This article was written by AJ Kumar, in Entrepreneur Magazine, July 3, 2012, reprinted by permission
Google loves big brand names, and for good reason. But that doesn't mean smaller companies don't stand a chance when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).
In regard to natural search results, the better the results Google can deliver, the more people will use its service. To provide the best possible results, Google tries to identify website elements that provide quantifiable proof that users find a given site valuable, as well as to refine its ranking algorithms to ensure that these factors are prioritized. Website branding falls into this category because users tend to trust and engage more with website brands they know than with lesser-known competitors.
Spend time on any SEO news website and you'll likely find dozens of articles about how difficult the world's largest search engine is making it for small-time webmasters to compete with the big brand boys. But instead of bemoaning the fact that bigger brands seem to receive advantageous treatment in natural search results, follow these three tips to harness the power of branding for your own site:
1. Develop your visual brand.
Just because your website only has a handful of pages doesn't mean you can't create a strong brand. Not only will developing your own distinctive brand pay off when it comes to SEO, it can also be an effective way to generate business. Consumers are still wary of handing out personal and financial information to potentially unscrupulous sites, but recognizable brands tend to put them at ease, making them more likely to convert into buyers or subscribers for your business.
Think about the elements that you associate with well-known brands, such as discount retailer Target. The company has:
·An easily recognizable logo
·A consistent color scheme across its web and offline properties
·Consistent marketing messages, taglines and slogans
Related: Google's 10-Minute Guide to SEO Basics
None of these factors is out of your reach, no matter how small your business. Setting up a consistent color scheme, for example, can be as simple as choosing a couple of colors that you feel reflect your company's personality and then splashing them across your website.
Once you've chosen colors, find a qualified designer to create a distinctive logo. While traditional graphic designers typically charge $500 or more for logo creation, a number of freelance designers might do the job for $100 or less.
Creating compelling marketing messages may take some time, but once you settle on some, you can easily incorporate them into different areas of your website. Encompass your brand's primary features and benefits in as few words as possible. That can help increase the chances that your audience will remember the message and associate your brand with it.
2. Add branded keywords to your site's SEO.
Because search engines rely on your site's SEO to determine what it's about, make sure your branded keywords are incorporated into your website's content alongside your target keyword phrases. Branded keywords include words that are unique to your company ("Zappos shoe sale," for example), while traditional SEO keywords target phrases consumers enter into search engines ("women's sandals, size 9," for example).
One effective place to include your branded keywords is your title tag, using the following structure:
<head><title>Traditional SEO Target Keyword Used Naturally | Brand Name </title></head>
Related: 5 Tips for Making Your Website More Social
Keep your title tags to a maximum of 62 characters to ensure that your branded keywords aren't cut off by the search engine spiders. Don't "keyword stuff" your title tag with a series of unconnected traditional keywords. Instead, make sure your title tag reads naturally and provides valuable information to your readers. Then, add your branded keywords after a pipe symbol (|) to begin to build search engine recognition for the brand name you've created.
3. Behave more like bigger brands.
Try to think like a bigger company and make your branding as pervasive as possible. For example, do you think that Target would send out an email newsletter without formatting that mimics the branding elements on its website?
In general, the more places you can incorporate your brand signals, the better. As you integrate these symbols across your web properties, you should see better visitor engagement and increased trust with your consumers.
Additionally, Google will likely continue to roll out algorithm updates that reward well-branded websites over their unbranded competitors. Implementing these techniques now could lower your risk of being affected by future search algorithm penalties.