Branding means so much more than caring for the colors and logo of the company: being recognized (and recognizable) as a powerful brand is a point of arrival for every type of company and can have a great impact on our target audience, also from the SEO perspective. Strengthening the brand can indeed be a valid strategy to counter attack the zero-clicks trend in Google SERPs: let’s see how through some international contributions.

The weight of the brand for customers

The first interesting point comes from a survey conducted by Survata in the United States of America in April – already in the middle of the Coronavirus emergency: as often happened during periods of economic uncertainty, consumer behaviour and purchasing preferences follow a precise direction.

That is, people tend to rely even more sharply on the brands they know and trust rather than on their generic alternatives, however economically more advantageous.

The value of trust

In the specific case of purchases at the time of Covid-19, the survey reiterated this trend: it is likely or very likely that 61 percent of consumers choose branded products, compared to only 39 percent who do not care about the name or who choose generic brands or stores.

And so, when it comes to packaged or frozen foods, coffee or drinks, and personal or household hygiene products, Americans look first at the brand for safety, efficacy, or otherwise trust-related issues.

On the contrary, the stars-and-stripes customers are less concerned about the brand in choosing which alcohol to drink or cosmetics and skin care products; in addition to this, the audience is divided equally to 50 percent compared to over-the-counter drugs, sector in which evidently for the Americans the brand has a weight not so predominant.

Corporate branding and SEO

This study therefore gives us some useful data to understand why it is worth investing in corporate branding, or better yet in the construction of an effective brand identity – and a correlated optimized brand awareness – with which to present to the public and stand out from competitors.

The identity of the brand is in fact a kind of promise that the company makes to its customers through all its activities, including the site, and corporate branding is one of the ways to tell our story, excite the user and establish a deep link with him.

Do not mix up brand and logo

For an effective strategy, first of all, you need to have clear ideas: many people still confuse the brand of a company with its logo. When they hear the word “brand”, says Julia Mccoy on Search Engine Journal, they immediately imagine “designers at work to choose the perfect shades and pattern for a new logo”.

In fact, a logo is part of the brand but does not represent “the entire package”. To be precise: the logo is a graphic element that symbolizes a brand, a creative image that people can recognize and connect to the product.

Wider the conversation about branding, which means (also) finding out who our audience is, knowing what they want and how we can help them achieve their desires means being consistent and promising consumers that we will always give them what they expect.

Reinforcing the brand to win the challenge in SERP

In the current scenario of the competition on Google the so-called zero-click trend in SERP is becoming increasingly influential: because of the various features and products on the results page, the layout has completely changed from the past and users have adjusted their look – the famous pinball pattern – and consequently also their behavior.

This means that, more and more frequently, people who use Google do not always click on the results shown (the old 10 blue links), but can find answers in featured snippets, fact sheets, ads and so on, with two effects: SERP inconsistent from one query to another (in some cases, do not even appear the 10 blue links, but a small number) and precisely zero-click trend, with the user journey that is concluded and satisfied directly by Google without any click towards the ranked results.

The increase in zero clicks is a real concern for many sectors and the reason for numerous case studies – including those at Perficient Digital, which has scaled down the phenomenon by defining snippets as “neutral clicks” – and companies that want to stay competitive on the search engine must work to minimize the effects of this trend and to beat the new competitor, Google.

The branding for the SEO and the organic research

Developing and strengthening the brand can also give new perspectives to strategies in organic research, and an article by Nicolas Vargas on Search Engine Watch recommends us the four key steps in order to create a solid brand.

  1. Mapping of brand and user journey values.
  2. Development of an omnichannel experience.
  3. Optimization of entities
  4. Topic clustering and keyword optimization for branding.

Vargas asked several experts for an opinion on this issue, and they all confirmed the central value of this activity on organic performance. For example, Brad Smith (CEO and founder of Codeless) is convinced that focusing on “branding for the SEO plays a key role in allowing a company to enter the lucky group of 60 percent of businesses that get clicks on Google,” and that “brand recognition is a crucial factor in getting clicks, powerful enough to skip Google’s top-ranking posts”.

Jeffrey Krantz explains instead that “it is unlikely that most users will complete a conversion at the first visit to a website: it is therefore necessary to pay attention to stuck the brand in the user’s memory rather than focus only on conversions”. And Irina Weber argues that “having a strong brand presence ensures that Google will promote your corporate website”, calling branding for SEO “the foundation of a marketing strategy”.

Understanding the users and intercepting their path

The first step of this work is in fact preliminary, because we must first understand the path of the customer and the role of organic channels. Our goal is to understand when and why people use organic channels as part of their purchase path, identifying the motivations and unique attributes of our audience.

Building a multichannel experience

Our customers and potential customers do not look at the brand in an isolated way, but we rather leave an impression every time we share something on social media or reach the front page for the required keywords.

This means that our potential customers can come (and be reached) from numerous channels, and it is therefore extremely important to understand the role of each marketing channel in the customer journey.

To strengthen ourselves on the search engine, we can try to exploit other marketing channels to induce people to search our brand on Google: the queries “Brand + Keyword” are extremely useful, since real users are telling Google that our brand is relevant and important on a particular or vertical topic.

Optimizing the entity of the company

Another practical strategy to strengthen the brand is to try and be recognized as an entity by Google, so as to activate a knowledge panel and to appear in the Google Knowledge Graph that groups and connects each other all entities.

These tools can ease the discovery of our business in brand-related search terms, such as the brand name, and to distinguish us when people are specifically looking for the brand. In addition, it is a tangible sign of Google’s trust in the company, which is considered a legitimate business entity.

Analysis and optimization of branded keywords

The last step is practical work on branded keyword, which can improve conversion rates, CTRs and company visibility in search results. The aim is to try to control as many results as possible by identifying relevant topics and keywords for our users in the different stages of their purchase path, starting small.

Vargas also indicates some specific actions to be taken to achieve this goal:

  • Identify relevant topics and develop a cluster of topics taking into account the brand. The easy way to start this process is to study alternative occurrences to “Competitor Name” and act accordingly.
  • Have people search for your brand on Google. One technique is to add a CTA search on all your marketing resources.
  • Collect, segment and monitor branded queries based on the user’s path.
  • Looking for new ways to improve brand performances in search: there are always new content and/or competitors looking to gain market share, so it is important to know your market like no other.

5 steps to an effective branding

Other practical tips come from Mccoy’s article, which outlines a path in five stages to build a stronger and more recognizable brand.

This also means being able to unify the message on each of the marketing platforms we use and reflect this specific style even on all pages of the site.

Looking for the consistency of the brand

The first suggestion is “be consistent”: what would happen if Mcdonald’s suddenly started serving gourmet food or packed hamburgers in shiny, expensive bags? The lovers of the fast food chain would be confused, baffled by this inconsistency, because Mcdonald’s does not have as its goal the refinement or a sought after meal experience.

In order not to fall into error, we must dig deep into the who and what of our brand:

  • Who are you as a company?
  • Who do you serve?
  • What is your main promise for customers?
  • What is the purpose of your brand?

Answering these questions simplifies some actions, and for example allows us to:

  • Eliminate the confusing elements present on the website.
  • Stay consistent with the tone of social media posts.
  • Be consistent with color, images, packaging and other brand elements.

Creating a shared guide for the brand’s style

It might then be useful to create a style guide, a simple reference that all team members can use to promote the brand and that they can implement by adding tips and creative ideas. Mccoy also describes the process of creating this style guide, which begins with making a story for our brand.

Running a business is not just about making money, it is about making the world a better place and enriching people’s lives. In what special way can our brand achieve or contribute to achieving this goal? The answer is our unique story.

Setting up all the details of the communication

On the practical side, it is also necessary to import the color and the fonts of our communication, avoiding to resort to a wide range of tones and sticking, as a general rule, to the colors of the logo. We can then use a combination of these colors on the website, in promotional materials, in packaging and in merchandise, and it would also be better to stick to a single font in each written content.

The result will be that people will associate a color and a style to our brand, as in the case of blue for Facebook, green for Starbucks or yellow for Snapchat.

Equally important is to choose the voice tone and use it properly: it is not advisable to be light and frivolous (the specific term used is goofy) on one social media platform and professional and serious on another. More useful is to determine the company’s voice tone and add it to the style guide.

Do not overlook feelings

People buy things for emotional reasons, not rational ones, says Mccoy, who gives us a practical example: “think about cakes. The cake has no benefits, because it is rich in calories, it makes you fat, it is not healthy”. So why do people buy the cake? “Because cakes are synonymous with celebration, happiness and special occasions, make people feel good, evoke an emotional response“.

And so, when we work on the brand, we can’t forget this aspect and we have to ask ourselves how we can get in an emotional contact with people: can we make our audience feel safe? Or loved? Or still part of a special closed and reserved group?

Rewarding the loyalty of existing users

Our current and existing customers are people who already love our brand: “why not reward their love?”, suggests the author, inviting to make special the most loyal customers.

For example, we may offer special promotions and discounts to people who regularly buy our products, make targeted social media communications or organize competitions and offer unique and valuable prizes.

It is important to remember that the way of rendering should be strictly consistent with the brand’s voice: for example, a fun and creative company can celebrate reaching 10,000 customers by releasing 10,000 balloons in the sky. This will not only attract attention, but will also be another piece of the branding strategy’s puzzle.

Spying on the competition

The last step starts from a consideration: what we are offering is not unique, we are not alone in the market and there are hundreds or thousands of opponents who offer the same products or services.

Again, studying competition is a practical way to improve our strategy, trying to analyze and answer questions such as:

  • How are they working on their brand?
  • Is their brand powerful, recognizable and emotional?
  • What are they doing right?
  • What are they doing wrong?
  • Can we improve their best practices?

The branding, key element of today’s marketing

In past years, the winning key of marketing was to find a moat, the unique sales proposal of a company that created a clear distinction from the competition.

Today it is almost impossible to be able to emerge in this way, because whatever our moat, it can be copied by another company in a minute.

That is why the brand becomes the element to stand out and grow our business: if we have a successful corporate brand, we will have a constant flow of loyal customers that we will meet on the way, because we will be memorable and we will also impose on Google, regardless of clicks (or zero clicks).

 

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