Isn’t it time SEO and Branding got along?

Just an observation. But why do so many marketers seem to see SEO and branding as mutually exclusive entities? There is often a debate over which one is better. But why don’t we see them as two integral assets that support each other and reinforce each other’s efforts for an integrated marketing strategy?

 

What is Branding in SEO?

The SEO activities in this blog won’t be new to a lot of readers. However, I have explained how you can engage your branding team using some common SEO methods to create a synchronised digital marketing approach that is targeted and sustainable. All in all, the methods below will not only help increase brand awareness but ensure that the right brand message is being put across to new and existing customers.

 

 

1. Link-building for Branding

Brand awareness is about increasing acknowledgement of your businesses’ identity. Online, this can be achieved through strategic link building. When you build coverage and links, you are increasing the awareness of your brand or clients in front of the masses.

If your SEO or Digital PR team’s recent link-building strategy has received negative feedback from your client or branding team, it is worth remembering that link-building can bring several benefits to a brand:

 

  • Strengthen existing customer loyalty
  • Recapture the attention of lost leads
  • Lower the cost of customer acquisition by working on a basis of existing brand awareness

 

So how can we build brand awareness through link-building? A low-resource and low-risk route would be to firstly undergo some link reclamation. Find as many unlinked mentions and broken backlinks to your site as possible, ensuring that they are from publications that are relevant and suitable to your brand. When conducting broken backlink analysis, we like to use all of our tools in conjunction with each other to ensure that none are missed. Favourites include Ahrefs, Majestic and Kerboo.

Once you’ve exported all of this into a sheet, use a tool like Gorkana and the Hunter plugin for Chrome to find all the relevant contact details for each publication that contains a relevant broken backlink – whether that be IT Support or a specific journalist that handles certain topics

At this point, you will need to contact the publications and encourage them to link back to your site. This can be tricky and you don’t want to be a pest, so try to offer content that is actually useful or let the journalist know about news that they will actually want to link back to. For example, if the broken backlink is to your client’s old site before a rebrand, let them know about this. Or if a site is linking to a blog post or service that you have removed, offer them fresh content or let them know about your even better services.

If you are still struggling to get buy-in for link-building, remember to emphasise how important it is for your brand to be featured on relevant publications and external sites. Like employment law solicitors being featured on HR sites. This will put your brand directly in front of your target audience. Even better, find examples of where your competitors have been featured to demonstrate the publicity they receive.

Once you’ve rebuilt some broken links and got buy-in for link-building (yay!), it’s time to take it a step further. Newshacking or larger, creative campaigns such as dream jobs or product stunts are great ways to accelerate your brands’ awareness on national and highly relevant publications. Check out some of the helpful guides that our Digital PR team have written for some inspiration:

 

 

Want some proof? Check out one of our clients’ worldwide Google Trends data for their brand name after one of the PR Team’s larger campaigns.

What to do:

  • Conduct link reclamation to find broken links from external sites, such as:
    – Deleted blog posts
    – Old products or service pages
    – Old brand name sites
  • Outreach to the relevant IT support or journalist for the external sites and either:
    – Offer fresh content that is more relevant than the deleted blog posts
    – Inform them of your even better, new products or services
    – Let them know about your rebrand and your brand’s new name

 

2. Copywriting for Branding

As SEOs, we often face challenges when writing content to ensure that is well-optimised but is also in line with the objectives of a branding team and brand’s tone of voice. For best results, write content for both the search engine and your audience. I personally love on-page content that has a clear tone of voice and is written bang-on for the target audience (I’m looking at you Into The Gloss and Missguided). But if you solely write for your audience, you may never see improvements in your rankings. Abstract content that lacks optimization will only go so far.

Embrace SEO practices while also focusing on your audience. Doing so will create a powerful content marketing engine that helps your rankings soar and your branding becomes stronger than ever.

That being said, it is also important for SEO’s to fully absorb a brand’s brand guidelines. If you find any nuances in vocabulary, ask about it! It’s better to get an understanding of why certain words or styling is preferred over others, as this could help you with understanding the intent behind keywords more. For example, one of our clients preferred to use acronyms for renewable energy terms, as they wanted to attract customers that were already well-informed on the industry.

What to do:

  • To provide an even stronger argument for the need for keyword targeting, take a look at your Google Search Console queries in the Performance report. Your homepage probably brings in a lot of branded traffic but look further into deeper pages on the site. The queries for your service and category pages are most likely to be highly transactional keywords that are essential for organic traffic.
  • Fully absorb your brand’s brand guidelines to discover nuances in vocabulary. This might help you further understand the intent behind certain keywords

 

3. Branded Search Terms

In line with the above, SEOs are highly likely to create a content strategy that will prioritise targeting non-branded search terms. It makes sense – before investing in SEO and a keyword targeting strategy, a website is likely to have over 90% of organic traffic coming from branded terms only!

Non-branded terms are therefore where the big growth opportunity lies. They’re high-volume and can drive f new organic users to your site. But we need to stop neglecting branded search terms. For most well-known businesses, their branded terms make up the majority of their keyword profile. Google has even explicitly told us that branded keywords have over double the conversion rates compared to non-branded terms.

Think about it. If someone is searching for a specific brand or product name, they are more than likely to be further along in the conversion funnel. So why, as SEOs, are we ignoring them?

When preparing for the mammoth that is their Black Friday sale, Gymshark shared that (though previously solely focusing on social) they now focus more closely on their organic presence because their competitors and counterfeit sites have been targeting their brand name in the SERPs. Take it from our PPC team, competitor brand bidding is real and it hurts.

What to do:

  • Include branded terms in your keyword research and audits of your site to understand what branded keywords currently have volume, what pages are ranking and where the opportunity is. You can then monitor this and ensure that your homepage and relevant product category pages are ranking for the highest volume branded search terms. All metadata should clearly target the branded search terms with enticing CTAs aligned with your brand of course.

 

4. Visual Branding via ALT Tags

Branding boils down to visual recognition and recall. Once consumers are able to recognise your logo and name, you have created a strong brand. You can level up your clients’ branding through SEO by optimising the ALT tags on images on site. Any time you use imagery online, on or off-page, your images should contain an ALT attribute with branded text. Go through your site and create proper ALT tags for each of your branded and non-branded images on your site with target keywords and your brand name.

This might be a tedious task. But in Google Search: State of Union in May 2019, John Mueller and Martin Splitt announced lots of improvements to Google Image Search and predicted that it would be a huge untapped opportunity for SEO. And we know how important images are for users. Not only are they more visually attractive than text but they can convey a message almost instantly, compared to the time it would take to read text. The issue here is that nifty infographics that contain useful text cannot be effectively crawled for what the image contains. That’s where alt text comes in.

What to do:

  • Take a look at what Search Engine Journal created by using Python and Pythia to train a model on how to generate image captions efficiently.

 

5. Social Media, Branding and SEO

Your social media and SEO teams need to work collaboratively to effectively drive home a brand message. Let’s take Gymshark as an example. Most digital marketers and Millennial/Gen-Z will be familiar with this company due to their strong branding and influencer marketing. For their inaugural “Blackout” Black Friday, they published a video that gave insights to their full planning process. In the video, the SEO team explain how they ensured that counterfeit sites were not ranking for their branded search terms. Due to the high amounts of traffic they receive over the Black Friday period, their SEO team also created useful content for users on when the sale started, what products would be included and how to deal with server crashes or queues. Meanwhile, their social media team ensured that this useful content was being heavily promoted across their channels to amplify its reach.

One of the highlights of Gymshark’s Blackout sale is how they removed the e-commerce function of their site on the run-up to Black Friday but displayed the products with their reduced prices. Another nice touch was that every touch-point in the user journey, during the sale, presented customers with videos of influencers “living out” similar moments, such as them waiting in line or in a queue to pay.

The above is a perfect example of how these two teams can work in tandem for the best results. Their Social Media team created content that excited their target market and linked to their relevant on-site content to ensure that customers were well-informed.

I won’t open the can of worms on whether or not social media signals are considered in the ranking algorithm. Most users will follow a brand on socials for promotional offers, content updates and accessibility. All that matters is that your target market uses social media, so SEOs need to think about it too.

What to do:

  • Think about how your on-page content can be shared on socials too.
  • Share relevant and useful content (such as buying and style guides) with your social teams.
  • Keep them coming back with post-purchase content. We’re talking guides for installation, cleaning, maintenance and more.
  • Open comms between the SEO and social teams with data. Social sites are search engines for a lot of customers and your keyword research could be really helpful.
  • Share keyword data across all service areas. For some of my clients, the PPC team share a monthly Dynamic Search Ads report so we can see the exact search terms that are converting. It’s so helpful.

 

6. Brand Reputation and SEO

Brand reputation can be defined as how a company is viewed by others. To trust a brand enough to pay for goods or services online, most customers will use reviews as a deciding-factor. They are also given importance by search engines, as they are user-generated content.

Google tells their quality raters to do reputation research when assessing the expertise, authority and trustworthiness of sites. Let’s not also forget that Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines also state that e-commerce sites need to have evidence of satisfactory customer service. When you have a positive brand reputation, consumers will trust you enough to buy something online. If it’s bad, that might be the deciding factor between you and one of your competitors.

What to do:

  • Your SEO strategy should include resources to monitor your reviews and closely monitor brand mentions.
  • Ask for reviews and mark them up with the right structured data.
  • Work alongside your PR team to incentivise influencers in your industry to review your products and services.
  • Don’t forget to set up Talkwalker or Google Alerts for your brand name to monitor brand mentions and find off-page reviews.

 

 

It’s time we waved the white flag on the ongoing debate between creating branding versus SEO. A business should not have to choose between one or the other, but instead tread the fine line of creating a site that is on-brand, well-optimised and technically sound. Here is a summary of recommendations on how SEO and branding can work together to create a sustainable digital strategy.

 

7. Summary of recommendations

Link-building

  • Conduct link reclamation to find broken links from external sites that are relevant to your brand, such as:
    – Deleted blog posts
    – Old products or service pages
    – Old brand name sites
  • Outreach to the relevant IT support or journalist for the external sites and either:
    – Offer fresh content that is more relevant than the deleted blog posts
    – Inform them of your even better, new products or services
    – Let them know about your rebrand and new name

Copywriting

  • To provide an even stronger argument for the need for keyword targeting, take a look at your Google Search Console queries in the Performance report. Your homepage probably brings in a lot of branded traffic but look further into deeper pages on the site. The queries for your service and category pages are most likely to be highly transactional keywords that are essential for organic traffic.
  • Fully absorb your brand’s brand guidelines to discover nuances in vocabulary. This might help you further understand the intent behind certain keywords

 

Branded search terms

  • Ensure that your homepage and relevant product category pages are ranking for the highest volume branded search terms. All metadata should clearly target the branded search terms with enticing CTAs.

 

Image ALT tags

  • Take a look at what Search Engine Journal created by using Python and Pythia to train a model on how to generate image captions efficiently.

 

Collaborating with your social team

  • Think about how your on-page content can be shared on socials too.
  • Share relevant and useful content (such as buying and style guides) with your social teams.
  • Keep them coming back with post-purchase content. We’re talking guides for installation, cleaning, maintenance and more.
  • Open comms between the SEO and social teams with data. Social sites are search engines for a lot of customers and your keyword research could be really helpful.
  • Share keyword data across all service areas. For some of my clients, the PPC team share a monthly Dynamic Search Ads report so we can see the exact search terms that are converting.

 

Brand reputation

  • Your SEO strategy should include resources to monitor your reviews and closely monitor brand mentions.
  • Ask for reviews and mark them up with the right structured data.
  • Work alongside your PR team to incentivise influencers in your industry to review your products and services.
  • Don’t forget to set up Talkwalker or Google Alerts for your brand name to monitor brand mentions and find off-page reviews.

 

Looking for SEOs that thrive on working in an integrated marketing team? Get in touch today.

Olivia-Mae Foong

SEO Executive

Liv is an SEO Executive at Impression. As a former Fashion and Beauty PR, she now manages the SEO strategies for a few of our clients whilst supporting the Specialists and Strategists in executing strategies for our larger accounts.

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