Google loves brands. Strong brands convey three things that Google looks for when ranking websites; value, authority, and trust. That is why sites like Amazon, WebMD and the New York Times rank highly in search engine results pages. They have developed their online brand well, and as a result, they benefit from strong SEO.
With a strong brand, you are sending off several positive messages to search engines, especially Google. You are saying that your visitors and customers value what you are giving them and they trust you to have their best interests at heart. Secondly, it means that you have the authority, gained through experience, knowledge or both, to place yourself in a position of trust.
Online Branding for Better SEO
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Search engine optimization (SEO) has changed quite a bit in the last few years. Then, it used to be all about a bunch of techniques designed to get you at the top of search engine rankings. That is where the SEO evils of buying links and keyword stuffing came from.
As Google got wiser, it discovered what really gives a website the right to belong to the top of search results. There was a pivot from focusing on keywords to a greater focus on the value, authority, and relevance of a site. Essentially, focus on giving your visitors the best and you will naturally score a high ranking. This is what online branding is all about.
It is about being recognized for your obsession with providing the best. When you think of Amazon, you immediately think about variety, affordability and ease of buying; this is the brand they have developed. Too many businesses think branding is about advertising a nice package of lies about how good they are. It never works that way.
Branding is about actions, genuine and natural actions focused on the customer. Interestingly, that is what true SEO has also become in recent times.
By the very act of developing a strong brand, you are bound to get noticed, giving your site a nice bump in traffic and SEO. But this is not enough. Online exposure is a crucial part of establishing a robust online brand. You have to sell your brand using as many channels as possible to create a strong online presence.
In this article, we are going to focus on two ways you can create an online presence and provide your brand with much-needed exposure. Remember, the more your brand is noticed, the stronger it becomes and the higher your ranking will be. The two exposure methods we will discuss are content and social media.
A coherent and effective content marketing strategy is crucial to online branding. By producing quality content on various platforms, you can create brand exposure while also improving your Google ranking. Google loves quality, relevant and fresh content.
Content that delivers value to your target audience can turn your business into a very powerful brand with a huge online presence. Look at Wikipedia, their business and brand revolve around the content provided on their platform. Another is YouTube, where millions of users go to view video content.
Content gives you an opportunity to provide something of value to your audience. It could be entertainment, knowledge or inspiration. Think of a website like Forbes where their business and financial content attracts numerous readers seeking knowledge.
The first thing you have to decide is what content platforms you are going to use. You can use just one, but using several platforms provides your brand with even more exposure.
• Blogs and articles
Some websites build their entire brand around content. Good examples include HubSpot, Forbes, Wikipedia, and YouTube. The same is true if you have a website dedicated to product reviews, photography or cooking recipes.
But what if you sell houses or fishing bait or marketing services? How then do you use content in online branding?
A great solution is to establish a blog. Use the blog to create quality and valuable content relevant to your target audience. Such a blog can drive a lot of traffic to your site while also boosting your site’s ranking and establishing your authoritative position in the industry.
If for instance you are an estate agent, you need prospective clients to trust you. By writing extensively on real estate, people will see you as someone they can trust and they would want to hire. This is how you grow your brand.
Good content will get shared widely, especially on social media, creating more exposure for your brand. Good content has to stand out. Instead of the usual posts, create content that includes videos, info graphics, tutorials, polls, interviews, interactive media and so on. More importantly, create content that has an emotional appeal to your audience. This means it has to be natural, genuine and authentic.
YouTube is a video hosting site you can use to showcase your video content. Just like with blogs, the videos have to be relevant and create an emotional connection with the viewers. Depending on what you are selling, the videos can be instructional, educational, entertaining, news-related or inspirational.
Share the videos on your site and social media pages to get more exposure for your brand.
One of the best ways to establish authority is by writing in-depth eBooks and giving them free to your target audience. Before writing, make sure you understand what your audience needs most. If you sell marketing services, what specific area is most of your audience interested in? Is it SEO, email marketing, social media?
If not an eBook, you can also create a comprehensive guide on a certain topic such as electrical safety at home, choosing the right flooring, improving customer experience and so on. Give visitors access to the guide for free.
• Webinars and podcasts
Another powerful way to build brand authority is through online webinars. Invite other industry leaders to the webinar, and share with your audience verbal content that helps them in some way. Webinars are especially useful for B2B businesses such as marketing agencies and web design companies. A webinar will allow you to create value while establishing yourself as an industry leader with authority.
You should also consider holding regular podcasts for your audience. You can use the podcast to share latest industry news or important knowledge that your audience should know.
Spread Your Message
Too many businesses rely on just blogging for online branding. But you are missing out on so much more audience you could be capturing with other content platforms. Go beyond your blog and create webinars and podcasts for your customers. Shoot a short video and share it on YouTube and social media. Write a short how-to guide relevant to your customers.
All these platforms give your brand a voice, one of authority and trust.
2. Social Media
The internet has become a highly social place. Giants like Facebook and Twitter have grown enormously in just a short amount of time, bringing over a billion people together on their platforms. Consequently, social media platforms have become increasingly important in business branding. Many companies have experienced firsthand how social media can make or break your brand.
When it comes to creating a strong brand, use the sharing power of social media to create exposure while also providing value. Use social platforms to create an image of authority, caring and trust.
Choosing the Right Platform
There is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and many more social media platforms. How do you choose the right ones for you? Do not use just one platform, but also do not split your resources among too many.
The trick is to look for platforms that best represents your brand image. Focus on those that take you closer to your target audience and which will represent what your brand is all about.
• Facebook is an across the board brand that can be used by virtually any brand. Whether you are in a professional industry, a service industry, photography, retail Facebook’s highly popular platform is great. With around three quarters of Americans using the site, you can find almost every kind of audience here.
• Instagram is a picture-heavy social media platform. This means that it works best for brands that rely heavily on images in advertising. Good examples include fashion retailers, estates agents, travel companies and cooking websites.
• Google+, though not the success it was predicted to be, is great if you are looking to reach men in the technology industry. Most of the users are male and a large proportion of them work in various technical positions such as engineers, web designers, and online security experts.
• Pinterest is female-heavy with a particular focus on clothing, jewelry, and art.
• LinkedIn works best for businesses in the professional industry. It is especially ideal for B2B (business to business) companies dealing in services such as marketing, headhunting, and online security. If your goal is to create a professional brand image, with a perception of authority, use LinkedIn.
Using Social Media Right
It is one thing to get on one or two social media platforms; it is another to use them right in selling your brand. Too many businesses get on Facebook or Twitter only to damage their brands rather than grow them because they are not doing it right. Here are a few tips that might just help you.
• Be human
This is perhaps the most valuable piece of advice you can receive. It is social media, not a board meeting. Be social, be human. People will be quickly turned off if you portray a stuffy corporate image. They want a human image they can connect to and follow. This is not the place to use the same voice you have used on your site’s About Us’ page. Rather, it is the place to directly and personally connect with your audience.
• Share valuable and shareable content
A strong brand on social media is one that continually shares useful content that their audience will love and share. What is your audience interested in most? What would they love to learn? What would they share without hesitation because of its value?
The 80/20 rule of social media recommends that only 20 percent of your social media content should be about your brand, including product promotions.
In creating viral content, brands are often tempted to get into humor. While a well-placed meme or one-liner can certainly earn you more warmth from your audience, be very careful. If you are not sure about it, do not post it.
• Use plenty of visual content
Most social platforms today work well with more visual content. Even Twitter, the popular 40-character platform, has gotten very visual with a proliferation of images, videos, and gifs. Facebook ranks content with videos and images higher because they attract more engagement.
Most platforms today allow brands to promote their posts to gain more exposure. Advertising on social media platforms is becoming especially useful as organic reach becomes more challenging for businesses.
The entire purpose of social media is engagement. This includes actions like liking, sharing, favoring and commenting. Be creative in boosting social media engagement. Good ideas include posting videos, asking for audience input on a certain issue such as product naming, polls, and competitions.
A Never-Ending Journey
Online branding is not about individual marketing campaigns. It begins with establishing a business that customers will fall in love with. A business that puts the customer first and constantly provides value to its audience. With this strong foundation, you can then use various platforms to create a positive and strong brand image. Use the two strategies mentioned in the guide above – content and social media – to provide value to your audience, create trust with customers and highlight your authority in your industry.
Online branding is a never-ending effort to create the best online image for your business. It is crucial to your overall SEO strategy. The same things that lead to successful online branding are the same ones that result in successful SEO. Most importantly, these are the same strategies that greatly improve the outlook of your bottom line.
If you want to achieve the top position on Google and remain there in this age of internet marketing you need a sound strategy and consistent approach to integrating the necessary communication into your daily marketing strategy, this can take a huge amount of resources so finding an expert partner to work with you on this journey can be a worthwhile exercise.
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