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“All I have is a crush proof box and four out of five dead people smoked your brand.”

I was a big fan of Mad Men in the early seasons. This quote stuck with me as being one of those great marketing observations. Unfortunately, the show writers passed right by it without paying attention to the four-out-of-five statistic. The brand of cigarettes was no deadlier than others; it was just that more people smoked it. Brand impact.

In marketing and advertising terminology, branding involves plastering your logo and name in as many places as you could afford to do so and determining the ROI by asking folks whether they remembered your brand about a month later. The basic purpose of branding, which remains unchanged today is to get potential customers and referrers to remember your company/brand/products so you’re in the decision pool when it’s time to buy.

The classic AIDA funnel describes the buying process simply:

People have a choice of brands for almost every product in the world. When they pick yours, you want to know why. Did you rank higher in the SERPs? Did your print, radio, TV, or online ad campaigns get to them? Did a friend recommend you? Did you use GroupOn?

In terms of SEO, having a strong brand is like being the Yankees. You’ve got so much behind you that you’re pretty much always favored to win. As Bill Hunt said in his keynote at SMX Stockholm, for existing major brands, it comes down to showing up and getting the fundamentals right. For SMBs, you’ll need to tweak and pull every lever at your disposal to beat the advantage that being an off-line big brand brings to enterprise size competitors. For several years, SMBs have had an unusual advantage over major brands that can only be described as benefiting from the myopia and corporate sluggishness of large companies. Once major brands get their collective SEO act together, the web is going to look pretty much like Main Street and malls: major brands everywhere with very, very little space or attention left for small business to get in front of potential customers.

Big brands can steamroll their way to great link profiles. Rand Fishkin, of SEOmoz, points out that companies with powerful offline brands have a strong advantage over smaller brands when they get online. Any page on the nytimes.com is going to rank well right off the bat. You can’t say the same for the freshly published articles of any Podunk Daily News site.

Search bots look for signals of offline brand stature, including press releases about corporate partnerships, public trading, fluctuating stock prices, new product releases, changing prices, TV ads, national level contests and social media interaction. These are the features of big brands and it garners them attention from people and search bots alike.

Bryan Eisenberg notes, “The complex and interconnected relationships between emerging media and the information they [companies/brands] now make available, means that name recognition and associations alone are insufficient. Increasingly, customers are associating brand not with a message, but with their entire experience surrounding the product or service. In other words, branding is now more about what you do than what you say.”

So what are the clear takeaways? What should you and your client be doing to create strong brands and reap the benefits of increased SERP rankings and conversions on and off line?

Banner ads are not dead.

The value of having your name, logo, and colors in many places shouldn’t be completely dismissed.

Remarketing

Once a customer has expressed enough interest to stop by your website, remarketing with clear branding can provide a very powerful conversion lift. There are many reasons why a sale may not take place on the first visit. Use remarketing to keep your brand – expressed in words and images in addition to your logo – in front of potential customers. When they’re ready to buy, you’ll be in their decision pool.

Get Your Social On

But, in keeping with Bryan’s statement above, and Rand’s recent webinar, create and engage frequently on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Run contests, check out successful brand communities such as Lane Bryant. Lane Bryant asks its growing fan base, “What color do you feel like today?” They get their customers. They don’t ask, “What color do you like?” They give you a free platform among women with similar experiences to express how you feel in terms of color. I’ve seen the results. When that question was posted, more than 1,000 responses, some of them richly and eloquently written, were submitted within in less than an hour. That’s what I mean about deep engagement. If your posts aren’t getting responses, you’re not deeply engaged. Try another tack.

Branding basics

Make it easy for people to remember you. Choose a name that evokes something else in the minds of your target market. Slingshot SEO banks on the fact engaged individuals will remember our name and associate it with a team of experts who can leverage something small to make a really big impact. Choose colors and a simple, distinctive logo and stick to them.

Use your brand wherever you go. Make sure your brand is clean, clear, and consistent across all the channels and in every instance you use it. Pimp out your Facebook and Twitter pages to include your brand, images of the people in your company – people connect to people far more easily than they connect to a brand. Meld the two to get more traction.

When quoting your customers in testimonials, put the brand they’re talking about next to their face and quote.

Become known for what you do. Bryan’s quote above demonstrates the need to be congruent in your business practices and your advertising. The combination establishes the reputation of your brand. What do people associate with your brand? Good or bad customer service? Longevity or short shelf life products? High end or low cost disposable? Determine what you want people to think of your product and service and follow through internally in your company. Zappo’s couldn’t sell the idea that they are selling happiness if they didn’t follow through. Zappo’s customer service reps will sell you slippers and order a pizza delivered to your hotel in Vegas if you ask them to. They just want to make you happy. And that becomes part of their brand.

Make sure Google recognizes you as a brand. Follow these quick initial steps to ensure that search engines can distinguish you from the “generic” websites.

1. Does your brand have a LinkedIn company page and people who say they work for you?
2. Do you have a company Facebook page?
3. Do you have a company Google+ page?
4. Do you have a followed/verified Twitter account?
5. Do the about/contact pages on the site exist and contain robust info?
6. Does your business have a taxpayer ID, proof of registration in a government/civic organization’s accessible database?
7. Are there signals/evidence of offline marketing or advertising campaigns?
8. Does your business have an associated address via any trusted local data sources?

These are just a few of the steps you and your client should take to maximize your brand impact. Google should easily be able to distinguish your branded site from non-branded ones. What did we miss? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

*Photo from: blogs.amctv.com

Casey Szulc

Casey Szulc

Casey Szulc was formerly a Statistician at Slingshot SEO.
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General SEO | 5 Comments

5 thoughts on “The Impact of Your Branding Efforts on SEO

  1. I always love the genius of Don Draper, that scene especially stuck with me too.

    So on to the heavy stuff. I love social media, but its new integration with search engines kinda scares me. I fear that we’ll become lazier decision makers because of the amount of trust we give to our friends. With that said, I think that brands will have a huge opportunity to provide consumers with the best knowledge and education about their brand. My bold assertion of the comment is that social savvy companies can give themselves a nice lead over their competitors by really focusing on the wants and needs of their fans and followers.

    Getting your social on definitely never hurts! Companies that figure out how they should use social media will really get a nice lead on building their brand’s digital signal.

    Great Post Casey!

  2. Fantastic article, Casey! For as long as I could remember, branding has always been the most important (or practically the most important) aspect of a company’s success. While it isn’t the only thing that makes the company, that initial step creates your audience’s intrigue. And like you’ve already said: your brand’s reputation is determined by what you do and how you do it! As far as Social Media goes, I think you’ve pretty much covered all of the bases. I personally can’t think of any online resources that you may have missed. A corporate blog, maybe?

    For business owners and advertising agencies, this is a pretty darn amazing age that we live in. The fact that we’re able to create fan pages on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ heightens communication between the business and the user. It’s simple to make the page and it’s simple to “like” the page. Instead of phoning in or e-mailing, we message the group admins as if it were a message board — thus, proving Jesse’s point to be extremely valid! And considering how addicted most people are to Social Media, you’re bound to get a pretty quick response. Others can also join the conversation if they have the same inquiries. I’d also like to point out that Google’s latest “fresh content” algorithm update could be extremely advantageous to social savvy businesses. The more topics and discussions being started, the better it for their SERPs!

  3. Very good analysis, Casey! I wanted to chime in on behalf of small brands, 5-8 employees kind of small. They do not have resources to maintain many social media accounts and run online promotions. But – they have to. And the secret is focus. First, determine who your target audience is. Second, find out where they hang out on social media. Third, go there and promote your brand by not being a mad spammer, i.e. give them what they want. Small businesses often skip the strategy part and dive into tactics. That is why it is not working for them.

  4. Timely post, Casey.

    Google seems to be putting more emphasis on brands each day. Their initiatives like the expanded site links show how important it is for brands to drive traffic around their branded terms. That traffic can come from a variety of sources including the ones you’ve mentioned like display, social, and offline.

    And most importantly, a brand is always recognized most for its products (or services). So start there for creating a great brand. It probably goes without saying. :)

    Thanks for the post. Great read.

  5. Casey, great post describing how brand can impact buyers at different stages of the AIDA funnel. In fact, it is one of the best I have seen in quite a while.

    For further research I would recommend investigating an additional buying step which is very profitable for brand and sales lead management… loyalty & referrals.

    By adding this step to your existing AIDA buying process it would essentially become a consumer buying cycle similar to this example – http://www.cxacademy.org/the-consumer-buying-circle-as-a-source-for-service-innovation.html

    Another common buying cycle example is the Loyalty Loop – http://www.bzzagent.com/blog/post/importance-advocacy-buying-process/

    Once a marketing team can build a strategy around a buying cycle they would be able to show significantly greater ROI and justify more funding for initiatives. (Especially for long-term investments like SEO)

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