SEO, the process of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to a website from search engines, should be a fundamental component of your marketing mix. In this article, we dive into the world of SEO and discuss how non-branded traffic is critical in helping people find your brand online. 

If you're looking to improve your Search Engine Optimization, consider booking a free 30 minute consultation with our team.

Why Non-Branded Traffic is Important

As buyers prepare for the gift-giving season and go on the hunt for holiday sales, specific keywords will see a spike in their search volume and competitiveness. For example, Google Trends found that the keyphrase, laptop sale, has spiked consistently around Cyber Monday for the last five years.

Looking at the key phrase "Laptop sale" over a period of 5 years, we see a seasonal trend with spikes in search volume during the holiday season.

via Google Trends

So, suppose you want to improve your share of searches during the holiday shopping season.


To calculate your share of searches you divide the total searches for your brand by the total search for all brands in your category then times by 100.

To that end, you’ll want to research and rank likely keyword searches, being sure to include the non-branded keywords that will lead to non-branded traffic. Non-branded traffic is the search engine traffic you receive from keywords that don’t mention your brand (e.g., laptop sale). This kind of traffic is critical because it helps buyers find your website even if they’ve never heard of your brand. And because non-branded traffic is tied to your non-branded keywords, it’s important to implement a robust keyword strategy. We discuss this in more detail below.

Analyzing Your Non-Branded Traffic and Identifying Your Non-Branded Keywords

When businesses analyze their website performance, they don’t always pay attention to non-branded traffic. Often, businesses don’t distinguish between branded and non-branded traffic and instead take a general look at key performance indicators like number of sessions, average session length, number of users, bounce rate, etc. These businesses thus miss an opportunity to improve organic traffic to their site and improve their online visibility. 

Often, businesses don’t distinguish between branded and non-branded traffic and instead take a general look at key performance indicators like number of sessions, average session length, number of users, bounce rate, etc. 

If you want to differentiate between branded and non-branded traffic, you’ll want to add the second dimension landing page to the Source Medium Report under Acquisitions in Google Analytics. Adding the second dimension will enable you to distinguish traffic that resulted from a search for your brand from traffic that resulted from keywords related to your product. 

You can also determine which keywords are driving traffic by going to:

Acquisitions ⮞ Keywords ⮞ Organic (filter out non-branded traffic by selecting the Advanced button next to the Search bar) ⮞ ‘exclude Keyword’ & Matching RegExp ⮞ enter your branded keywords separated by a pipe (|) ⮞ Apply. 

This information can inform your organic keyword strategy for non-branded keywords, which is often more cost-effective than running a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign.

How to Conduct Keyword Research

The first step in implementing a keyword strategy that helps you drive non-branded traffic is to conduct keyword research. This is something you should do regularly and whenever you’ve noticed a change regarding algorithms, consumer desires, trends, competitors, etc. We suggest following these steps:

Step 1: Analyze the Keywords You’re Currently Ranking For

Analyze current keywords by looking at KPIs (e.g., traffic generated by a particular keyword). Use Google Search Console to identify which keywords your site already ranks for and then organize your list of keywords based on performance. Make sure to distinguish between poor-but-worthwhile and just poor keywords. Your goal here is to establish a baseline for keyword performance. 

One thing to note when trying to identify keywords you’re already using is that approximately 99% of organic keywords are blocked (i.e., not provided by Google Analytics). This is not a glitch in the system! Instead, it’s a measure taken by Google to protect user privacy. There are statistical analytical methods that can be used to gain insight into keywords via probability testing. However, there are also 3rd party applications like Keyword Hero that make the job easier.

Step 2: Formulate Your SEO Goals

Formulate goals by asking:

  1. Who is the target audience? Who buys what we sell, and why?
  2. What do we sell, and what is our unique value proposition in our marketplace?
  3. What are the chief needs or desires of people who become our customers?
  4. What are their secondary, related needs?
  5. What are the things our target consumer needs to know to feel confident in who they choose to buy from?

Step 3: Build a Keyword Wish List

Build a keyword “wish list” since you might not be able to rank for all keywords. List out the keywords that you think best describe what your target customers search for by asking:

  1. What would your target customer search when they’re trying to educate themselves about the kinds of things you sell?
  2. What would they search for when trying to make an informed decision about who to buy from?
  3. What would they search for when they want to buy specific things you sell?

Step 4: Analyze Your Competitors

Assess the competitive landscape by looking at what your competitors are ranking for. Use Google to search for terms relevant to your business and see who ranks organically for them. Then, do a Google search for each product (and its alternative names) for each competitor domain by searching “[product name] site:[competitors domain].”

Step 5. Flesh Out Your Keyword Wish List

Expand your keyword horizons by finding search terms related to your wish list of keywords. You can use free tools like Answer the Public, Keyword Explorer, and Keywords Everywhere, a free Chrome plugin.

Step 6. Distinguish Between Opportunities and Investments

Prioritize opportunities versus investments (e.g., a new trending topic versus a highly relevant but competitive keyword). You can use Google Search Console to see how specific keywords perform to try and identify opportunities. You’ll want to look at average search volume, impressions, clicks, cost-per-click (CPC), and bid price. 

You can also use Google Trends to look at a keyword’s performance over time, tracking whether search volume has increased and if the CPC has changed. Make sure to update your existing content to use the new keywords and use them strategically for PPC campaigns. 

Lastly, when identifying opportunities to improve non-branded traffic, it’s essential to understand the primary search intent. Generally speaking, search intent falls into one of four categories:

  • Transactional: shopping searches, searching for deals, etc.
  • Informational: how-to questions, reviews, etc.
  • Local: looking for things (e.g., businesses) near you
  • Navigational: searches for directions

Making the Most of Your SEO Strategy

Now that you’ve got a rock-solid keyword strategy, it’s time to implement it! For the most part, to implement a keyword strategy you should update existing content to utilize the new keywords you’ve identified and create new value-adding content that utilizes any new keywords.

That said, a lot more goes into improving your SERP ranking and by extension, site traffic. Here are a few other areas we recommend focusing on:

Establish Topical Relevance to Gain Visibility

It’s essential to establish topical relevance to make the most of your SEO strategy. Don’t focus on only the top ten keywords; you’ll also want to include variations of a term or phrase, including misspellings. Additionally, you should emphasize long-tail keywords and rank for phrases that are more likely to come up in a voice search (i.e., how would someone verbalize this search?) And if you’re looking to rank locally, use general terms that describe the region so that your brand shows up in Google’s map results (otherwise known as the Google Map Pack).

In googles search engine, the map pack refers to all the local search results in your area.

The Case For Branded Keywords

It’s still important to rank for branded keywords so you maintain a majority share of searches. You’ll want to prevent competitors from ranking for your branded terms by bidding on branded keywords so that you keep showing up at the top of SERPs. It’s essential to keep a close eye on the analytics, especially if you’re running paid ads because you don’t want to start paying for traffic already headed your way.

Other Considerations

  • You’ll want to consider backlinking (i.e., links to your site from other sites) so that Google bots and new customers notice your site. The more sites you have linking back to your site, the more valuable your content appears and the higher you will appear in Google’s ranking. 
  • Internal links help direct people to other relevant content on your website. It also lets bots better crawl your website and find content.
  • Outgoing links (or outbound links) help build relationships with other businesses, facilitate connections, and improve traffic. (Just don’t link to a competitor!)
  • Paid SEO (or search ads) will help you appear at the top of Google’s search results for predefined keywords.
  • Although it doesn’t directly impact SEO, social media marketing, though it doesn’t directly impact SEO, it does improve visibility and brand recognition while boosting local search optimizations. 
  • Citations (e.g., being listed on Yelp, a local Chamber of Commerce site, etc.) will help with indexing, which is crucial for helping bots find your website so Google can index it.
  • Google Reviews and other reviews from review sites like Yelp, Trust Pilot, etc., will improve your visibility and provide trust indicators to new customers.

How Insourcing Helps

Clearly, there’s a lot that goes into SEO and improving your non-branded traffic. In fact, much of what we touch on in this article will be explored in other blog posts, so stay tuned!

The most cost- and time-effective way to get over hurdles like not having enough time or people to execute an SEO strategy is to utilize an insourced marketing team. This method facilitates increased customization and cross-team collaboration and provides greater task flexibility. 

At RFDM, we live and breathe digital marketing and can help you level up your digital marketing efforts. If you have general marketing questions or want to learn more about generating non-branded traffic, please reach out to us.

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