We recently had a conversation with a Google representative and were able to ask her some questions about SEO and Google.
She obviously couldn’t come right out and say much but she did state that “Google is a popularity contest – the most popular site for a given phrase is always going to win.”
That’s when we started thinking about what popularity really means.
What Does “Popularity Contest” Mean In SEO Context?
Pay-per-click advertising is not viable, long-term, as your only form of online marketing. The moment you stop paying for ads, the moment PPC ads will stop bringing you more clients. The websites / brands that dominate the search engines today are brands that are seen everywhere: on TV, radio, in the newspapers – everywhere you look. That’s what Google is looking for. In 2008, Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, has said:
“Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”
So how does advertising on TV, radio, and in the newspaper improve Google ranking, you ask? Great question.
How It All Trails Back: The Power of Brand Search
The main idea behind any brand is to be everywhere. And Google knows that your brand is everywhere.
Imagine your client having a print ad or a billboard somewhere down the street. The person passing by only has enough time to remember the brand’s name.
When that person comes back home, he/she Googles that name. And this is one of the most powerful branding signals that Google has: people searching for your brand by name.
The Way It Works
In 2012, Navneet Panda, Google’s engineer responsible for the Panda algorithm, filed a lesser known patent called the Site Quality Score patent. It was granted in May, 2015. In the patent, Navneet wrote:
“The score is determined from quantities indicating user actions of seeking out and preferring particular sites and the resources found in particular sites. A site quality score for a particular site can be determined by computing a ratio of a numerator that represents user interest…”
Here’s a breakdown of the whole article. Your site is going to rank higher than the others if:
- People type in only your brand as a query,
- People type in a combination of their keywords and your brand,
- People type in a general query (without your brand) that your brand can answer.
As you can see, 2 out of 3 external signals are tightly connected to a brand. Let’s see a more detailed example.
A Demonstration of How It Works
The following is an example of how it all works (all the numbers are made up for convenience):
The keyword we’re targeting is SEO New Jersey. It gets searched 2000 times per month. Let’s say there are three brands competing for the #1 position in Google:
- Brand Company #2
- Brand Company #3
Out of those 2000 searches, CustomerBloom is added as a modifier 10% of the time – 200 searches contain “CustomerBloom” as a part of the query. Those searches could be something like “CustomerBloom NJ SEO”, “NJ SEO CustomerBloom agency”, etc. One other variation of the query could include the site search operator – e.g. “site:https//www.customerbloom.com SEO NJ”.
If the name of Brand Companies 2 & 3 are added as a modifier less than 10% of the time, respectively, CustomerBloom is going to outrank the other two agencies because it has stronger branding signals. It’s even going to outrank them for queries that don’t contain any mention of the brand.
To find out more about brand queries, and how they impact rankings, check out this article by Hermish.
It’s Not Just About SEO Anymore
SEO was easier in the past.. You would just implement SEO strategies and, if you did it better – and more frequently – than competitors, you’d rank higher.
Things are different now: you need a strategy that encompasses a lot of things. Along with technical and onsite SEO, you have to utilize social media marketing and reputation strategy.
And that’s only online. If you have a budget, you should advertise on TV, radio, etc. too. To gain the advantage over competitors, be creative – and be everywhere. Think outside of the box.
What Do Big Brands Do?
Big brands always have a “brand bible” (or book of standards) that includes a high-quality logo, the brand, colors, fonts, slogan, a tone of voice, etc.
Minimalistic and Flat Logo Design
A huge trend in logo design for brands is minimalism and flat design. Think about popular online marketing companies like Moz and Distilled. Even Starbucks changed it’s logo from a complicated one, to a more flat, minimalistic one.
Big brands are always consistent with their messaging. You’ll never see them talking about things that aren’t related to their domain.
All your messages should be cohesive. That way, your audience will recognize your brand in the sea of mediocrity.
A great example of a consistent brand – that also has a slogan that immediately communicates value proposition – is M&M’s.
Their slogan, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”, is consistent across all the advertising they’re doing. It’s memorable, includes a benefit that makes the product stand out, and invokes positive feelings with the audience.
Every brand that stands out teaches its employees how to communicate consistently.This ensures that customer support is at a world-class level across the organization.
Where Do You See Big Brands?
You can see big brands everywhere – especially on TV and radio.
If you can’t afford to advertise on TV, modern technology has given you other options with the potential for extremely high returns on your investment.
One of the best advertising options out there is YouTube.In fact, YouTube is becoming a new TV. For the growing number of people that use Apple TV, YouTube is a favorite station of theirs – as it serves as a replacement for TV for many, and YouTube ads are extremely affordable to invest in.
“TV” advertising is more accessible than ever.
Tips to Optimize YouTube Videos for Better Branding
Create a trailer and branded video intros for your business. There are still many videos out there that don’t have a branded introduction. Having a small logo at the bottom corner isn’t enough.
Don’t be afraid to invest money in a high-quality intro. It’ll pay off in the form of brand awareness. Just make sure it’s short and that it immediately communicates what your brand is about.
Encourage people to subscribe to your client’s channel via annotations. People won’t do something if you don’t tell them so don’t presume they’ll subscribe just because the content is great.
Where Do You Start with Branding?
Before anything else, you should answer three questions:
- Who is your company working with?
- What story is your company really telling?
- What is your company actually doing, and why?
If you can afford it, partner up with a PR company to create a brand story.
If you can’t, consider reading a few tutorials on branding (like this one).
Think about what your values are and what you stand for: then you can build a brand around those values.
Photography and Videography: Crucial for a Good Start
We’ve discovered that one of the biggest aspects of branding is professional photography and videography. Big brands invest a lot of money into those two. You should too so you can be a big brand.
If you don’t have the budget to invest, consider trading services with local photographers and videographers.. For example, if your own a restaurant, you can offer free lunches or dinners in exchange for professional photos.
Once again, the main point is to think outside of the box.
As a side benefit, your images are going to rank higher in the Google Image Search. They’ve gotten really good at image recognition. Google can tell the difference between a stock photo and an original photo.
And big brands use original photos and images.
Tweaking Your SEO Methodology to Improve Branding
Here are some things you could do in your SEO to improve your overall branding.
Regulate sitelinks. Did you know that you can regulate sitelinks from the Google Search Console interface?
You can see your sitelinks when you search for your brand on Google. If you’re not happy with them, you can go to the Search Console and request Google to change them. Then, you can simply tweak those until you’re happy.
Enclose your logo into a schema. Schema.org is a standardized structured data markup that all the major search engines accept. When you place your logo inside of schema tags, you’re actually strengthening your branding signals. Google might even start displaying brand logos in the SERPs in the near future.
Always put the brand name into the alt tag of the image. That way you can dominate image search for your brand, as well as the section in the standard SERPs that shows images.
Take care of the Google+ business page. Your recent posts on the Google+ timeline can be included in your brand’s SERPs. Some agencies believe that including your brand into Google+ increases your search engine visibility.
Parasite pages can rank for your brand as well. Directories, Web 2.0 properties and press releases can also rank for your brand – if you decide to spend time setting up those properties. Use Knowem to find all the properties where your brand hasn’t been mentioned yet.
SEO is only getting tougher each year.
In order to rank your sites from 2016 onward, you need to think about the branding aspect as well. Incorporate a well-rounded branding strategy into your overall SEO strategy, and you will stay on top for a long time.