Posted by randfish
Ranking for branded keywords is obviously quite a bit easier than for unbranded terms, but it takes some thought. We don’t just want to send everyone through our homepages; it’s far better to send them to the page that best answers their query. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers four steps to be sure you’re setting things up the right way.
For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about getting your branded search terms right. Branded search is very important, because when people perform branded queries — your brand name plus some other modifier, some noun, some information they’re seeking around your company and your brand — you want to make sure you show up correctly in the search engines.
One of the challenges here is that, as SEOs, a lot of the time we think about trying to target queries that can bring us new traffic, which often means unbranded searches, things where people haven’t yet decided what brand they’re going with. But branded search is incredibly important. It actually makes up a huge amount of volume of Google and Bing and Yahoo’s total search queries.
Here I performed a search for ZIIIRO Watches. I’m wearing one of their watches. I like them a lot. They have a weird spelling. It’s Z-I-I-I-R-O Watches. If you searched for ZIIIRO Watches a few months back, their website was a little funky. In fact, most of the internal pages weren’t crawlable.
I remember when I performed a search for ZIIIRO Watches, the only page that actually mentioned that they were a watch company, I think it was either their about or contact page would show up. That was the first page that ranks for ZIIIRO Watches. That’s not ideal.
What you really want to rank there is either their homepage or their products page that lists all their watches. Those are the two things that I could potentially see as being valuable, and if it were me, I’d particularly want the watches page to be ranking, especially if they’re expanding into other items beyond just making watches.
Now what you want here as a brand, when people perform branded types of queries, is the most relevant, useful page to answer queries about that specific thing. That’s why I said if I were the brand manager at ZIIIRO or if I were the SEO at ZIIIRO, what I would want is my watches page there rather than my homepage. The reason I want that is because getting to that information as quickly, as fast as possible is likely to have the best impact on both my SEO and on how the visitors will perform.
If I list my homepage there, I’m asking visitors to make one more step to figure out my navigation system and get to my watches page, or whatever page it is on my website. I don’t like forcing that step. I want them to get right there. Generally speaking, that can help with things like pogo sticking. It can help with time on page and engagement. It can help with conversion rate optimization. It’s just the best way to drive traffic through search.
The second thing, you want a title and description right here that’s going to really earn that click. Contact ZIIIRO Watches, phone, address, email form, that’s awful, right? That doesn’t entice me. Even if I did want to get in touch with them, what I really want there is if I put “ZIIIRO phone number” or “Contact ZIIIRO” or “ZIIIRO Help,” “ZIIIRO Support,” what I want to see is something like “Contact ZIIIRO and get immediate help. You can email us, call us, or one click to fill out our form and get responses in 24 hours or less.”
That’s what I want the description right there to say. It creates the action, the desire for me to click that, and the indication that I’m going to get what I want.
The other thing that I really like doing is making sure that the headline on the page itself, once I reach whatever page this is, I really want that headline, the big thing that comes up bold at the top, to closely match. It doesn’t have to mirror exactly what the title says, but to closely match that title so that I never get that experience of a searcher clicking and then going, “Wait a minute. This isn’t the page I thought I was about to get.”
That’s a bad experience. That’s why I try and make those match up. Then the description as well, that intent should match.
Finally, the last thing that I urge folks to do here is to have internal links that point to the pages that are most likely to guide the searcher’s next few steps. If I know that the next steps in a visitor’s journey from the watches page are often to check things out by price group, or to check things out by color, or to check things out by types of, I don’t know, wristband or whatever it is, I want to make sure that those links are very prominent and easy to access on the page that I’m showing them here.
What you don’t want to do is let the wrong pages show up here, like we have in this ZIIIRO example. I can actually walk you through a process, step by step, of ways that I would actually urge every SEO to go through this process either once a year, or once a redesign, and find all the pages that might be ranking for branded queries that you don’t intend to be ranking there, that you wish weren’t ranking there, and how to change those up.
Step one, you need to get a list of your branded terms and phrases. This used to be easier than it is today, thanks to keyword not provided. But still, we are lucky that not provided is only 90% of your Google search traffic.
There are those 10% of queries we can get some of our branded search queries through there. You can do a filter inside of Google Analytics by performing a search on the referring keywords. Or you can also do this in Moz Analytics, if you set up a branded rule for your keywords.
Bing provides you keywords as well. Bing powers Bing.com and Yahoo searches as well. In the U.S., that’s about 20% of searches or so. In Europe, obviously much less. But you can get some keyword data there.
You can use auto suggest and related searches, meaning I start typing “ZIIIRO” here, and I hit the spacebar and I see what else populates. By the way, the auto suggest tends to work better on Google’s homepage if you set up “don’t auto send me to the search results page.” You can sometimes see more search suggest on the Google homepage than you can on the results pages.
You can use related searches, which is a box down at the bottom. If I were to scroll to the bottom of the results, I’d generally see a box down here that says “related searches” and five, six, seven, eight different queries that I could look at there.
You can also use your internal search query data, of course. You can use things like Google AdWords, the AdWords keyword tool. The challenge there is with a lot of low volume searches, which many of the longer tail stuff in the brand tends to be lower volume, it can be challenging to figure those out via something like AdWords.
Step two, we’re going to depersonalize and search. We’re going to take the keyword that we’re looking for — in this case ZIIIRO Watches — and we’re going to form a search query just like this, “Google.co.nz”. Why am I looking in New Zealand? I’ll tell you in a sec. “search?q=ziiiro+watches&GL=US”.
Why this weird search query format? Well, what’s happening here is that if I go to Google.com and I search for ZIIIRO Watches, I can add something like “&PWS=0” to the end of my search query, which will depersonalize the results, but it won’t remove the geographic bias.
What I really want to see is no geographic bias when I’m performing these searches. To do that, I take myself out of the country, out of the U.S., into New Zealand, and then I put myself back in the U.S., thus removing any personalization that comes from geographic biasing. You can do this with
.ca, .co.uk, dot whatever. It doesn’t actually matter. I like generally doing it with a country code that matches the language you’re searching in, though.
By the way, when you do this, if you do it in a new incognito window, meaning you’re not logged in, you don’t generally have to worry about also adding “PWS=0” to remove personalized results.
If applicable, go to step three. Applicable meaning you need to localize. If I’m searching, for example, and I want to see how this looks in Seattle, Washington versus Portland, Oregon versus San Diego, California or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I can actually use the “&near” parameter at the end of a query like this to see what it looks like in a specific geography.
You don’t have to, by the way, go out to New Zealand to do that. You can just search in regular .com. Then I can see what search results for people near Seattle, Washington, or I think you can also now use near equals a ZIP code if you want to get that granular.
Then your job is simply to list the non-ideal results and start fixing them one by one. So I take a list of these keywords that I’ve got, a list of any of the search results that I didn’t particularly like, and I prioritize based on how much traffic I’m either getting for that keyword, how much search traffic that landing page is receiving, or how much the estimated volume might be in something like AdWords.
Now I’ve got a prioritized list that I can run through and say, “All right, got to fix this one. These three look good. Got to fix this one. These four look good.” For that process, you can refer to some other Whiteboard Fridays that I’ve done on how to get the right result ranking for the search query term you’re looking for. Generally speaking, it’s not going to be that hard when it’s a branded search term.
All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we’ll see you again next week. Take care.
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