Is brand search your (secret) most reliable traffic source?
Impression’s Ben Garry argues that brand search might just be your most underfunded (and influential) brand asset. Here’s how to elevate it.
Are you investing in the power of brand search? / John Towner via Unsplash
Digital marketers are trained to provide commercial value in different ways, but it’s surprisingly easy to ignore one of our largest, most valuable sources of traffic: brand search.
Brand search is often the biggest single source of search engine traffic. When brand search is high, the website looks good. When it’s down, marketers often find themselves fielding hard questions.
We make our lives much easier when we acknowledge the importance of branded search and start making sure that we’re making the most of its impact on our websites.
We have a numerical reason to care
One high street brand I work with has seen over 62% of its organic search traffic in 2023 come from queries that contain the brand name. That’s approximately 1 in every 8 people who come to the site from anywhere. Another company I work with has launched multiple sites around the world in the last couple of years, and each of these receives over 90% of its organic traffic from branded search queries. Brand recognition in search is critical for launching these sites in new markets.
When we look at traffic from search ads, the numbers are even more convincing. One client in the travel industry has a conversion rate of 2.7% for its brand campaigns in the UK, compared to 1.4% for non-branded. The difference is even greater in the US, with a 3.6% conversion rate for brand compared to 1.7% for non-brand.
Across paid and organic, the practical process that leads to these stats is the same: people searching for the brand. We cannot afford to ignore a traffic source that brings so many high-converting users to our websites.
Own your brand name in search
It’s easy to ignore branded search because we assume it’s safe. If people search the brand, surely they’ll arrive on the website?
Just last week I was working with a new website and spotted a competitor advertising on their branded queries with an ad proclaiming itself the ‘best alternative’ with ‘affordable pricing’. I’ve also seen instances of brands not ranking first for their own name, or where information about the brand displayed in Google is incorrect.
For brands to succeed in both paid and organic search they need to own their branded queries. The good news is that many of these issues have relatively simple and inexpensive solutions. Advertising on your own search queries is usually cheap, and incorrect information is often easy to correct by updating your site or claiming your Google Business profile. You simply need to look for these issues in the first place.
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It’s not only low cost that makes these activities worthwhile. They’re also valuable. Those conversion rates from brand traffic show us that these searchers are more engaged and closer to converting than others.
The logic is simple: if someone is already searching for your brand name or product, they already have an intention to engage further with the company. They’re already some way down the sales funnel.
Usually, they’re either doing more research (and therefore can be persuaded to convert), or they’re already persuaded and ready to buy. Either way, it’s critical that their experience from search to website is smooth. The last thing you want to do is give them a reason to change their mind about the business.
Don’t let search fall behind other channels
Search isn’t always at the forefront of conversations about brand strategy, but it is crucial to goals like engagement, customer loyalty and positive sentiment. Mistakes with branded search can end a customer’s journey (or, worse, send them to a competitor).
The solution? Apply the same rigor to your brand’s search presence as you would to honing tone of voice on social or creating a big-budget TV ad. We should aim for the same attention to detail and for consistency with how our brands are presented elsewhere.
A simple way to keep the impact of brand search in mind is to report on its impact. Dedicated brand campaigns can be set up and monitored as part of your paid search strategy, while Google Search Console is a free tool that enables search query filtering so that you can monitor the volume of brand impressions and clicks.
As part of your reporting, look for changes in traffic and conversions that might indicate a change in the way customers interact with your brand. These changes could be signs of technical issues, increased competition, or changing demand. If branded search makes up most of your site’s organic visibility and converts highly for paid search, it pays to catch and solve problems early before they can spiral into a long-term issue for the site.
Remember, these customers are already engaged. Many of them are loyal. In giving them the best experience in search, you are nurturing their relationship with the brand. Other traffic sources may be more newsworthy or attention-grabbing but, when building your brand strategy, make sure you consider the people who are already searching for it.
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