Anyone who has ever tried to reap the benefits of SEO will know that it’s usually all about keywords: finding poorly optimised words and phrases, then targeting content at them for maximum effect. It’s a strategy that works, as evidenced by every website in the SERPs for any specific query. But is SEO all about keywords, or is there also room for branding in there too? What we mean is, should all SEO activities be focused on targeting keywords and phrases – or can you actually carve out your own niche within the SERPs for your business’ individual brand?
Finding your place
One of the key objectives of all SEO activities is to find a way to get a site listed on the first page of the SERPs for a specific term. Link building, content strategy, on-page and off-page optimisation, and everything else is done with this objective in mind. However, in much the same way that an employee may choose to create their own job in a saturated job market by starting a company, some businesses can actually start to generate search volume by developing their brand identity. Not only will this help the company grow and evolve, it will also mean that that business will ‘own’ their own small bit of the SERPs – no matter what algorithm changes Google decides to implement.
Back in the early 2000s, tech-giant Apple weren’t doing a fraction as well as they are now. Their first line of iPods were not really adopted by the masses until the middle of the decade, so they had some work to do in gaining traction. How did they achieve this? Branding. Apple’s brand is so strong that it’s now synonymous with style, quality and being a market leader. In terms of search engine marketing, this brand identity meant that people were searching less and less for ‘MP3 players’, and more and more for ‘iPods’. Was the term ‘iPod’ ever optimised before Apple? Of course not. They created a product, defined a brand identity, then created a niche in the SERPs that will forever be theirs. After that, organic traffic for the term ‘iPod’ shot into the hundreds of thousands per month. Some might call that a stroke of genius.
Don’t give up on general search terms
Are we saying that you should abandon your SEO efforts and focus solely on defining your brand? Of course not, but it’s good to focus on both, if you can. Take a hotel or bed and breakfast, for example. You’d still want to focus on phrases like ‘hotels in [place name]’, but your hotel SEO strategy should also include an element of your brand – in this case, the hotel’s name. A brand identity is something that will naturally build up over the course of a business’ history, bolstered by advertising, communications, and web presence. If you can use this brand to make yourself known for a specific product or service, you can actively reduce your reliance on SEO, and instead enjoy direct relevant traffic from people looking for you specifically. Once that’s done, you will – quite literally – dominate the SERPs for those specific products. Examples of this include the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPod, Sony PlayStation and so on. As soon as people start searching for your products or services specifically, you don’t need to worry about targeting ‘ereaders’, ‘MP3 players’ or ‘games consoles’ – because you’ve already carved a niche in the SERPs.
Developing a brand identity alongside ‘everyday’ SEO
As we’ve mentioned, you should try to find a balance between targeting general keywords and developing your brand. Both of these activities will benefit you from an SEO point of view, and both for different reasons. In fact, if you’re able to optimise your branding, even the more general terms will bring in organic traffic to your product or service (that’s why Kobo are on the first page for the term ‘ereader’). So perhaps the best advice here is to try and cover both bases; don’t carry out an all-out assault on a specific keyword, but by the same token, don’t try to force your brand into a specific niche. Instead, target keywords and phrases as you always have, but also work on your communications, your advertising, your tone of voice, and the way you convey your company – the SEO benefits should then follow naturally.
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