5 min read

SEO and Branding

SEO and Branding

SEO is a unique animal. It can be hard to connect the dots between search engine marketing and search engine optimization and the rest of branding or marketing work.

Turns out, there is a strong correlation between brand interest and SEO performance on highly competitive queries.

Branding and SEO: More in Common Than You Might Think

Both Branding and SEO:

  • May seem unclear and intangible
  • Require a long-term vision
  • Have a path to success
  • Will become some of your strongest assets
  • Can reinforce each other

Strong Brands = Stronger SEO

A stronger brand can contribute to SEO.

Good SEO is achieved through a few critical metrics:

  • E-E-A-T
  • Authoritativeness (the A of E-E-A-T)
  • Trustworthiness (the T of E-E-A-T)
  • Search intents
  • The Quality Rater Guidelines

Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines (SQRG)

Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines (SQRG) is a document of more than 176 pages that offers a handle to Search Quality Raters (SQR).

The SQR provides feedback on the output of the Google algorithms in order to improve the overall user experience within the search engine, as can be seen on page six of the SQRG.

Google has over 16,000 external SQRs at its disposal.

16,000 real people worldwide continuously feed the algorithm with feedback based on manual checks they do on search results and web pages based on publicly available guidelines.

Not every SEO professional knows these guidelines, but knowing them and monitoring changes contributes to developing a good long-term SEO vision.


One of the most important concepts within the guidelines is the E-E-A-T concept (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness). The SQRG mentions the E-E-A-T abbreviation 126 times.

Trustworthiness and Authoritativeness, in particular, have a great deal in common with branding and will therefore be discussed.

Let’s talk through those in light of SEO + Branding.


According to the guidelines, Trust is the most important factor because untrustworthy pages have low E-E-A-T regardless of how Experienced, Expert, or Authoritative they may seem.

The example given in the guidelines is a financial scam. It is completely untrustworthy even if the content is authoritative or the scammer is an expert in running scams.

The assessment of Trust is done by looking carefully at the information on the website of the company itself and everything else that can be found on the internet about the website and the authors. Examples are your About Us section, media sentiment, and public complaints and reviews.

The SQR seems to use a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. 

Search volumes are a quantitative expression of (brand) interest. 

A website labeled as “Trustworthy” will not necessarily enjoy great brand awareness. 

But the chances that a strong, well-known brand is considered Trustworthy by people are far greater than a brand that is just entering the market and enjoys the same perception.

Theoretically, when there is a relatively large search for a specific brand, this could be a signal of Trust for Google’s algorithm.

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Google tries to present the most relevant answers (search results) to each query. For Google (and probably most people), the more you are an authority in your industry, the more likely you are to be a relevant answer.

Google can measure your degree of Authority based on numerous factors such as content quality, link profile, mentions and other data.

If brand interest can be linked to Trust, then brand interest in a specific niche is a quantitative expression of Authority in that niche.

Search intent

Let's talk about changes in search intent.

The guidelines consist of four chapters, of which understanding users and the intentions behind their search terms is one. On page 87 of the SQRG, Google clearly explains that search intents can change over time.

Search intents can change rapidly, and search results adapt equally fast. A perfect example is the search intent for countries and cities during COVID.

The intent behind very specific search terms such as “Holiday California” and “Holiday LA” changed instantly whenever there was COVID turmoil.

When a destination received negative travel advice or the destination hit the news due to rising infections, the search results changed from travel websites to government pages almost immediately and changed back equally fast when things returned to normal.

SEO + Branding - What We Know

Google’s search results are created by the most advanced machine learning algorithms, of which RankBrain is an algorithm that has been active since 2015 (more than eight years) and is specifically intended to understand our search intents.

A change in search intent has a direct impact on search results.

When a brand becomes increasingly popular in a niche, the search intent within that niche can change so much (because users want to buy a product in a specific category from the website) that Google’s algorithms will consider the website as more relevant within that niche.

Measuring the impact of branded searches in SEO

Branding definitely can impact SEO, at least to some degree. 

A noteworthy example of how search behavior changes in the United States can be seen in the search market for tax services.

In America, individuals and businesses have a deadline of April 15th each year to file their tax returns. From January to March, people primarily search for information about tax laws, deductions, and filing processes when they use the term "tax services."

However, as we approach Q2 (April), the focus shifts toward "Tax preparation services" or "Tax filing assistance." During this time, individuals actively seek tax preparers or software that can help them accurately and efficiently complete their tax returns.

This shift in search behavior significantly impacts search results. For instance, companies offering tax services and tax preparation firms experience a surge in search traffic and visibility during Q2 while the interest in tax information decreases.

To illustrate this point further, consider observing the fluctuations in search interest for known entities like "H&R Block" (a major tax preparation company) or "TurboTax" (a popular tax software) using the search term "Tax services" over the course of a year.

The data would reveal spikes in search volume during the peak of the tax season (Q2) and lower levels of searches during other times throughout the year.

Change of (branded) search intents

Let's use an example.

In order to study the changes in search patterns within the furniture industry in the United States, we conducted an analysis of brand interest in "SunTime Patio Furniture" compared to 15 competitors and the non-branded search market. To do this, we compared the number of searches between May and August (which is considered high season) and November to February (the off-season).

We divided the competitors into categories;

  1. Outdoor Furniture Specialists (Core Business)

 SunTime Patio Furniture (the brand)






  1. Home Furnishing Store Chains






  1. Hardware Stores

 Home Depot


 Ace Hardware

  1. Garden Store Chains;

 The Home & Garden Center 

 Green Thumb Garden Center 

 Garden World 

For home furnishing store chains, hardware stores, and garden chains, our focus was on keyword combinations related to their brands along with furniture (e.g., "IKEA outdoor furniture," "Home Depot patio set," etc.).

Considering the knowledge and expertise of furniture specialists, it is expected that they would have higher levels of authority within their niche compared to larger national chains, with a broader focus.

Despite having budgets, outdoor furniture specialists observe a surge in search interest for outdoor furniture compared to both "genuine" outdoor furniture specialists and the non-branded search market.

According to our theory, during the peak season, there is a shift in search intent towards these furniture specialists.

For instance....

SunTime Patio Furniture experiences a decline in search volume for the term "patio sets" during the season, whereas hardware store Ace Hardware witnesses a trend. Ace Hardware search demand increased by 665% during this period while SunTime Patio Furniture's increase is comparatively lower at 200%.

Consequently, Google might interpret that individuals searching for "patio sets" are more inclined to visit Ace Hardware than SunTime Patio Furniture. As a result SunTime Patio Furniture gradually slips from its three search positions to position 12 while Ace Hardware ascends from position seven to enter the three. This pattern normalizes when the difference in brand interest diminishes.

When comparing outdoor furniture specialist PatioFurnitureUSA with home furnishing chain Target, it is observed that the specialist's brand demand only rises by 300%, whereas Target experiences an increase of 717%.

It is quite remarkable that Target has never ranked in the top 10 for the search term "lounge set” in the off-season over the two years.

However, during the peak season, when there is a surge in brand demand, they are able to secure a position among the three. This indicates a change in search intent towards Target during the season.

Branded Searches and SEO Results

Can branded searches influence SEO results? Absolutely. It is logical, and our data shows it.

Does that mean companies should shift their SEO budget to branding? Definitely not. Branding impacts SEO but is still a smaller factor than an SEO-optimized website.

However, the lower your brand interest is in a competitive industry, the harder you’ll have to work on your SEO. 

Want an SEO partner? We've got you covered. Connect with the HAW team to learn more.seo blog subscription

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