Working on SEO can sometimes seem overwhelming. After all, there is so much that can be done and so many different ways to measure success. One of the most helpful places to start is understanding brand vs. non-brand organic search traffic, and then developing further goals and measurement approaches from there.
What Does Branded Organic Search Mean?
Branded organic search is search traffic that comes to your site from customers and prospects who are actively looking for your company (your “brand”).
If you’re working for coffee behemonth Starbucks, keywords like “starbucks”, “starbucks coupons”, “starbucks hours”, “closest starbucks near me”, and “starbucks in raleigh” would all be branded keywords that in aggregate make up a total inbound traffic stream of “branded organic search”.
What Does Non-Brand Organic Search Mean?
Non-branded organic search is search traffic that comes to your site from customers and prospects who are looking for something related to your company, but are not actively searching for your company itself. In the case of our coffee example, keywords like “coffee”, “coffee shop near me”, “coffee shops with free wi-fi”, “closest coffee to me”, and “best coffee shops in raleigh” would all be non-branded keywords that in aggregate make up a total inbound traffic stream of “non-brand organic search”.
What’s the Difference in “Value” Between Brand vs. Non-Brand Organic Search?
Branded search is high intent and more likely to convert than non-branded search. In other words, these prospects have pretty much made up their made that company X is the right provider of the service, product (or latte) that they are looking for, and they are more likely to be in a conversion phase rather than a research phase. In terms of thinking about the value of organic traffic to an organization, organic search is valuable viewed through this lens. However, SEO isn’t really winning new eyeballs for the company in this way. After all, these people were already thinking about the company. In this view, branded organic traffic can be thought of more as an assessment of the overall quality of the company’s perception in the market (including other marketing efforts) rather than something that can be used to assess the performance of SEO efforts.
Unlike a branded keyword search, a non-branded search query indicates someone who is interested in a given product or service but doesn’t have a predetermined business in mind. This is where SEO efforts can prove their value by winning new eyeballs and conversions from prospects who were not already loyal customers.
More Considerations For Branded vs. Non-Branded Search
In the case of a complicated B2B purchase, a non-branded search query could very well drive an organic search click that marks the start of a long customer journey resulting in a lucrative new software contract. In the case of our coffee example, whichever coffee purveyor wins the SERP (search engine results page) with the best placement is likely to reap the benefits of a coffee purchase within the next 30 minutes. Understanding the value of these searches relies on the length of the journeys your customers take before converting, and the ultimate value of that conversion.
The winner of the search result for a non-branded search query like “coffee near me” is going to have a strong Local SEO presence and is also likely to have benefited from SEO copywriting principles on their website. But how can we measure the relative share of brand vs. non-brand organic search to help us understand and plan our future efforts? That’s where Google Search Console comes in.
How Can Google Search Console Measure Brand vs. Non-Brand Organic Search?
To be able to use Google Search Console (GSC) for this analysis, you must have access to a web property within Search Console. As long as that’s the case, follow the steps below.
6 Steps to Brand vs. Non-Brand Search Insights in Google Search Console
- Access the ‘Performance’ reporting section in GSC from the left-hand navigation. This is the default view when logging in to Search Console.
- Hit the “+ NEW” button to add a new query filter, which is immediately to the right of where the time frame filter of the performance report is displayed.
- Select “Queries containing” if you want to isolate the performance of branded organic search or “Queries not containing” to isolate non-brand organic search. See screenshot below.
- In the blank “Keyword” field, enter several letters that are representative of the most common name of your organization. For example, if your business is called Black Button Distilling Company (makers of a delicious 4 Grain Bourbon), you could enter “black.”
- Hit “APPLY” and you’re now viewing only the branded search terms or the non-branded search terms (depending on whether you used “queries containing” or “queries not containing” in your filter in step 3).
- Use “Compare” within your date range filter to view trended performance in your brand or non-brand organic search performance in terms of Clicks and Impressions. I personally like to view the last 3 months year over year, as it accounts for seasonality, but use whatever time frame makes the most sense for your business.
Record your data and analyze in Google Sheets or Excel as shown in the sample analyses below to understand trended performance over the time period you selected.
Sample Search Analysis #1: Brand and Non Brand Search Trending At the Same Growth Rates
Here’s an example from a business that has seen traffic both Branded and Non Branded Search increasing at the same rate. As you can see in the table below, “Client A” has grown Branded Search impressions +107.0% year over year and Branded Search Clicks +281.3%. Non-Branded Search has grown at a slightly slower rate in terms of Impressions (+83.9%) and a slightly faster rate for Clicks (+285.4%).
If we calculate the share of organic search, we see that Branded Search Clicks are essentially flat in terms of year over year share (77.0% vs. 77.1% LY), while Non Branded search share has also stayed roughly flat at just under a quarter of all organic search click volume.
Sample Search Analysis #2: Non Branded Search Growth Outpacing Branded Search
Here’s an example from a business that has seen Non Branded search growing faster than Branded Search. As you can see in the table below, “Client B” has grown Branded Search impressions +23.4% year over year and Branded Search Clicks +204.0%. Non-Branded Search has grown at a much faster rate in terms of Impressions (+166.3%) and faster rate for Clicks (+258.6%).
While not in the scope of this exercise, we’d immediately start thinking about potential implications for these differences. On the Branded search side, we’d feel great about our strong growth in clicks. With impressions only increasing slightly, we’ve done great work in getting more of these high intent searches to result in clicks. We also might feel a bit concerned about the relatively slow rate of growth in those impressions and would consider some type of upper funnel campaign (digital display or social media awareness, perhaps) to drive more brand awareness in the market.
If we calculate the share of organic search, we see that Non Branded Search accounts for a staggering 97.1% of all impressions (up from 94.0% in the prior year) and that the click share of Non Branded Search has risen to 53.6% of total organic traffic clicks. It seems like the SEO-focused blog efforts are working.Time to ask for a raise for our content writer! Or perhaps we can slow down our content creation efforts for a period and instead focus more budget on awareness driving efforts.
Measuring and analyzing within Google Search Console should keep you busy for some time. There is a lot to learn from this powerful (and free!) platform. If you’re looking to ramp up your SEO and analytics game from there, consider installing Google Tag Manager on your WordPress site, implementing button click tracking as part of your measurement plan, or even digging into your sitemap with Yoast and Search Console.
And if you’re interested in talking about more digital marketing training, you can always get in touch here. Have fun out there!