Search engine optimization doesn’t have to be a challenge, especially if you’re well familiar with your brand. The connection between SEO and branding must be formed from the beginning for the strongest possible ties. Perhaps concentrating on SEO at the branding stage doesn’t seem like a wise use of your time. After all, you’ll spend hours developing your branding strategy before you ever approach web design. How could you possibly develop a website and optimize for search terms if you still don’t have an identity?
How a Brand Is Found Online
To understand why you should start thinking about SEO from the moment you begin developing your branding strategy, you must consider how people will find you. Who will your buyers be? Where will they be likely to look online? What language will be used in their search? Understanding your target buyer’s thought process is a very large part of developing your brand, and it’s also how you’ll devise your SEO tactics.
Knowing Your Brand
Public perception of your company plays a huge role in your brand. Consider Darden Restaurants for a moment. Each person who dines at an Olive Garden or Red Lobster is called a “guest” instead of a customer because the company’s brand is all about making people feel at home. NikeID gives consumers the chance to design their own custom shoes and athletic apparel. Without using the word “custom” in the brand, they still convey the concept of individuality through the “ID.” In so many ways, brands are formed simply from the words chosen to reach buyers. No one would question that these companies are well familiar with their brand and their buyer personas.
When you choose the words to define your brand, whether they’re slogans, taglines, or even product descriptions, do you also keep those buyer personas in mind? ModCloth, a popular online clothing retailer for women in their late teens and early twenties, shows how even product names can appeal to their target audience. Every item has a crafty name that both describes the product and creates a witty pun. Big kudos to ModCloth for using content to define their brand. But, how does that content fare when SEO enters the picture?
Keeping Branding Consistent with SEO
Now that you know exactly how you want your company to be perceived, you need to determine how you will be found. If you’re like Darden and want to make your customers feel like guests, how do you phrase that for best SEO results? For Nike, how do you suppose they might have structured their SEO tactics to make sure the customers found them during Internet searches?
Because content—good, quality content—on your website is how you’ll be found by search engines, you must make sure you include all the phrases and keywords your buyer personas are likely to search. However, just because Darden customers feel like guests when they dine at Olive Garden doesn’t mean they’ll search for “guest reviews for Italian restaurants.” If the restaurant giant wants to keep that perception without missing the many searches that might drive traffic to their website, and consequently their stores, they must be creative with their content.
The same is true for you and your brand. You must first understand your brand on every level so that you can create the interesting, unique content that search engines love. That content must also appeal to your particular buyer personas on every level at the same time. As Frank Strong says, “The essence of a brand lies within its meaning. And words have meaning. Words matter.” Stuffing keywords to achieve excellent SEO results won’t support your brand (and will actually garner you a slap on the wrist from Google if you’re not careful), but avoiding the words and phrases that customers will use to find you will be just as detrimental.
As your brand concepts and ideas come together, focus on the phrases you will use to reach buyers online. The pain points your products will soothe, the personas you’ll target, and your unique selling proposition will not only define your company and image, they’ll also provide the terms your buyers will use to find you.
How will you convey your brand through SEO-rich content? What outlets can you use to boost search results without compromising your brand strategy? We’d love to hear your ideas, so leave us a comment!
Defining a brand’s buyer persona is one aspect of the development stage that is usually skipped. By creating a persona for your brand, a company can alleviate a lot of their SEO struggles because they will know the ins and outs of their target audience. By focusing on the terms and phrases your target audience, your brand will have compatible SEO content
Thanks for the shout out Liz. And couldn’t agree more: write for people not search engines because search engines exist to serve people.