When most people think about SEO, they think about three things: keyword research, backlinks and content. And they’re right to do so – all three of those things are fundamental to creating a solid, successful organic search campaign. But what those same people rarely take into consideration is the distinction between Brand and Non-Brand keywords.
What’s the difference between Brand and Non-Brand keywords?
The simplest way to describe the difference is this: A Brand keyword, also known as a brand term or brand query, is any text used in a search query that contains the name of your Company or a named product your company produces. For example, “Pepsi” is obviously a Brand term because it refers to the name of the company. Now extend that out a little bit. “Pepsi”, “Diet Pepsi” and “Pepsi Zero” are Brand terms because they refer to specific products that the company sells. In the world of SEO, “Sugar free Pepsi” is also a Brand term because even though it doesn’t refer to a specific product, the query string contains the Brand’s name. A Non-Brand term is the opposite.
There are some rules for figuring this stuff out:
- A brand is a name that a seller uses to label a product in order to communicate with consumers.
- A brand is the reputation that that name builds for itself in the marketplace. Ford is doing this with its “Built Ford Tough” campaign; GM did something similar several years ago with it’s “Like a Rock” campaign.
- A brand is your positioning, or the space you occupy in the marketplace — and that includes your competitive differentiation. For those of you old enough, think of 7-Up’s very successful “Uncola” campaigns that ran from 1969 to 1975.
- A brand is the set of associations that that name evokes in the customers’ minds.
- A brand is your strategy or, at the very least, your communication strategy.
- Finally, a brand is an asset that can be measured, bought, sold, and invested in. Playboy is a good example of this. The Brand’s most valuable asset was not the risqué magazine Hugh Hefner founded in the ‘50s. It was the name and rabbit head logo, both of which brought in millions and millions of dollars in licensing fees every year.
Using Brand and Non-Brand Keywords in SEO
Most companies will rank well for their Brand terms, but that doesn’t mean we SEOs don’t have to define them as part of an organic search campaign. We do. If you’re going to do an organic search campaign properly, it’s still important to know what those Brand terms are. That way when we do an audit, we can make sure the site is constructed, and the content is written, in such a way as to leave no doubt in the mind of the search engine that your web site is the Brand and it is speaking on behalf of the Brand.
The challenge is to find opportunities to rank on search engine result pages for non-Brand terms that are important to your business. The thing is, there are hundreds, in some cases thousands, of non-Brand terms that you might want to rank for. I like to split those into two different buckets. Mission Critical and everything else.
Mission critical keywords are those keywords that fall just underneath your brand terms in terms of importance to you. They are typically high traffic search terms that describe or generally relate to the product you’re selling or the service you’re providing.
Keeping with the Pepsi theme, some of the mission critical non-brand keywords we’d want to target are:
- sugar fee soda
- sugar free soft drink
- carbonated soda
- sugarless beverage
There are also some other search queries that, while not mission critical, are probably on your list of things you’d like your content to rank for:
- calories in diet drinks
- nutritional value of carbonated drinks
- soda and health
Our job, as an SEO, is to devise and implement a strategy that allows you to do that successfully. But it all starts with your input. You have to know what the non-Brand terms are that are critical to the success of your business. Give us that, and we’ll take it from there.