Branding and Search Engine Optimization
19 Brand Signals that Google can Factor into its Algorithm
In 2008, Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google said “The Internet is a Cesspool” when speaking to a group of magazine industry executives. He went on to tell this group of executives:
Brands are the solution, not the problem… Brands are how you sort out the cesspool. Source
SEO experts believe that Google has taken its love of “brand” too far and is unfairly rewarding brands, especially big brands, with prime positions in its search results. This is largely based upon the fact that Google rewards websites that have lots of links pointing to them and have people talking about them in social media. Clearly, the big brands have more people linking to them and talking about them.
Whatever the case, it is clear that developing your brand, both online and off, will help your website outperform the competitors. A website without a strong brand backing it up will languish!
Here are 19 brand signals that Google can factor into its algorithm and use to determine your overall search rankings.
When I work to “optimize” a website for a business and help it get better rankings, these are the elements that I pay attention to and try to improve:
1. Brands have people searching for them by their name.
If no one is searching for you in Google by your brand name, you probably don’t even have a “brand.” Yes, Google does track these searches and assigns your website more credibility if people search for you by your name.
2. Brands have a Google+ page for their business.
That page has accurate and complete information about the brand. It likely has posts, interactions and reviews. If you haven’t maximized your Google+ presence, you are missing out!
3. Brands have a physical address and contact information displayed on their website.
They typically have their telephone and address displayed on every page of their website.
4. Brands are listed in yellow page websites
…and other business listing websites like the Better Business Bureau.
5. Brands have websites that work in mobile devices and tablets.
They know that 25-30% of their visitors are using these devices and want to make sure they have a great experience. See how your website looks using a mobile emulator.
6. Brands are listed in their chamber of commerce websites and other local-based business sites.
These local sites are critical to join if you want to rank for keyword phrases that have your city and state in them. Bonus: they drive qualified traffic to your website.
7. Brands join professional organizations and are listed on their website.
These are high-quality links that help you rank for relevant keywords. Join professional associations!
8. Brands have a Linkedin page.
Brands have real people (aka employees) on Linkedin that say what company they work for. Do you have employees? Make sure they are on Linkedin and have updated their employment status to include you.
9. Brands have the full suite of social media accounts:
Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Google+ accounts. Consider Instagram and Youtube too. Set yours up! Then, link to them all from the bottom of your website. I use Buffer App to make managing my suite of social media accounts easier.
10. Brands interact with their social media followers.
Having hundreds or thousands of followers is nice, but having meaningful and relevant social media interactions with your followers is what makes social media work for you. Whatever your do, make sure you respond when your followers do interact with you! (Come follow/+1 me, I will follow you back! Then, I will try to interact with you and create a meaningful dialogue. You can see my social media accounts at the bottom of my website.)
11. Brands update their website regularly.
A website that is frequently updated shows Google that you have quality content on your website. If you regularly update your website and add content you will see your traffic grow. Consider a blog! WordPress is one of the best platforms for building your website.
12. Brands have Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools installed on their website.
Make sure these are installed… and also learn how to use them. They are a treasure-trove of information.
13. Brands have secure shopping carts and security certificates that match their brand name.
It is convenient to use PayPal… but consider getting your own shopping cart with your own security certificate if you are trying to take your marketing to the next level.
14. Brands have reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google+ and Yahoo.
I can’t emphasis enough how much reviews help you get more traffic from Google. The Google+ Review Instructions Generator is one of my favorite tools to get more reviews in Google+.
15. Brands have people talking about them out on the Internet in blogs, online magazines, forums, etc.
Did you know that Google can find and measure the number of “citations” made about you out on the wider internet?
16. Brand do press releases.
Google wants to reward businesses for being helpful. Press releases are up-to-date news resources that can give visitors information about your company, product, and industry. Have you done one recently?
17. Brands have privacy policies.
18. Brands give to local charitable organizations and are listed as donors and sponsors.
Plus, leaders of brands sit on the board of directors of local organizations as well. Get involved… and double check that these organizations are linking to you.
19. Brands don’t have broken links on their website.
Find any broken links you have and fix them! I use Screaming Frog to find them and fix them.
The confluence of branding and SEO is a popular topic among both branding and SEO professionals. Check out the survey results of 100 well-known SEO professionals to see what they think. Read more about how Google’s algorithm has increasingly catered to big brands at “Why Big Brands Get All the Breaks.”
If you are more of a visual type, here is an interesting infographic: