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What is the difference between Branded and Non-branded keywords?

What is the difference between Branded and Non-branded keywords?

A Branded keyword is a query that includes your website’s brand name or variations of it and is unique to your domain. For instance, branded keywords for Semrush.com will include queries like:

  • Semrush
  • Semrush tool
  • Semrush com
  • Semrush blog
  • How to use Semrush
  • etc…

Keywords that do not reference a brand name or any part of it (including any misspellings) are considered Non-branded keywords.

Additionally, some keywords that have a brand name within the phrase but are not unique to one brand or domain will be considered Non-branded by Semrush. More explanation of this is below.

Determining Criteria

We identify branded keywords when we see any of the following criteria:

  1. Sitelinks with your site’s URL on the keyword’s result page or
  2. A link to your site from the Knowledge Graph on the keyword’s result page
  3. A branded keyword within the keyword phrase if the domain is ranked in the first organic position

Here’s an example of sitelinks on the SERP for the branded keyword “iphone” which is a branded keyword for apple.com:

Example of what sitelinks look like in Google Search results. Three sitelinks that showed up for an iPhone website are highlighted; an arrow with the "Sitelinks" text above it is pointing at them.

Here’s an example of a link to apple.com in the Knowledge Graph for the keyword “apple airpods pro release date” which is also a branded keyword for apple.com.

Example of what Knowledge Graph for Airpods looks like. This SERP Feature is on the left side of this screenshot and is highlighted with red. Above it, the text says "Knowledge Graph". Another text, "Link to domain", is located at the very bottom of the Knowledge Graph and is accompanied by an arrow pointing at the link to the Airpods manufacturer website.

Here’s an example of a SERP for “how do i unlock my sim on iphone” that doesn't have a knowledge panel or a table of site links at the first organic position, but the SERP's keyword contains a branded keyword — iphone. 

Google Search results for the query "how do i unlock my sim on iphone". Nothing is highlighted on this screenshot as proof that the search query doesn't count as a branded keyword.

In these cases, Semrush checks if “how do i unlock my sim on iphone” has the same domain on the first organic position as the branded domain for “iphone.” If yes, we mark it as a branded keyword for apple.com. Since this keyword’s first result is apple.com, and so is the first result of “iphone,” we mark this as a branded keyword.

To check out the SERP that Semrush is referencing to determine if a keyword is branded or not, just select the icon in the SERP column of the report.

Organic Search Positions report from Organic Research. The report contains a list of keywords with metrics provided for each one of them in separate columns. A red arrow is pointing at one of the smaller columns titled SERP, more specifically, at one of the SERP icons. Above the report and next to the arrow, there is the following red text: Click to see the SERP.

Filtering Branded and Non-Branded Keywords

Semrush provides the ability to filter Branded and Non-Branded keywords in our Organic Positions and Position Changes reports. Studying both keyword types is essential to SEO and PPC campaigns because they demonstrate different search intent and reach users at different stages of the buying process.

Organic Research Positions report. In this example, Advanced filters menu on the right side is activated and highlighted to make is easier to find among other filters. In the Advanced filters menu, the following parameters are selected: Exclude, Keyword type, Branded (option to switch between branded and non-branded is also available).

You can filter by three types of keywords: Branded, Non-branded, and Branded for other domains.

  • Branded will show you all the branded keywords that we find for the queried domain.
  • Non-branded will show keywords that are not branded for any domain at all.
  • Branded for other domains will show keywords that include another domain’s brand name that the queried domain is ranking for in Google’s top 100.

Sometimes when you’re analyzing a competitor, it’s important to exclude their Branded keywords, as Non-branded keywords might be able to give you more traffic.

Why do I not see my branded keywords after applying the filter?

Sometimes you’ll have a keyword in mind that you consider branded for your website, but after applying the Branded keyword filter in Semrush, it is not there. There could be a few reasons for this.

First, for Semrush to identify a keyword as branded, it has to be unique to that domain.

Example 1 — Amazon

For example, the keyword “Amazon discount” is not considered one of Amazon.com’s branded keywords because it is not the only site on the web that is targeting the phrase “Amazon discount.”

There could be loads of e-commerce sites on the Internet targeting “amazon discount” with their online shops. In fact, you will see “Amazon discount” and “amazon discount code” both identified in Amazon.com’s non-branded keyword list.

In this case, the modifier word (Amazon) is being used semantically, and it is not a phrase used exclusively for navigating to Amazon’s domain.

Example 2 — Dove

Another example to illustrate this would be to look at a brand name like “Dove” where there is more than one authoritative business using the same name. There is dove.com, the soap brand, and there is also Dove Chocolates which are found online at marschocolate.com/dove.

If you filter on Semrush for branded keywords on either dove.com or dovechocolate.com, you won’t see every keyword with the word “dove” because both websites are authoritative and use “dove” often as a modifier in their keywords. So, Semrush can’t determine dove as a branded keyword because it is not unique to either domain.

Example 3 — Chatham Sandwich

One more example would be to look at a website like Chathamsandwich.com. While there are plenty of keywords that include “Chatham,” (chatham deli, chatham shopping, chatham menu, etc) Semrush will not see most of them as branded keywords because the brand modifier word (chatham) is not unique to Chathamsandwich.com (Chatham is a city in New Jersey).

Instead, the branded keywords for this domain will only be the queries that include the full brand name and are unique to the domain.

So if you aren’t seeing every keyword that includes your brand name after applying the branded keywords filter, it is most likely due to a reason similar to the ones listed in this article.

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