If you’re someone who wants the best for their site, you are probably always on the lookout for the right digital marketing mix to drive results. There are a lot of options you can invest in – with SEO, PPC, content marketing, social media, and more all vying for space in your business plan, where should you put your money?
No two businesses are the same, so no advice is truly “one size fits all”, but there are big two marketing focuses that work in sync to form the base of your digital marketing strategy: SEO and branding.
SEO and branding can’t work very effectively without each other; without good branding, your SEO strategy won’t really stick and grow over the long term, and without SEO, your awesome branding efforts won’t be found on the web.
While many business owners often struggle to see the real value in brand building and SEO efforts, the two are much more related and foundational than you think.
When you search on Google for something, what drives you to click on any particular blue link? Do you always just click on the first result you see?
You probably don’t choose that link every single time. Sometimes, you’re looking for something specific and that first link gets you what you need, but what about if it’s not an area you’re familiar with, or something you’re just beginning to shop around for? You’re either going to click the link that looks:
- Familiar, or
- Most relevant to what you need.
Organic (non-advertising/paid) link click-through rate isn’t nearly as concentrated on the top ranking link as you think it is; while research suggests that the top link does generally drive a ~20% click-through rate, links #2-5 range from 9-13% click-throughs, which isn’t a whole lot lower. This is why SEO and branding can be so linked – a familiar brand name gives you a better chance of driving clicks even if you aren’t #1.
This is also why having strong brand awareness is so vital to your SEO strategy. As we’ve mentioned before, having an excellent click-through rate on search results pages is a factor in helping your links gain better ranking positions. And having a brand name that is somewhat familiar or at least present and legitimate is a good way to invite people to click onto your site, in that you’re promising a good experience and that your site isn’t, say, some random link that will download malware onto the visitor’s computer.
Another reason you want your branding and SEO to be strong? Featured snippets. Search engines are becoming increasingly full of rich features such as knowledge boxes, Q&A panels, and even direct answer boxes. Grabbing that valuable search page real estate is one of the fastest ways to establish your brand as an “authority” on your topic – and using SEO to optimize for snippets can help you do that.
Even if your content isn’t taking a whole lot of rich feature spaces, creating informative, search engine optimized, and customer-focused content on highly relevant topics can help establish your brand as a top authority in your industry and build brand awareness through SEO. Both humans and search engines will look at your thorough library of informational resources and say, “Hey, they look like they know what they’re doing over there…”
When your brand is trusted, your site will be, too. That’s why developing a recognized and trusted brand presence is so key to link building, which is one of the cornerstone tactics within SEO.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of link building, think of it as a way of earning endorsements for your site. If another site links back to you, search engines tend to see that as a confirmation of your site’s usefulness, safety, and relevancy of your site. Once your site has collected a few relevant and trustworthy links from other sites, search engines will be more likely to serve it up to visitors in search results because it has been “endorsed” by other sites.
From a branding perspective, building great links is a LOT more difficult without a strong brand image. Think about it like this – if you’re looking for a source to cite in your blog post, would you rather link to Forbes.com, or some generic website you just stumbled upon? Assuming the info you’re citing is the same from both sites, you’re probably going to decide that the Forbes article is a better citation for your blog post. If your readers are wondering where you got your information, they’re going to trust you, the blog writer, a lot more if you’re citing widely known and trusted brands such as Forbes, rather than something they’ve never heard of.
Searches for Brands = Easy Wins
Maybe this is a given, but it’s worth pointing out: people who know exactly what they’re looking for are more likely to find it. In other words, if someone types your brand name into Google, they are probably looking specifically for your site, your brand, and your offerings. They know what they want already. By intertwining your SEO and branding strategies, you can grow your brand recognition, and, over time, begin driving valuable brand searches that turn into faster conversions than those among visitors who are just shopping around.
This is a difficult concept to prove because platforms like Google Analytics do not supply keyword-level info that can be directly connected to conversions, but the pure authority of branded searches is hard to ignore. If your brand is strong enough, people may not even bother searching for general keywords, and will just search your brand name instead. For example, look at the search volumes around three of the most common car windshield repair keywords on the books.
Now, look at the search volume around the brand name of one of the biggest national players in this industry.
Obviously, not every person searching for any of those keywords is looking to buy auto glass. But a lot of them are. That’s 246,000 people who (probably) know who Safelite is, what they do, and how to find them. That’s why they’re more targeted, conversion-friendly searches than the more general, volatile to change, and less often searched terms such as “auto glass”.
Searching “auto glass repair” is proof positive of the company’s SEO efforts as well – Safelite has secured 3 out of the 10 organic (non-paid) search results on the first page in our area. SEO for brand awareness AND organic search domination? Now that’s authority!
How to Tell When Branding and SEO are Making an Impact
Sure, SEO and branding are a superhero team that can help your business take off. But how do you know if your SEO and brand building efforts are really working and driving meaningful actions such as leads and sales?
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to decipher the exact impact of SEO and brand marketing. As with traditional marketing, measuring every buyer’s true journey from start to finish can be difficult when tracing every interaction is nearly impossible. How many places, digital and physical, did a customer see and interact with your brand before converting? Even the customer may not know.
However, we can see how often people are looking for things that are unique to your brand. (How many times your site has appeared when someone has searched for your brand name, for instance.)
To do this, you’ll need to have your site connected to Google Search Console. This service allows you to monitor several technical aspects of your site, but most importantly in this case, it helps you see what searches your site is appearing for.
Once your site ownership is verified in Google Search Console, navigate to the Performance report.
Once you’re there, you can see roughly how many Clicks and Impressions your site gets from the organic search result pages. “Clicks” refers to someone clicking on one of your site’s pages via an organic search result, and “Impressions” refers to the number of times a link from your site appeared for a query made by a searcher – AKA, how many times your brand name and website was seen.
To see approximately how often your brand name has been searched for, you can perform a search.
Make a new Query filter that contains your brand name, or part of your brand name. You can also add additional filters to capture common brand misspellings or represent common searches that only include part of your brand name (i.e., if your brand is “Freedom Investments”, set a filter that only includes “Freedom”.)
Now, you can see how many impressions and clicks that searches for your brand name have generated over time. Play around with the date function to see results as far as 16 months into the past.
As an example, look at one of Leverage Marketing’s clients who needed both SEO and brand building to help create a searchable presence and a stronger brand presence. Upon becoming a Leverage client near the end of 2016, Google Search Console showed us an average of about 50 branded query impressions per day. We can translate this to mean that their brand name was getting searched and seen about 50 times a day.
After a website redesign, dedicated onsite and technical SEO work, and a concentrated effort to create the brand image and voice that this client was missing, we’ve seen branded query impressions per day climb to over double what they were before pursuing SEO and branding. The impact of our campaign has helped their brand gain twice as many searches as it did before. That’s the power of branding!
Ready to set a solid SEO and branding foundation for your site but not sure where to start? Get in touch with the Leverage team – we’re experts at curating your brand image and SEO strategy to drive results on your site.