How Branding Impacts SEO
Branding is a powerful business solution. A strong brand is designed to get people to buy more, pay more, make quicker purchasing decisions and stick with the company until they become brand advocates.
It’s also an undervalued SEO tactic.
Your brand is the perception of your company held by your customers, your investors, and all of your stakeholders. It’s a combination of promise and personality that impacts how people feel about your company in the marketplace.
If you have a strong brand, it impacts a person’s impulse to search not just for a solution or product category, but specifically for your goods or services.
Brand affects awareness. Awareness drives search. Search impacts website traffic. Traffic influences revenue (if a site is optimized for conversions – more on that here).
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of branding, how brand authority impacts search, and a few examples of how a strong brand affects SEO.
Let’s dive in!
Sales Overnight. Brand Over Time.
Developing a lasting, resilient brand takes time. It takes consistency to take ownership of your own niche in the market. Consistent messaging, tone, design, and delivery across all customer touchpoints are the basic building blocks of a strong brand.
And that takes time and patience. Depending on sales cycles, tracking the value from sales can be done in a relatively short period. In B2C, sales can literally happen overnight. In B2B, sales may take more time, a few weeks to even months.
Developing a strong brand takes longer than any sales cycle. It takes time to listen and to review customer feedback. It takes time to address weaknesses and turn them into opportunities. And it takes time to align processes and culture. But that investment in a brand can pay off if a company can stay top of mind when a customer is making a purchasing decision.
And the first place most people go to gather more information before a purchase? Google.
At those moments, if a company has optimized for the proper keywords, it is more likely to be found on Google and other search engines. The challenge is that most businesses understand this, so competition for those key phrases is fierce. This is why it’s so important to build a brand that people will search for.
Aleyda Solis, an award-winning SEO consultant and speaker, responded to a Twitter thread that asked, “What do you think is the most underrated SEO tactic?”
Her response? “Probably building a brand.”
For smaller sites: Probably building a brand but that’s not a tactic, is a company objective to achieve its goal and mission.— Aleyda Solis (@aleyda) February 27, 2020
For bigger sites: optimizing internal links.
People will search for a brand they know. So, an investment in branding is marginal compared to the potential returns.
How Your Brand Authority Impacts Search
Even if your website has excellent content and is optimized properly, without a brand behind it, it’s far less likely that you’ll be found in search engine results pages (SERPs). People won’t know that your product offering exists and won’t actively seek it out without strong brand authority.
Becky Shindell at one of the top SEO companies, SEMRush, writes, “While it’s relatively easy to rank for branded keywords, it’s more difficult to get customers to search for them.”
That’s where brand comes in. Developing a strong brand is, in a way, reverse engineering SEO. It helps to get a mass of people talking about your brand online – in reviews, on social media, via citations, and in the form of backlinks, to name a few. That conversation around your brand will signal to Google, and other search engines, your relevance in your specific market. And since there is a positive correlation between the visibility of your brand and your rankings, you should begin to earn more traffic and more customers.
Google’s mission is to “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Ultimately, customers help teach Google who and what you are. The more people search and engage with your brand online, the better your brand authority and the higher you will rank.
Brand authority also impacts your domain authority, a search engine ranking score that predicts your website’s potential to rank in SERPs. Google takes a lot into account when building a SERP for keyword queries – quality of website, internal links, mentions, reviews, etc.
When there is a high volume of digital engagement associated with your brand, Google will start to connect your brand with a product category through its algorithms. The more branded searches you get on Google, the more you can carve out a sphere of influence on the web.
For example, we’ve all used a Kleenex. It’s become eponymous with facial tissues. By building a strong brand, you can 'rig' the system so that users aren't going to Google searching for 'facial tissue'. Instead, they’ll search specifically for ‘Kleenex’.
If you can achieve this sort of brand authority in your industry, you’ve not only owned the majority of the SERP but you’ve captured the mindshare that is so coveted by brands. SEO can play a part in this but the heavy-lifting, in this example, is done by branding.
Let's take a look at some companies that have effectively leveraged their brands to improve their ability to be found online.
In March 2020, as the world shifted to working from home due to the coronavirus, Zoom was top of mind for many people looking to host virtual meetings. In a short period of time, the number of queries for Zoom skyrocketed relative to competitors like Skype, WebEx, or Google Hangouts.
“Zoom” became a verb. And it became the de facto solution for many companies who need to work remotely.
Nearly overnight, searches and sales skyrocketed. But it wasn’t due to luck. It was due to an investment in brand that, over time, paid dividends. In just three months, from January 2020 to March 2020, the stock soared 130%. People turned specifically to Zoom because of its brand reputation in the marketplace as an easy-to-use solution.
In March 2020, more than 70% of traffic to the zoom.us website was branded traffic.
Brand, not price, is the differentiator that drove people to choose to search for ‘zoom’ or ‘zoom video’ over ‘video conference tool’ or ‘virtual meeting tool’.
Peloton is another brand that has successfully leveraged its brand to impact its SEO. In March 2020, 25% of its website traffic is from search. Of that 25%, nearly 95% is from branded traffic.
People consciously choose to search for ‘peloton’ over ‘home workout bike’ or ‘virtual bike trainer’ or ‘virtual workouts’.
The company has a nearly 95% retention rate among customers. Peloton has turned its customers into raving fans, who become brand advocates on a variety of online channels, helping to improve the company’s brand and domain authority.
So, when their friends are ready to make investments into fitness equipment, they’re more likely to search specifically for 'peloton' when conducting a transactional search (meaning they’re actively looking for a product or service online).
Purple Mattress, as you might expect, is a company that makes mattresses and other related bedding products. The company is named after a generic color and has to compete with queries for ‘purple’ in search. It also faces competition in searches within its product category: ‘mattress’.
Here’s the interesting part. On average, there are more searches for ‘purple mattress’ (550K) than both ‘purple’ (301K) and ‘mattress’ (450K).
People turn to Google specifically to search for the branded terms. And that behavior only serves to strengthen a website’s authority in the eyes of search engines.
Brand really does impact SEO.
Embrace Branding as an SEO Tactic
A strong brand gets more people to buy more stuff at higher prices for longer periods of time.
What’s good for the business is good for SEO.
A key touchpoint in the branding process is through search engines. A consistent brand creates loyal advocates and influences awareness. And that helps a brand be found more easily online.
It might be underrated, but it’s proven to work.