Brodie Cornett

Brodie is an SEO Associate and account lead at Sagapixel. He specializes in on-page SEO and content marketing.

Breaking Down Branded & Non-Branded Keywords for Search

Table of Contents

Understanding the differences between branded vs. non-branded keywords is essential for crafting a successful Search Engine Optimization strategy and improving your business’s online visibility. The most basic way to differentiate these types of search queries is that branded keywords target your business’s name, while non-branded terms are those surrounding your services and products.

This guide will walk you through the key differences, benefits, and strategies for both types of keywords, ensuring you can optimize your website effectively to drive traffic and conversions.

If you’d like to speak with someone about an SEO strategy for your business, click here.

Key Differences Between Branded & Non-Branded Keywords

It isn’t too difficult to tell the difference between branded and non-branded keywords when looking at the queries. Branded keywords include terms explicitly related to your brand name while non-branded search terms are everything else not connected directly to your brand.

For example, a query like “Sagapixel SEO” is distinct to our business’s branding, while a term like “SEO for Chiropractors” is not directly connected to our brand, though it is still relevant to our target audience.

That said, there are more nuanced differences between these types of queries, including user intent behind their searches, how well they perform, and the narrower metrics to track.

User Intent

One of the biggest differences between branded and non-branded keywords is the user or search intent.

Users searching for branded keywords often have a higher intent to purchase or engage with the brand because they are already familiar with it. Essentially, if a user is searching for your brand explicitly, they are either researching your business’s services, or they’re ready to convert.

Non-branded keywords, on the other hand, do not include a brand name and generally target a broader audience. Non-branded keywords are crucial for attracting new visitors who are not yet familiar with your brand but are looking for products or services you offer. This boost in organic traffic can improve your business’s online visibility and make it easier for users to find you online.


Branded keywords typically have higher conversion rates as the searchers already have some knowledge or trust in the brand. You’ll still want to track rankings and search volume or impressions surrounding your branded keywords to monitor your place within your market. In fact, impressions and search volume can be good indicators of brand awareness, as the more people who are aware of your business, the more they’ll search for your brand by name in Google and other search engines.

Non-branded keywords might initially have lower conversion rates, but they play a vital role in bringing new potential customers into the funnel. Rankings and conversions are often the best measurements of performance for non-branded keywords as they generally have higher search volume, but you’ll want to ensure the keywords you rank for drive qualified leads or customers to your website.


When evaluating the performance of branded vs. non-branded keywords, key metrics to consider include click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, and cost per acquisition (CPA).

Branded traffic usually shows higher CTRs and conversion rates but might have a lower search volume compared to non-branded keywords. That said, search volume can be an indicator of brand awareness, so fluctuations may elaborate on your share of voice within your market.

Non-branded keywords often have a higher search volume, providing more opportunities to reach new audiences. Rankings in search engines and traffic are often the main metrics you’ll want to track for these terms, but the end goal for any business is conversions.

Understanding Branded Keywords

Knowing how to optimize your site for branded search ensures your competitors don’t push you out of your own space. While you generally don’t need to go out of your way to optimize for your own branded terms, they’re still important to keep in mind to ensure people can find your business when they look you up by name.

Benefits of Optimizing for Branded Search

Optimizing for branded keywords ensures that your business captures high-intent traffic, leading to higher conversion rates. It also ensures that when someone learns of you from other channels, like social media, they can find you easily when they search through their search engine of choice.

It also helps defend your brand against competitors bidding on your brand terms in PPC campaigns. Bidding on your own branded terms is important for holding your space in Google Ads because your competitors may bid on your business’s name in an attempt to capture users searching for you.

Examples of Branded Queries

Examples of branded queries include:

  • “Nike running shoes”
  • “Starbucks coffee near me”
  • “Ahrefs SEO tools”

Understanding Non-Branded Keywords

Ranking for non-branded keywords is more beneficial for capturing new customers or clients by advertising your products or services. Non-branded keywords often have vastly more monthly searches than branded queries, so the pool of potential clients, while perhaps less intent on converting from the start, is much larger.

Benefits of Optimizing for Non-Branded Search

Non-branded keywords help attract a broader audience and increase brand visibility. They are essential for capturing potential customers who are in the research phase of their buying journey. These search queries serve as your general net for capturing new clients and customers as they’re searching for a service or product but not a specific brand.

That said, certain non-branded keywords do carry higher conversion intent. For example, someone searching “med spas near me” is likely looking for services offered by a med spa and is narrowing down their options. They’re intent on getting a service done and are closer to converting.

Examples of Non-Branded Queries

Examples of non-branded queries include:

  • “best running shoes”
  • “coffee shops near me”
  • “SEO tools for beginners”

SEO Strategies for Branded Keywords

Generally, ranking for your own branded terms is relatively easy. You often have to do very little aside from ensuring your business’s name is mentioned on your Home, About, and Contact pages, as well as mentioning it on your service or product pages in your calls-to-action.

However, if your business’s name is relatively generic, you may have a harder time competing with similarly-named companies.

How to Identify Branded Queries

Use keyword research tools like Google Search Console or Ahrefs to identify which branded keywords are driving traffic to your site. Look for variations of your brand name and common misspellings to cover all bases.

Branded queries might also include specific services or products only your business provides. Identifying these keywords follows the same methodology but you need to ensure you keep them in mind when looking to monitor your branded terms.

Branded Keywords You Don’t Rank For

Identify branded keywords that your competitors rank for and optimize your content to capture this traffic. This can include creating specific landing pages or optimizing existing content to include these search queries.

This is important as if your competitors rank for your brand, you’re losing out on traffic and conversions.

Optimizing for Branded Keywords

Optimizing for branded keywords is as simple as mentioning your brand name within the content you were already planning to create. Your Home, About, and Contact page should all include your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) and should be consistent across all pages and Footer.

Your CTAs will most likely also include some variation of your brand name, which assists in aligning what services or products your business offers.

Additionally, claim your Google Business Profile (GBP, formerly Google My Business). This allows you to feed your business’s NAP directly to Google, which will help you rank for your branded terms.

Leveraging Brand Mentions

Encourage brand mentions across various platforms, including social media, blogs, and news articles. These mentions can help improve your branded search visibility and reinforce your brand authority.

There are various tools for finding unlinked brand mentions, so it’s simply a matter of finding one you like and using it.

SEO Strategies for Non-Branded Keywords

Chances are your SEO strategy will revolve around optimizing your site for relevant non-branded keywords. These are terms related to the services and products you offer that aren’t related to your brand.

These are often more difficult to rank for as you’re now directly competing with other businesses in the same space. That means you need to strategize how you build out your site to support your place in your niche.

How to Identify Non-Branded Queries

Utilize keyword research tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, or even Google Keyword Planner to find high-volume non-branded keywords relevant to your business. Look for keywords with a good balance of search volume and competition to maximize your chances of ranking well.

Optimizing Pages to Target Non-Branded Keywords

Create comprehensive, informative content that addresses the needs and queries of your target audience. Use the identified non-branded keywords naturally throughout your content to improve your chances of ranking on the search engine results page.

Next, support your pages through a good internal linking structure, connecting related pages together. This helps in clarifying the overall topic of these pages to search engines which helps in indexing and ranking support.

Combining Branded & Non-Branded Keywords in Your SEO Strategy

Chances are your SEO strategy will focus primarily on optimizing for non-branded keywords. That said, ignoring your branded terms is ill-advised as drops in rankings for your business’s name means your competitors are capturing leads that should be yours.

Creating a Balanced Approach

A balanced SEO strategy should incorporate both branded and non-branded keywords. This approach ensures you capture high-intent traffic ready to convert and attract new visitors who might not yet be familiar with your brand.

Measuring Success

General SEO success is tied to rankings, traffic, and conversions. The better your Google rankings, the more traffic you’ll get to your site, which means better chances that your customers or clients will convert.

Google Search Console and Google Analytics are the most important measurement tools. The former is good for tracking organic traffic in Clicks and search volume through impressions, while the latter is how you’ll track conversions (now Key Events in GA4).

Third-party tools like Ahrefs or Semrush are also nice, but they use different methods for measuring rankings and search volume from Google.

Key Metrics to Track

Monitor metrics such as organic traffic, CTR, conversion rates, and CPA to gauge the success of your branded and non-branded keyword strategies. Use tools like Google Analytics and Search Console to track these metrics.

Adjusting Tactics Based on Data

Regularly review your performance data to identify which target keywords drive the most valuable traffic and conversions. Adjust your content and SEO strategies based on these insights to continually improve your results.

For example, identifying low traffic pages in Google Search Console is integral for optimizing or removing content that isn’t moving conversions in some way.

Mistakes to Avoid When Targeting Branded & Non-Branded Keywords

There are key mistakes to avoid when optimizing your site for both branded and non-branded keywords.

Keyword stuffing is the practice of adding search terms excessively throughout your content. Google will likely devalue your pages if every other word is a variation of your target keyword and it makes for a worse user experience, which negatively impacts your conversion rate.

The next mistake to avoid is targeting high-competition keywords. These are keywords that only the most authoritative sites in your market rank for. Identifying whether or not a keyword is highly competitive can be a little tricky. However, a good rule of thumb is that if you’re seeing popular, high authority sites in your niche ranking in position 1, it is likely too competitive. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying at times; the mistake many businesses make is only targeting these keywords, which can truncate your search engine visibility.

Finally, not tracking your performance is a critical error. Not knowing what’s working and what isn’t means you lack crucial information to guide your SEO efforts. You need to monitor which keywords drive traffic and conversions to replicate that across your entire site.

Get A Comprehensive SEO Strategy from the Experts at Sagapixel

Both branded and non-branded keywords play crucial roles in a comprehensive SEO strategy. By understanding their differences and optimizing for both, you can attract a diverse range of traffic and drive more conversions. Remember to continually monitor and adjust your strategies based on performance data to ensure ongoing success.

To learn more about how you can utilize SEO to effectively promote your business, visit our website.

Schedule a call with us