Author | Chatmeter TeamDate Posted | January 2, 2019

Optimizing for Local Search: Branded vs Non-Branded Keywords

If you’re a location-based brand, your online visibility on search is key to your success. Whether it’s on a laptop, mobile device, or hands-free voice assistant like Alexa, nearly half of today’s buyers rely on search to find the perfect product or service closest to them.

That’s right. According to Google, about 46% of all Google searches have local intent. Part of being found in local searches has to do with optimizing your locations to rank for the right keywords. This means knowing which keywords are bringing in the right customers.

Too often, busy teams choose to focus their SEO only on branded keywords. They see it gets a higher click-through rate (CTR) and assume that’s good enough — a huge mistake that can leave you missing out on serious revenue and ready buyers.

Great local SEO success requires a strong branded and non-brand keyword strategy. Here’s why you need both, and how to optimize your brand so it reaches more of your ideal customers.

What are Branded Keywords?

Branded keywords refer to a search query that contains your brand name. For example, “Starbucks coffee”. Starbucks is the brand name in this search query.

Users who conduct a branded keyword search are typically already familiar with your brand, They may have already made a purchase from you in the past and intend to make another.

What are Non-Branded Keywords?

Non-branded keywords are search queries that don’t contain a brand name. For example, “flu shots.” You can find flu shots at places like CVS, Walgreens, an urgent care facility, local healthcare clinic, or community center.

Non-branded keywords are a great way for new customers to find your brand. There are also lots more non-branded keywords you can optimize for than branded keywords alone.

Branded vs Non-Branded Keywords. What’s better for Local SEO?

We get this question all the time. When it comes to local search, we can’t stress enough the power of optimizing for non-branded keywords. Here’s why:

Local Search is Mobile Search

When it comes to mobile search, users are on the go looking for instant gratification. In the past 2 years alone, mobile searches for “open” + “now” + “near me” have grown 200%. Most mobile searches are not using branded keywords to find your business. When you’re hungry you’d search for “pizza near me” not the name of the business. The urgency of local search usually outweighs brand loyalty, leaving the vast majority of local search queries made using non-branded keywords.

Non-Branded Keywords Build Your Online Visibility

If you want to reach new customers, bring more visitors to your business, and rank higher in more searches, you need to be optimizing for non-branded keywords. What’s the point of creating content to bring in more customers if you’re not going to optimize non-branded keywords so new customers can find you? On average, over ⅔ of the impressions on local listings come from non-branded keywords. If you’re looking to increase the visibility of your local listings, non-branded keywords are the way to go.

In order to improve your listing visibility make sure your listings include the right categories. Google allows you to pick a primary category as well as some additional categories. A category is essentially an unbranded keyword that you want your business listing to rank for. Be specific as you can with your categories, you don’t need to rank for every category, just the ones that make the most sense for your product or services.

Optimizing for Branded Keywords Have a Cost

We hear about brands only optimizing for their branded keywords. Gap is one of the biggest suppliers of school uniforms. They practically invented khaki pants, yet they continuously fail to optimize for non-branded keywords like school uniforms. As a result, they don’t appear in search results. We looked as far down as page three.

They’re missing out on millions of potential customers by only focusing on their branded keywords.

It’s true. Branded keywords have higher conversion rates, but this is due to the fact that people who are making branded searches are further along in the buying process. They are already familiar with your brand and have formed some level of trust.

By failing to optimize for non-branded keywords you are losing out on new customers. Once you have a loyal customer you don’t need to allocate as much of your ad budget towards retaining them. In fact, customers spend 66% more on brands they are loyal to and they’re 17 times more likely to recommend that brand to friends and family. Instead, you should be focusing on attracting more customers who may turn into loyal fans.

What about Local Search Ads?

In 2016, Google introduced local search ads in an effort to increase foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Unlike regular Google Ads, local search ads appear in Google Maps and geo-fencing keeps your ads targeted to your local customer base.

When it comes to bidding on keywords, non-branded keywords have more competition and therefore cost more. Don’t let the high cost discourage you, non-branded keywords have a much larger audience due to the volume of non-branded searches. Creating ads for non-branded keywords increases your online visibility and helps to bring in more foot traffic.

If you’re not already optimizing your site for non-branded keywords, you might have a low-quality score when you attempt to run local ads. This can affect your ad performance, position, and price. If you plan on running ads at any point in the future be sure you’re optimizing for non-branded keywords now.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t forget about branded keywords altogether. The biggest reason to bid on branded keywords is that your competition is doing it. They’re targeting your audience by bidding on your keywords. By bidding on your own branded keywords you’ll keep competitors from claiming all the ad space on local searches for your brand.

Part of establishing a strong local SEO plan includes optimizing for the right keywords. Identifying and optimizing for non-branded keywords is vital if you plan to attract new customers. Whether you plan to use local search ads or focus on organic local SEO, it’s important to research, test, and optimize your keywords, branded and non-branded.

Interested in seeing which non-branded keywords you could be ranking for? Get a free Online Brand Visibility Audit to see how Chatmeter can help you find local SEO success.