Ask any online marketer or online marketing manager what his or her goals regarding SEO are and you’ll hear: more non-branded SEO traffic and corresponding revenue. Yet achieving success with a non-branded SEO strategy is becoming increasingly difficult, see my motivation later in this article. Especially for manufacturers who in my experience often lag behind the ecom players in the market. Still, non-branded SEO is the holy glad, not entirely justified as far as I am concerned. But all the developments in the SERP do present interesting new opportunities, especially if we take a peek at the SERP in the US. A plea for more attention to branded SEO and your brand name because your brand name may well become your most important SEO tool, even on non-branded searches!
The challenges of non-branded SEO traffic
Before I go loose on the opportunities of branded SEO, it’s good to take a look at our current approach. After all, attracting non-branded SEO traffic is anything but easy. I’ve already written a number of blogs about the (im)sense of keyword research and how, as a result, we all create the same content, optimize the same pages until we drop, chase links and monitor rankings. In short: within a market we all have the same non-branded SEO strategy with the same focus points, the same keywords and the same KPIs.
As a result, ranking for non-branded search terms is like a musical chairs game: you have a seat in first place but as soon as the music starts playing again you can be pushed out of it by your competitor. They won’t let you take that first spot because, let’s face it, a lot of money is still made in that first spot, however far out of sight. And in this case it is not a game of musical chairs with a small group of people, but everyone in your industry participates in the game of musical chairs.
The biggest disadvantage of non-branded
But the biggest disadvantage of non-branded search terms, as far as I’m concerned, is that the SERP has become one big carnival: Google has a lot of new features and they are all above the regular SEO results. So if you are at 1 then you are significantly out of the picture. Almost all of my clients are (therefore?) experiencing declining CTRs on non-branded search terms despite the fact that they are and were ranked #1. So if you have invested tons to get there (the number 1 position in most markets is not for everyone anymore) you are not only far from the picture but you probably also have to deal with declining CTRs, declining visitors and probably declining sales. So, shrinkage. How do you deal with this?
How logical are your (non-branded) SEO goals?
Not everyone has the same opportunities or should – in my opinion – pursue the same goals. For example, I think it’s virtually impossible for manufacturers to reach the number 1 position in SEO on non-branded search terms. Is Google going to show Adidas’ website on the keyword ‘sneakers’? Miele’s webshop on ‘dishwasher’? No, I don’t think so. People who enter these types of queries want to look around and Google often prefers to show generic webshops on these types of generic terms. On ‘refrigerator’ for example, you will not see any manufacturer brand among the organic results. Not only does a Coolblue then have much more authority, this type of website (a webshop) is also preferred by Google.
In addition, on non-branded search terms you always see the same parties in the market ranking. I always call these players the SEO elite, because they claim the top positions on every non-branded search term. So on non-branded search terms, the cards are pretty much shuffled.
Branded SEO traffic: the cheapest traffic with the best CTR
The value of branded SEO traffic has been absolutely underestimated for years, that doesn’t matter…. I’ve always done it too. It makes sense too, someone searching on your brand name already knows you and you’d like to reach people who hadn’t considered you yet, a new market, incremental sales. The bet then becomes: all on non-branded. But now that the game on non-branded is getting harder and harder and it’s therefore very difficult to get in touch with your potential customer, it’s not so crazy to start investing more in your brand and to make sure that people search for YOU in Google.
What if we used the money we spend on non-branded SEO to build your brand? Now you’re probably thinking: who’s crazy, everyone wants non-branded traffic anyway. But if you take into consideration what it costs you to be well featured on non-branded, hoping the customer sees you and clicks on you vs. what it costs to build out your branding so people search for you directly?
Say you’re BK, a manufacturer of pan sets. According to the Google Keyword Planner, there are an average of 18,100 monthly searches for “pan set. Let’s assume you want to be in position 1 where you have a CTR of 25% (which is on the high side considering current trends, around 20% is more realistic), then you have about 4,525 visitors each month.
On the keyword BK pan set, the search volume is 6,600, relatively smaller and so you say: I’d rather be found on pan set, there is also my new market. But with a CTR of 50% (which is lower than the figures say, namely 70%) then you have about 3,300 visitors per month, at 70% even 4,620 visitors. Now imagine that instead of investing a ton in non-branded SEO, you invest a ton in marketing campaigns for your latest pan set and manage to increase the search volume to 9,900? You’re grabbing 50% of that. And maybe these visitors also convert better than the “pan set people” because they were really looking for a BK pan set and are willing to spend more? Which business case is more profitable at the bottom?
The chances of your brand name on non-branded search terms
As mentioned, we see things happening both in the Netherlands and in the SERP in the US that offer great opportunities for brands and manufacturers in particular, even on non-branded search terms. See the screenshots below.
For example, Google makes a list of popular brands and shows it on a non-branded search term (picture left). You can also see that a manufacturer’s content ranks directly below Wikipedia information in the Knowledge Graph, opportunities there therefore for manufacturers if you have good content. In the same spot we see another opportunity, namely the text: Good brand. Here Google shows the best products, a list taken from a comparative article. So make sure that you not only have links to your site, but also make sure that other websites write about your brand or your products. So these new features offer good opportunities, outside the standard SEO work and especially on non-branded search terms.
The future for non-branded SEO? Perhaps your brand will become the key to success
So don’t get all caught up in optimizing for non-branded keywords, your brand name may become more important than you think:
- How valuable is it if your brand or product appears in lists made on the Internet? And how valuable is it when Google shows your brand at the top of a non-branded search with the text: popular [keyword] such as yoga mats? This requires that Google can relate your brand to the search query and thus people start talking about your brand and products!
- If you manage to get more attention for your brand and increase the search volume for your brand, this could become a very interesting business case that might outweigh a focus on non-branded findability, as in the example of BK.
- Add to this that investing in your brand name might have an extra spin-off: when I search for shoes, I always scroll to the Omoda result. If I’m looking for electronics, I’ll always look for the result of Coolblue, regardless of the position of these webshops. And if Google understands that a significant number of people on a particular search always click on the same party, it is quite possible that this party may well come into the picture better.
By investing in your brand, your content and making sure people talk about your product or brand, you may be able to get good visibility on non-branded search terms in the future, without having to overly focus on non-branded keywords. And it’s certainly not wasted.