This article has been contributed by Matt Diggity.
Your brand is your company’s most valuable asset. Brand identity includes visual elements such as your logo, slogan and color scheme. But it also encompasses the relationship you have with your staff, customers and other stakeholders.
In other words, your brand is your business’s reputation.
As a marketer, one of your most important jobs is to improve prospective customers’ awareness of your brand. According to Venngage, 89% of marketers ranked improving brand awareness as their top goal for 2020.
What is Brand Recognition?
Brand recognition, also called brand awareness, simply means how readily prospective customers recognize your company. Would they know your logo? Do they associate your color scheme with your brand? Would they know one of your products immediately over a competitor’s product?
If the answer to any or all of these questions is “no,” you might be suffering from low brand recognition.
Experts say there are five levels of brand recognition:
- Rejection: The customer has negative associations with your brand and actively avoids it.
- Non-recognition: The customer does not recognize your brand. The vast majority of people will be in this category.
- Recognition: The customer knows about your company and what you do. They would likely choose your brand over one they were unfamiliar with.
- Preference: The customer prefers your brand over others when they have the choice.
- Loyalty: The customer chooses your brand again and again, and is very unlikely to consider going elsewhere.
Your eventual goal is to get as many customers as possible to these final two categories. But if your brand awareness is low, aiming for the middle stage – recognition – is a great place to start.
Why Does Brand Recognition Matter?
Brand recognition is the point at which a prospective customer enters your marketing and sales funnel. You can’t sell to someone if they don’t know you exist!
A robust brand awareness strategy is your best chance at bringing in a steady stream of new leads.
People buy from companies they trust, and people believe in that with which they are familiar. Therefore, it stands to reason that most people would prefer to buy from a brand whose name and identity they know. Familiarity breeds comfort, and that comfort is what will lead a customer to choose you over a competitor.
Branded Keywords: How to Assess Your Brand Recognition
It’s obvious that brand recognition is important. A memorable brand is likely to retain more customers than an instantly forgettable competitor.
But do you know how to assess your brand recognition? Before we get into the meat of this article, do something quickly. Open your Google Search Console for a second and do the following.
- Go to Performance/Search Results
- Select, New/Query from the menu
- Choose “Queries containing”
- Enter your company name and click enter
Following this filtering process, you will be able to see how many people search for your brand. You can filter the results down even further to see what branded terms people are searching for.
If you want to track your brand recognition across your digital channels, it’s important you review these stats. Consider it the baseline that links your brand recognition and SEO.
The Link Between SEO and Brand Awareness
“Search engine optimization isn’t a topping that you can just pour on top of your site. It’s a base ingredient.” – Neil Patel.
It’s safe to say most people in the world recognize the Coca Cola logo. The timeless red text on a white background was standardized in 1923 and has remained unchanged since. This is because one of the most vital elements of building brand recognition is consistency.
Statistics suggest that it takes 5 – 7 encounters with a brand before the customer comes to recognize that brand. Therefore, repeatedly putting your brand in front of your prospective customers is crucial to building brand recognition.
According to Backlinko, the top 3 results in Google searches get 75.1% of all clicks. Less than 1% of searchers click on anything from the second page of results. As a growing company, ranking highly in search engine results is critical if you want customers to start recognizing your brand and associating it with your niche.
SEO is becoming more vital than ever in an increasingly digitized and competitive landscape. If your primary sales channel is the web, then branding and SEO must work in harmony to grow long-term brand recognition. In the next section, we’ll cover some of the most effective SEO strategies to ensure prospective customers recognize and remember your company.
Control How You Appear in Search Results
The starting point for almost any SEO customer journey is Google. It’s logical, therefore, to consider how your site appears in the search results when someone undertakes a branded search. For example, here is what you see when you do a branded search of the multinational company RingCentral.
You can use structured data to make things like the website search box appear in the search results. You can also help make certain core pages appear under the homepage link on the search results page by the way you structure your site.
Having a Google My Business account and providing as much useful information as you can will help with your knowledge panel, or the box that appears on the right in some search results.
Controlling what appears in the search results for branded terms helps you provide the best user experience for visitors. How your site appears in the search results can help create that association between your company and its products or services.
Provide the Optimum User Experience
There are many components to SEO. On the one hand, you have all of the on-site technical SEO stuff. The other strand of SEO revolves around elements associated with user experience.
You could write a book on how to provide the optimum user experience, and many people have. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to cover everything here. I’ll highlight a few of the important things that you need to focus on when trying to provide the best user experience:
- Improve website load time: You might have visited a site this week that took ages to load. Maybe you got impatient and left the site. Reducing your server response time and optimizing your website theme for speed can fix this problem.
- All your content should be three clicks from the homepage: Your site needs to be easy to navigate. This means making sure you can access content across your site. Ideally all your content should be three clicks, at most, from your homepage.
- Ensure consistent branding: Create a style guide for your site that defines the colors, fonts and imagery you’ll use. Make sure this is used consistently across your website. Just as importantly, design a strong logo and feature this prominently on your site – normally on the left side of the menu.
- Follow the customer journey: use Google Analytics or a similar tracking tool to see what people do on your site. When you find an issue, normally a page where lots of people leave the site (i.e. a page with a high exit or ounce rate), try to identify and fix the problem.
Your website will be the first point of contact with a potential customer. The better your user experience, the more likely a visitor is to return to your site, buy a product, or share your content.
Choose Relevant Keywords
The linchpin of using brand SEO to grow brand recognition is getting your content to rank for the terms that matter to your business. The starting point for this process is building up a relevant list of keywords you want to target.
You can start this process by brainstorming a list of words that are relevant to your business. Then, use online keyword research tools to review search volume and keyword difficulty for each word or phrase. There is a range of free options on the market. Google Keyword Planner is an obvious example, but remember that ‘Competition’ is an indicator of advertisers bidding for the keyword rather than the level of difficulty required to rank organically.
For a shortcut, you can use tools Keywords Everywhere, which reveals the search volume for terms in your browser. For example, here is what you see when you search the term “branding”.
You can see search estimated volumes and the keyword difficulty.
You can quickly make a list of related keywords using this approach. Once you have your list of keywords, you can use a tool like Ahrefs to check the keyword difficulty – specifically the number of links you’ll probably need to make that content rank in the search results.
A term like “branding” would be hard to rank for – not much of a surprise there!
Unless you are managing an authoritative site in your niche, pick terms that are relatively easy to rank for. These will generally be long-tail keywords.
Another way is to check out which keywords your competitors are using. Essentially what you’ll do is check out their site and see what pages are getting the most traffic and what keywords those pages are ranking for. You’ll need to use premium tools for this task. Software like Ahrefs and Moz are good options.
Create Content That Aligns With User Intent
When you’ve created your list of keywords, you’ll need to assess the type of content you should produce. The easiest way to do this is just typing in the search term on Google and checking out the first couple of posts in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Note down the following:
- What kind of content is ranking? Are they blog posts, product pages, etc?
- What is the format? Do you see a lot of list posts, comparison posts, etc?
- The article length. How long are these posts?
- HTML Headings. Check out how the pages are structured by looking at the headings.
The Chrome extension, Detailed, is useful when doing this type of research. It collates all of this information for you in one place, so you have an ‘at a glance’ view of many important metrics.
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to start producing content. Ensure your copy is as well-written, free from spelling and grammatical errors, and as useful as the top ranking content.
Keep the purpose of your piece at the forefront of your mind. Do you want to inform, advise, entertain, or tell a story? Then weave your keywords organically throughout your content. If you’ve forced them in, it will be obvious. They should flow seamlessly into the rest of the text.
Sure, there’s a bit more to it, but that’s the basics of writing good SEO optimized content.
Invest in Your Link-Building Strategy
So we’ve covered how to optimize your website so you can build brand recognition with great SEO. The other part of the puzzle is building those links to make your content rank.
Link-building refers to getting other sites to link back to yours. Backlinks from websites with a high domain authority (DA) and trust flow are a vital part of your SEO strategy. Quality backlinks boost your credibility and bring your site higher up in search results.
Backlinks also grow brand recognition. If prospective customers in your market see your brand name listed, and linked to, on other sites they trust, they will not only remember you but come to trust you by proxy. That’s why you absolutely must invest in link-building.
Guest posting is perhaps the best link-building strategy. It involves contributing a piece of content to another website and getting a link back to your site. It also has the additional benefit of introducing your host site’s regular readers to your brand.
You can leverage the authority of these brands to establish authority in your niche. You can see how Jacob lists some of the top publications where he has been featured.
So how do you get a guest posting spot?
- Identify websites you’d like to write for. They should be high authority, trusted sites within your niche.
- Send a polite query letter to the site owner, pitching yourself as a guest writer.
- Agree on a subject matter and title with the editor.
- Write a fantastic guest post!
- Send your post to the editor, who will make any amends and then post it with a link back to your site.
Guest posting is not a quick win strategy. It takes time, and you have to do it consistently. If you’re pushed for time, you can always hire a ghostwriter to do it for you.
Other Ways to Build Links
Beyond guest posting, other ways to build backlinks to your site include coming to reciprocal linking agreements with other relevant site owners, listing your business in relevant online directories, and participating in industry forums.
Strategically Use Paid Google Ads
Pay-per-click (PPC) Google ads have their place in a robust SEO brand recognition strategy. Ideally, paid and organic marketing should work in harmony.
A study by Google and Ipsos MediaCT found that search advertising lifted top-of -mind brand awareness by an average of 6.6%. It also had an impact on unaided brand awareness, even when the customer didn’t click through to the brand’s website.
Begin with bidding on some of your most relevant long-tail keywords. Remember those low-competition, high-volume keywords? Those are the ones to aim for. If you’d like to take your paid ads further, consider adding in the following strategies.
Customers who search for your brand name or your specific product name are the ones most likely to buy. Therefore, you must make what they’re looking for fast and easy to find, or risk losing them to a competitor with more robust SEO.
Bidding on your own keywords for PPC can be a smart strategy. Why? Because if you don’t, your competitors might. And this can mean they rank above you in Google results, even if a prospective customer has searched for your brand name.
Here’s an example: A search for “Buffer,” a popular social media scheduling tool. But the first search result is for “Later,” a similar tool owned by a different company. That’s because Later has bid on the keyword “Buffer.”
Bidding on Competitors’ Branded Keywords
Bidding on competitors’ branded keywords is a divisive strategy. As we’ve seen above, it’s a strategy many companies use, and it can work.
The advantage is that it puts your brand in front of people who may otherwise never have heard about it. It’s generally a reasonably cheap PPC strategy, and the clicks you get are likely to be from customers who are ready to buy.
The disadvantages include a relatively low CTR (customers searching for a specific brand are likely to be committed to buying from that brand), and the chance of starting a bidding war with your competitor.
Ultimately, you must decide if it’s a strategy you are comfortable with.
A Combination of Great Branding and SEO is the Key to Success
Customers can’t fall in love with your brand and reach the highest level of brand recognition – customer loyalty – unless they can find you in the first place. And once they’ve found you, they’ll only stay if you give them a compelling reason not to leave.
In the past, branding managers and SEO experts have viewed their interests as conflicting with one another. Fortunately, this is now changing as these two strands of successful business development recognize that they need one another.
Remember that statistic from the beginning of this article: it takes 5 – 7 encounters with a business before a customer develops brand recognition. The best way for you to shorten the time that takes is to invest in top-notch SEO to bring visitors to your site and then hit them with an irresistible brand identity.
About the author: Matt Diggity is a search engine optimisation expert focused on affiliate marketing, client ranking, lead generation and SEO services. He is the founder and CEO of Diggity Marketing, The Search Initiative, Authority Builders, LeadSpring LLC and host of the Chiang Mai SEO Conference.