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Want better SEO? Focus on brand awareness!

6 min read2024-03-05

As we’ve preached in the past, there’s no singular silver bullet when it comes to SEO.

Your content is king, but what about your website speed? Accessibility scores? Backlinks?

One factor we’ve rarely discussed in the context of SEO is your brand. Branding is sometimes perceived as the softest discipline within the already-soft science of marketing. For many, it boils down to mere logo design or font selection. How can something as broad and ill-defined as a branding impact SEO?

The interplay between branding, click rate, and SEO

Google is an answer delivery system. For better and worse, and to varying degrees of success, Google prioritizes content that people want to see. How do they determine whether users want to see something?

A huge component of their calculation is click rate.

Click rate, or click through rate, or CTR, is a metric calculated by dividing impressions (views of your search listing) by clicks. If you receive 10 clicks on 100 impressions, your CTR is 10%.

Google uses this metric as a ranking factor. The search results page feels like a one-way street to users, but for Google data flows both ways. A page with a high click rate is a page that users want to see, at least in the eyes of Google. In fact, users can “game” their SEO in the short-term by artificially inflating their click rate—sending people to click on their listings obsessively. This is a bad idea—the boost won’t last as Google can determine when clicks are unnatural. But it proves the point that Google does care about whether people click on a result.

This is where branding impacts SEO. Recognizable brands experience significantly higher click rates than less recognized or unknown brands. As they receive more clicks relative to their position on the search page, they begin to climb the rankings. Popular brands also start generating their own traffic. Apple doesn’t just rank for keywords like “smart phones” and “laptops”. They generate about half their total traffic from terms like “iphone” and “macbook”—terms for which they have outstanding click rates.

It’s a feedback loop that results in big brands like Amazon and Best Buy dominating the top of the search page for millions of consumer search terms.

Conversely, lack of brand awareness has a significant cooling effect on SEO for small businesses. If you’re a small fish in a big pond, you must overcome a great deal of SEO inertia to outrank top brands in your industry—or find a keyword niche that they don’t dominate and claim it for yourself.

How to grow brand awareness

Growing your brand awareness can feel like an impossible task. It’s crucial to remember that for industrial brands, you need not become a household name. You’re not Coca Cola. In most cases, your target audience is relatively small and clearly defined. You need to create awareness among that specific audience. Here are a few ideas to grow brand awareness:

  • Collaboration and partnership with established brands. It’s never a bad idea to make friends. If you can find an established business in a related sector and publicly partner with them, you can leverage their strong brand to grow awareness for your own.
  • Community involvement. Particularly valuable for businesses with defined service areas, community involvement both increases local brand visibility and improves brand perception. Be targeted, aim for high visibility opportunities, and do your research. Align with community causes that your customers care most about.
  • Content marketing. Many businesses squeeze some content marketing into their marketing budget. This won’t move the meter. Go beyond monthly blog posts and work on publishing cool, informative, and highly valuable content. Especially in the AI age, blog posts are a dime a dozen. What about thorough industry reports, independent research, engaging videos and podcasts, and guest appearances on popular radio shows and web series? This is the kind of content marketing that grows brand awareness.
  • SEO. Ironic, isn’t it? Non-branded SEO can grow your website traffic, which puts your brand in front of more eyes. If your content is excellent, people will begin to perceive you as an authority. If they perceive you as an authority, their trust in you begins to extend to your brand in general.
  • Advertising. Whether online or in print, ads can get your brand in front of millions of eyes very quickly. Not all ads are created equal: find placements that work for your audience. Aim to inform or even entertain—you want to engage an audience, not bore or annoy them.

Tracking brand awareness

If you’re committed to growing your brand awareness, you’re going to want to track brand awareness!

There are a few ways you can do this. Monitor your website traffic and SEO performance. Create a metric like “branded search term rate” calculating the percentage of branded vs non-branded search terms each month. If your traffic grows and your share of branded search improves, it’s a good sign that more and more people recognize your brand. Look for an increase in direct traffic to your website as well. Direct traffic may imply greater brand recognition.

Watch for mentions in social media and the news. Set up Google Alerts to notify you when your brand gets mentioned across major news outlets. Use social media monitoring tools to track organic engagement and shares.

Finally, do some research! If you have the time or budget to do so, perform studies and polls of your target audience. See if they know your brand, and if so, what they think of it. There’s no replacement for first-party data, after all.

Make your brand work for you

Your brand should be an asset to your business. For too many companies in the industrial sector, it’s more of a distraction. A liability, in some cases! One of BlackBean’s fundamental beliefs about sales and marketing is that people buy from people they like. Your brand is an extension of you and your team. Make sure it represents you well.

In an industry that often discounts the value of branding, remember that its ability to impact your business is real and tangible. As more and more business in our sector gets done online, the importance of branding only continues to grow.

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