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This is the first in a two part look at how developing your brand’s awareness both offline and on can benefit your SEO work.
When it comes to successfully implementing Search Engine Optimisation theory, there is often a fair amount of hard work and effort required. There’s keyword research to be done, content to be written and links to be sought. This all takes time.
For most websites this is a building process. Create the navigation, implement copy on each page and then develop links. There’s no shortcut and this could take months to have any effect on search engine rankings. Keeping the faith is often the biggest challenge in these early days.
But what are search engine rankings for? Why is it that sites covet the exposure that Google provides?
Of course there is the targeted traffic. This is what will bring in potential customers and see your ROI improve. However, there’s more than just traffic at stake here. It is about brand recognition.
Becoming a Recognised Brand
Improving your online visibility increases consumer awareness. The more your name is seen, the more recognisable it will become – online and off. This is why people cover all the bases. Not simply focusing on SEO but also integrating social media marketing, Pay Per Click advertising and Online PR.
Social media provides a human outreach from a largely mechanical online world. Pay Per Click gives you further exposure on targeted terms with SERPs. PR of course presents a positive image, encourages media attention and will also help you appear on SERPs as well as building links.
This is all for attention and to encourage visitors, links and influence.
But what happens if your brand takes on a life of its own? Marketing online or off has made your company a household name (for better or worse); how could this impact your SEO work?
Let’s take a real life example.
[NOTE: we have no affiliation with Wonga, this is just a good company to use as an example for these purposes. We were looking for relatively new business start-ups with recognisable multimedia marketing in action and so this happened to fit the bill.]
Operational since October 2007 [information from CrunchBase], their site was rolled out in June 2008. So it’s barely two years old and competing in a highly competitive field, short-term loans.
Now Wonga.com doesn’t have bulletproof SEO. It is top of Google for the term ‘payday loan’ and second for ‘payday loans’. Fourth for ‘short term’ loans and plenty of similar rankings for related terms. Very good, but not entirely all-conquering.
That said, the site dominates for the company’s name. The reason why it holds the four top rankings might relate back to Google’s recent update [see: Big Brands Benefit from Latest Google Update]; however, what Wonga undoubtedly have is an identifiable brand based around their dual online/offline exposure.
They sponsor Blackpool Football Club, gaining exposure in the Premier League – one of the highest viewed football leagues in the world. They’ve also run extensive television, radio and printed press advertising. On top of all that exposure, they have a name that is easy to remember and identifiable with what they offer – money.
Let’s have a look at how their link profile benefits from this branding work.
We’ve struck upon the obvious sponsorship opportunity. Blackpool FC has an extensive website with links to Wonga on each page. It also affords them a coveted Wikipedia link too. Their sponsorship also proved contentious, due in part to the negativity surrounding the payday loans industry. This led to numerous newspaper articles and further exposure [see: 2,689 reasons why Premier League newcomers Blackpool love affair is tainted already].
They are also involved in the Kiva scheme, which provides interest free loans to businesses based in third world countries. Not something you do to garner links perhaps, but useful nonetheless.
Whilst payday loans are nothing new, Wonga was branded as something different – providing near instant decisions and payments. As an innovative online start-up It encouraged input from the financial market, technology and general news sources. That’s a pretty decent trio to start with.
Following on from innovation you want recognition for this work. If you really are good you ought to be rewarded for your efforts. In the case of Wonga this came in the form of a Webby Award for ‘People’s Voice’ and Red Herring Top 100 business ranking.
Again, largely natural, these types of accreditations provide links, discussion points for the blogosphere and build authority/trust.
When you have a typical APR of 2689% you can expect your fair share of criticism – justifiably or otherwise. With Wonga pushing itself forwards as the most recognisable brand in the field, invariably their name gets mentioned more than most.
The more it is discussed, the more loans are taken out and then the cycle begins again. This just creates a wonderful vortex of interest and conversation. Google can pick up on this and will invariably believe that it is an authority in its field. Even if links aren’t shared, there can still be an SEO benefit.
Using Yahoo Site Explorer, Wonga.com doesn’t have the most expansive linking profile. There are 6,912 – according to Yahoo Site Explorer – coming into the domain, which is dwarfed by competitors like QuickQuid (another company involved in offline advertising), who have 72,166.
But what it lacks in core numbers, it makes up for in quality. When it comes to generating an effective link building campaign, you want to have diversity, relevance and above all authority. The fact that both sites share a PageRank of 5 perfectly illustrates this.
Whilst QuickQuid appears to have worked hard to develop its links, possibly aided by affiliate schemes and advertising, Wonga’s profile looks to be more natural. People have linked to them to aid an article, interview or as part of sponsorship terms. Google loves this.
So far we’ve established how you can build your brand’s reputation and how that could impact SEO efforts. Tomorrow I’ll be looking at how any site can generate authority and influence, even without the same kind of spending power as a major business.
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