Does Google prefer brands? Has branding lately become one of the search engine ranking factors for Google? Is there a relationship between branding and ranking? In today’s discussion, let’s take a look at few of these critical questions that bothers marketers and SEO professionals.
To understand this, it is critical to have a clear understanding of what a brand is. As per American Marketing Association, a brand is a ‘’name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good(s) or service(s) as distinct from those of other sellers’’. Therefore, a brand is a seller that stands out and appears distinctive from his competitors. A brand is often characterized by a trademark logo or a graphic representation.
The following factors have often been found to work as brand signals to search engines (influencing site ranking):
- When people search for your company’s website on Google by its name, it’s quite likely for the search engine to consider it as a prominent brand signal.
- An established brand will always have its dedicated social media business pages. The most popular platforms for businesses to interact and network with target audience are Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Big brands are talked about on Google news sites. Established names have regular Google news feed.
- Non-hyperlinked brand mentions are considered as key brand signal for any established business.
- RSS subscription plays an important role denominating you as a brand to Google.
Most organizations aiming to build an online presence and working on enhancing their brand reputation focus on these above factors. So is it really true that Google prefers brands for website ranking? If we go back to 2006, it all started with a speech delivered by Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google. He said “Brands are the solution, not the problem”. Mr. Schmidt also said “Brands are how you sort out the cesspool”. Apparently, that set the stage for branding to be considered as an important determinant in website ranking so far as Google is concerned. When asked about algorithm in the annual industry conference, he recommended website owners to increase online importance and keep on creating fresh, compelling and informative content to increase Google ranking. He never emphasized on being a brand. The consequent algorithm updates by Google over the years resulted in the internet witnessing a shift from link spam to more relevant and up-to-date content. Gradually, brands became a safe haven for users looking for credible information because of the underlying trust factor.
To put it simply, brands do things which wonderfully correlate with Google’s ranking algorithm. Off late, Google algorithm supports things which brands are skilled at and non brands haven’t improved so far. For example building quality organic links is still an important Google ranking factor. User experience is another key area that brands give priority to. In a nutshell, if an emerging brand or even a small company makes the effort to improve finer details like customer engagement, timely addressal of queries, and promotes itself through multiple innovative measures that their target audience can relate to, it’ll automatically influence visitor experience and thereby increase Google ranking.
Lets us focus why exactly one needs to invest in building a brand’s reputation:
- A brand is known for its expertise. When you’ve proved yourself as a brand, you are positioned as an expert. People start believing you over other alternatives. Once you authorize your credibility, audiences automatically try to connect with your brand. Build your brand as an expert in your niche by highlighting the core skills and strengths of your business.
- When you are a brand you can very well opt for strong marketing techniques with clear and concise messages targeting your intended audience rather than going for blanket marketing.
- Get your true worth when you are a brand. When people know you and your business, they are ready to pay what you quote because they trust your services and products. Even if you charge more, consumers are willing to spend it on a reliable brand.
- When you invest in your brand for market penetration, you get an upper hand over your competitors. Naturally your business becomes a clear choice for your clients. In today’s context, it’s pretty complicated to turn a profit. But when you earn a reputation, you can beat others and further your chances to become a preferred name in your domain.
- When you get to create an identity for your business, you get followers and audiences without trying very hard. Your brand identity fuels more power to your marketing channels. Once you succeed in carving out your niche, you can tactically reduce the cost of your marketing without affecting the response.
It is pretty clear how brands not only influence audiences but also search engines due to their trust factor and credibility. Because one of the key determinants of a successful brand is its reach, the primary area that SEO consultants focus on is expanding the network of the brand by connecting with related service providers and associate partners. It helps them further reach out to their partner’s audience and build links to widen their reach. This makes it incredibly important to work on your brand’s online reputation management.
When people know your brand, services and products, your clients are satisfied and comfortable working with you, your business gets a prominent social face. This is a great signal for search engines to determine the trust factor and credibility of an entity online. Satisfied customers start recommending your business. Reviews and ratings offer excellent exposure creating further leads and are great for upkeeping the brand image.
Google gives importance to user feedback and usage data in search optimization. If your website becomes a kind of a one-stop for users looking for particular information, chances are you might end up being rewarded by Google. Google acknowledges all types of organic traffic like social media, direct visits, referrals through web links and email marketing to boost the visibility of a website. Similarly, enhanced click through rates directly impact rankings. The more CTR’s you get for your website, higher the chances for your website to improve ranking on Google. But then again, people mostly click the website they are familiar with. Eventually, it boils down to being known widely and being a credible name in your domain.
Branding is a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. Algorithms don’t identify brands. Google algorithm does not recognize brands beyond mere signals like back links, bounce rate, average time spent on a site, content quality and other variables. Hence the only way to manipulate Google without being penalized is by creating an effective brand marketing initiative that expands your territory among your audience positively and invokes a sense of brand loyalty among them, encouraging them to further propagate your services.
Challenges to building a brand are unique for each of us. Looking for your comments and do share your experiences with building your brand.