Branding in a Keyword-Driven World

in Branding Digital Marketing | by Ethan Lyon

Google has so indoctrinated keywords into webmasters, sometimes branding can be put on the back burner. However, Google’s keyword-centric view of the world could be changing.

Google is always optimizing its algorithm to eliminate spam and relying on signals of trust more and more to determine organic rankings. So what are strong indicators of trust on the web? Enter: brands. Consumers build a — sometimes lifelong — relationship with brands and brands can be relied upon as credible web resources. In general, brands are less likely to:

  • House spam
  • Malware / spyware
  • Develop manipulative sites

However, not everyone has the national brand recognition of Macy’s or Walmart. SEOMoz hosted a great webinar (see here for PRO members) that outlined why brands are signals of trust and how smaller companies can build their brand for search engines. Here are several key brand signals to build credibility with Google:

  • e-Commerce — Amazon, Macy’s and other major retailers have signed up for Google’s shopping platform, called Google Base. If you have an e-commerce site, Google Base is a great way to demonstrate brand legitimacy.
  • Industry conferences — traditional brands might attend or sponsor industry conferences, the sites of which could point to your company site.
  • Traditional advertising mediums — offline advertising can build brand awareness, which encourages more users to search for your brand name
  • Industry partners — affiliating your brand with industry partners demonstrates your legitimacy within that industry
  • Registered businesses (one important note here, is Google references business government registries, so appearing on the list could help legitimize your site) — all businesses must be registered with the government.
  • Unique site design — a lot of spam sites have template that is replicated numerous times
  • Location — not all businesses have a unique location, but is worth registering your business on Google
  • Profiles — adding your brand to Manta, LinkedIn, Crunchbase and other social and business sites passes trust onto your brand

This is not to say you should neglect keywords in lieu of branding. In fact, both can work hand-in-hand. Google and other search engines associate keywords in close proximity of a brand name, with that brand. Therefore, if “Sparxoo, a digital marketing and branding agency” showed up for nearly every mention of Sparxoo, Google would associate “digital marketing” and “branding agency” with Sparxoo. In this way, branding and keyword optimization can work hand-in-hand.

A big thanks to SEOMoz for their excellent presentation on branding in the digital age. We’d encourage you to check out their site and become a PRO member to get SEO insights.