Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why SEO is now critical to successful brand marketing

By Lillian Haase, SVP Global Marketing, Searchmetrics

SEO and brand marketing are traditionally seen as very different parts of the marketing mix. Search is generally viewed as a tactical, bottom of funnel activity that’s great for driving measurable benefits such as conversions. Brand marketing, on the other hand, is about creating top of the funnel awareness that builds affinity, focusing very much on creativity and storytelling. It’s less tangible and much more difficult to measure, but highly valued all the same.

Increasingly, however, SEO is becoming essential for branding. And one of its primary advantages is its ability to let you push out brand messages at people based on their intent.

If your company sells yoga clothes and accessories, for example, and consumers come across your brand while Googling some aspect of yoga, then you are clearly reaching a very relevant audience at the exact time when they’re thinking about yoga.

Compare this with traditional brand marketing which consists of interruptive advertising on TV or radio. You may reach a large audience, but how precisely targeted is it when compared with search intent? How much of your TV and radio spend is wasted on consumers that aren’t really on target? And can you really afford the huge, Above The Line (ATL) media spend to drive longer-term brand building results in this way?

Here are four ways in which your SEO team can support your brand marketing strategy:

1. Managing reputation in a digital-first world
The information that appears in searches for your brand name have a direct impact on how it is perceived. But using SEO for reputation management isn’t simply about burying negative mentions that appear high up in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for brand searches. It’s also about ensuring that the SERPs communicate an accurate, up-to-date picture that reinforces a positive brand story.

With more and more interactions happening online, many consumers will first come across your brand through search, making your SEO strategy crucial to successfully managing your reputation.

2. Using ‘Informational’ Content
Even before thinking about making a purchase, many consumers will use Google to find answers to broad general questions related to a product or topic.

This gives brands a valuable opportunity to introduce themselves with informational content that answers the questions that consumers are asking. It improves awareness while positioning the brand positively.

For example, a company that makes running shoes might create content to answer common questions about how to get into running. By building a positive connection with consumers early in the funnel, you’re nurturing relationships that can translate into sales lower down the funnel (when those consumers are ready to buy).

3. Getting seen in “Position Zero” boxes
Increasingly, Google’s aim wherever possible is to answer searchers’ queries without them ever having to click away from the Google results page. The Position Zero results are a prime example and a significant branding opportunity that your SEO team can target.

These are those snippets of information that Google features above the other organic results to provide concise information such as an answer to a factual question, a list of some kind or ‘how to’ instructions, for example. The important thing is that their location at the top of the SERP gets them a lot of attention – meaning they’re a big opportunity to generate awareness and credibility.

Interestingly, there’s a high correlation between the information that appears in Position Zero and the answers that are read out by Google devices in response to voice searches. So, by optimising your content for Position Zero, your SEO team can help you target voice search as well.

4. Showcasing your brand in Knowledge Panels
Knowledge Panels appear in around 40% of search results – usually when the search query relates to a well-known entity (such as a public figure, a company/organisation or a location). They dominate the page (appearing on the left-hand side of desktop results).

Because they usually provide a brief description, images and relevant links to the entity such as a company’s website and social media handles, they are another great branding opportunity.

Google normally pulls the knowledge panel information from trusted sources such as Wikipedia or directly from company profiles, so ensuring what is shown is accurate is vital to building successful brand building.

There’s a growing overlap between SEO and branding. Companies that don’t embrace this are missing an important component of an effective digital brand strategy.