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Brand Promotion Online -- Signals for Today's SEO

Mark Jackson
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I've recently discussed some of the fundamentals of SEO that haven't changed for some time. Now let's touch upon the "new" realities of SEO and what you need to do to build your brand online.

Why Branding?

Well, you may have heard it mentioned that Google wants to rank brand Web sites. It isn't so much that Google only wants to rank big brands. But they do like all of the signals that these big brands carry.

Big brands, more often than not, have very deep/informational Web sites and have their share of other Web sites linking to them. These are two very important "signals" of the authority of these Web sites.

So, to dig into this deeper, I consult with Wikipedia (a "big brand"):

People engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique. A brand is therefore one of the most valuable elements in an advertising theme, as it demonstrates what the brand owner is able to offer in the marketplace. The art of creating and maintaining a brand is called brand management.

What Makes Your Web Presence 'Special or Unique'?

How are you going about your brand management? Part of doing well, organically, in the search engines is having a deep, informational Web site that has plenty of (good) links to it.

Wikipedia certainly measures up to this, with around 47 million pages indexed in Yahoo and 179 million backlinks, sitewide. This is the best example of creating good, unique content that people will want to link to as a reference (as I've just done).

There are other signals that make you a "big brand" to the search engines; things that can help you build a big brand online, without the expense of international marketing efforts that may have made Coca-Cola and others big, back in the days of traditional marketing only.

Today, it's possible -- even for smaller companies -- to build a big brand online at a greatly reduced price compared with what Coca-Cola had done through years of television, radio, and print advertising.

And, the nice thing about these "branding" efforts is that they can, at least indirectly, be measured as they impact your ability to rank in the search engines, gain quality traffic to your Web site, and grow your bottom line.

Expand Your Web Presence

Here's a list of some of the signals that you may want to begin strategizing against:

  1. Blogging: This isn't new. Still today, however, some companies refuse to get into the blogging game for fear of what "might be said about them" or that they would have to divulge company secrets. Successful blogging requires that you provide something of value to your readers. When you provide useful information, and you promote it to the masses (social media marketing), you'll gain links to your Web site in much the same manner as Wikipedia.

  2. Press Releases: "Traditional" press releases were for the benefit of reaching journalists in the hopes that they might write an article in their magazines/newspapers or cover it on television news/radio. Today, these press releases can be found in Google's universal results (if you select the proper method of distribution) and add quality links to your Web site (using quality anchor text within the press release; drive deep links to areas of your Web site that you would like to promote).

  3. Social Media Channels: A quality post doesn't mean much if no one reads it or links to it. So, you must have access to a network of "friends" on Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others to make sure you have readers. Be sure that your posts also allow the reader to easily promote the posts to their network.

  4. Link Building: Back in the old days, it was all about reciprocal link building (i.e., I add a link to your Web site and then request that you link back to me). What does this tell the search engines? That you're somehow affiliated or partnered with this company? Better still, that a number of people link to you and you aren't linking out to a number of people. Right? When that happens, it's probably a signal of your brand/authority. And, if a number of people that happen to be linking to you also happen to be within your industry, or are writing a blog post titled "Search Engine Optimization -- The Very Best Resource Available" and linking to http://searchenginewatch.com, that will probably be a good vote that Search Engine Watch is a great resource for "search engine optimization resources," right? If enough quality Web sites are doing this, that's a pretty strong signal to Google that you should be ranked.

All of these help you gain reach and frequency. More importantly, you'll reach those who are interested in your products and services.

This isn't a "run of network" buy. This is targeted "advertising." Many of these channels aren't directly measureable to ROI, and I know that the struggle is how do you budget for something like this, call it "search engine optimization," and not have it be directly measureable to a ROI.

The truth is, branding still works. And, there are methods to measure many of these to a ROI. But, the real benefits could be in the form of more people searching specifically for your brand.

As I believe you'll find, these visitors are most likely to do business with you. That's the power of branding.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center.


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