Should Branded Visitors Outweigh Non-Branded?

Written by Nick Stamoulis

At the latest Boston SEO workshop, one of the attendees who worked as the marketing manager for a larger local brand had a great question during our discussion about keyword research. Their organic, non-branded traffic had grown from 40% to 57% of their overall traffic in the last year (which is great growth!), but she wanted to know what kind if breakdown they should be looking for when it comes to the keywords being used to drive traffic. Should their branded keywords and visitors outweigh non-branded? Should the opposite be true? Should the two be roughly equal?

It’s a question I’ve heard many times from both B2C and B2B site owners and unfortunately there is no “right” number; each site is unique and there can be many factors at play impacting the breakdown of branded versus non-branded visitors and keywords.

How powerful is your offline brand?

If you’re a Fortune 500 company and spend $20 million dollars a year on offline advertising, chances are some of that offline brand awareness is going to transfer to online. People will see your ads, remember your company name and look for your brand directly. Chances are your branded visitors will outweigh your non-branded simply because your company is so well known.  (And this is a good problem to have!)

Think about a brand like Apple. One of their biggest selling products is the iPod. If someone wants to purchase an iPod chances are they search for “iPod” and not “mobile music device” or some related keyword.  Apple’s brand is so strong that their branded visitors are most likely always going to dominate the non-branded.

Where is your website in it’s lifecycle?

Is your website brand new? Are you the industry leader or maybe somewhere in between? Depending on where your website is in it’s lifecycle will impact how many branded visitors versus non-branded your site is likely to get. Obviously if you own a brand new site then people probably don’t know about you—the vast majority of your traffic is going to come from non-branded keywords. On the other hand, a start-up with decent VC funding might be able to drum up a lot of branded search in the initial run of it’s life thanks to online PR, advertising, blogger outreach and more. And obviously an established site is going to be able to leverage the power of it’s brand to drive branded visitors.

What kind of social presence do you have?

One thing to keep in mind is that SEO is not an island. Your social presence can have a huge impact on the kind of visitor that finds your website. Think about it—someone who has never heard of your website might stumble across a guest blog post you wrote on an industry site. They might remember your name later and use a branded keyword to find your site. Or, after using a non-branded keyword, they see your website somewhere in the SERPs and remember your brand name, influencing their click. The same thing might happen if someone sees a Tweet, LinkedIn update, Facebook post or other social update. They might not follow you directly, but if someone in their social network shares your content your brand is getting a little extra exposure that might influence how many branded visitors you get.

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