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 Airbedandbreakfast.com 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?