for example a term like “Your Company vs Another Company.” If you consider branded terms as unimportant to your content strategy, your competitors may outrank you for this term.

In the following example, for the term “Asana vs linear,” neither product’s website shows up in the top 3 results for this search. Instead, ClickUp–a competitor in the space–shows up #1 with a solid product comparison. Using other companies’ branded terms, they’re able to make new people aware of their offering who may not have otherwise been considering their tool.

Not showing up for branded queries like these can mean losing traffic to competitors who are unafraid to make your brand part of their SEO strategy.

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Branded content is a source of clues for your SEO strategy

Branded content (ie. landing pages, product pages, product launch posts) often ranks, not surprisingly, for a lot of branded search queries. When dialing in your search strategy, you might have a tendency to ignore these pages as “branded content.”

Using a tool like Ottimo, you can quickly comb through your library page by page and see which of your product pages or product-specific blog posts rank for which keywords.

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You might be surprised that some of your most visited product pages are actually getting traffic from unbranded search terms. This is great signal! Rather than trying to “unbrand” a product-focused page, you can build an SEO companion piece targeting those same search terms. We recommend you take an approach like a more generic solutions page or blog post that addresses upper-funnel problems or concerns and cross-linking to your product-focused page or post.

Team up with product marketers on SEO

On that note… new product and feature announcements tend to be great sources of initial traffic. While product and feature launch posts are difficult to optimize for search (since they most often lead with the product and are not evergreen), they often do get search impressions for related keywords.

1password did a great job of optimizing their product feature content for search (and coordinating it with unbranded content as well).

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We recommend keeping a close eye on branded posts and making friends with your fellow product marketers. They can provide you with a lot of clues into what you should be writing about higher up in the funnel and together you can build a complete launch strategy that gets a lot of eyeballs across all channels – including search.

Beyond branded vs unbranded: strategic traffic

At ércule, we track branded and unbranded keywords and their performance for clients. But we also include a third category of analysis: strategic.

The “strategic” category includes any keywords, queries, topics, and terms that we’ve identified as relevant to your brand and audience. This can include branded and unbranded search queries alike. That way you’re keeping in mind terms like “Your Company vs Competitor” alongside important unbranded topics, too.

We recommend you focus on a variety of topics and terms as strategic to your search strategy, including:

  • What you want to be known for
  • What you don’t want to be know for but has volume (to position against, for example)
  • Problems your product solves and use cases it supports
  • Your competitors (including “vs” and “alternative” terms)
  • Branded terms like conferences or open source projects you support

You can try out our topic strategy template to populate your own strategic topics along with volume, competition, and relevance data from your SEO tool. Or reach out to us – we’re happy to demo how we make this workflow seamless and accessible for our customers with Ottimo Managed. Want more content marketing tips and templates like this? Subscribe to our newsletter

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