Usually used in connection with Adwords and other search-based advertising, branded keywords are words or phrases that include a brand (company) name or a variation of a brand name, Examples are “Nike information” or “Deschutes Brewery reviews”.
Branded keywords tend to have a higher click-through rate than non-branded terms and therefore most online advertising campaigns use a mixture of both non-branded and branded keywords.
There are some risks involved with the use of branded keywords. FTC regulations allow the use of a competitor’s brand name for factual comparisons but guidelines must be followed.
The practice is further complicated if the brand is a trademark. For paid search in the U.S., generally accepted practice is that advertisers may target trademarked terms with their ads but the ad copy itself may not use the trademark.