Understanding the difference between branded and non-branded keyword usage is imperative. Too many times clients insist that they want to optimize their pages for a product’s brand name, or for their company name. While I understand this instinctual urge, it’s my job to educate the client on how SEO works, and when to use branded and non-branded keywords on different pages.

Here’s an example:

For the sake of privacy, we’ll call this company XYZ Supplies. They sell POS supplies to small ma & pa shops across North America.

So let’s say Ma Baker needs to find cheaper cash register rolls because her current supplier is just too expensive. Where does she begin? Maybe she starts with a Google search, something like this:

Cash Register Tape Google Search

How do I know she didn’t type in cash register rolls? Maybe she did. Then why did I choose to optimize XYZ Supplies’ cash register rolls category for “cash register tape”? I did my research – my keyword research – which told me there a more people, just like Ma Baker, searching for that keyword term.

Google Adwords example

As the SEO copywriter, I know that it’s important for me to identify the numerous keyword phrases that the client’s prospects will most likely use to find their products.

But here’s where things get sticky.

The client insists on optimizing all pages for their top-selling brand. They believe that the most important thing is to be #1 in Google for that product’s brand.

OK, I hear that. I approach this from two angles. The first being that if the company name (the brand) is in the domain (www.xyzsupplies.com) then chances are that they will automatically rank for the branded keyword XYZ Supplies. For example, the first listing on Google’s SERP for the keyword “cash register tape” is this:

Branded keyword: cash register tape

The keyword doesn’t even show up in the Title or Description tags. The keyword-specific URL is a match, plain and simple, and this almost always wins the top placement in the SERPs.

The second way that I approach this is when the client insists on ranking for their best-selling product’s brand. For example, let’s say our fictitious client sells Red Widget brand of cash register tapes. Our client’s URL is www.xyzsupplies.com, and their best-selling brand is Red Widgets Tapes.

But Red Widgets Tapes has their own website, of course, at www.redwidgetstapes.com. They are a massive global supplier to thousands of companies like XYZ. Red Widgets is their brand. Is there any way XYZ can outrank Red Widgets for the keyword term “red widgets”? Doubt it. It’s just not a realistic goal.

Even if it was possible, one major issue still exists – it’s not what XYZ’s prospects are searching for online, so attempting to rank for that product’s brand is in vane. We did the research, and we know that their prospects are searching for “cash register tape.” And if that’s what they’re looking for, and that’s what XYZ wants to sell them, then that’s how we should be optimizing XYZ’s category pages.

Have questions about branded vs non-branded keyword research? Ask away, I’m here to help!