Brand building and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) haven’t always been the closest of friends. Although they share the same end goal—generating awareness for your company and attracting attention to your products via authentic and compelling messaging— their approaches do not always align. While branding strategies preach differentiation via unique, memorable content and materials, SEO best practices teach editing content to be straightforward, uncomplicated, and findable. As a result of this gap, online marketers often segment their SEO and brand building strategies, with some overlooking online brand building completely. Increasingly, though, in order to compete on Google and across all online and mobile search opportunities, marketers need to approach SEO and branding as two sides of the same coin. We need to focus on providing our customers with a consistent brand experience and quality content online in order to promote authentic relationships and drive organic search results.
Why is brand building important to search?
Recent changes to the online marketing landscape, including Google’s introduction of the Panda Updates, Search, Plus Your World, Google+, and Personalized Search, have challenged our traditional approach to SEO and content marketing. Previously, we were focused on the essentials of SEO—acquiring quality backlinks, driving keyword optimized content, and improving the crawl-ability of a site’s architecture. Now, in light of Google’s quality-focused algorithm updates and the advent of social, app, mobile, voice, and media search venues, the rules of the game have changed. It’s no longer sufficient to forge artificial merit online through SEO linking and content practices. Google has evolved to a stage where it can detect and penalize such SEO swindling. And it’s not only Google, your online consumers are also savvy enough today to discern between quality content and SEO fluff.
These developments have implications for those of us who have always aimed to provide our customers with valuable content and a quality on-site experience. More than ever, in order to drive long-term SEO value, we need to focus on high quality content creation. Instead of paid links and overly-optimized content, gain authority and recognition online by building trust among your online communities with well-branded, valuable content. Authentic content when pushed across relevant search venues will build brand supporters, who will in turn share your content with their online communities and link back to your site, helping to promote your brand and drive organic search results. Below are a few tips for promoting content and leveraging search venues to build a consistent, recognizable brand:
- Understand your audience- To build your brand online, it’s important to first have a clear understanding of who your audience is and where they are congregating. Leverage tools from comScore, Nielsen, and Google to identity your target audience. What’s there generate, age, income, location, etc.? Once you’ve identified who you’re targeting, explore search media outlets to locate where they are spending time and what they are interested in knowing.
- Define your brand- Equipped with the information about your audience, you can begin creating content strategies and communication timelines that address what your audience wants to hear. Keep in mind that your content should generate a conversation between you and your audience. Rather than marketing your brand, create an open conversation that will engage your consumers.
- Use new marketing channels, like Pinterest, Facebook Timeline, and Google Plus, to tell an exciting story about your brand. Who are you? What are your business goals and how do you want to help your customers? Tell an authentic story and give your audience a reason to like you.
- Create a consistent brand voice- Make sure that your brand name and messaging are consistent across all channels. Is your brand message on paid search the same as the brand on Facebook? Consistency in your brand message will promote trust amongst your followers.
- Develop design “rules” that tie together the look and messaging of all your marketing materials. Key things to keep in mind when building a consistent brand voice are: logos, graphics, color, and language style.
- Understand the new search landscape- There are a lot of exciting new opportunities out there for promoting content online. Start exploring new services and determine how they can fit into your online branding mix, and don’t limit yourself to social media networks. You can also promote content in the form of blogs, infographics, videos, webinars, presentations, whitepapers, and eBooks.
- Strive for a balanced marketing mix- Promote a consistent brand message across all relevant channels both off- and online. Because it takes a long time to create a recognizable brand online, employ short term paid search and SEO tactics to get your name out there.
- Promote your brand across Google controlled channels, i.e. Google Flights, Google Products, Google Places, and Search Plus, to increase brand visibility within them.
- Cultivate your community- Building a brand online doesn’t happen overnight—it takes a long time. Spend time building relationships with your audience. Get involved in the conversation and provide them with insightful, authentic, unique, and valuable content.