I have been writing a lot about online branding for the past several months, seeing that this practice is being more relevant and significant to the changes that search engine algorithms have been continuously implementing to serve better results to their users (particularly in developing new signals for new ranking factors and algorithmic changes such as Panda and Search plus your world).
Apparently, the more search engines evolve, is the more all the available known channels for online marketing become a single component of an entire strategy, making integration the most efficient way to drive visitors, build a solid brand, generate sales to your business and to withstand any imminent/drastic game-changers.
Securing and maintaining an online business these days is very much attainable if it has a marketing campaign that is somehow focused on building a strong brand for some reasons.
Why is Brand Marketing so important in Search?
- It improves your business’ lead generation, because it’s easier to sell things when you’re a trusted brand.
- Higher success rates from acquiring links naturally or through sending out requests to other webmasters/bloggers.
- Search engines are more to favor brands when ranking pages on search results (because people simply trust them). This increases your site’s chances of getting higher search rankings for difficult keywords, which leads to more targeted traffic that are searching and probably in need of your business.
Measuring the success of your online branding campaign:
- The best metric to base your campaign’s achievements is usually through the increase in amount of leads/sales/revenue you have generated from the campaign.
- The increase in visitor loyalty as well as new visits (that can all be tracked through your Analytics’ audience behavior report).
- Increase in branded search (people searching for your brand name on search engines).
- The amount of natural brand mentions through editorial links, citations and/or social mentions.
- Approximate amount of engaged users (or possible brand advocates), that can easily be analyzed by setting goals for both macro and micro conversions (subscribers, ecommerce sales, returning visitors, service inquiries, etc…)
- Increase in amount of followers on key social networking sites that you are active on using such as Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
- Share of search and traffic differentials by estimating and comparing your site and your competitors’ common targeted keywords, amount of search engine traffic and traffic price (value of obtained traffic), which can be monitored using SEMrush or Compete.com.
I will write a more in-depth guide on how to measure your online branding campaigns in a future post. But for now, I’ll focus on discussing strategies that you can perform to improve brand awareness and improve search/social visibility through brand-centric methodologies.
Sending Out Brand Signals
Creating brand signals more often than not occurs on your own turf, and most of the time, these signals are the reasons that make your visitors come back for more, share your content through their networks (word of mouth), and/or buy your products or services.
Below are several ways to optimize this area of your website to maximize your traffic’s overall site/brand experience.
Visually appealing web design and identity
A strong and recognizable brand has to have the knack to grab its audience’s attention instantly, and one of the most efficient ways to be successful in this area of persuasion is through effective/appropriate design and uniqueness of identity.
It’s important that you continually test your site’s design, logo and copywriting approach that will be based on how you want to be perceived by your audience.
Optimize page titles with your brand name
Incorporating your brand name in all of your site’s title pages, especially on pages that can constantly acquire social shares and can obtain better search rankings for highly searched keywords, helps in sending out massive brand signals, as your pages are going to be able to make your brand name more visible in different channels such as Google search result pages and other social networking sites (when people are sharing your content).
Making everything in your website easy for users – from navigation, knowing what your website is all about to making your visitors absorb what your business’ value proposition is – establishes better user engagement and eventually develops brand awareness.
This in turn allows your business’ cause to propagate by aiming for your users’ soft side, by making them more interested/fascinated for them to share the information and/or overall experience to various social networks.
The number of people following you on different social networks can greatly impact how new visitors see your brand, given that the more numbers you present, is the more impressive and credible your brand will appear to them.
Building a solid following base on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ is as important as building your targeted keywords’ rankings on search engines, since it doesn’t just benefit you from a branding perspective, but in generating traffic and lead-referrals as well.
You can make your social widgets visible on your site by placing it above the fold (or on your blog’s sidebar) to both attract people in following you on these social networks or in showing off your authority on these spaces. I’ll be giving more tips on how to increase your followers through content and social involvement below.
Another way to motivate your new visitors to check more of what you can offer is to put emphasis on your brand’s accomplishments, like including client/customer testimonials, places where you have already been featured (media coverage) and/or your company’s badges/awards. Making these things available to be seen by your visitors can lift your brand’s importance in your industry and can immediately establish trust and cultivate interest.
Identify Unique Selling Point and Focus on Marketing it
It’s a conventional wisdom in traditional marketing – and in any kind of war – to focus on enhancing your strengths. Putting your best foot forward is a principle that also applies in online marketing, because focusing on making your strengths more known can almost effortlessly shoot your brand on the top of the food chain and making it an authority in a particular field of your industry.
It’s best to know your company’s unique value proposition (what separates you from your competition) before actually starting with your branding campaign, as once you already know your business’ arsenal, you’ll be able to formulate a more laser-targeted approach for marketing, making that solid edge as your shortcut (almost) to being an authority.
Once you know what your role is in your industry, you can then start marketing that unique selling proposition through the content that you’ll generate. There are many content-centric methods that you can use to make yourself more visible in search as well as in the social sphere:
- Create expert content and offer it as a guest blog. These works should focus on tackling your expertise and should also be submitted as a contribution to sites where your target market is. Choose sites/blogs that offer relevant content and have high amount of traffic (not necessarily sites that offer the same services/products as yours, but rather to sites that accommodates the same type audience as yours).
- Launch rich-media content based from extensive research and be visually presented that will allow your target audience to explore more of your industry’s area such as infographics, videos and presentations and utilize social media and targeted outreach to promote them.
- Establish web content partnerships by becoming a regular contributor or columnist to niche-targeted blogs or industry-specific news websites.
- Utilize your site’s blog section well, by regularly updating it with high value, comprehensive and relevant posts. These posts can be more focused on building up your business’ unique value proposition, and use content-based link building (like simple linker outreach, editorial link outreach and social media promotions) to make them more visible through search, link referrals as well as social media.
Keyword research and content development always go hand in hand in every start of campaign, especially in SEO, but of course these 2 vital processes will also play an important role when you’re trying to build a brand. Why? Because your campaign’s target keywords and the pages where they’ll be used will help your brand obtain the right audience.
Basically, once you’ve sorted out the list of your campaign’s primary as well as secondary keywords, it will be the best time to lay out your plan of attack to rank for those keywords that will help define your brand as whole – a brand that gives answers to those particular problems. And the best way to rank for your big list of keywords is to create useful content for each of your targeted keyword.
It’s important that you create useful content, since people will more likely share and link to your content if they’ve found it valuable or worth linking to. It’s also easier to request for links from other webmasters and bloggers if they will find your content really useful and worth sharing to their own networks/followers.
Search engine optimization is getting more complex every day, and if you want to own an industry-specific keyword (high search volume, but very competitive), you’ll need to own its support keywords as well (secondary or long-tail keywords). Basing from how search engines work these days, it’s a game of complete dominance – and brands have more ownership in this era. Like what Wil Reynolds said on my recent article on Technorati “stop putting crappy content in your site and start acting like a brand”.
Static Marketing in Social Media and Community Discussions
Static Marketing is a scalable way of marketing content/sites/personal brands over the web, as it’s a process that’s more apt to size up with minimal work exerted. As Ross Hudgens had explained, this type of marketing is important, especially in this age of marketing, knowing that it will act as a force multiplier for future active marketing efforts.
One great and plain example of this is a simple placement of social sharing buttons at the end of your blog posts or above the fold (making social sharing as one of your content’s call to action). Being consistent with this allows your content to have more chances of getting shared by people who can see/read your post any time in the future. This scales the ability of your site’s content to be marketed freely without putting too much effort to it.
Applying static marketing to other facets of social media and other forms of relationship building can definitely impact your site/personal branding efforts, as the more you consistently contribute to your community using a uniformed persona is the more you are able to develop brand retention through impressions to those who you are engaging with or to other people who will see your contributions/conversations.
Becoming known in your field by being everywhere can drive awareness, but to effectively implement this strategy for branding purposes, it’s important to be in the right places (relevant blog discussions, forums, social networking site discussions, Q&A threads, etc…) and to make use of elements that will make others see you as remarkable such as:
- Consistency with your avatar or profile picture
- Consistency with your name/username on your various social platform accounts, when leaving comments on other blogs, on forums and on Q&A websites.
Branded Link Building
Most people in this industry have known link building to be a practice that enables sites/pages to rank for keywords through building links from other websites that have those keywords used as anchor texts and to pass through PageRank (authority/popularity).
However, link building has also changed over the years, as it’s been also a great marketing tool for generating traffic (through referred traffic from websites where you have a high-CTR link) as well as in making a brand more known to its target market through branded anchor text links.
At this stage of search, it’s vital to build a link profile that can also maintain and constantly develop a brand’s prominence over the web, not only because it’s being used by search engines as a ranking factor/signal, but also because it creates more opportunities for your site in terms of linking, direct and referred traffic, by cultivating culture and interest generated through being almost everywhere.
The great thing about building branded links is that it allows your site to assimilate the industry keyword(s) your site/brand is aiming to achieve, especially if you are offering very relevant content, and you are also able to extend your subliminal message to people who will often see your branded links.
Allocating 50 – 60% of your link building efforts to this type of link building tactic will also make it easier for you to acquire links (since it’s easier than building links that focuses on getting exact-match keywords as anchor texts), plus this will more likely result to improving your site’s domain authority, which will then allow your inner pages to rank for the keywords they are designated to rank for.
There are many ways that you can do to build branded links and here are some:
- Create and promote embeddable infographics that will link back to your site using branded anchor text links.
- Target blogroll links by establishing connections with bloggers in your industry. You can easily find blogs that have this placed on their sidebars by using queries like: [industry keyword] “blogroll”.
- Submitting your site to business and geo-specific web directories. Use your brand name as the anchor text for the link and be sure to offer unique descriptions for each submission.
- Use branded links on your author bio when submitting guest blogs or columns.
- Organize contests or awards, and then provide embeddable branded widgets to participants or nominees/winners.
- Get interviewed by finding bloggers/writers that conduct online interviews related to your industry. You can use search queries like [keyword] intitle:interview, [keyword] intitle:Q&A with, [keyword] “expert interview”. You can certainly ask for links directing to your site through these kinds of opportunities.
Own your Brand’s SERPs
When it comes to online branding, defending your own turf in Google’s search results, particularly for your main keyword (which is your brand name), is top priority. There will be times that you’ll have tough times in your business, where other people or unsatisfied customers might publish something negative about your brand, and that could certainly hurt your image if those kind of content will show up instantly on Google’s top 10 results when people are searching your brand (or doing research about your brand).
The good news is that there are online reputation management techniques that you can use to ensure that you’ll own the search results for your brand name.
One method that you can use to protect your brand in search results is through building strong external profile pages (can be both for personal branding or your company), which will include your brand name in its page titles and will also link back to your main website, by creating accounts and optimizing your profile pages from web 2.0 properties like:
- Facebook Fanpage
Distributing press releases, which will include your brand name on the title of the articles, is also another great method to shelter your SERP. It’s best to create and submit newsworthy content to press release submission sites, as its likelihood to be fetched by authority news sites is higher if it contains interesting data and have a newsworthy angle. You can also check out this list of 50 free press release submission sites.
Interviews are also a powerful branding tool, as it strongly demonstrates your authoritativeness in your industry when people see it in the top results when they search for your brand. If you’re getting opportunities for interviews, always try to suggest if they can include your brand name in the title of the post/interview.
Lastly, build links to your other important pages (pages/categories in your site that can be very useful to your visitors), because this can somehow trigger the sitelinks that will show up for your site’s organic listing. This basically allows your site to occupy the first 7 positions for your brand’s search results. But you can always demote pages from your sitelinks through Google Webmaster Tools if you think that they aren’t relevant for searchers.
Google+ Brand Page Optimization
With the recent merge of social and personalized search and the birth of “Search plus your World”, Google+ has just been more momentous for marketers, and this sudden change in the ball game has been a severe indication of brands taking over the SERPs.
Optimizing and building your authority on Google+ is essential this year, since Google is really pushing the idea of having Google+ related content (content shared by users’ circles as well as relevant pages on Google+) in their search results. If this continues, it could be a bigger fraction of their search algorithm’s ranking factors in determining quality, popular and authority content.
Here are some of the methods that you can implement to improve your Google+ Brand page’s performance:
- Install authorship or publisher markups in your site that reciprocates with your Google+ profile.
- Optimize your Google+ page by completing your profile and by incorporating your target keywords in it.
- Make the Google +1 button very visible on your site’s pages, as you will want to attract visitors to clicking it.
- Promote your Google+ page and build links to it, through the content you generate and distribute, as well as from the discussions that you are building from relevant communities.
- Increase your activity within the social platform, by building conversations, sharing useful content to your circles (to increase the chances of getting +1s and reshares), finding and connecting with other influencers through ripples, and launching live Q&A sessions.
Leverage Social Media
Social media has always been a branding tool and the more it’s being used by people (especially by consumers) the more it will be an instrument for mobility to brands. There are many ways that you can utilize social media to develop a strong brand presence for your business and listed below are most of them.
Use content to drive social media interactions
Effective social media marketing is usually powered by content, as it’s the best way to convey messages across the web and generate a strong following base. Making your content as the basis of your social media campaign will make it more scalable as well as actionable for your target audience, given that they’ll have more reasons to follow you.
But don’t just share your own content, share others’ works as well, since this can also help you establish connections/relationships with other content creators in your industry (which are mostly influencers), and these connections will help your campaign along the process of marketing your own brand (absorbing their followers, having them share your content, getting links straight from them, etc…).
You can also create socially engaging content that are proven to attract social shares (particularly if the content can be marketed well) such as curated and crowdsourced content.
Engage your followers through conversations
Social media can also be a great CRM tool, given that it’s one way to communicate real-time with your customers and followers. Responding to your followers’ questions (on Twitter, Facebook and Google+) can help build a strong foundation for your brand as both an authority and an approachable entity in your industry (and this can make most of them to trust you as a brand and eventually become brand advocates).
Build Branded Content
Create branded content that will not just stand as a linkable asset, but a distinctive brand asset as well. Provide extensive free resources such as monthly free ebooks and comprehensive guides stored and available within your site’s domain, as this will not only allow you to get bookmarked by your visitors, but will also keep your visitors coming back to your website – and that’s definitely a good branding strategy.
Some awesome examples of this approach:
Monitor Brand Mentions
Monitoring brand mentions is very important, since it allows you to identify people who you can approach or connect with (and hopefully turn them into brand loyalists). It’s also easier to pitch for experiential reviews if you are going to reach out to people who have already linked/shared your brand, as they already have tried using it, or have been actually interested with what you’re offering.
Another way to monetize existing brand mentions/citations is to build 2nd tier links to them, particularly if the linking pages (where your brand have been featured) are constantly sending traffic to your site and have high conversions, because this simply means that those pages are already ranking well and are getting regular traffic from search engines.
Pushing them more to rank higher or to sustain their rankings for their targeted keywords simply translates to a continuing stream of referred traffic to your site (traffic that highly converts) and tons brand impressions.
Here’s a good sample of this method:
It’s indeed sending traffic to my site, and has awesomely displayed my blog as an authority in the field (which is really good for branding, since I was listed on the first spot). And now I’m building a link to it.
Create and Promote Viral Content
Viral marketing will always be one of the most powerful tools in marketing, and that definitely counts in branding as well.
The great thing about this style of approach in marketing is that it benefits the brand in so many ways, may it be through the links that the site will be able to garner from the viral campaign, the rankings that those links will result to, or to the brand retention/awareness that it instills to a specifically targeted market (it’s always a win/win/win situation when successful).
But of course, viral campaigns require intense planning, implementation and analysis, since it’s a method that’s certainly tough to be replicated for future marketing efforts. However, there are some ways that you can do to make your attempts to launch a viral content work in accordance to your plans. Here’s a slide that I’ve created months ago on creating, promoting and scaling viral content:
Always remember that the best way to build links and promote a brand is to create high value content and letting people know it exists, as you can always amplify your content’s greatness by working your way up through hustling on the outreach part.
You can also use tools such as Google Trends and Trendsbuzz to get more ideas for topic titles and on the right timing of when to publish your content by monitoring trending topics that could be correlated to your niche.
Go Visual with Branded Images
Users’ behavior towards the web is growing and evolving to a more complex state every day, and one proof of that is the success brands gain through using compelling and visually attractive images to market their brands. Pinterest is one of those places that you might want to explore these days to get a hold of a set of audience who can be more engaged with your brand, as this social platform has been growing rapidly these past few months.
You can create branded images and promote it on Pinterest. There are a lot of forms of images that you can use for this strategy such as typographic images (with remarkable messages), humorous images, infographics, product images (that should be visually attractive), recipes, artistic photographs of places and the list will surely go on.
Once you have your images set, you can start identifying active users on Pinterest that could be interested in your industry. Make a list of them, as you can reach out to them to promote or request to repin your images (they are more likely to repin your images if you are providing a good one). Here’s a quick guide on how you can do link outreach through Pinterest:
- Start with Google search by using this query: “[industry keyword] site:pinterest.com”
- Once you get the results, you’ll see different pages on Pinterest that provide relevant images about your industry, you can choose the first one (and eventually move on with the other results or other related keywords later on).
- Choose any image on that page that have repins (or you can also go after each one by one to see the people who have repinned the image)
- Most of the profiles seen on Pinterest have a link to their Facebook profile (seeing that it uses social logins for its users).
- Check their Facebook Profile.
- Prepare your outreach template (this not an actual sample, just made the screenshots for this post).
- Send them your message via Facebook.
Active users on Pinterest usually have the “Pin it” button installed on their browsers, so just by simply directing them to the webpage where your image is hosted, you’ll have better chances of having your image shared on Pinterest. You can scale the process by continuously lurking on other popular images in your industry.
Curating images from other web sources is a good approach as well (but always give credit to its owners), as I’ve experienced tons of referred traffic from Pinterest through the infographics that I’ve curated mid last year.
One last thing…
via SEO Ryan Gosling