Why Brand Building is the Best SEO Tactic
Winning the generic fight does not mean you’ve won the SEO war.
Singular keyword research as we once knew it has been in decline and has been replaced by long tail keywords, questions and lots of different variants. Only targeting and measuring the positions of a handful of keywords can blinker our efforts to the other ways that people would stumble across your site through search. Holding your own in the generic search space requires focused and consistent effort… especially if your competitors have bigger budgets than you.
Searches for your brand should be the ultimate SEO goal. Branded searches happen when people have already decided who they’d like to buy from. Prompted by a number of possible things: they’ve seen an advert about you, they’ve been recommended to you by a friend because that thing you sell is so damn good, they’ve seen a piece of media coverage that intrigued them. If you’ve managed to get someone to search for your brand, foregoing generic search altogether, then you have won SEO,
It seems to me that building your brand and “good” SEO are solving for the same thing. Rand Fishkin, SEO rockstar, talks about all the different ways a brand can build their demand in a comments section of Whiteboard Fridays post about Dinosaur Tactics to Retire, and it includes:
Trade journals and publications
Events + conferences
Brand advertising (both traditional + digital)
To name a few. Links are just one small part of an SEO’s portfolio now, but effort across the digital marketing mix feels more well-rounded and authentic strategy. Even nofollow links that are paid for are not considered detrimental, as they come from advertising, another normal, expected strand of marketing efforts.
Equally, media coverage with no links, but implied links have recently been called just as good as links. We were even talking about it back in 2013, but back then we were calling it co-citation and co-occurence. As an increasing number of journalists and publications understand the value of links, or have blanket “no link” policies, search engines evolve to extract the next best thing in establishing valuable content.
I know links are still important, but the thing I’d like to see change is the weight they’re given in an SEO strategy versus the other components.
What about the decline of organic search as a trend? Google’s snippets are so all-singing, all-dancing that they’re now trying to solve the user’s query without them ever leaving Google. It used to be about serving the best results, so content creators, brands and media publications got a look in.
Now, it means less traffic sent via organic search to your website. This is not a new concept; attention is so critical, that once you have it, why would you want to send them somewhere else? Every social platform does it too - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter - click on a link in there and you haven’t left their platform. They want to keep you there (where they can show more ads to you).
Brand affinity and familiarity can supercede all of these things. We need to play in all of these rented spaces, where we don’t really make the rules, because that’s where our customers are. If they already know you, like you and trust you, they’re more likely to pay attention to you and seek you out when the time comes for them to look for the service or product you provide.
We also need to make sure that the space we own - our website, our content hub - is pretty damn good. It’s the place where we are in control. We make the experience, the content, the journey. So that when someone finds it through all the great work we do offsite, we make a good enough impression that they want to come back, and they remember us. So next time they’re Googling something and we’re one of the listings, they already know who we are and how we helped them. In a perfect world, they may even come straight to us and not Google at all.