Did you know that most shoppers search Google before buying anything?
This means that even after investing time and money into your brand awareness, those shoppers your ads caught on social media will Google your brand name or your product name to research it before buying from you.
This also means that your branded search engine results can make or break your business.
What is Branded Search?
A branded search query is any search query that contains your unique brand or product name. Here’s an example of a branded query where a third-party page is featured instead of the brand it refers to:
Note: Since Google pretty much owns the search market (source: Statistics Library by Oberlo), this article focuses on dominating Google’s branded search (and all the tools below focus on Google optimization too).
Furthermore, this article focuses on online businesses (including ecommerce sites that ship around the US or even globally, SaaS businesses, service-based businesses, digital product sellers, etc.). Local businesses will be able to use these guidelines too, only they will also need to take care of their local listings and reviews too. More on this here.
Many marketers fail to recognize that branded search queries are usually “high intent.” People who type your brand name in a search box already know you. They may be ready to buy, needing only a final incentive.
Besides a direct influence on your conversions, a poor organic reputation management strategy can also hurt your overall organic visibility as Google does use web sentiment and online reputation as a ranking signal.
For quite some time now Google has paid attention to a website’s reputation and if you want to improve your organic visibility the first thing to do is start with improving your reputation.
The fewer results you control, the less influence you have. There are 5 steps to solve this puzzle:
- Collect your branded keywords
- Organize your branded queries
- Set up a knowledge base to address those queries
- Monitor your branded search rankings
- Broadcast positive mentions
Step 1: Collect your branded keywords
This process isn’t that different from traditional keyword research: Run your brand name—including, if applicable, any variations—through keyword research tools (here’s a quick list of free ones).
Most importantly, look into your internal data. Two solid sources of these are Google Search Console and Finteza.
Google Search Console
Here’s how to find branded queries that are already sending you traffic using Google Search Console:
- Open the “Performance” report
- Click “New” next to the list of filters
- Select “Query” from the drop-down
- Type your brand name and click the “Apply” button
- You can export the report to an Excel file
Finteza is an independent web analytics platform that provides information on search queries that bring you traffic. To find your search queries, log in to Finteza and:
- Navigate to “Sources”
- Click “Search”
- Select the “Search keyword” tab
The tool will aggregate the keyword data for all search engines you appear in, giving you a full picture of all traffic-driving search queries. You can then limit results to your branded queries by typing your brand name in the filter field:
You can also do question research around your brand to find popular questions that customers ask online. Semantic analysis tools like Text Optimizer will assist you in understanding patterns of questions and organize your research better:
Step 2: Organize your branded queries
Create a spreadsheet that you can use to cluster, label, and organize branded search queries:
- Stack closely related queries under one “primary” keyword to create a single landing page to target all of them—a primary keyword is normally the one with the highest search volume
- Note your current rankings for each query and whether there’s a featured snippet (and whether your site owns it)
- Put a note on each type of branded query:
- High-intent: Customers that are closest to a sale, these are usually price-related queries (e.g., those that contain the word “reviews”)
- Navigational: Customers who are lost on your site and need some help navigating, these queries can highlight usability issues
- Competitive: These queries compare you to your competitors
Remember, some branded queries can be labeled as more than one type.
Keep a separate label to determine your further action. Some of those keywords can be used to create new content, while others may already have a target page. Specifically, branded keyword research should give you ideas on how to optimize your About-us page and company-related blog updates.
Step 3: Set up a knowledge base to address those queries
This step is pretty obvious. Based on your spreadsheet, start creating articles answering your identified branded queries. When creating your content, use this SEO checklist to increase your chances to rank higher for each one.
Depending on the query type, you may come up with slightly different ways to answer each one. Generally:
- Include convincing CTAs on pages that answer high-intent queries
- Include screenshots and/or videos on pages targeting navigational queries
- Include comparison charts and special deals on pages covering competitive queries
Let’s look at an example—good and bad—for MailerLite, a free alternative to Mailchimp:
- Target query: “mailchimp vs mailerlite”;
- Query type: Competitive;
- Rank: 4th (and a third-party owns the featured snippet)
Overall, I like the page—it’s clear and concise, with a clean design. It gives a nice overview of how the solution stands out and why it might be a better alternative. There’s also a prominent call to action and a few testimonials:
From looking at the target query and search results it triggers, there’s some room for SEO improvements. Specifically, Google’s featured snippet makes it clear that:
- Google needs a clear one or two-sentence comparison of both solutions (i.e., a short paragraph of text that mentions both platforms)
- Google needs a screenshot
Both are missing from the landing page, so I’d recommend adding those. You can apply this same analysis to pages and content for all branded queries.
Step 4: Monitor your branded search rankings
Google search is very versatile and dynamic. To keep a close eye on your branded search engine result pages, you need to set up a separate project inside your current rank tracking platform.
I am using SE Ranking Keyword Rank Tracker as it also saves a snapshot of my monitored SERPs allowing me to take a closer look at what else has changed (besides rankings).
It also offers a very handy interface allowing you to see the movements and trends at a glance:
Step 5: Broadcast positive mentions further
To better control sentiment around your brand, consider amplifying your positive mentions by sharing them on social media. This can be done for both your owned articles and third-party reviews and mentions published by someone else.
You can accomplish that by using a collaborative dashboard called ContentCal that enables you to include more teams into the social media marketing process.
Simply add your reputation management team members to ContentCal as users, and they will be able to share positive reviews to your brand channels on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
ContentCal helps ensure an effective moderation process so that those updates align with your brand style and voice.
Branded search is an important asset that can hurt your bottom line. Unless your site ranks high for search queries containing your brand or product name, you may be losing hard-earned customers to your competitors. To dominate your branded SERPs, follow these steps:
- Research your branded queries using traditional keyword research tools (including Google’s Search Console, Finteza and Text Optimizer)
- Organize your branded search queries based on the required action and urgency
- Create new content and optimize existing content to answer the branded search queries in the most comprehensive way
- Monitor your branded search closely, and if possible, include your SEO and reputation management teams in rankings monitoring process
- Broadcast positive brand mentions further for them to rank higher and help you gain additional visibility in Google’s search result pages