Within a B2B Search Marketing campaign, there are two broad types of keyword, those that contain your company or brand name, and those that do not. Searches that contain your company name are called “brand searches”. While high volume, non–branded keywords are often the best route to finding new customers, branded searches are equally important for different reasons.
Despite being important I see examples and hear of b2b marketers and brands not paying enough attention to their branded search. This can lead to different scenarios for you, from your customers and prospects being underwhelmed by their experience, to competitors appearing higher in search results than you and effectively stealing traffic from you.
In the next 10 minutes or so I’ll take you through a fairly simple but valuable process for understanding your branded search profile and help you identify areas for improvements. It’s a process we follow at Upp and have helped a number of clients make sense of and improve their b2b brand search experience.
We start by understanding “where we are now” so we can identify what is working well and what needs improvement.
Why are brand search queries important?
I mentioned above that brand search is important, and this is because branded queries come from an audience aware of your brand and this audience is much more likely to convert. Of course, a portion of branded traffic comes from existing customers looking for your phone number or looking to login to your customer portal and it is also important you help customers accomplish these things quickly in order to build a positive customer experience.
However, in a multi-channel world a good percentage of branded traffic comes from prospects who have seen other marketing and recall your brand name, and showcasing what you can offer and more importantly, solving problems for brand aware prospects is vital to your success.
B2B Brand Search is straightforward (usually!)
SEO is notoriously time consuming and it can seem like the search engines don’t want you to succeed. Branded search is different, because Google, Bing etc want you to rank for your own brand names. There is a saying I’ve heard a fair bit which is “Google loves a brand”, so when we see branded searches in need of improvement it is usually relatively easy to fix, but it starts with some groundwork to understand your current position.
If there are Google penalties, then things can become more difficult, and this is something we can help identify and advise on if you have suffered a penalty.
Audit your brand search – part 1 – Where are we now?
What percentage of your search traffic is branded?
There was a time when gathering organic search keyword data could easily be done in Google Analytics but since the move to securing data, much of what we need is now shown as “(not provided)” so we must seek alternative data sources.
We are defining “branded” search as anything containing your company name. You can of course extend this into any search query that includes proprietary products.
Broadly speaking there are two things we can do to find branded keywords being searched. We can use our Google Ads data and/or our Google Search Console data. I am suggesting Google here because search volumes are higher than other search engines and will give a truer picture of search volumes.
If you don’t have Google Search Console set up, it isn’t a big job and if you can edit your website’s code it can be done in as little as a few minutes. I suggest the guide to verifying your site from Google which has several options for you or drop us a line and we can help (it’s usually quick and free of charge).
Once you have Google Search Console set up, I’ll walk through how to identify brand search percentages (all you need are your Google Search Console account and your favourite spreadsheet software, if you want to visualise the results).
- Start by visiting the “performance” tab and setting the date range to the last 3 months.
- Make a note of the total number of clicks and impressions.
- Click “+New” and then select “Query” and then “Filter” by “Queries Containing” not “Query is Exactly” – This will ensure we capture multi-word search queries.
- Enter your brand name, and any common misspellings and any other names you consider branded.
You will now be presented with a list of queries containing your brand name(s) during the last 3 months.
- You can now switch the “Queries containing” option to “Queries not containing” which will show the number of search queries not containing any of your brand name(s). Again, make a note of the numbers.
- If you want to visualise this data, you can create a simple pie chart of the number of impressions and clicks by inputting the total “branded” and “non-branded” clicks and impressions.
What you’re looking for is a good mix of branded and non-branded keywords, which means you’re re-engaging audiences who are familiar with your brand, but you are also reaching people who may not be familiar with your brand who you have the opportunity to engage with.
What brand searches are people actually entering?
Your non-branded traffic stats can be very useful for directing your SEO activities, but as mentioned above, there will be a percentage of traffic from people looking for specific areas of your business, for example “your brand + login”, “your brand + phone number”, “your brand + service offering” and having this data can be valuable in improving customer experience.
Thankfully, Google Search Console can also help find these keywords. Referring back to the performance page in Search Console, below the graph of traffic data you will find a table with several tabs. The “Queries” tab is what we are interested in and is selected by default within the performance tab.
Again Click “+New” and then select “Query” and then “Filter” by “Queries Containing”. Enter your brand name to show all keywords containing your brand. You can now see the branded traffic you receive and we’re ready to start improving things.
Audit your brand search – part 2 – What should we do now?
Finding out how your brand search performs is useful, but as with anything related to data, what will really add value are the actions you take using the data.
What is the aim of a brand search audit?
We’re seeking to understand where we are performing well, what requires improvement and whether anything is fundamentally broken. Think of it like a traffic light system red = broken, amber = needs improvement and green = performing well. This helps prioritise actions.
The next step in the process involves manually entering your top searches into Google (I suggest focusing on the top 80% of clicks/impressions, which will likely be a small handful of queries). Use a private/incognito browsing window and make notes on the following:
- Is your home page the first result for a basic brand search? – Searching your brand name with no other words should display your homepage as the first organic Google result. If there is another page ranking first, there could be technical issues with your website and if your site doesn’t appear at all you may have suffered a penalty. (Amber, potentially Red)
- Other companies ranking – We commonly see competitor brands “bidding” on brand names using PPC and sometimes appearing above the target brand. As mentioned above this can potentially lead to competitors stealing traffic from you on your own brand name and in this situation, we may recommend a paid search strategy to ensure you own the space for your own brand. (Amber)
- Broken Pages – This isn’t confined to just brand search and you can use various software programs to help you pinpoint broken pages (look for 404 errors). For brand searches, you can accomplish things fairly quickly by manually searching your top brand terms and clicking various search results to inspect whether pages are working or not, and/or whether you can create new pages to better match a user’s query. (Amber)
- How many search results do you “own”? – With branded search you have an opportunity to show your own properties multiple times with various sets of results now being included in the search results page, such as Ads, Shopping Ads, Maps and the traditional organic results. For branded search, you should expect to see your social media properties in the Google results. All of these ensure you have multiple opportunities to serve customers searching for your brand, to create a great experience for them.
More specific navigational brand queries
I mentioned above that sometimes prospects and customers will search for your brand name plus other words to help them answer a question. Some of the most common brand searches we see in B2B are:
- Brand + phone number
- Brand + opening hours
- Brand + login
- Brand + FAQ
- Brand + resources
Helping customers and prospects find this information quickly is key to a positive customer experience and you can make some simple changes to help. Using the query data, we gathered earlier in the post from Search Console or from your PPC data, open an incognito/private browsing session and manually enter the top queries. What do the search results show you?
The aim here is to understand what pages are being returned when a user searches for navigational phrases. What we’re looking for are page titles and descriptions that match the query appearing first, to help customers find what they’re looking for. If, for example you find FAQs are a popular search term, but when searching you can’t find your FAQ page or the page title isn’t obvious then these pages can be updated, or new ones created.
Some other things to consider with branded search
Location of your customers – For a lot of our clients the focus is on the UK, but for a growing number, international search plays a very important role in strategy. It is a good idea to understand where your searches come from. If you are targeting one territory but are seeing a large amount of brand traffic from others, then it could indicate geo-targeting issues or present an opportunity for expanding your business.
Either way, Google Search Console can help uncover where your brand searches comes from. Within the interface, visit the performance tab, select “Query” and then “Filter” by “Queries Containing”. Enter your brand name and then select the “Countries” tab to reveal where your searches are coming from.
Brand Search Trends – You’re putting effort into your marketing, into building customer experiences, into providing solutions to customers’. This is expensive and doing these things well, will help grow your revenue and profits, but you should also see brand searches increase over time. This is a result of building your customer base, gaining a reputation in the market, PR campaigns driving awareness and improving brand recall.
Brand search is a strong indicator of marketing performance and should be a key part of your KPI reports. Using your search console data, you can set up a simple tracking document to show impressions and clicks, over time.
Let us know if you have any questions about your own brand search performance. By spending some time on your branded search profile, you can serve current customers and non-customers who are aware of you. These visitors are more likely to convert on your site so can provide some quick wins and give you a springboard from which to tackle the more difficult and more competitive non-brand search.