Connecting Branding and SEO


SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday-SEO for Branding from Scott Willoughby on Vimeo.

Clear and direct linking between branding and SEO efforts presented on this SEOmoz White Board Friday. A basic overview but a good illustration of how SEO efforts can add to the reach of a branding campaign and extend to of mind.
If you don’t follow the SEOmoz team and/or the White Board Friday video series, recommend you do. Good topics and interesting interviews.

The Value Exchange

We are now knee deep in and learning to approach, interact and profit from the new social/2.0(5) web. Starting in 07 there was many predictions made on where we are headed and how we will arrive (at the end of this post there are some links). Ad-age has an interesting continuation to the story from bloggers on the Power150 blog-ranking index. They were asked to elaborate on what technology marketers should be paying most attention to in 2008. I think a clear picture emerges – apparent in this article and thought other conversations on the future (08). Here is my take on this cake… My list of kit (in no particular order)…

Micro-content
As Tom Martin (Positive Disruption) “With the cost of production and distribution of digital content rapidly approaching zero… the opportunity to create branded micro-content that consumers will invite into their lives becomes a financial reality with a huge ROI upside…” a.k.a widgets etc.. This I think is one of the strongest channels out there right know, at least when it comes to actual advertising to the consumer. Here we have a way of providing relevant, targeted, interactive, inviting and social (if applicable) branded stuff that the consumer can actually use. You know not jam down the trough just a gentle whisper… this is already taking of (been for a while now) and seem to be working. Now we just need be clever.

Mobile – the natural extension and Holy Grail of relevant and useful.
Take this micro-content/widgest/apps and make them work on mobile platforms as well and we are now adding an limitless dimension. Marie Lena Tupot (BrandNoise) “Mobile apps. But not in a whiz-bang, over-the-top manner; the sort of incremental mobile apps that make ordinary things even easier, like let you pay back friends on the fly, split the check at restaurants, pre-order your coffee so you can bypass the line at a local café, pay your belated phone bill, donate to your political candidate …” It is just logical right? I would love to have all my coffee related expense (here in Sweden there is a lot of “fika” going on or hanging at the local Starbucks for you Americans) taken care of by my phone, that would be great. And while one is at it just add a café rating (maye even Twitter) to this and one can be social as well. Further support to this is recent study by eMarketer on mobil ads.

Mico-blogging – or shall we call it Twittering?
While on the topic of Twitter and mobile integration… Peter Imbres (Point Oh!) – “The most important technology for marketers to understand right now is Twitter and some of the other micro-blogging platforms. It’s less a question of how they can directly apply this technology than how they need to understand collective conversations. Some of the most influential people in several different verticals are engaged in a dialogue at any given time on these platforms, and it provides a unique opportunity for brands to reach stakeholders when they’re actually listening, which is rare in many of these emerging media categories. The media outlets and politicians are starting to get it, hopefully other marketers won’t be too far behind.”
Clearly a great opportunity here, now how harness? I am not yet an active user of this medium so limited understanding, but it seem to be contagious if one has a large following… Very cool with the built in mobile support.

The Blog – the organic SEO
The (traditional?) blog must be one of the greatest things to have taken foothold in the last years. It is just great for all. Consumers benefit for the information and the multitude and companies benefit from information, advertising (it is like free adds space and it builds rep and cred) and the feedback (if dare). And it is all very social as well… and best of all for web sites; relevant streaming content.
Kevin Tomczak (PowerUp) – “Blogging continues to be one of the most influential communications channels for B2B marketers in 2008. This channel is a precursor to a true social network, and allows companies to continue the conversation beyond our traditional touch points. Yesterday’s mass marketing strategies don’t work — we’re on the customer’s time, and by keeping conversations going through blogging, we’re increasing the chance that we’ll be present when the customer needs our product or service.
We’ve also just begun to scratch the surface of the SEO benefits of blogging. In the US, roughly 80% of internet use (excluding e-mail) begins with a search. And a majority of business purchasers use the internet for research before a purchase is made. Blogging gives a company a lot of content containing a lot of keywords, and, with a lot of incoming and outbound links, that’s SEO gold.”

Yep, so true for both B2B and B2C. Be visible through content. More visitors and more time spent with brand

SEO
Joost de Valk (Joost de Valk’s SEO Blog) – “The technique/technology most worthy of any marketer’s attention is SEO. It’s the cheapest and best way of getting quality traffic to your domains. Especially due to the emergence of so-called universal search, ie. the integration of the results from vertical search engines like images, books and local into the “main” search results, more chances of driving cheap, high-quality traffic have come up.”
With the right (relevant to your target) content, linking and media one can go far… Throw in some local targeting and we are even better. Andy Wibbels (AndyWibbels.com) – “Local search. Consumers are learning they can find resources not just across the globe, but down the street. “Findability” is crucial, whether you are a global organization or local mom-and-pop. “
Nutshell – worth time and money invested.

Video – the face to face web revolution
Well no surprises here. It is now very quick and cheap to produce, it gives great effect and it is more fun. (or is it just that it is like TV and we are all used to and liking that?). I also believe it brings a more human aspect to content and to the web – you know, face to face, it is always more powerful. And yes very social web friendly.
Paul Chaney (Conversational Media Marketing) – “Online video/TV is the technology to watch in ’08. There seems to be a seismic shift toward digital distribution of video content, more and more video sites are being created, and there is a small camera revolution going on (which includes webcams) that portends a continued rise in user-generated video content. YouTube was just the beginning. Now, there’s ooVoo
, seesmic, Revver Jumpcut … the list goes on and on. Oh, and FastCompany.TV that Scoble just inaugurated. Add to that the fact that people are scurrying to their computers in droves to watch television programs which, themselves. More than any other technology, including social networks, online video is it.”

Niche
It is all about the niche. You can find or distribute anything you want, on any topic… and people will find it… Start/join groups on social networks, start blog, even start a social network. I mean it is natural conversation on topics you are passionate about. Now for the marketers there is a need for some thinking to get into this kind of conversation with some relevance.John Ebbert (ContextWeb Internet Advertising Blog) – “…Marketers need to understand the impact of the media fragmentation now occurring as users migrate await from portals and large sites to smaller, niche content sites, and how one of the key technological beneficiaries of this trend — online advertising exchanges — will create new opportunities for marketers seeking to improve ROI.”

In-game advertising
Believe that this is the next channel for large scale branding and advertising… Kinda like product placement in TV that is so blissfully annoying , but with relevance. Like this – walking around a beautifully rendered true-to-life city scape (…maybe hunting aliens or under attack from the enemy, but anyway;) and seeing all these signs, posters, products, details that are most of the time very badly executed or just a brand ripoff… it is a shame to ignore details like this and undermine the surrounding work. To the point, these spaces are being opened up to advertisers and brands. This is great, we get detailed product in its relevant environment to complete the picture and cheaper/free/better games because of revenue. Big opportunity for advertiser of course.

The content marketing movement
Kinda sums it up…
Joe Pulizzi (Junta 42) – “The single biggest issue/technology that deserves the most attention is not a site or an application, but more an organizational philosophy. It’s the content marketing movement — which is the philosophy of marketing services not by traditional methods, but by delivering valuable, relevant and compelling content to customers and prospects on a consistent basis. This is being done through all media platforms, and we are seeing companies like P&G and Nike put a large amount of money and resources into these efforts.”

Are Google’s SEO and quality score strategy the same?

Google Logo

While on the SEO subject I found this… very interesting… and at the end of the day a good thing. Make sure to read and implement.

An summary –

What Google tells us to do
Google preaches one thing: quality experience — for its users and your potential customers. To that end Google has taken it upon itself to ensure that the page you deliver is of high quality. Here’s what the company says it is specifically looking for:

  • Relevance: This is a no-brainer: If you sell electronics and someone clicks on your ad for a “digital camera,” send them to your digital camera page, not your home page.
  • Originality: Okay, that’s a weird one. Google specifically says “Feature unique content that can’t be found on another site.” Uh-oh, does this mean that my RSS feeds from related content sites aren’t helping me? Probably not. If Google says they want content that can’t be found on another site, then you can be sure they’re searching for your content on other sites. If they find it, your quality score will suffer.
  • Transparency: This covers the general best practices — like being open and clear about the nature of your business. If you offer a downloadable product or collect personal information from your users then there’s a lot to know and follow in order to stay on Google’s good side.
  • Navigability: Make it simple for users to find what they’re looking for. Keep the sales process short and to the point. Don’t use things like pop-ups, pop-unders or sliders.

Not wanted
Some of you are going to have a very hard time because Google is specifically targeting your site for removal. If you’re wondering which sites fall in this particular group, Google has laid it out. Here’s what they don’t want:

Data collection sites:
What, no more free iPods?

Arbitrage sites: The bane of Google’s existence.

Malware sites: Of course they’re on the list. Problem here is what is Google using to distinguish good software from bad software? Here are more guidelines for software publishers to read and follow.

eBook sites “that show frequent ads”:
Scrape together a bunch of content, wrap it all with tons of ads and make a good site? Not anymore. Here’s where unoriginal content gets hit.

Get rich quick sites:
(But I love pyramids!) Anytime making money is “Guaranteed” you know the business, and the site, are garbage. We should see the end of these sites on Google very soon.

Comparison shopping sites:
This was a bit of a surprise but makes sense. Google really wants to stop arbitrage and this is an arbitrage play. Pricegrabber, Shopping.com and some of the big guys might be able to make it. If you’re in this business and want to protect yourself, offer original, unique value to your users. That could be reviews, warranty info, user opinions and more. If you don’t, you could see your minimum bids rising soon.

Travel aggregators:
This is another arbitrage victim. Follow the same advice I gave to your buddy above. One example is Travelocity — is it in trouble? Probably not. But others trying to get into the space will have a tough time getting a foothold. What’s the key to getting up and staying up? Original content, relevant results based on the search and some sort of value given to the user.

Cover the basics: Conduct your link exchanges with relevant websites. Make sure your titles, meta tags and descriptions are all well put together.

Choose a topic and stick to it: Each domain should focus on one thing. Don’t try to cover too many products or topics on one site. We can’t all be Wikipedia.

Add a site map: Make it easy for Google to find your pages and content. Use the Sitemap Generator that Google recommends.

Page rank: If you have a few sites to choose from, choose the site that has the best Google page rank. Chances are that if the natural search algorithm likes it, so will the quality score.

Add a blog: A blog does many things. It keeps a dialogue open with your users, it gives you the original content Google is looking for and it gives you an easy way to update your site often. All of those are positives in Google’s eyes.

Make a good site: At the end of the day this is the best advice. Google wants to show users quality sites, whether through natural search clicks or paid clicks. Your best defense is building a large, well-thought-out website and sending your paid clicks to the most relevant page on that site for that click. The days of the quick one-off landing page are over. Are you ready?

Full story – Why Google keywords cost more but deliver less

To Be Seen

What should always be included in an online strategy? SEO/SEM, right. Now, this is defiantly not true for all and probably, truth be told, nor is the online strategy bit. But, cannot stress enough the importance of the search and the need to be appearing near or on top. Everyone who is online will (more accurately are) search for something at some point. There is a reason why people say “Google that”. So, if one wants to sell/promote a service/product/business/etc one should(must?) be seen in these searches. Yes, question is then how? Many ways and methods to do this.. One thing is for sure, need to be active (update and react to trends) and focused (many words to choose form). Good thing is, much can be done for free(ish) – many services from ex. Google are free, SEO is free, but one have to spend time doing this actively to see results and that time is most likely not free… Either way for free(ish) one can dramatically improve the chance to be seen. Or for even a small budget one can be victorious. Well, if making a suggestion – I would hire a specialist to make this happen, in the long run this will prover more lucrative and quicker…
Found an interesting article on just this subject from iMedia Connection (geared towards local but applies to all) .

Some key points:
Explosive growth in local search and the increased visibility potential due to universal search and personalization.

  • Explosive local search growth: Local search queries increased 24 percent in 2007, faster than general searches
  • Increased visibility potential: Google and some major search engines introduced personalized search and universal search, greatly impacting the search results landscape. This is both a blessing and a dilemma because it requires different optimization strategies, but it also offers multiple opportunities to be found in the SERPs

The importance of local listings
Every company needs a local listing, regardless of whether it sells locally, nationally or internationally.

  • Free Google maps listings: List your business in Google Maps by going to Google’s Local Business Center, where you’ll find information for creating your free listing.

Google maps advertising
Google Maps displays local business ads, integrating the local match options from Google AdWords into Google Maps.
Through Google enhanced listings, Local business ads, Logo image and Coupons.

Yahoo local listing
Your free local listing is called Yahoo Local Basic.

Yahoo provides sponsored search and local listings as local advertising options.

  • Sponsored search: These pay-per-click ads on Yahoo can be geo-targeted by user location or user interest (keyword). Geo-targeted sponsored search ads can also be inserted into the Yahoo Local results.
  • Local listings: These listings appear on Yahoo Local and have two flat-rate fee levels.

Optimization tips for local listings
To rank well in local search, it goes without saying that your site should be optimized for organic listings. Optimize all on-page and off-page factors, and get your site listed in important directories for your niche.

Other local search opportunities
Note: many are US only but I am sure may are likely to expand…

Live Search – player number 3. In maps etc
AskCity – name says it all
CitySearch – Provides local information for sites such as MSN Live, Ask, Expedia, Ticketmaster and more.
Google Product Search – Local merchants can get free listings on Google’s free product search engine (formerly Froogle)
Insider Pages – This site features local listings and user-generated reviews.
Local.com: Your business should take advantage of the free basic listing.
ReachLocal: This site provides services for setting up, maintaining and tracking local search advertising campaigns on sites like Google, Yahoo, MSN Live and AOL for a fee.

The local search advantage
Local search research by Kelsey Group shows that 70 percent of online searchers will use local search to find offline businesses. The TMPDM-comScore study shows 86 percent of online users will be searching for a local business at some point in time. So it’s important to be visible for local search queries by getting listed in Google Maps, Yahoo Local and all other local search engines and directories. It can also be advantageous for branding to buy sponsored local search listings for a good balance of natural and paid search listings.

For more information about the local search industry, you can download “Unlocking the Potential of the Local Internet” by Marchex, Inc. This 12-page white paper gives a detailed overview of the local search market and major players.

Quickly, go do it!