Keyword Basics: Branded vs. Non-branded and (Not Provided)

When you conduct an analysis into the effectiveness of your SEO, be sure to focus on non-branded keywords.

Tracking non-branded keywords is the primary way you can gauge the health of your SEO efforts over time, and see what adjustments, if any, are needed.

But what exactly are branded and non-branded keywords?

Branded Keywords:

A “branded keyword” search query includes your brand name or some variation of it. For example, branded keywords for Risdall include search queries like:

  • Risdall
  • Risdal
  • Risdall Marketing
  • Risdall Marketing Group
  • Risdall Advertising, etc…

Other keywords that don’t reference the brand name are considered “non-brand keywords.” A non-branded keyword search query does not include your brand name or any part of it, including any misspellings. It is important to analyze and understand your non-branded keyword traffic because it often represents the majority of your website’s new visitors and unique visitors.  Most importantly, these visitors may not already know about your brand and are searching for your product or service.

Keyword Issues

Non-Branded Keywords:

An analysis of non-branded keywords and traffic is important, particularly for large brands, because branded keywords can make up the majority of organic search engine traffic.

This is significant because branded keywords are not a function of search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Two reasons why branded key are not a result of SEO:

  1. 99.9% of the time your website will rank No. 1 for any and all variations of branded keywords.So no optimization is necessary to rank in the first position. Any organic traffic from branded keywords is not a result of search engine optimization because you can’t do any better than first position in organic results.
  2. Branded terms are a result of brand recognition.In other words, branded keyword searches are navigational in nature. The user is specifically looking for your website (which means that they’ve been exposed to your brand already and are simply typing in your brand name to find your website). It’s essentially the same as someone who types your domain name right into their internet browser (a.k.a. Direct Traffic).

Therefore, if interested in gauging the health of SEO efforts, you must dig deeper into the analytics data and focus on the organic number of non-branded keyword and non-branded keyword traffic.  Otherwise, trends and fluctuations could have little to do with actual search engine optimization. This is why we consistently report on the number of branded and non-branded keywords & the amount of organic traffic they drive.

Note, it’s also important to research and comprehend your branded vs. non-branded terms for paid search.

The (not provided) Keyword:

On 18th October 2011, Google made an announcement with some big news for website owners. They stated, “As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver. As a result, we’re enhancing our default search experience for signed-in users.”  Dues to this,

“When you search from https://www.google.com, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won’t receive information about each individual query.”

Instead, these visits are grouped together in Google Analytics under the keyword (not provided).

Secure Google search pages are web pages where the URL begins https:// rather than http://. This means the information sent between your computer and the website is encrypted.

Examples of (not provided) sources include:

  • When you’re signed into a Google product – that could be your Gmail account, YouTube, Google Drive, Analytics, Adwords or Google+ account.
  • If you have just signed out of a Google account, as you will remain on secure pages
  • If you are using Firefox 14 or above which now makes all Google searches over to secure
  • Or if you opted into using secure search

Google announced on September 23, 2013:

"We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year. We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in." – Google

Which means that Google has made a change aimed to encrypting all search activity, with the exception of clicks on ads. This means that, as of September 24, 2013 all organic search traffic from the Google search engine will be recorded in analytics as (not provided).  The increasing interest in the keyword (not provided) can be seen in the chart from Google trends below:

For more information on (not provided) and analyzing (not provided) data check out: