Branded search results, AKA those snazzy Google results that folks see when they search specifically for your brand name or product name, can make or break a sale.
But worry not, fellow nerds, because we’re about to explain four reasons why you absolutely need to give a hoot about your branded search results. And, better yet, we’ll get you started with how to change them!
So, let’s jump into branded SEO.
What are branded search results?
You might hear terms like branded search, branded SEO, or brand SERPs (short for Search Engine Results Pages).
These terms are related.
Simply put, branded search refers to the Google results shown when anyone searches specifically for your business name, product name, or even your personal name.
Think about searching for “Nike running shoes” compared to searching for “running shoes.”
The branded search is “Nike running shoes.”
The results page for each is going to be vastly different. On the non-brand search, you’ll get lots of variety. Some education about running shoes, some Nike, some Adidas. A bunch of guides about Best Running Shoes.
On the Nike branded search, though, you’ll see most of the results are websites and digital properties owned by Nike/Nike retailers. There might be some news or educational content, but it’s 99% about Nike or produced by Nike.
Why should you care about branded search?
Because Google runs the world. We must not question our overlords.
All jokes aside, branded search can carry a ton of weight in telling the story of your brand, funneling customers into specific areas of your website, and generally appealing to a variety of your target audiences.
We’ll expand below, but these are four major business cases for investing in and caring about your branded search presence.
- Branded search results reach nearly every major customer segment and decision maker.
- Branded search results are largely in your control.
- Your brand SERP is easier and cheaper to control versus chasing high-competition keywords.
- Focusing on branded search forces you to clearly establish your brand’s identity and to adopt integrated marketing tactics.
1) Branded search reaches every major customer segment.
Rarely does any single marketing tactic pack as much impact as a well-managed branded search presence. When you improve your branded search results page, you’re effectively influencing:
- Your prospective customers who are most likely to close or make a purchase soon
- Recent new customers who are getting more familiar with your brand or product
- Current customers who are visiting to purchase again or digging for more ways to engage
- Brands seeking partnerships (think student-athlete and NIL, or influencer marketing generally)
- Potential investors
That’s what we in the biz call a really effective ad.
All of these audiences are on the brink of buying from you or engaging with you in some way.
Having a clean, appealing visual presence in Google can make or break any deal.
Your potential customers will Google your brand name to learn more about the details of your company and your services, compare prices, and find promotions.
Do you want them to find an unclaimed Yelp page and an old Twitter account on the first page of results?
Even worse, A MAPQUEST PAGE!?
Do you want them to see a random website that rated you negatively, even though you have plenty of positive reviews on other sites?
Do you want them to see incorrect or irrelevant information, or competitor pages appearing in your branded search results?
We used to have a local arena football team named Louisville Fire.
Guess what happened when you Google’d the term Louisville Fire?
You would get a mix of arena football, government, and fire department websites, along with news articles about recent fires in the Louisville area.
If you were trying to learn more about the team, find a schedule, or get tickets, it was a bit of a scavenger hunt.
Not great from a branding standpoint.
By improving your branded search results, you can position your brand as credible and maintain accuracy of information.
P.S. Google hates when you make their users do a scavenger hunt to learn about your brand. So keep that in mind 😉
2) Branded search results can largely be in your control.
Let’s say you owned a brand called CBDmd.
Ranking on the first page for “CBD oil” would be substantially more difficult than influencing the results and content that appears when searching for “CBDmd.”
To rank for a super competitive term like CBD oil, you’d need to produce exceptional content at high volume and high consistency, build lots of links for authority, generate press coverage often, and then still be very patient.
That’s a hurdle for most businesses. It’s 12 to 18 months too long for payoff.
It’s important to understand every key term that’s Googled has a unique level of competitiveness (you can think of it on a scale of 0 to 100).
The more competitive the search term, the more time and budget you’ll need to invest in order to rank well.
So, unless you have unlimited time and budget (not reality), there’s a sweet spot of what search terms your business can practically compete for. You need to find a balance of terms with decent search volume, but low/mid-level competitiveness.
As I alluded to above, a search of your specific brand name will almost always have low competitiveness.
It’s the lowest of the low-hanging fruit.
You have far more control of your branded search results compared to trying to rank on the first page for [insert competitive keyword].
So, you can make an impact more quickly by creating an outstanding branded search presence.
3) More control = More predictable ROI = Budget-friendly.
When budgets are tight, predictable expenses and clear ROI aren’t just nice to have. They’re requirements.
SEO services can run upwards of $10,000/month, especially if you’re vying for really competitive search terms, like “running shoes” or “full spectrum CBD oil.”
If you have the budget to focus on those broad searches, go for it. Not saying that’s a bad thing.
But be aware those terms are highly competitive. They require hefty amounts of time and budget to get content ranked. And the payback period on your investment will be long.
Aside from that, the level of competitiveness of high-volume searches is largely unknown. And so is the volume of searches for any given term.
Sure, you can hop in a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs and get a sense of search volume and competitiveness.
But those are estimates and a thousand other companies are taking that same data and running marketing efforts against it.
If you’re like most of us, you’re operating with limited in-house skills, time, and budget. Maybe not even a budget that’s competitive.
So, you can’t immediately go for the most expensive/lucrative keywords.
What you can do is invest smaller budgets into tactics that further your brand awareness and generate conversation at a “grassroots” level, which will drive more searches specifically for your brand name or product.
And it’s at that point you can make sure your brand’s value is clearly communicated through a variety of credible, quality search results surrounding your business.
Things like a well-managed Google Business Profile. Third-party reviews. Your top content and proof of work. Press features. Links to active social media pages. Featured videos. Paid search and shopping ads.
4) Great search rankings are an outcome of great branding and marketing.
The big question: HOW?
How can you take control of what your branded search presence looks like?
We frequently have people ask us about SEO as if it’s a lever pulled in the back room that boosts your site’s rankings.
If you don’t like what you’re seeing when you Google your company name, it’s not because you have an SEO problem.
You have a branding problem.
Google doesn’t know what your brand stands for or what content floating around on the web is the priority.
If Google’s struggling to comprehend your brand and its value, let’s be honest, so are your customers.
It means you’re not expressing your brand message clearly. That’s a branding problem, not a digital marketing problem.
So, it first starts with taking a step back and reviewing your brand as a whole — the words you use, the tone you give off, the visuals, the channels you’re active in, your team’s internal skills and culture, and your positioning and product-market fit.
SEO is much larger than simply, “Oh, I really need to get another page up on my site about [insert keyword] to rank well! That’s the key to it all!”
Maybe. But what you really need is a foundational brand strategy to guide the message and visual cues that live on your website and across your content. Because those are what populate Google.
And then, finally, you do need to activate specific marketing tactics to create an ecosystem around your brand’s activity.
- Establishing an entity home for your brand
- Earning media via press releases, news articles, and interviews
- Being present at local events, conferences, and trade shows
- Feeding Google a variety of great content in different mediums, like blogs, video, social, and so on.
- Having accurate business information across all web properties
- Having active paid advertising channels consistently driving home your brand’s value. If you’ve said it 10 times, you haven’t said it enough!
How long does it take to influence your brand SERP?
Tricky question. Like all organic SEO efforts, it’s certainly not an overnight switch.
Depending on the competitiveness of your brand name as a search term, it typically takes around 6-12 months to gain noticeable control over your brand SERPs.
When you reach peak control, you could be able to trigger changes to your branded search results within hours. Meaning, you’re able to update Google to your liking nearly as instantaneously as you can go out on Instagram and make a post.
That’s why you should care about your branded search results and consider branded SEO services.
Bonus content! Catch Jason Barnard on our podcast, and learn all about Brand SERPs in his book, The Fundamentals of Brand SERPs for Business.