The following is a guest post by Meaghan Yorke. Meaghan is a web designer who is quite passionate about writing. These days she is all about researching various IT related topics. When she is not working she enjoys dancing classical ballet.
Branding is more than a logo or an established slogan. It goes much deeper than that.
A brand is a perception of your business through the eyes of the customer, the experience provided behind your product or service. It’s what makes your business reside in the hearts and minds of the consumers.
Branding and SEO work great in sync as they both paint the natural representation of your brand - no gimmicks. Users trust and rely on search engines to provide best, relevant and personalized results. Consumers trust and rely on brands to provide the best recommendations, personalized experiences, and trustworthy relationships.
Although SEO performance can be quantified, branding KPIs are a bit vaguer. But there’s an underlying connection between these two that drives organic growth. Not to argue which one is better. Let’s elaborate.
NAME RECOGNITION AND BRAND AWARENESS
What drives your click in Google SERPs for specific queries? How often have you clicked the first result? Organic link CTR isn’t as concentrated as previously stated by the people in the industry. Since 2011, the organic CTR in Google SERPs has been dropping for the first ranked result down the line for the rest. A more recent study suggests that top organic results drive up to 20% CTR while positions #2 to #5 range 9%-12% CTR. This isn’t a whole lot lower and it suggests that people who just started shopping around or are researching a topic they’re not familiar with, are going to click on a result they are more familiar with.
And this is the link between SEO and branding, your mantra and starting point - a familiar brand name will give you a greater chance of click-through even if you aren’t positioned as #1 in the SERPs. Well established brand presence is vital for your SEO strategy success - the greater the CTR on your result in SERPs, the better link, and rank positioning.
Two words - Featured snippets.
The appearance of rich snippets has been increasing in SERPs over the past few years. Knowledge boxes, direct answer boxes, question and answer panels just to name a few.
GoogleMyBusiness should be your first business listing - it’s your doorway to branding in Google SERPs. For any branded keyword search query, GoogleMyBusiness listing will appear in the right side panel of the SERP along with additional data such are your social media profiles and shared posts on your Google+ page.
In order to compete for featured snippets in SERPs, your websites posts and pages need to have a valid HTML5 markup and structured data implemented in form of microdata or JSON-LD. This helps add context and structure to the content fields of your website and makes it easier for the web crawlers to understand the semantics and meaning behind it. This is something that top digital agencies with a technical SEO background should be able to implement seamlessly in your websites page and post templates.
Web crawlers ARE getting smarter in content interpretation though. Providing great user experience should always have priority over technical on-page search engine optimization. Content beats code, so focus on becoming an authoritative figure in your industry, market, and niche by creating topic-relevant content that brings value to the end user. It’s essential not only for better SEO performance but for building brand awareness as well.
Link building is a cornerstone of any SEO strategy. Signals from backlinks make up to 23% of total confirmed Google ranking signals today. Your positioning in SERPs is directly proportional to the number and quality of backlinks acquired from websites across the web. In layman terms, link building can be seen as a sort of endorsement.
From the branding perspective, it’s way harder to build quality links and in volume without having a well-established brand. High-quality publications with established and knowledgeable communities are most likely to have a strong editorial team behind it. A good editorial practice is to always check the brand and the representative that reached out in its name for social profiles and their recent backlink portfolio. If a brand or its representative is shady or new, they will most likely be denied of any publication or simply ignored. So it becomes way harder for them to acquire a quality backlink on a topic relevant website.
And there’s the other side of a coin. If your brand is well established with a strong online presence, it will be much easier for you to acquire natural, organic backlinks across the web, without a direct outreach. Authoritative industry representatives that blog and publish across the web usually research their topics and back them up with sources from blogs, publications, research and whitepapers published on well-established websites. If you were to publish a piece on a blog that has a strong branded image and a community behind it, it will most likely be used as a reference in future publications. And if this was your website, you may certainly hope for it to be naturally referenced and linked back to from other topic relevant websites.
Let’s set up an experiment, here’s an example - we’re using non-personalized Google search to look for “microdata markup for web agency”. You can use this link. The official library any experienced technical SEO specialists would definitely visit is Schema.org, but it doesn’t contain any information about this markup, it’s non-existing.
So which of the results would you click on if you aren’t familiar with the topic? Which result would you refer to if someone asks you the question? Which one of them would you use as a reference in your publication? Let me guess, it isn’t the same result that answers all of the above.
BRANDED SEARCH QUERIES ARE EASY WIINS
This somewhat goes without saying but people are more likely to find what they’re after if they know what they’re looking for. If a user googles your brand name, they are most likely looking for you and what you have to offer. These users are already familiar with your brand and what it has to offer so the probability of click-through and conversion is greater. Branded keywords prune the competition.
By syncing your branding strategy with SEO engagement, you are getting on a right path to growing brand recognition. In time, you will be able to drive brand searches with more conversion value than of those search queries made by users who are just starting to shop around.
THE KEY TAKEAWAY
When starting out, without any previous online presence, you can focus your marketing efforts on SEO performance. Techniques like link building will get your website noticed by search engines, and if done properly, will start ranking in SERPs.
However, focusing on branding from the early stages is a much smarter move. Branding strategies help you build name, reputation, and authority. It opens a path to establishing a strong online presence. And it definitely improves your chances of acquiring natural links and brand mentions.
Either way, the crawlers will crawl. The user experience is what will always prevail.