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My last article detailed the benefits of focusing on website analytics specifically around site search data.  

This article continues with the same theme of valuing website analytics, but the focus turns to unbranded keyword traffic. 

In the context of reviewing analytics, “unbranded keywords” are those words/phrases not containing the retailer’s name.  

People who type “Apple iPod Nano” into Google and land on the JB Hifi website is an unbranded keyword phrase from the perspective of JB Hifi. The keyword phrase “JB Hifi” is a branded term for this retailer. 

Understanding the dichotomy between branded and unbranded keyword phrases is necessary in order to effectively assess site performance and build a focused plan for growth. 

What insights can come from branded keyword traffic?

Branded keyword phrases indicate brand equity and customer loyalty. This traffic type may have purchased from the retailer in the past and has established trust and confidence.  

Can you use the insights from branded traffic to improve site performance? 

No. Due to the loyalty element this traffic type will jump the digital hurdles a retailer throws at them. If content is hard to find or missing, this traffic type will make the extra effort to find what they are looking for and remain true to the retailer.  

This is why conversion rates are always higher with branded traffic vs unbranded traffic. Branded traffic masks the issues.  

The performance of branded traffic is not a true indication of how effective your site is at converting and is why as part of the analytical review, branded traffic should be partitioned.

Another source of branded traffic comes in the form of volume spikes as a result of campaign activity. This type of branded traffic is generally not a customer, and potentially less loyal, so it pays to prepare in advance for campaigns to reduce the incidence of branded traffic spikes.  

Poorly converting branded traffic resulting from a campaign tells the retailer nothing. Build campaigns with relevant landing pages and deliver a keyword driven call to action, or create a campaign tile clearly situated on the home page to quickly move branded traffic to the relevant next step.  

Keyword driven campaigns are effective because it promotes the use of the site search if nothing is displayed on the home page. These tactics helps to provide an accurate measure of how the campaign impacted the business but doesn’t happen often enough resulting in a high influx of branded traffic landing on the home page with an even higher bounce rate.  

Not only does this approach provide greater transparency in the analytics, it bolsters the effectiveness of campaigns.

What insights can come from unbranded keyword traffic?

Defines purpose

Unbranded traffic defines a person’s purpose and buying intent. It’s very clear what a person wants when he/she types “Apple iPod Nano” into Google. 

No loyalty

This traffic type is not loyal to a retailer and has expectations far higher than a branded traffic type. Trust and confidence must be built with unbranded traffic types as well as delivering content to satisfy his/her buying process.  

If the needs of an unbranded traffic type are not met and the experience is below expectation, they will leave.  The only good news coming from this is the retailer has data to understand what went wrong.  

This is good news only if the analytics is installed properly, the retailer has an analytical specialist who can interpret this data, and the retailer has a culture of continuous improvement.

The behaviour of the unbranded traffic type is the true indicator of a site’s effectiveness.

Defines where a person is at in his/her own buying stage

Caution: not all unbranded traffic is created equal. Unbranded keywords provide the retailer with an indication of where the person is at in his/her buying stage:

  • Early stage buying is information-gathering mode An individual is detail oriented and wants to learn more about the product features, and product options to fulfill a need (example: "MP3 players")
  • Middle to late stage buying. An individual is closer to buying and is seeking other key content elements to satisfy their shifting needs, such as, testimonials, and customer reviews (example:  "Apple ipods").
  • Late stage buying.  An individual is on the hunt for the best deal, if the product is in stock, returns policy information, freight costs, and when it will arrive at their door (example:  "Apple ipod nano 16 gb yellow"). Don't scoff at this example the trends coming from Google suggest the incidence of more prescriptive searches is steadily on the rise.   

Think about how you conduct yourself when looking for a product. Your stage of buying will correspond to the phrases you type into Google. The more precise you are in defining your needs in the Google search box, the later the stage of buying you are in. 

The movement from one buying stage to another is not as clear cut and linear as stated above. This is to merely provide an appreciation of how retailers need to think when building a content strategy to convert unbranded traffic types.  

If you follow the impressive body of work conducted by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg you would realise this is tip of the iceberg, but it's a good start. 

Monitising unbranded keyword traffic

The challenge is recognising and reacting appropriately to unbranded keyword phrases representing the different stages. The world is not full of late stage buyers.  

Global conversion rate still consistently sits below 3% because retailer websites hope to capitalise on branded traffic and late stage buyers. A retailer's website must react according to an individual’s buying process.   

Start by landing unbranded traffic types on pages aligned to their stage of buying and presenting relevant content at the right time.  

For example someone typing “MP3 player” into Google should land on a page titled "MP3 Players" with benefit driven content about MP3 players.

In addition, customers should be shown options to assist in persuading him/her through to the next intuitive step, such as provide a list of brands, a list of applications ("using this MP3 player for exercise?"), a list of unique features ("do you want video with that?"), list of memory size options, and/or a list of price ranges with strong calls to action.  

Congratulations, you have facilitated the second micro step completed in an unbranded traffic type buying process, the first step was going from the Google results page to the website.  

A retailer may not immediately convert unbranded traffic types in varying stages of buying, however, there is a good chance they will come back when its time to purchase (assuming your pricing strategy is intact).     

Why is it critical to understand and cater to unbranded traffic?

Converting unbranded traffic is the foundation for growth. The plan is to focus more on getting the attention of targeted consumers with specific buying intent via adwords and SEO activities.  

Be conscious of buying stages and deliver a brilliant relevant experience. This is competitive advantage.

Greg Randall

Published 30 April, 2013 by Greg Randall

Greg Randall is a senior digital consultant with Comma Consulting and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect with Greg on Linked In and Twitter

19 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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Glen Maguire

A great article, it's true what you say about micro steps, far too many etailers just chase late stage buyers.

about 3 years ago

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Eric

The earlier stage, unbranded, may be one place where remarketing is effective. You can drive traffic to your web sites from unbranded search, and then remarket to those visitors on the GDN.

Eric Bryant
Gnosis Media Group

about 3 years ago

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