Branded and unbranded keywords: definitions, differences, and strategies

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Knowing the types of keyword is essential to define an effective strategy that can guide the company to increase its online presence: often, however, it tends to underestimate the importance of keyword branded, considering that the name of the brand is a strong enough element to monopolize the SERP and win the first positions. Yet, it is not always so and even in this case there is work, starting from knowing the difference between branded and non-branded keywords up to methods to optimize these aspects in our SEO strategies.

Branded keyword: definitions and meanings

Branded keywords are search queries that include a brand name, a variation of a brand or specific product name or even a slogan, which pop up a SERP that classically includes the brand’s own website, products and social media accounts, as well as the brand’s knowledge panel, if any.

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They represent a classic expression of navigational search intent because they are the terms generally used by people using the search engine to access a specific Web site or Web page. These keywords are therefore a strong signal of the user’s intention to interact with a particular brand or to search for specific information about it.

What are brand keywords: examples of brand keywords

And so, brand keywords are those keywords that uniquely identify a company or product: they can be the name of the company, names of products, services offered, or even specific advertising campaigns that have stuck in users’ memories. In addition, branded keywords can also include common typos or abbreviations that customers might use when searching for the brand online.

To better clarify what is meant by this expression, here are some examples of branded keywords:

  • McDonalds menu
  • Oral-B electric toothbrush
  • Samsung smartphone
  • Domino’s pizza
  • SEOZoom blog

As it is easy to notice, all these queries have the name of a company directly in the keyword, brand to which digital resources are associated, like sites and social media profiles.

Brand keywords can take various forms, and in particular:

  • Brand name, when the query literally is the brand name (Google, for example).
  • Name of a specific product or model (such as Frappuccino for Starbucks, or iPhone 13 for Apple), with or without explicit brand indication.
  • Variants of the brand name. Due to typing errors, misspellings and other borderline situations (including the Mandela effect), many branded keywords can also occur in the form of variations or misrepresentation of the original brand to which they refer.

Brand keywords can include the brand name and its products, for instance: “Joe’s Ice Cream Parlor”, “Joe Ice Cream Parlor” or “Joeicecream”, and in the form of long-tailed branded keywords we have: “Joe’s Ice Cream Parlors”, “Joe’s Ice Cream”, “Joe’s Ice Cream to take away” and so on.

However, not all queries that mention a brand are actually branded keywords: for example, in the case of queries such as “Amazon coupons,” “Ford car sale,” or “Vodafone opinions” , the user’s intent is different and not aimed at necessarily discovering the official website of the mentioned brand, and in fact Google SERPs propose very varied results for these cases.

How to discover branded keywords: SEOZoom’s tools

Data analysis plays a key role in refining the branded keyword strategy, and to find branded keywords it can be useful to refer to SEO tools, which allow us to verify and monitor the performance of keywords related to our brand, possibly also providing us with valuable insights into how users interact with the brand and where there is room for improvement.

In SEOZoom, in particular, we can use the Keyword Studio area within Projects, which devotes a specific section to branded keywords, precisely, where we can check which keywords are related to our Brand or our brand’s products, identified on the basis of the information entered in the project settings themselves.

Through this data, we can not only identify the keywords for which the website is already ranked-and what the returns are for these terms-but also keep an eye on any competitor actions and find variations of keywords that we may not yet have taken full advantage of.

What non-branded keywords are

It is appropriate, at this point, to also understand what non-branded keywords are and in what they are different from branded keywords: very simply, they are brand-related keyword, but they do not contain the explicit indication of its name.

Therefore, non-brand keywords may refer to products or services sold by our company, or even topics where the brand has proven (and acknowledged) authority and experience.

These keywords are often more competitive, as they tend to be more general and can attract a higher search volume, with all the difficulties involved; being broader, they can refer to an entire category of products or services, a need or a problem that users want to solve. The main characteristic of unbranded keywords is that they are used by users who do not yet have a defined brand preference or who are looking for more general information.

Examples of non-branded keywords

Again, a quick list of non-brand keywords can help us better understand them:

  • Fast food
  • Toothbrushes
  • Smartphone
  • Pizza
  • SEO Blog

The difference is obvious: while branded keywords contain specific company names, non-branded keywords have wider results, which can be associated with specific brands (like those mentioned above).

In particular, “fast food” is considered a non-branded keyword that Mcdonald’s can use, as well as “SEO blog” can be a non-branded keyword for SEOZoom. È infatti importante notare che alcune keyword non branded possono essere strettamente associate a un marchio a causa della forza del branding o della dominanza di mercato: per fare un altro esempio, “bevanda energetica” è tecnicamente una keyword non branded, ma nella mente dei consumatori (e nei fatti, quindi) potrebbe essere fortemente associata a marchi popolari come Red Bull o Monster Energy.

Branded keywords vs. unbranded keywords: differences and characteristics

And so, while in SEO in general, keywords are the bridge between what people are searching for and the content we offer them, fully understanding what branded and non-branded keywords are-and especially the distinction between these elements-is critical to developing effective strategies.

To recap, branded keywords include the name (or variants) of the brand because they are often used by users who are already familiar with the brand or who are in a more advanced stage of the conversion funnel; the user doing the search is not interested in any random result, but intends to find that defined brand and site. Therefore, branded searches are among the most important in an informed marketing strategy and are a “sign” of achieving a good level of brand awareness.

On the other hand, non-branded keywords do not refer to a specific brand and are generally related to more generic terms or product categories. For a site, these keywords are particularly useful for attracting users who are in the early stages of the decision-making process and who may not yet have a brand in mind and are still exploring available options.

Strategic use of both types of keywords is crucial. Branded keywords can be used to strengthen a brand’s online presence and reputation, while unbranded keywords can help reach a wider audience and intercept potential customers who may not yet be aware of the brand.

The SEO value of Branded keywords

From an SEO perspective, we have to think that branded keywords are used by a company’s potential customers to search for more specific information about the products or services offered by that specific brand.

If we think about the conversion funnel, these searches usually occur close to the moment of a conversion or can enhance a sales opportunity, and therefore have a high strategic value for the company, which must know how to intercept the query with the right content. That is, users are not searching for generic information about toothbrushes, ice cream, or pizza, and so they do not have to find content in SERPs with introductory topics that may serve at the beginning of the marketing funnel: we are at a more advanced stage, already directed to specify a possible destination (physical or virtual) to buy or to find information that will encourage or clarify a possible purchase, such as special product offerings or proposed delivery services.

And thus, the SEO value of branded keywords is very high, because they can not only increase traffic and audience for a web address, but can also help direct searches to specific targeted pages to finalize conversions.

In our strategies, however, we must not neglect non-branded keywords either: while not directly naming the brand, these keywords (if curated and used correctly) can still direct traffic to our website. That is, we need to be able to properly intercept users who already know that our brand offers a special item or service, and who are looking for additional information to make a decision, make a comparison, recommend it to a third party, and more. It is clear that in this case the competition will be tougher and a deeper keyword analysis will be needed to study the right angle to “attack” that search intent, also studying our site, our proposition and the actual chances of reaching users.

More generally, unbranded keywords are important because they help us gain online visibility through organic search efforts, signaling the achievement of a good level of site and brand authority around a keyword and topic, such that pages appear high in Google SERPs.

Branded keyword strategy, how to best use these keywords

There are various methods and tools to monitor branded keywords and control non-branded keywords-for example, by entering a project domain with SEOZoom you can further deepen all brand-related keywords, or you can use Google Alerts to receive notifications for mentions or even search engine autocomplete to find the most suggested queries.


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After collecting all (or at least the main) branded keywords, we have to try to work on a strategy that can optimize the results leading to the site.

The first step is related to content marketing, because we need to analyze the pages and content positioned for those keywords and verify that they meet the true need of the user, leading them toward the satisfaction of their original intent. Branded keywords can also provide us with insights and guidance on the site’s deficient content-for example, if many users search for assistance on our products, it is good to create an FAQ page or guide that clarifies their use or accompanies the resolution of possible problems.

Another front on which to focus attention is social media – and in general all the profiles that relate to the brand and that may appear in SERPs, including therefore any Business Profile tab or Knowledge Panel on Google: brand authority is also built with a homogeneous communication across all channels, presiding appropriately over possible sources and preventing some competitor from creeping into these areas.

By acting in this way, we can strengthen corporate branding and reinforce our brand image, which will then be able to stand out from others and intercept a loyal slice of the public.

Tips for a strategy based on brand keywords

To make the most of branded keywords within a digital marketing strategy, we must therefore focus on a few key aspects.

It all starts, inevitably, with website optimization: very trivially, in practical terms this means incorporating relevant keywords into page titles, meta descriptions, H1 tags and within the content itself, so as to strengthen the online presence and reputation of the brand.

In parallel, we need to work on creating quality content that specifically answers brand-related questions, through, for example, detailed product pages, informative blog posts, buying guides, and well-articulated FAQ sections.

More generally, then, it also becomes important to take care of online reputation management, appropriately performing brand monitoring to dynamically check what is being said about the brand online and proactively respond to reviews and comments, both positive and negative, to build trust and to maintain a positive brand image.

And we can also move away from SEO alone to invest in SEM and, specifically, pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, which can be used to protect the brand in search results, ensuring that competitors are not at the top of the results for our branded keywords and, at the same time, helping to capture qualified traffic that is already interested in the brand.

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