Branding in SEO – The Big Shift in Online Marketing

by Jason Acidre on October 3, 2011 · 60 comments · Search


BrandingThe strength of a brand is considerably the backbone of most successful businesses, may it be on or offline, given that it has the ability to signify a certain organization’s true value and edge which separates it from its competitors.

The search industry has provided businesses worldwide with immeasurable potentials and growth in the past decade. As the Internet industry grows, users’ behaviors tend to mature as well, in which search engines are left with no other options but to constantly evolve in order to further improve the experience they are providing to their users when seeking for information over the web – such as authorships, rich snippets for search listings, personalized and localized results.

With these several changes in the search results’ landscape, particularly on Google, Branding appears to be one of the biggest factors that search engines might rely on when it comes to determining authenticity for web authority/popularity.

Search algorithms are evidently capable of extracting data from websites using brand-based metrics, which can be used in evaluating a website’s importance and level of demand. These areas of assessment could be drawn from:

  • Brand mentions from other websites’ content.
  • Amount of branded-anchor text links directing to the site.
  • Volume of search queries for the brand.
  • Brand mentions from social networks.

With search engines mining brand related data and the upcoming rise of new top-level domains (TLDs) – .brands – that is scheduled to be launched by ICANN early next year – it is almost certain that the next shift in search engine optimization is going to be mostly about branding, seeing as a strong brand presence indicates authoritativeness. Moreover, popular brands are most likely to be rewarded by search engines with higher rankings (for very competitive keywords) on their search results, knowing that they have earned their trust basing from users’ perspectives.

Apparently, traditional marketing methodologies, like social marketing and branding, are being more appropriate and efficient to be utilized in today’s, or perhaps tomorrow’s online marketing needs. As methods that can leverage a brand’s exposure seem to tremendously impact a site’s SEO efforts.

Brand signals from design and identity

Investing on a visually attractive web design and shaping a captivating character for a business’ brand can most certainly generate interest from its target audience. This interest sequentially sends out massive brand signals through social sharing and natural linking, which can boost the site’s visibility and ability to move content across the web.

Hipmunk and Benthebodyguard are some brilliant examples for this approach, as these sites’ simplicity and straightforwardness have made its marketing efforts almost effortless.

Brand signals from image and rich media advertisements

Banner advertisements from affiliate marketers and ad networks, like Google Adsense, can extensively disseminate a brand’s exposure to its target market.

For instance, Pokerstars have efficiently used this marketing channel, as they were able to establish a dominant figure in a competitive industry through visually-driven brand signals. These brand signals can usually create curiosity from a specific audience and often leads to brand search queries.

pokerstars search volume

And this funnel of actions simply enabled them to assimilate the main targeted keyword to the brand name itself.

Poker Google Search

Building linkable assets

Linkable assets or exceptionally crafted contents that have the ability to continuously attract linkers, traffic and leads over time are a robust source of brand signals. Web pages like SEOmoz’s Beginners Guide to SEO, Adage’s Power 150 and Everythingisaremix’s complete video series page are great samples of linkable assets that can progressively cultivate a brand and are compelling enough to encourage social sharing and linking.

Branding through externally distributed content

Using link building techniques to develop a site’s brand can have an effect on how its target audience perceives the brand. Sending out massive brand signals through externally distributed content such as press releases, guest blogs, online media coverage, interviews, whitepapers and rich media content like infographics, videos, slide presentations and kinetic text can exemplify expertise and authority in any industry. Continuous implementation of these methods can increase brand mentions, brand queries as well as brand advocates.

Branding through great customer service and social media interactions

A high quality service can always be a great branding tool, since it instills the idea of trust to a business’ target consumers. In addition to a quality service, considering social media as a channel for customer support can leverage the trust that a brand is able to build to its customers, which can be very advantageous in obtaining positive reviews and attracting more brand advocates.

John Doherty, an SEO Consultant at Distilled, recently wrote a review about Zappos’ great customer service and how a certain social interaction have led to breeding a satisfied costumer, which clearly denotes that a combination of quality customer service and social media can be a powerful branding tool.

Consistent community participation and static marketing

Being involved in the web community, especially in the brand’s designated industry, also helps in establishing a powerful brand as well as in building connections that can benefit the site/brand’s marketing campaign along the process.

Consistency in terms of representation and quality of contributions on relevant forums, blog discussions, Q&A sites and social networks can create a gradually expounding exposure for the brand, as enthusiasts, influencers and consumers, in that certain field, are being reached in a genuine level of communication – a position where relationships are easily built.

Article first published as Branding in SEO – The Big Shift in Online Marketing on Technorati by Jason Acidre

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Image Credit: RedBalloon

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Gerard Willemse October 3, 2011 at 7:20 am

This shift seems to go hand in with a video of Matt Cutts stating that Google will soon target Keyword Rich Domains. This implies that a great amount of weight will be given to strong brands.

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 8:58 am

Yeah, that’s one of the hints why the next shift in SEO could be more focal on how sites are well branded or perhaps on how people see the site through its brand. Thanks for the awesome comment Gerard!

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ferdous@livingseolife October 3, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Hi Jason,
Hope you doing well mate.

When I was working for smaller business few months ago, it seems unfair to me putting that much emphasis on brands and now I am working with massive brands and its making sense why search engine should value brands. I would say there should be a good balance of brand value and value of quality sites. We want visitor to be the winner here and that should be the goal for both publisher and search engines.

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 9:00 am

I couldn’t agree more Ferdous.

Of course the value of a brand more often than not exemplifies its expertise through the quality of its site’s content, so it could be a good metric for search engines to use, especially to those sites that get their content scraped by other thin and low quality sites.

Can’t wait to read your post about that idea :)

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Ross Taylor October 3, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Noticing brands, even smaller local brands, showing up in Google Instant as I key in a search, which is quite interesting. I now subscribe to the belief that when backlinking the anchor text should reflect the brand name a good amount of the time, don’t just go after the stuffed keyword anchors. Anything that boosts perceived trust for your brand, however small it is, has to be positive.

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 9:08 am

Great observations and awesome points there Ross. Yeah, I’ve been also focusing on that part when it comes to link building, as it sends out more brand signals when people get to see your brand as the anchor text, compared to just your primary keywords.

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Bruce October 3, 2011 at 6:47 pm

This shift towards branding is shaking things up, but it’s the little guys — independent bloggers, etc. — that have the most to lose in this transformation.

I think it’s important that branding becomes a central focus in most people’s SEO. It’s not technically complex or difficult to understand, one just needs to develop a clear and effective brand, and be very consistent at promoting it.

As the article mentions, everything online is maturing, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise. In many ways, the Web is still the wild west, but we have to expect that Google will do whatever is best to support their ad revenue. For better or worse, this probably means a bias towards strong brands and large businesses. Don’t get left behind!

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Awesome points there Bruce, and I agree in most of your opinions :)

With small vs. big, independent bloggers (like me) can still utilize branding as a marketing tool, especially in this age of marketing. We all just have to be really persistent if we really want to succeed in this line of industry.

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Kim Stoneburner October 3, 2011 at 10:41 pm

It’s a great blog! You have written very good points on branding through social media. It also gives amazing facts about social media can be a powerful branding tool. I like your blogging style.It’s very simple and also creative.

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Thanks for dropping by Kim.

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Mark @ Organic SEO Services October 4, 2011 at 1:37 am

Jason,

I think your reference to branding via “externally distributed content” is key.

To be totally honest, some of the coolest and most well branded sites I have found, I have found only through this avenue.

No matter how well ranked a site may be, the majority of potential traffic will still find your site hap-hazardously.

Just goes to show you the necessity of exploring all options when it comes to branding, which, in my opinion, usurps even SEO.

Great post, as always…:)

Mark

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Spot on Mark. Really liked your last line there.

Nothing is impossible in branding, I believe, it’s just a matter of how you plan on executing it. Most biggest brands of the web did take advantage of their budget, but some of them have only invested time/skills/passion to really rise above in their industry.

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Aaron @ Goa Carnival October 4, 2011 at 4:45 am

If search engines start providing results based on good branding then it’s good news for old and reputable business units but it’s bringing more hard work for new business units as first they need to work out to create their own brand which may take lot of time.

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Michael October 4, 2011 at 7:46 am

Hey Jason,

I think you hit the nail right in the head. I’m convinced branding is the new direction, but I honestly don’t know what exactly I should do to make sure I capitalize like this in the best way. I have recently stared to research this topic more and in this context your article is very helpful. Thanks!

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Thanks Michael. I think the best way to really make it through this area of marketing is through your business’ identity in its industry (through content), as well as the people that surrounds that personality (your networks).

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Tomek October 4, 2011 at 7:49 am

I’m really happy with the new trend in searching. There is so much spam out there. Anything that can help drive quality is great and branding seems to be the right tool…Tomek

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Nice, yeah, I believe so. Thanks man.

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Noel Addison@Logo Design Ventura October 4, 2011 at 8:40 am

Here’s a dilemma. When picking what domain to buy, do I go for an easy to remember name or something with my targeted keywords on it? With the latter, I can sell it easily if the need arises. With the former, sure I can too but I need to make the brand popular first.

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Both can work, perhaps it’s just on how you package the brand — how people sees the brand/business (is it the cheapest/coolest/most practical one if compared to its competitors).

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Mel October 4, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Awesome post – definitely bookmark worthy. There has been more chatter about brand as it relates to SEO and online marketing, but you actually give some actionable guidance here that can be followed immediately. Thank you for sharing. It’s timely for me, too, as several of my clients are focusing more closely on their brands internally and in other marketing campaigns and it’s time to start working with them on the Internet side of things.

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Thanks for the comment Mel, and I’m glad that you’ve found this post useful :)

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Andrew Walker October 4, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Hi Jason. As usual. You always shared great things. Thanks a lot.
And I couldn’t agree more with you. SEO branding, especailly in the term of searching is getting more attention right now. But also, like Tomek said, there’s so much spam, scam sites out there. So we gotta be careful in doing it.

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Thanks Andrew! :)

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Miguel @ Organic SEO Consultant October 5, 2011 at 9:05 am

Jason, great post and I could not agree more. I’m seeing this across many verticals over the past couple of years. In particular, the ration of branded anchor text links versus keyword rich anchor text links. This has had a MAJOR impact!

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I strongly agree, plus brand metrics seem to be a more credible source of trust when weighed, in my opinion :) Thanks for dropping by Miguel!

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Janice Stevenson October 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I will have to agree with your observation that brand-focused marketing is becoming more and more important to achieve search engine rankings. Unfortunately it does mean that the little guy will have a tougher time competing, but I still think there is room for smaller companies to profit.

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Kaiserthesage October 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Thanks for the comment Janice. Smaller companies/individuals can still compete in this kind of arena, though it will necessitate them to be really creative (which I think is the fun part) to really compete and deserve the rankings that they are aiming at.

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reeha October 6, 2011 at 11:20 pm

superb post. i think social media is the best way for branding and i am 100% agree with your points. through social media you can also stronger your links, social media works as a chain between you and your subscribers.

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Andy October 7, 2011 at 2:51 am

Branding always play an important role in case of SEO. But I think that it is not going to affect much to those websites which are not a big brand and they are significantly doing good in search engine ranking factors.

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Ana @ Commentluv Premium October 7, 2011 at 5:01 am

WOW! This is such a thorough post. Plenty food for thought here. Thanks so much!

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Kaiserthesage October 7, 2011 at 5:19 am

Thanks for dropping by Ana :)

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Derek October 9, 2011 at 8:06 pm

I agree, very good post! This is a great example of content rich, in SEO information! The whole idea of branding through social media, using video, and also other media to get your message out is definitely a maturation of the web. As usual Google is setting the pace, so we need to take note! Love your blog, will be back for more tips…thanks

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Samuel October 10, 2011 at 4:41 am

Hey Jason !
I really admire and appreciate your firm and well fabricated drilling on upcoming market face,now branding is becoming the most essential point to be focus on for any online business company to get more recognition among the visitors.The points which you have given here for how to develop a Brand,are really considerable.Race is on now and we all need to be get prepared for this.We can do some smart things like putting targeted keywords in top level domains,website attractive layouts,social media interactions etc.Thank you for sharing such a great,considerable and knowledgeable content with us.

Good Luck and God Bless!

With Regards!
Samuel Joshua

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Kristina L. October 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Hi, Jason!
The market has clearly changed, and marketing has to be studied as an online tool essential for the success of a business. Moreover, since a new generation of consumers is arriving that was born inside the internet era, a lot of things have to change in order to gain that audience attention. Language, communication and public approach are going for some changes, as you pointed it out, and now it’s just matter of seeing how companies will behave in the nearby future.

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Thomas Jackson@vanderbilt beach October 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Brand is what the business is all about. It’s the name where people usually associate adjectives with (good or bad). I must say that this is one of the most difficult to establish. Takes a while before establishing a good one.

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David @ SEO blog October 18, 2011 at 8:36 pm

If the big brands start ranking better across the board, it will be the final nail in the coffin for the little guy. It used to be that anyone could rank for anything. But as competition increased and so many sites had a domain history, it has become harder and harder for new entrants to the game to get any traction. What could once be done quite easily now takes lots of money, lots of time and lots of cleverness. The free lunch is over.

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Ben Dover October 20, 2011 at 2:26 am

Well thanks for the info. I learned a few things. Especially the line about brand is what the business is all about.

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Aaron Jones October 24, 2011 at 7:58 am

so it is important to have a brand easy to understand? i have many questions though..

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Mac Wilson@uk web hosting October 25, 2011 at 11:03 pm

There are many different ways to branding a business, however the most effective ways IMO are creating an attractive and appealing web design, banner advertising and social media marketing.

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Jo November 24, 2011 at 5:29 am

Hi Jason,

Great stuff you share here about branding and how seo can be effective to gain an authority presence.

Though big brands can always stay ahead of the curve because they have all the resources to do so, small brands can also join the race by applying a strategically planned seo route of actions and managing their finances when it comes to paid advertising.

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Duy November 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Very nice post Jason :D

I agree that branding is very important once we want some online presences such as blogs or on social media sites. And imo, building a brand through an easy to remember name and social media sites work best.

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Ruben December 5, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I’ll welcome this change in seo. Especially in the Netherlands there are way too many sites that are only ranking because of their exact match domain. Not because of their content or because they have a decent link profile.
From different sources I hear story’s of brand mentions being a ranking signal, but I haven’t found any evidence backing up this claim. Have you find any evidence of this since you wrote this post?

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Misha@funandsafedriving.com March 27, 2012 at 7:29 am

Interesting, I seem to be sooooo behind on this. I had no idea brand tld was coming and actually is already active for a while! Oh well, live and learn… Thank you :)

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Gus April 23, 2012 at 2:53 am

Awesome article! Thanks a lot.

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Limy May 24, 2013 at 5:59 am

Another excellent guide is Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.”
Also well worth checking out is SEOmoz’s “Beginner’s Guide To SEO,” and the SEO Success Pyramid from Small Business Search Marketing….

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Carl February 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Excellent article!

However I think I am missing something as we have worked on “branding” with our website and blogs long before it was a popular term in SEO.
Our website is constantly updated with fresh content, but more importantly is very well respected and referred to in professional aquarium keeping circles.
We are well known in these circles as the place to go for researched and accurate information, so much so that we are constantly plagiarized (for both content and pictures), even by much larger websites than our own.

YET we have dropped on Google, so I am guessing I/we are missing something in our branding of our website as per Google (not so much Bing and others), so what are we doing wrong?
Should we be using our actual name instead of articles names in Facebook, blog, and other posts?

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