From a company’s perspective, it can be difficult to understand why SEO and branding need to go hand in hand. Surely, I hear you say, branding comes first? How on earth can I work on SEO before I have a clear brand?
Well, in actual fact, you should start thinking about SEO as soon as you start to develop your branding strategy. To help to understand this, you need to think about your target buyer’s thought process. This is a very big part of developing your brand and also how you establish your SEO tactics. Who will your buyers be? What will they search for? How will they find you?
Consider what you would do if the Queen was coming to visit your business but it was up to you to arrange the date. Would you send her the invitation before you were ready to receive her? If you aren’t ready for Her Royal Highness to visit, don’t send out the invitation. This thought process can be applied to SEO and branding. A large number of companies plan to optimise AFTER the site has been designed, developed and gone live. This could easily result in having to undo or redo certain elements of the site to enable it to support the business goals. You can, of course, optimise an existing site. However, if you’re planning a new website design or content rewrite, it makes much more sense to have optimisation integrated into that process, saving valuable time and, probably, money.
Of course, incorporating both SEO and branding into a strategy is not straightforward. On one side of the coin, SEO deals with the placement of keywords and phrases, whilst on the other, branding deals with company loyalty and culture. Combining both sides can dilute the prominence of both. However, as already discussed, if you forget about one or the other, it could mean that you don’t meet your strategic and marketing goals.
You should look to optimise your website first. If your main focus is getting people to your website, this is totally wasted if your site is not ready to receive them. At first, nobody will know the name of your company but perhaps they are searching for the service you’re providing or the product that you’re selling. As such, you need to target keywords and phrases that focus around your offering rather than your company. Once you get to the stage that your company is building a loyal customer base and has a credible track record, branding becomes more important. At this point in time, you might want to incorporate corporate messaging to strengthen the relationship with customers and to instil trust in your brand. Of course, part of branding is thinking about what your targets are, hence SEO and branding strategy must go hand in hand. However, when looking at your action plan, SEO must come first.
Another point to make is that if someone is searching for your company and types in your company name, they are likely to find your website. This is mainly as a result of anchor text and back-links. As this is the case, optimising the company name is fairly insignificant in the scheme of things. You should be search engine optimised, with the keywords reaching your target audience. Additionally, your website should be usability optimised to make sure that the target audience, once they get to the site, then move forward with contact, purchase, etc.