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Most small and medium business owners have very little if any experience with branding, nor do they know how the search engine algorithm works. In fact, why even talk about branding and algorithms in the same sentence? The answer is simple, over the past decade, both processes have become closer than many think.

Branding Creates A Path to Better Search Engine Rankings

In many ways, branding revolves around identifying “quality marks” that users see as important when making decisions (e.g., packaging, design, brand name, manufacturer, etc.) More than ever, search engines look for these “quality signals” to effectively rank websites.

By focusing on “quality signals,” even site owners with modest budgets and no past marketing experience can increase the referral of the site to both users and search engines, thus improving everything from ROI to organic search rankings.

The Product Is Your Website

No matter what your site features, you should think of it as a brand that paints, at the very least:

  • Unique service and added value
  • Unique brand image
  • Simplicity and ease of use

Keep in mind, to attract new users and maintain existing ones; your site needs to develop an excellent reputation over time, as all successful brands do. Keep your messaging consistent.

Unique service, value added

No smart business launches a “me too” product or service knowing that lack of distinction in marketing will equate to a lack of interest and poor sales. Another reason to hire a professional and not little Johnny with 5,000 followers. Similarly, in today’s environment search engines aren’t motivated to feature “me too” websites. On the contrary, they actively seek to exclude them from the search engine results pages or (SERPs).

How will your site be different from any other places you intend to compete with?

If you crawl sites in your sales category, chances are you will find at least one element in each website that can be improved. The solution? Build a new site that does everything better than anyone else. It can be as simple as the aggregation of any good ideas from other websites culling the wrong ideas, or as complex as seeking to offer information in more interesting, compelling, or convenient ways.

Does launching a site with “unique value-added service” help it rank higher or give it a higher authority?

Definitely! Additionally, it increases the chances that the leading authority sites, industry-relevant blogs, and other quality sites will link to you (often without being asked). Great links will mean better rankings. Moreover, unique value-added sites tend to attract links not only to their homepages but also to their subpages – another sign of quality in the eyes of the search engines.

Also, plan your website in such a way that its suggestions can evolve over time. Big brands are seldom static, and the same is true of large websites. The big brands grow and change over time in natural and advanced ways. Search engines know that one of the best metrics of site quality can display is a constant pattern of growth and evolution; This feature is shared by leading sites on the network.

Brand image is distinct

There was a time when a string of generic terms with hyphens to make the domain name was the best way to get a quick and easy ranking. Today, naming the site “keyword1-keyword2-keyword3.com” is no longer a guarantee of good search engine rankings. Keywords and domain names still matter, but the benefits accrued relate mainly to the likelihood that these keywords will appear in backlinks to the site. Instead, working on developing a unique, benefit-oriented domain name that also offers some flexibility. “MyFitnessResolutions.com” is a great example. It’s not hyphenated, and it’s not generic. Instead, it is simple, descriptive, and communicates – in advance – the benefits of the site.

Also, consider paying an agency to create a decent logo for your site, even if you need to spend a few hundred dollars. It does not need to be a big marketing conglomerate – just something that looks professional and signals to users and search engines that have reason to believe your site is unique and run professionally. Those free logo makers don’t belong in “branding” for a multitude of reasons. It’s a good investment that helps with everything from gaining unsolicited high authority backlinks, to fending off hand checks by search engine spam investigators.

Simplicity and ease of use

Perhaps one mistake most common business owners make in this context is creating pages with mediocre titles. Big brands go to great lengths to segment and differentiate their product offerings, that’s why they are household names – your websites should do the same. Give each page of your site the most obvious, most unique title you can, and prevent duplication of page titles from one page to another. Clear, unique page titles are an essential way to mark the uniqueness of each page on your website to search engines.

Similarly, why use URLs such as:

MySite.com/click-here.asp?node=90812sf*#&*123sla&%=4567lskjalk8910i9*su·per·ca·li·fra·gil·is·tic·ex·pi·a·li·do·cious=got-the-point?/ when the URL can read MySite.com/widgets/big/blue/?

Long, winding URLs do not help search engines understand what a page is and do not help users find relevant listings when crawling SERPs or navigating through a site. Simple keyword-targeted URLs generate not only better ranking and user experience but also higher clicks and better ROI.

Developing a long-term reputation

The reputation of the site should evolve naturally over time, as a result of reference to the above points. But to help your site together, consider looking for one-way links coming from high-quality sites. Focus on sites in the category and related categories, starting with sites that already appear in the SERP. Search engines tell you which sites they value – pay attention.

More Signals of Product/Brand Quality

Functionality and Access to Information. Think about what else will make your site more appealing to users and search engines. Make sure you include things that both imply and ensure your website is trustworthy and authoritative.

  • A high percentage of unique pages (versus lots of too-similar pages)
  • Intelligent navigation (users can find their way around; bots can reach and understand what the site owner thinks is significant about the site)
  • Fast page loads (users are happy; bots can fetch the pages)
  • A contact page including physical address if available (credibility; inclusion in local search databases)
  • A legal page (credibility)
  • A feedback mechanism on the site (credibility)
  • Help pages (credibility)
  • A domain that has been around for some a few years, or if the site is new, a domain that is registered for at least several years (suggesting an intent to stick around for a while)
  • An appropriate mix of ads to content (not just an auto-generated site designed to deliver ads)

The partial list above provides a few “Quality Marks” that your site may use. Try to work out the brand building techniques used by the big guys in your market too, if you can. Things like offering personalization, interactivity (build your own shirt from my inventory), building engagement with your visitors along with connecting with larger businesses that you can set up with your product (your top seller feature on a tied, but not competitive, website) You from all the others and start building your brand. Above all, if you make it your task to think more like a brand builder, you will begin to identify and develop your unique signals of quality that the search engines will recognize and reward.

Michele Thompson
Michele Thompson is the Director of Operations at Marqui Management, an author, entrepreneur and finance coach. She has over twenty years of experience in mortgage banker finance, global investor services, real estate and debt consulting. Coupled with her advanced degrees she drives to help new and existing businesses to reach their goals. Connect with Michele via social media or her website here @ Michele Thompson

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