To be successful, a marketing plan should always be backed up with a strong brand strategy. A well defined brand strategy gives purpose and consistency to a brand’s activity, and gears up the brand for the many challenges that different channels bring. Just like any other marketing channel, ‘great SEO starts with your brand’, and although branding is not a ranking factor in itself, it can impact rankings in multiple ways.
How branding can impact rankings
1. People are more likely to click if they already know the brand
When faced with a fair number of options, people use heuristics to make their decision. In an attempt to be efficient and save effort, people try to pick the best option while minimising the information processing. This is probably why the first result of a search engine page gets the most clicks. The ranking order makes life easier for people, and there are more variables that can have a similar effect. A good brand is one that gives people a direction to go and makes things easier for them. Customers decide more quickly from among a number of options that includes one known brand than they decide with a set that includes only brands they don’t know. If we expect the same thing to happen on a search page, a known name can simplify the decision process and make it more likely that people will click there.
2. It can increase the number of brand searches
If the right audience is exposed to a brand, it is more likely that they will type the name of the brand on a search engine and look for it online. They can do it to follow up on something they saw or read about the brand (e.g. looking for more details about a particular product), because they want to know more about the brand or for another reason. The important thing here is that having more people searching for a brand on Google can have a positive impact on rankings as Google may assume that more people want to click on results related to that same brand.
3. More social media buzz
It might be that social media is not a ranking factor, but the impact that social media can have on a brand is undeniable. If a brand’s communication strategy resonates with its customers and its social media presence is clever and relevant, chances are that more people will engage with the brand and talk about it. In turn, this can expose more people to the brand and its products, which can have an impact on the number of searches on search engines.
4. More insights means more keyword ideas
A brand with high awareness is more likely to be talked about, offline and online. Market research helps diving into customers’ mind and understand what they feel and think about a brand, but a lot can also be extracted from social media and forums. The more people talk about a brand online (forums, social media, comment sections, etc), the more opportunities there are to understand customers and prospects. This can help setting up the brand presence across the customer journey and can also offers valuable insight about new keywords to target. By listening to what people say online, a brand can find out about what words people use to describe it and get new keywords ideas. This can be used for optimising the website, targeting new long tail keywords and generate new content ideas.
5. A more consistent experience
Bounce rate is not a ranking factor but if after clicking on a particular result many people quickly go back to the search engine looking for a different result, this indicates the first link was not what they were looking for. If someone sees a brand they already know on the search results and clicks there, it is more likely that they have an idea of what they will encounter, and I would expect this to impact positively the interaction with that page. This isn’t to say that people will stay on a page only because they know the brand, of course the page has to match the intent and be optimised, but maybe we can predict that if people are more aware of what to expect it is less likely that they bounce back, and maybe this can also impact rankings positively.
It is known by now that an integrated brand strategy benefits the brand as a whole and its presence across several channels. I’ve talked about five ways in which branding can impact SEO, if you disagree with them or have other suggestions, I would be happy to hear it on the comment box below or twitter (@anaverissimo).