Applying SEO Thinking To Build Brands And Loyal Customers

Here’s how and why build­ing a strong brand boosts organ­ic expo­sure even when your SEO strat­e­gy fal­ters.

Jose Truchado By Jose Truchado from Expedia. Join the discussion » 0 comments

With Google’s increas­ing empha­sis on tak­ing brand recog­ni­tion into con­sid­er­a­tion when rank­ing pages, it’s more impor­tant than ever to build a sol­id rep­utable online brand in order to suc­ceed in organ­ic SERPs.

This is noth­ing new.

In 2008, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, “Brands are the solu­tion, not the problem…brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”

This was already a clear hint of how brand sig­nals were and are being used to deter­mine trust­wor­thi­ness of a page.

Don’t get me wrong – link build­ing and on-page met­rics are still extreme­ly impor­tant for your SEO strat­e­gy. But only by incor­po­rat­ing a strong brand-build­ing strat­e­gy into your SEO efforts will you be able to ensure long-last­ing suc­cess.

Brand Traffic: The Cheapest Traffic You Will Ever Get

When peo­ple search for your brand in Google, you will acquire tar­get­ed organ­ic traf­fic that will most like­ly con­vert, what­ev­er the con­ver­sion met­rics are on your web­site.

You don’t need to be a big pow­er­ful brand to be suc­cess­ful online – you just need to be aware of what your unique sell­ing points (USPs) are and become the author­i­ta­tive brand for them (i.e., it’s bet­ter to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in the sea).

We only have to look at the seem­ing­ly sud­den suc­cess of some brands in the last few years to rec­og­nize that cas­es like Airbnb are proof that build­ing a strong brand helps your organ­ic expo­sure even when your SEO strat­e­gy fails to take your pages to the top results.

In Airbnb’s case, it rarely ranks #1 for the terms it is typ­i­cal­ly searched for and yet it is arguably the leader in its field in spite of being a fair­ly young com­pa­ny that was found­ed in 2008.

Why Building A Brand Is Important

Dur­ing my years at EAN (Expe­dia Affil­i­ate Net­work), I sup­port­ed many affil­i­ates that were able to cre­ate prof­itable com­pa­nies by just sell­ing Expe­dia prod­ucts. They did this with­out build­ing a brand or incor­po­rat­ing a brand strat­e­gy into their mar­ket­ing efforts. Their suc­cess came by just hav­ing a good domain and short-term thin con­tent and link build­ing strate­gies.

These com­pa­nies were in a priv­i­leged posi­tion. They could have built a good brand upon that suc­cess. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, they didn’t. Now most of those affil­i­ates no longer exist or they have seen their mar­ket share dwin­dle dras­ti­cal­ly in the past few years.

The tech­niques these com­pa­nies used to build the organ­ic pres­ence relied on strate­gies that soon became obso­lete or banned by Google. With­out any type of brand search traf­fic com­ing to their sites, their busi­ness mod­els sud­den­ly col­lapsed.

When you don’t have a strong brand, you are much more exposed to algo­rithm updates and changes in the rules because your strat­e­gy is as strong as the mon­ey you are will­ing to invest in that par­tic­u­lar moment. How­ev­er, if you have a sol­id brand with clients that advo­cate for your brand, you will not only stand the test of time, but also the more dan­ger­ous test of algo­rithm updates.

Brand Building Through SEO

Estab­lish­ing that brand­ing is impor­tant, but cre­at­ing a brand when you don’t have the big mar­ket­ing bud­gets that big com­pa­nies have is not so straight­for­ward.

Online brand build­ing and SEO strate­gies have many sim­i­lar­i­ties – both rely on the con­tent you pro­vide, how you present that con­tent, how use­ful that con­tent is for oth­er peo­ple, what they think of it and the veloc­i­ty of how your brand spreads.

A few points in our SEO strat­e­gy check­list will allow us to cre­ate stronger and more rec­og­niz­able brands with­in our niche.

1. Choose The Right Domain For Your Brand, Not Your SEO Strategy

Long gone are the days when key­word-rich domains were the ulti­mate tool to reach SEO suc­cess. On the con­trary, in most cas­es, these domains will hin­der you brand­ing efforts to the point where no one will rec­og­nize your brand. There is a rea­son became Airbnb.

Hav­ing a brand as your domain will also help your link build­ing efforts as peo­ple are more like­ly to link to a rec­og­niz­able brand than to a domain that has been clear­ly built for SEO. (Remem­ber that Google also eval­u­ates who you link to.)

2. Blog Wherever & Whenever You Can

Con­tent is the tool to get your users to trust your brand, but you need to cre­ate great con­tent that con­nects with your audi­ence and that your audi­ence iden­ti­fies with your brand. And, as in the case of Airbnb, you don’t need to be the first one, but the smartest one.

Don’t use your blog as a pro­mo­tion­al tool, but as a way of pro­vid­ing more in-depth infor­ma­tion about areas relat­ed to your prod­ucts. And whether that’s tuto­ri­als, case stud­ies or inter­views, try to keep it sim­ple, use­ful and inter­est­ing.

A blog allows your brand to get one step clos­er to your users and, as such, you should use it as a plat­form to reach out to them and invite them to par­tic­i­pate via com­ments, sur­veys or even writ­ing arti­cles.

There are some clear SEO ben­e­fits to incor­po­rat­ing a blog in your strat­e­gy, such as good con­tent, con­tent fresh­ness and the pos­si­ble links and social media shares you might get, but it will also have a great impact in your brand expo­sure by help­ing to cre­ate author­i­ty around your brand. The more you engage your users, the more expo­sure your brand will have.

By now your brand will have some trac­tion and it’s time to think about shar­ing your knowl­edge in oth­er blogs. Research which blogs are the best in your sec­tor and par­tic­i­pate in their com­mu­ni­ties. Once they can see you are an active user with a cer­tain lev­el of knowl­edge, you can reach out to them and offer to write an arti­cle for them, although you should avoid any type of self pub­lic­i­ty in the arti­cle. Your bio is usu­al­ly placed at the bot­tom and will help send traf­fic and author­i­ty to your site.

3. Use Schema, Semantic Search & Knowledge Graph To Your Advantage

Nowa­days, it is not just about rank­ing #1 in organ­ic SERPs. As Google incor­po­rates new­er mod­ules and fea­tures into these pages, the organ­ic results have turned into a bat­tle­field of who can stand out more.

That means you should make sure you use Schema’s markup in the code of your pages to increase your chances of being noticed even if you don’t rank #1. For exam­ple, just take a look at these search results.

By incor­po­rat­ing the markup for star rat­ing, the Mr. and Mrs Smith site already stands out from pages that rank high­er, hence increas­ing the chances of the brand being noticed.

Although it’s not easy to achieve, there are some oppor­tu­ni­ties to appear as part of Google’s answer box­es, and although these box­es are not brand­ed, they do men­tion the source of the infor­ma­tion. As seen in the exam­ple below, being cho­sen as the best fit answer to a cer­tain ques­tion doesn’t respond to the same cri­te­ria as the rank­ing fac­tors and more to whom pro­vides the best and more detailed answer to the ques­tion asked.

This is some­thing that can work in every sec­tor and it’s most­ly about answer­ing the how, what, who, and why ques­tions that can come up some­where on your site. Find­ing those ques­tions may be a bit tricky, but you can start by look­ing at the key­words that lead peo­ple to your site in Google Web­mas­ter Tools or by using Google’s pre­dic­tive search.

4. Use Social Media To Engage Your Users

Social media is an extreme­ly pow­er­ful tool to con­nect with your users, but there is no point in cre­at­ing great con­tent if it doesn’t reach the biggest audi­ence pos­si­ble. Don’t be afraid to ask your users to help you spread the great con­tent you cre­at­ed. Even if you can’t mea­sure the impact of social media in your mar­ket­ing efforts, your brand will cer­tain­ly ben­e­fit from the online expo­sure and the online “word of mouth.”


  • Brand­ed traf­fic is the cheap­est and most prof­itable traf­fic you’ll ever get.
  • If your SEO strat­e­gy doesn’t include a brand strat­e­gy, your site may not exist in the near future.
  • A brand strat­e­gy can ben­e­fit from an SEO strat­e­gy and vice ver­sa.
  • Con­tent is not only the king in SEO, it’s also the vehi­cle to build a bet­ter brand.
  • Schema and seman­tic search can help with your brand expo­sure.

Is there any­thing you would add to the SEO strat­e­gy check­list to help build stronger brands?

Jose Truchado

Written by Jose Truchado

Director, SEO & Global Operations, Expedia

Jose Truchado has spent over 17 years leading, training and mentoring teams in a variety of business sectors, including his own European technology company in the travel sector which he lead for more than 10 years. He combines his experience in Online Marketing and leadership with his passion for team dynamics and performance to help professionals maximise their working relationships. After working for several years advising multiple companies on their online marketing strategy, Jose joined Expedia, where he managed its European SEO team for 4 years. He regularly speaks at international conferences on Online Marketing and the importance of relationships in business development and marketing. Aside from his expertise in Online Marketing Jose is an accredited Executive Coach and Myers Briggs practitioner.

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