What Is Branded Traffic and How Does It Affect SEO?

Christy Walters


February 1, 2023 (Updated: February 7, 2024)

macbook with stickers on it to represent branded traffic

Who’s looking for your company online? While you already track your web traffic from search results, it’s important to distinguish between people who find your site accidentally and those looking for it specifically. Today, we’re looking at what branded traffic is and how tracking these queries affect your SEO:

What Is Branded Traffic?

Branded traffic is any website visit that comes from a visitor searching for keywords that reference your company. For example, branded keywords for CopyPress could include:

For companies that have branded products and services, those keywords also add to your branded traffic. Searches for the company name Apple are an example of branded traffic. But searching for iPhone, MacBook, and AirPods counts too. All of these keywords indicate that someone is looking for the Apple brand or one of its products. Another subsegment of branded traffic includes searches for your company and geographic locations. If your company has storefronts or offices in different cities, these searches also count as branded traffic.

For example, a search for “New York City Target” indicates that searchers want to find Target stores in New York City. Branded keywords typically only include those that navigate exclusively to your company’s domain. For example, the keyword “Amazon discount” wouldn’t lead to branded traffic for the Amazon website. Most results for this keyword lead to sites like DontPayFull.com, RetailMeNot or Groupon. They offer promo codes for Amazon products but don’t lead to the Amazon domain.

How Do You Calculate Branded Traffic as a Metric?

The branded traffic formula helps you find the volume of branded keywords that lead to your website. You can find the percentage of branded traffic on your site by dividing the number of branded visits your website gets by the total amount of traffic it receives. The formula looks like this:

V = (B / T) * 100

In the formula, “V” stands for brand traffic volume, “B” is the number of brand keyword visits your website receives, and “T” is the total number of visits your site receives. You’ll use this formula within a specific timeframe, too. So If you plan to track your brand traffic for the last month, you’ll collect the brand keyword numbers and total visit numbers for that period. If you have 200 brand traffic visits and 5,000 total visits to your site, then your brand traffic volume would be 4%.

Why Does Branded Traffic Matter for Marketing?

When you track your branded traffic, you learn more about your company’s brand awareness with its audience. If people are searching for your company by name, it means they already know you exist. They’re seeking your company out specifically rather than just choosing it from a basic keyword search online. Some SEO experts might call branded traffic “second exposure.” Your audience may have come across your company through another keyword search or a word-of-mouth recommendation. Then they turn to an online search to look up your company for themselves.

Branded traffic is often the most profitable and highest-performing traffic you can get to your website. This is because when people actively seek out your company, they’re ready to inquire further about products and services or make a purchase. They’re further down the sales funnel than someone who stumbles upon your company through a non-branded keyword search. The volume of branded versus non-branded traffic can also tell you more about your business.

If most of your traffic comes from branded queries, it likely means your site isn’t fully optimized for organic search visibility. If most of your traffic comes from non-branded queries, you likely don’t have as much brand awareness as you could. While the right balance between branded and non-branded queries varies by industry, tracking your branded traffic can help you see where your company currently stands.

Knowing this information can help you balance your SEO strategy to increase both brand awareness and organic search potential for your site and content. Additional research can help you figure out what distribution between the two is right for your company.

What Value Do You Get From Tracking Different Types of Branded Queries?

Aside from the broad benefits of tracking all branded keywords for your organization, there are specific advantages to tracking the individual keywords groups and their traffic:

Branded Queries

Branded queries include those that include your company name or specific features of your website, such as your blog or online store. Tracking branded queries from search engines help you get a better idea of how many people are looking to conduct a search and land right on your website. Most people defer to a Google search instead of typing your URL right into the address bar. This is to make sure they’re going to the location they want instead of mistyping your URL and ending up on the wrong site, or worse, a malicious or spammy website.

Tracking branded queries can also show you potential gaps in your content and keyword strategy. If people are looking for specific content or pages on your website but you don’t offer it, you could fill those gaps with information to meet their needs.

Related: What Is a Content Gap Analysis?

Local Branded Queries

These types of queries help you understand if people are looking for your individual store or office locations. Local queries often overlap with basic branded queries. But they can tell you more about your audience demographics. For example, if you have retail stores in multiple cities, but you have more branded searches for one location than another, you can learn which is more popular.

Product or Service Queries

Product and service branded queries tell you which of your company offerings your audience is looking for. These searchers tell you more about your customer pain points and their other needs. If someone looks for “CopyPress Content Marketing eBooks,” that tells us our audience wants help creating eBooks. If that branded keyword has more searches and traffic than branded keywords for our other services, it could indicate that’s the service most popular with or most appealing to our audience.

Contact or Support Queries

Contact or support branded queries tell you more about your returning audience and loyal customers. When people search for your contact details or your support department, they often need help with something or have questions. By tracking these branded searches, you can learn more about what your returning customers keep coming back for. Then, you can create content to target their needs. For example, if you have a lot of branded queries for service questions, you can create FAQ content for your website that addresses their wonderings.

Problems With Tracking Branded Traffic

macbook with stickers on it to represent branded traffic

Image via Unsplash by @slidebean

Brand traffic often fluctuates over time. Depending on your brand and industry it may change with the seasons or with promotional campaigns. For example, if your company provides tax services, you’ll often receive more branded traffic during tax season than throughout the entire year. This makes the metric less reliable for tracking your brand awareness efforts.

Because of these issues, it’s often better to think of this metric as a relative one. You can compare your branded traffic numbers from year to year through specific periods to determine if your brand awareness is growing. From the tax company, they could compare their branded traffic numbers during tax season from last year to this year to see if it’s grown. This would make more sense than comparing it from the first quarter of the year to the third quarter of the same year.

How Does Branded Traffic Affect SEO?

Branded traffic often has a positive impact on your SEO. Your website always appears as one of the top listings or in the featured snippet for branded queries. It doesn’t matter what algorithm changes Google and other search engines make. If someone is looking for your brand in a search, they’ll find it at the top of the search engine results page (SERP).

Appearing at the top of SERPs for those queries increases your click-through rate, website traffic, and user returns. All this engagement and attention helps your non-branded organic search potential too. When people seek out your site directly and spend more time there, that signals to Google and other search engines that your site is valuable. When people click branded keywords from the SERP it signals that Google has given people the “right” results. All of these factors signal to search engines that your site has domain authority and that it should get recommended for branded and non-branded keywords.

Branded Traffic and Search Intent

Branded traffic can also tell you more about your target audience’s search intent. When you know what they’re looking for, you can create better content and workflows to help them find that information. Knowing your audience’s search intent can also help you better optimize your website and domain to show up for the right queries.

While you shouldn’t need to do any additional work to get your content to appear for branded queries, learning more about your branded query search intent can help you optimize content for non-branded searches, too. Here are some points to consider when matching your branded keyword searches with search intent:

Informational Intent

When searchers look for content with informational intent, they’re looking for knowledge or facts on a specific topic. For CopyPress, searchers with informational intent may use keywords like “CopyPress blog,” “CopyPress webinar,” or “CopyPress knowledge base.” When people search for your brand with informational intent, they’re looking for your team’s expert insight on a topic. This is a way to see if your brand has authority in its industry.

If people are coming to your brand specifically for information that means you have thought leadership in your field. You can capitalize on more of these types of informational branded keywords by increasing your brand authority. Do that by developing quality content and creating strategic partnerships with promotional channels.

Commercial intent

Searchers looking for your brand with commercial intent are looking for products and services they intend to buy. They want to look at what your company has to offer and how it benefits them. With CopyPress, some of our branded commercial searches may include keywords like “Copypress international content” or “CopyPress product descriptions.”

These searchers are in the middle of their buyer journey. They want to explore your specific products or what your brand has to offer to compare it to something else. This could include comparing one of your products to another or your products and services to your competitors. From these kinds of searches, you can learn which of your products and services your audience is seeking to meet their needs.

Navigational Intent

Your branded keyword traffic often aligns best with navigational search intent. People with navigational search intent want to find an exact website or location online. For example, someone might want to get to the CopyPress website but they don’t know the exact URL. They run a Google search for our company name to find it. Navigational searchers may be the best indicators to help you figure out if your brand awareness campaigns are working. The more direct searches you get, the more people know your brand exists.

Related: How Important Is Navigational Search Intent for Content Creation?

Transactional Intent

Searchers who have transactional intent are ready to make a purchase or complete an action online. For CopyPress, some of these search keywords could include “CopyPress eBook download” or “Start CopyPress campaign.” For companies with products for sale, these branded keywords may look like “Amazon shopping cart” or “order Pizza Hut.” These branded keywords for B2B and B2C companies may look slightly different because of their product and service offerings.

Transactional doesn’t have to mean your searchers make a purchase. It means that they take the next step to interact with your brand, whether they exchange money or information. In either case, these searchers are closer to the end of their buyer journey or the lower part of the marketing funnel.

Local Intent

Though not one of the traditional types of search intent, local intent is an offshoot of navigational intent. People with local search intent want to find your brand in a specific geographic area. For CopyPress, a local search intent query may include a question like “Does CopyPress work with brands in Texas?” For companies with brick-and-mortar offices and stores, searchers may use keywords like “Guitar Center near me” or “IKEA Pittsburgh.” these searchers often want to find out if your brand serves their area or if they can visit one of your locations nearby.

Related: How To Uncover Search Intent for Local SEO

Freebie Intent

This type of intent also isn’t one of the traditional types but is another you can track for more information about your audience. Freebie intent comes when searchers look for branded keywords that have to do with getting free products or services from your company. For example, someone might search “CopyPress free trial” to see if they can try our services for free before signing up.

If you find a lot of your branded traffic comes from freebie searches, you may consider offering discounts or free products and services for a limited time to entice them to choose your brand over a competitor.

Organic Branded Traffic vs. Paid Branded Traffic

Most of your branded traffic should come from organic searches. As we said, your company website and its subdomains should come up in any branded searches your audience runs for your company. But what happens when your brand name is too generic? For example, if your company is Target Media Corporation, most of your audience probably won’t search that full name. They may search “Target” or “Target Media.” Both of those keywords are likely to bring up the Target department store and links to its media product pages.

What is this company supposed to do to increase and track its branded traffic? Target Media Corporation could turn to paid search marketing to track branded keywords. Paid search engine marketing (SEM) focuses on promoting your content to the top of SERPs through ads. These appear above the first organic search result. Target Media Corporation could pay to have its ads appear at the top of SERPs for the branded keywords its team wants to track.

Then the team could watch the clicks and engagement rate for those keywords. If Target Media receives a lot of branded traffic for those keywords, the team may add this paid strategy to the marketing plan permanently. If not, the company may consider other ways to get better organic branded traffic to its site.

Related: Family Tree: How Are SEO and SEM Related?

Where Can You Find Your Branded Traffic Information?

Many of your keyword research and SEO tracking tools offer options to let you view the metrics for your branded traffic. For example, SEMrush has a filter option to show you branded keywords for your company, non-branded keywords, and branded traffic for competitors. Each program’s criteria for calculating what counts as a branded or non-branded keyword is a bit different. It’s important to read up on the keyword criteria for any programs so that you understand how each one produces your list of keywords.

The more you know about your branded traffic, the better you can understand your audience and what they know about your company. If you’re looking to increase your brand awareness, this metric helps you determine if your efforts are working. They can also help you track your thought leadership and authority strides in your industry. The more people look for your company online, the better chances you have of expanding your audience and beating out the competition when they have a choice to make about the products and services they purchase.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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