You can find many articles out there discussing the competition between branding and SEO. To be honest, I don’t get it. I might be the dumb one, but from what I can tell, SEO and branding work together, not against each other.
It’s not a question of which to focus more on, but a question of how to not waste opportunities when working on one or the other.
So SEO strategies help you rank higher. If you have an online business, that matters a lot. But what exactly is a branding campaign? Well… most people think branding is the logo and things you’ve placed it on
But branding is more than that! It’s the personality of your business. The image of your product and your team. Or, to put it nicely, branding is what others talk about you when you leave the room. Everything you do with your business can affect your brand’s reputation, be it positively or negatively.
Improving your brand actually means improving everything about your business.
Why you should focus on building your brand when doing SEO?
SEO is a very big part of the inbound digital marketing methodology. Here are some statistics from Moz. As you can see, SEO and PPC make up for about 90% of all the clicks on the web. Also, Google ads only get about 2.6% of the clicks in the search results. The rest goes to SEO, through content marketing.
Branding results in direct traffic, which is one of the 3 top traffic sources for website, among social media and organic search. Of course, some of this traffic is actually organic, but it is in some way related to your brand.
Even if you’re relying commercial keywords for the most of your traffic, there is still a lot of value branding can give you.
Over the years, Google and other search engines have made changes that indicate its preference for strong brands. One example would be the EMD (Exact Match Domain) update.
Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality “exact-match” domains in search results.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 28, 2012
New exact-match domain (EMD) algo affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. Unrelated to Panda/Penguin.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 28, 2012
The Search plus Your World update also indicates that Google likes showing people the brands they usually visit. If someone directly visits your website, your site will gain a small rankings boost when people search for related keywords that you are targeting.
When you build branded backlinks, you put out the message of your brand in front of large audiences. Your purpose is to create awareness for your brand, and make it top-of-mind. Once you get there, everything will change.
You see, people don’t just buy things online. They research. A lot.
That’s the beauty of online shopping. You don’t rely just on someone that is trying to sell something to you just because you’re in THEIR shop. You can leave whenever you want without rejecting anyone and most importantly, ask others and see other’s opinions.
If someone lands on Apple’s website, do you think they need to research about the quality of the product as much? I think not. Do you think people will fear new products from Apple might be bad quality? I think not. Apple’s products are already recognized as top of the line, premium quality gadgets. It’s only a matter if you can afford it or not (if you’re not an Apple hater, of course).
If you haven’t heard of the Rule Of Seven before, I’ll tell you about it now. It’s estimated that, on average, people need to see an advertisement at least 7 times before they make a purchase. Same goes with your website. They need to visit your website 7 times before they will buy from you.
People associate your brand with your products, be them new on the market or old.
How to improve brand awareness through SEO?
1. Build branded anchor text backlinks
Branded anchored backlinks will increase the overall authority of your domain. This means that whenever you publish a new article, it will already rank better, because your website is considered an authority in its specific domain.
You should have a mix between branded and commercial anchor texts, with branded ones making up the majority. This will reduce the risk of getting a penalty, and will increase your long term success.
Google also compares you with your competitors. If they have a high amount of branded anchored backlinks and you don’t, they might notice something is wrong. If you have noticed a penalty or a sudden drop in rankings, you can analyse your top competitors and try to match their ratio of branded vs commercial anchors by modifying some of the anchor texts in your backlink profile.
2. Be consistent
When building your brand, make sure you decide upfront on some aspects, then stick to them.
One of the most important ones is the logo. Spend some quality time/money in developing your logo, as you don’t want to change it. You might think it’s not that important, but it is.
When building branded anchor links, try to use a single version of your URL every single time. 301 redirects pass link juice, but they also act like a filter, retaining some of it. If all your URL versions redirect to https://yoursite.com, then try to use that when you build new links.
Other links you gain naturally will already have a mix in them, as people will also use http instead of https, or www instead of non-www. The anchor text can vary (with or without spaces, brand name or URL by itself, or even a mix between your brand and a keyword). This protects you from triggering any spam signals.
If you managed to guest post somewhere, don’t stop at just one article. While multiple links from the same domain might not be as effective as links from new domains, they can create a connection between your brand and the other website’s audience.
More importantly, you can develop a relation with other webmasters, which will bring long term results. Although in direct competition, Mashable and TechCrunch continuously mentioned each other in their posts, and that helped them grow twice as fast.
3. Get some real customer reviews
Remember what I said about branding and seo working together? Well, from what we know, having more reviews results in better rankings. This mostly applies for Local SEO, but also for products on eCommerce stores or recipes on websites about food, using structured data.
Get some real reviews to your products. Don’t fake them! Make them real. Fake reviews not only affect your brand’s image on the long run, but they can also trigger Google spam signals and structured markup penalties.
If the reviews are bad, deal with them with dignity, by taking full responsibility for the customer’s experience. Try to fix the issues rather than hide them. If you’re retailing a product and all the reviews are negative, don’t lie to your customers. Instead, decide if you still want to sell that product under your brand or not. This way you will gain your customers’ loyalty.
If your website is informational only, try as much as possible to get comments on it. If not on your web page, at least on your social media profile’s post. Not only do comments add up as new fresh content, but they also tell Google that people are engaging with your article, which means it must be important.
4.Go to events related to your niche
If you’re selling shoes, for example, a good place to get your product known would be a fashion event. That’s where not only most of your potential customers will be, but also most of the influencers in your industry.
There might not be any events nearby related to your particular niche. In this case, you can be a pioneer and organize one. However, there are many adjacent niches that apply. For example, gardening events might work well with gardening tools, but also with bug repellants.
Networking can really help both your branding and your SEO, as by getting to know new people and tell them about your brand, you can find link opportunities if you are persuasive enough. It’s sort of like online social networking, but a lot more effective and fun.
How to find unlinked mentions of your website
When people start acknowledging your brand, it might pop in their mind when they write an article. Let’s say for example that someone is talking about clean energy, and somewhere in their article, they want to mention electric cars. What do you think they will give as an example? Does Tesla ring any bells? If yes, then their Elon Musk’s branding efforts paid off.
The best way to benefit from your brand in SEO terms is to find the unlinked mentions you already have. You can do that by using search engine operators (site:.com “Your Brand”). However, this would probably take an eternity.
A better option would be to use a tool like BrandMentions, which doesn’t only find your mentions, but also notifies you when a new one appears. You can also try Google Alerts, but it doesn’t always hit the jackpot by alerting you about fresh, important mentions from influencers.
Sometimes you might find articles or mentions that write about your brand in a negative way. Should you ignore them? Not at all. You should face them and, of course, use them as a feedback to improve your services/products. If you know it was your mistake, admit it and apologize. Make sure your reply if the first one in the comments section, so that whoever reads the bad review also reads your reply. This will make your brand seem trustworthy and honest.
So whenever you’re working on a link building SEO strategy, consider the long term effects of using branded anchor texts instead of only commercial ones. If you’re serious about your website, I’m sure this strategy will bring you the best results.
Trivia: How many brands can you recognize from the following image? Let us know in the comments section!