In the early days of my SEO career, a senior colleague had recommended to me that I focus my efforts only on non-branded keywords.
The logic of this advice was that websites have an inherent advantage to outrank competitors for its own branded keywords – such as the company name or its products.
Which to be fair, is somewhat true.
The problem with that strategy is, however, that ranking on page one for a branded keyword is only the first piece of the SEO puzzle.
The second piece of the puzzle is to ensure that the SERP listing and the page content is as helpful as possible to users – to drive more SEO visits, unique visitors, and conversions for the website.
Getting your website seen on Page 1 is the first piece of the SEO puzzle. The second piece is to make the SERP listing and page as helpful as possible.
In the rest of this post, you’ll learn how to identify a branded keyword opportunity, plus offer tips on how to create and optimize your preferred landing pages to rank – using a real-life example from FOX.com.
How to Find the Right Opportunity
The best way to find the “right” branded keywords for your SEO campaign is to consult your keyword tracking tool to answer the following questions:
What branded queries are most popular (i.e., high monthly search volumes)?
Are there any common themes to the queries?
What URL is ranking well for these branded queries?
Does the URL make sense?
Would you be tempted to click through from Google based on its metadata?
Would you be satisfied with the content on the page once you did click through?
How are competitors performing for similar types of branded queries?
Popular Branded Queries
In the case of FOX, I discovered that branded genre keywords (i.e, iterations of “FOX [Genre] Shows”) collectively offered great monthly search volume.
Odd Page Ranking for It in SERPs
The general “entertainment hub” landing page ranked #1 for all branded genre queries. This despite its non-descript metadata!
And while FOX.com did rank on Page 1, Position 1 the queries, the ranked page itself was not very useful.
See example below:
When a Google searcher typed in any branded genre query, the general “entertainment hub” landing page ranked #1. This despite its non-descript metadata!
Competitors Are Performing Better in This Area
For comparison, I reviewed what other industry players were doing to optimize for similar queries.
As it turned out, most had dedicated landing pages for each genre of content they offered.
See examples below:
These landing pages also have well-optimized metadata, tempting users to click through. Plus, boost its ranking for non-branded keyword versions (i.e., “animation shows”).
With these things in mind, I got to work to improve FOX.com’s SEO performance for genre landing pages.
How to Optimize Your Website for Said Opportunity
Strategy 1: Creating (Or Improving) the Ranked Page
In many cases, the next step is to build a new page that caters to the query.
Some questions to get you started:
What do I think the user intent is behind this keyword?
Would type of content would I expect to find on the page, based strictly on the keyword?
What other webpages are ranking well for this keyword?
What do competitor pages look like for their same type of branded query?
Strategy 2: Getting the ‘Right’ Page Ranking
In other cases, the best choice is to make changes to your website to get the “right” page ranking for the branded keyword.
If you’ve discovered that the “right” page for your branded keyword opportunity isn’t ranking – or worse, missing from Google’s index – keep reading for four tips on how to fix (using FOX as an example)!
The solution for FOX was to get the “right” pages ranked for branded genre keywords.
Specifically, its several genre-specific landing pages already live on the site.
FOX.com had landing pages for a variety of genres. However, they weren’t ranking for keywords and had limited traffic.
Tip 1: Ensure the Pages Serve the Correct Status Codes to Google
The first thing I discovered was that some of FOX’s genre pages were serving 404 errors to Google, so we fixed them to serve a proper 200.
Tip 2: Add Self-Referencing Canonical Tags to the Pages
In addition to the 404 error response codes, FOX.com’s genre pages was also missing user-selected canonical tags.
Google had chosen to index none of them. It considered all genre pages as “duplicates” to the /live page.
We fixed this, too.
Tip 3: Create Static, HTML Versions of All the Pages
It was no fluke that Google thought all of the genre filter pages were duplicates with the /live page.
By inspecting the URLs in Google Search Console, I discovered that bots weren’t able to “see” them properly.
FOX.com was built with ReactJS, the solution was for us to create static, HTML versions of the pages so Google could better read what the content on the pages were.
The results, below:
Tip 4: Implement Custom, Optimized Metadata
Finally, I needed to set all genre pages up with their own custom, optimized meta tags.
Before – Genre pages have un-descriptive metadata that was a duplicate with dozens of other pages.
After – Genre pages have descriptive metadata with strategic keywords.
We also updated the “Entertainment Hub” page’s metadata to be more descriptive, and help it rank for its own “correct” keywords.
Before – Entertainment Hub page has the same, un-descriptive metadata as the genre landing pages.
After – Entertainment Hub page has unique metadata that speaks to all of the types of content it offers.
The Results (So Far)
All of the above changes were made to FOX.com by January 19, 2020.
And while optimizations take time to kick in, we have seen some promising improvements over the last three months.
Specifically, FOX.com’s genre pages and Entertainment Hub page have helped drive more organic visits, unique visitors, and content starts to the website.
See details below:
66% increase in organic visits entering through these pages.
66% increase in unique visitors entering through these pages.
51% increase in SEO content starts entering through these pages.
Entertainment Hub Page:
16% increase in organic visits entering through this page.
16% increase in unique visitors entering through this page.
92% increase in SEO content starts entering through this page.
Data: Last three months vs. the previous three months.
To leave you all with an actionable takeaway from this case study, I highly recommend thinking critically about the pages that are ranking for your clients’ branded queries.
Taking the time to audit the pages that rank for your clients’ VIP branded keywords can uncover interesting information.
And optimizing for these branded keywords can yield significant improvements in the site’s SEO traffic and conversions.