Does all of your effort on search engine optimization, help or hurt your brand? It’s easy to miss the brand impacts of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) while you are working to ensure that customers can find you online. Search strategy is deeply interwoven with the experience that potential customers have with your brand.
The need to rank on page one in Google has created two big industries, Search Engine Marketing (SEM ad sales) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), with no shortage of software options, vendors, and the demand for budget. Showing up in the top search rankings has a direct connection to winning new business or nonprofit support, but that same search strategy also has a big impact on your brand.
On the surface, getting some help with your SEO or SEM can seem simple. You have a product or service and you want people who are searching for all of related keywords to find you online. However, the time when all you needed was the right keywords is long gone.
Google’s clear goal is to serve online searchers with easy to use and valuable information. This consistent march toward serving consumers online has shaped what people expect to find. One example is what has become known as “click bait.” Something posted that will get people to click, but doesn’t deliver what they expected. Google penalizes it, and it makes online searchers angry. Google views this as search manipulation, and so do people. So much so that Google now uses a quality score of content, and other websites like Facebook are also wising up to the trend with a relevance score. Both of these measures are applied to how online search lines up with what the consumer finds when they click and if they interact meaningfully with the content (sharing, commenting, watching, etc.).
How SEO Impacts Your Brand Story
Answering the question, “What do you want to be known for?”, is the first step in an effective search engine strategy. Without answering this question, none of the effort that follows will help you build sustainable growth. It is the value of content, and the way that people interact with that content online, that has become one of the signals search engines use to determine quality and relevance.
Getting Found Online Actually Starts with Brand
This is where content strategy and SEO intersect. Planning in advance to create content that has the potential to become the “best on the web”, allows you to reverse engineer the search strategy. That is at its heart a brand story strategy. Clarifying your brand story is a great first step.
Build Content and Search from the Brand Up
Content and search require an integrated approach. SEO and SEM approaches that are not part of your content strategy will limit good growth outcomes. Both SEO and SEM begin with a deep understanding of what your customer needs and wants, and then result in the development of content that meets those needs online.
Buying your way into search traffic with ads or less than scrupulous SEO, while failing to create a content strategy that is rooted in serving customers, won’t pay off in the end. Consumers will reject it, and the “always getting smarter” search engines will catch up and cut off the channel. Your brand story depends on authentic action.
You are the only one who can safeguard your brand. Here are five ways that you can ensure that your SEO is serving those needs:
- Ask the question: “What is the content strategy that underlies your search?”
- What content is being developed that offers your prospect customers practical value?
- Look for yourself—find yourself in search and then click. What kinds of pages do you find and how do they represent your brand?
- What pages are being built that have the potential to become “best on the web?”
- Find the top 5 pages that are being visited on your website and review them. Do they represent your brand well? Are they what you want to be known for? Deep dive into why customers are going to those pages. You may find some ways to strengthen your brand and create great content.