A brand is an extension of a company’s corporate philosophy, a perfect way for you to condense a lot of meaning into a single name and image. To understand the immense power of branding, one need only look at all the examples where the name of a company that first started producing a product later became a common name for all products of that type, regardless of their manufacturer. So, we know that branding works really well when done right, helping companies build a good reputation and a loyal customer base, but people tend to get a little confused when it comes to online marketing strategies. This is a shame, because your SEO efforts can bring you a lot closer to establishing a powerful brand – it’s just a matter of knowing how to play the game. The following tips can serve as a basic guideline for using SEO as an effective way of enhancing brand recognition.
While there are tons of useful online tools that can give you a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, developing a strong and highly recognizable brand comes down to knowing how your target audience thinks. The great thing about the online environment is that you have a direct connection with your audience, so you don’t have to rely solely on market information obtained by a third party. Social media, blogs, forums and review sites take all the guesswork out of the picture, giving you an insight into how the consumers think, what they need and what they like to see. Scour the four corners of the internet until you have a clear image of your average consumer.
Associate your brand with other big names through link building
In scientific circles people rely on peer reviews to see whether a scientific paper has true merit, i.e. your work can be considered valuable and relevant only once several other well-known experts in the field have given it the thumbs up. When it comes to branding, you can’t really sell the fact that you are an expert with a high quality product or service unless you’ve been featured on serious niche-related websites. This is where things get a little too difficult for those who want to make it big with as little effort as possible – in order to gain recognition you need to offer the public something a bit more than just your standard sales pitch and a shiny website.
We’re talking information, lot and lots of relevant, helpful and interesting information provided for free. This means getting in touch with some of the major blogs that cover your industry and providing them with unique content like insider news and tips, how to’s or doing some myth busting, in return for a link to your website. You see, even though it seems that you are going out of your way to inform potential customers about the different aspects of your niche without standing to gain anything, you are actually getting several things out of it:
- People see that you possess a lot of knowledge in a certain field
- You show that other experts or enthusiasts value your opinion
- It makes your company seem down to earth and in touch with the average consumer’s needs
- You get more exposure as those new to the niche turn to your material for information
It’s important to note that this does not mean simply paying someone post a promotional article, but rather creating content that addresses important industry issues and helps turn complete laymen into informed consumers. Your reward is being thought off as THE source of quality information, and by extension the source for quality products and services.
No up and coming sports brand stands a chance of either ranking very high in the SERP’s or being the first name that pops into people’s heads for keywords like “good running shoes” because huge names like Nike and Adidas dominate the market and work with an immense marketing budget. However, let’s take a broad topic like running shoes and look at the different types of people that would need such a product:
- Professional athletes that need a high quality piece of gear that makes them more competitive at their sport
- Fitness enthusiast that run every day, but do not compete
- People who are trying to lose weight
- People who don’t run, but spend a lot of time on their feet during the day and need comfortable footwear
We see that there is plenty of room for further specialization, and a brand that takes one group, e.g. people looking to lose weight, can get fairly creative when it comes to marketing. They could steer clear of the serious athlete market, and offer a cost-effective comfortable walking shoes that are perfect for the average Joe who wants an easy way to lose weight and stay healthy. Walking is often recommended to the elderly, and pregnant women have a problem finding comfortable shoes as their ankles can swell up, so you can take your brand in those directions as well – walking shoes that are light, breathable and provide ample cushioning for those that need it the most. Now you have a micro-niche with its own unique set of long tail keywords that you can be associated with, and where you can become the trusted expert.
Combine natural search results with PPC to boost brand recognition
The “either or” mentality seems to still be pervasive when it comes to looking at PPC and SEO, but as recent studies have pointed out, having both organic search results and a paid ad above the fold will have a noticeable positive effect on brand awareness. Of course, the main issue here is budget, and smaller companies may not be able to finance both a PPC ad campaign and an ongoing SEO project, so you’ll have to take a detailed look at your specific situation before making the judgment call.
Use creative and informative content to establish the desired corporate image
To use the same walking shoe example form before, it’s one thing to be known as “that company that sells comfy sneakers”, but to create a strong brand you need to connect with people on an emotional level. Not only your content, but you overall tone and approach influence how people view your brand. Some brands have made great success by taking a more humorous approach in their videos and blog posts, but you need tailor your approach to your audience, and there is always a fine line between being casual and straightforward, and being unprofessional or even offensive. By staying focused on spreading the word about the health benefits of walking and promoting an active lifestyle through their content, while at the same time offering reasonably priced products, our little running shoe company suddenly becomes a caring brand with a noble goal in the eyes of the public.
Your content should reflect the kind of public perception that you wish to nurture, e.g. you would put out material related to health and fitness in general, not just walking:
- A few articles on healthy diets
- Some content that references medical studies
- A how to guide on slowly making walking every day a habit from the perspective of someone who’s “been there, done that”
- Tips on dealing with flat feet
- A video showing some quick and effective home workouts
- Time management tips for highly active people
Good branding is all about finding the right message that resonates with your customer base, and then making sure that the message you want to send is being heard loud and clear. As they say, actions speak louder than words, so you need to make sure that your content reflects the core concepts that you have built your brand reputation around.
We’ve already mentioned that social media can be used to get direct feedback from the customers themselves, and to find out what makes them tick, but you have be careful. A Twitter of Facebook account gives a company a direct and unfiltered podium from which to communicate with the consumers, but even some of the big names have fallen victim to poorly thought out posts that aim for shock value, exploit the buzz surrounding certain events, and faced serious public backlash. Remember, your brand isn’t merely a catchy name and a cool logo, it’s built on the experiences that your customers have with the company, and that includes your behavior online.
When it comes to reaping some additional branding benefits, good SEO can be an important weapon in a company’s arsenal. You build a brand through all the positive little interactions with the customer, and spending a little bit more time and effort on developing an SEO strategy that is consistent with your company’s core goals and the image you wish to present can yield impressive results.