Search engine marketing and optimization strategies are most frequently associated with increasing users’ direct response, but higher visibility in search also influences the ways online users perceive a brand. This was confirmed by various successful campaigns big brands such as Vodafone and South African Tourist Board carried out to raise awareness of their products and services, as well as to increase in-store revenue.
Therefore, contrary to the views that the primary value of SEO is its potential to boost website traffic, it is also an important form of branding for any company that aims to gain authority and credibility online. Of course, the idea of using SEO techniques to increase brand awareness is not a novelty, but many online businesses still tend to overlook this benefit of great search performance. To help them understand this aspect of SEO, below I will summarize the ways in which search performance can influence perception of a brand.
Users’ intent and search results
Even without analyzing available research findings, it is relatively easy to understand the straightforward connection between SEO and brand recognition. Simply, the more often your name appears in search results for a particular set of keywords, the likelier the people are to remember it. This was confirmed back in 2008 in Microsoft’s How People Recall, Recognize and Reuse Search Results report, which is one of the earliest in-depth studies on people’s online search behavior. Namely, the report reveals a strong correlation between high SERP positions and likelihood that a person will remember a brand name after seeing it in related searches several times.
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In practice, this means that even if a user doesn’t visit your website the first time he or she encounters it in search, this may lead to direct visits at some point in future. Therefore, companies that want to establish their names as recognizable brands should examine the ways they can boost their rankings for all the queries relevant to their general brand message. Of course, this means understanding users’ search intents and trying to anticipate their future behavior. Afterwards, a comprehensive strategy should be developed based on the search data available in order to occupy the highest positions for all the relevant queries.
How Google sees your website
The process of branding through SEO includes a variety of factors, most important of which is to establish a brand name as an entity whose characteristics are easily recognizable to both users and search engines. This essentially refers to understanding the ways semantic web works and how it distinguishes between brand names and all the other associated notions. Namely, companies with generic brand names and potentially non-transparent domains need to make it easy for Google to identify their area of business by adding descriptive content and accurate meta elements to their websites.
Only when all the taglines, meta descriptions and other forms of HTML content are in place, the engine will start listing the website in more appropriate searches. This is especially important as Google keeps improving their algorithm to facilitate branding for companies, which is probably most obvious in their recent improvements in Knowledge Graph that now enables webmasters to more accurately present their websites to the engine. Knowledge Graph now also allows brands to connect their official social networks via the schema markup, which is another way this could help them brand their names.
Considering the great potential of enhancing a brand name’s visibility on Google, companies should start perceiving SEO not only as a traffic boost strategy, but as a part of the overall branding process. With such a large number of people currently using Google search to find necessary information, even non-retail businesses should develop strategies for presenting their brands to potential consumers.
Bojana Dobran works with a team of SEO consultants from Boston on developing advanced strategies for small businesses to develop online authority. For more info please visit http://fourdots.com.