Branded vs. non-branded content: What’s the difference and why should you care?
Branded content is usually clearly about a brand and appears to either represent it or makes it the subject of the content. In reputation management, it is often more visible and typically contains clear, reputation-enhancing information about you or your company. Non-branded content, on the other hand, is not about the brand but still supports the industry or other areas of interest relative to the brand.
Don't overlook the positive, suggestive power of non-branded content. It acts as a supporting player to branded content.
People no longer need a printing press and an in-house reporting staff to be publishers. With an online publishing platform, a network of web properties and some help from an Internet reputation management company, anyone can quickly and easily create and distribute positive content to enhance an online image and boost competitive advantage. But here’s the rub: Today’s online world is so saturated with content that it’s now imperative that you create the right content and distribute it the right way.
Web reputation management services typically involve the two complementary types of content mentioned above: branded content and non-branded content. Both incorporate key search terms that leverage latent semantic analysis (LSA) and are designed to show up in your SERPs. Of course both are positive in nature, working in the service of a better online reputation. And both require freshness updates to maintain high visibility in your SERPs.
But there are plenty of differences between branded and non-branded content, too. Here are a few.
What is branded content?
Branded content is clearly about you or your company. It typically features your primary search phrase in the page title and header (H1) tag, plus relevant secondary phrases sprinkled throughout. There’s no attempt to hide the source or objective of the content. In fact, if readers don’t know that it’s about you after making it through the first sentence or two, the piece may not be doing its job.
"Branded content is designed to positively engage social sharing about the brand."
Branded content is designed to achieve prominent search rankings. Ideally, branded content should rank on the first search results page for a given keyword. Though you shouldn’t count on a particular piece of content achieving a particular rank, the prominence of your target keyword and semantic variations of it encourages higher visibility.
Branded content engages brand queries. Sometimes it’s tough to create first-rate prose while upholding SEO best practices, but all online content needs to thread that needle. While search placement remains a core focus of any branding campaign, savvy web reputation management services also prize content that’s engaging enough to attract social shares for the brand. Branded content is designed to positively engage social sharing about the brand.
Branded content is increasingly viewed by big-name companies as an integral marketing campaign component. Companies like Miller Coors are blurring the line between traditional marketing and reputation marketing with coordinated (and spendy) branded content campaigns. Such campaigns have yet to fully explore the power of branded content, but it’s apt to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: As more companies discover the virtues of paying to place high-quality, unmistakably advertorial content (often longform writing) on high-visibility web pages, and as concerns about “shareability” make gains on the formerly all-important drive for optimal search placement, we’ll likely see a lot more of it.
What about non-branded content?
Non-branded content is much more subtle than branded content. While non-branded content might contain references to you, your company or what you/it does, they’re typically more oblique and aren’t the focus of the piece. In practice, this means no brand-specific (your name, company name, etc.) keywords in the title or header and only sparing used throughout—if at all. If brand-specific keywords are used, the piece typically isn’t structured to rank for them in search.
Non-branded content is distributed more widely than branded content. Since it doesn’t directly concern you and your company, non-branded content usually finds a wider audience—or is at least better suited to find a wider audience, in terms of pageviews and shares—than branded material. For example, your next piece of branded content, “Company XYZ Is at the Forefront of ABC Industry,” could talk about how you’re the leading innovator in your industry. Your next piece of non-branded content, “5 Trends Driving ABC Industry,” could talk in general terms about interesting trends that affect your industry. Since the non-branded piece appeals to anyone with an interest in your industry, it’s likely to gain wider traction.
Non-branded content is designed to support your reputation management campaign, not be its focus. This can seem counterintuitive, since non-branded content is often shared or viewed more widely than individual pieces of branded content. But it’s true. Think of your non-branded content as a cast of character actors supporting your branded content, the star of your reputation management show. Non-branded content placed on high-authority websites—your own domains, well-trafficked blogs and other properties—is great for building links to your branded material. If it’s well done, it should attract inbound links of its own from high-authority domains, boosting its own attractiveness to search engines and creating brand authority around your web presence.