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When someone declares that SEO has died, they are usually referring to one particular type of SEO that is based on exploiting some loophole in older search engine algorithms. As long as the Internet remains popular, search engines will be necessary and improving search presence will remain crucial for online success.
Brand building has been a recognised part of business since before the early days of Coca-Cola. The marketing mix provides the basic outline for creating a brand image, stating the promises on which a business will deliver to its customers.
So why is customer perception important for SEO, and why is creating an image important for where a site will rank on Google? Much like SEO, brand building encompasses a range of areas that also fall under other classifications of marketing.
The benefits of building a brand can be seen in the case of large organisations such as Paddy Power, where an image helps lead press stories, social media mentions and conversations up and down the UK and Ireland.
Modern search engines are becoming very effective at detecting brand mentions online and, with the extra difficulty of finding high-quality natural links to a website, brand mentions are more than likely to be a leading search ranking factor in times to come. However, this is not the only correlation between the two; the brand strategy should also directly influence the SEO targeting strategy based on the target audience and brand proposition. Furthermore, as SEO can also cover site usability, user journey and improving conversions, the two have major aspects that overlap.
When devising marketing strategies, there is a real need to know whom the brand is targeting in order to perform effective SEO. A strategy that doesn’t account for the target audience is almost certainly flawed. A brand will resonate with a particular audience based on a range of factors, including socio-demographics, location and interests. A strong brand will have an image and presence that connects specifically with a specific subset of the population, and an SEO campaign should seek to discover and build upon the brand image at the right level.
If you don’t know where the people who will pay for the goods/services are spending time online, it is impossible to gain relevant links or interact with prospective customers. It also makes it much more difficult to provide content that they will actually read or engage with on your website.
By aligning the brand image with effective content and outreach, your SEO project will be more successful in delivering relevant traffic to the site. There is also the opportunity to support the brand building campaign by developing content, targeting keywords and planning site pages that accurately respond to the brand objectives.
A stronger brand is also likely to enjoy benefits such as corporate news being shared by news outlets, users describing their experiences, both negative and positive, as well as any promotions being disseminated by more people compared to a smaller brand. All these areas lead to an increase in citations, mentions and often naturally occurring links.
Improving a user journey can be complicated because there is no one way to optimise a website. Sure, the payment process can be shortened and made easier, but users buy products in different ways depending on who they are, what product they are buying and how much they trust the brand.
By understanding the user’s expectations of the site and brand, the site can be much more effective at turning visitors into customers. If the brand is well known, the user journey from landing page to conversion can be much more straightforward, whereas a smaller brand may need to look at including more detail to help encourage trust and persuade users to get in touch or complete a purchase.
Designing the site to make it fit users’ expectations is vitally important to keep them on the site, and this can only be achieved by combining a brand image and site design that works effectively for search presence.
A clear example of sites which are based on brand perception can be seen in the UK newspaper market, and specifically in the differences between tabloids and broadsheets. The Financial Times website has been designed to be clear and rely on text to get its message across, whereas Metro, a free tabloid, uses more images and short, sharp headlines to encourage users to click through.
A strong brand can also bring additional benefits beyond increasing the search visibility of a website. Traditionally, brands that are well known to consumers have a much higher conversion rate from organic and paid search, largely down to a new visitor’s trust in the website. By increasing brand awareness, a well-optimised website can take advantage of this competitive advantage to help drive its conversion rate.
A strong SEO strategy can help properly focus the digital marketing side of a brand building project by finding the right audience and producing the right content for it. High-quality SEO and conversion rate optimisation can be the final cherry on the cake to make the most of the visitors that arrive at a website and get the best return on investment for all the advertising dollars, PR costs, site design expenses and content production resources that have gone into building a brand and attracting users to the site in the first place.
For more Search & Digital Marketing news & views follow me on Twitter – @JamesaChallis