Before we discuss what potential influence brand recognition might have on search rankings, let’s look at a recent history of SEO.
As little as five or six years ago, SEO could still be disproportionately affected by certain tricks.
These included keyword stuffing, exact match domains, fake business names, exact match link anchor text, and link schemes.
Today, these tactics produce ever-diminishing returns. It is clear that Google wants to rank brands, and not just the most overly-optimized sites.
The focus has shifted to delivering the very best search results possible. Part of the equation is figuring out what sites have authority around a given subject. Is it possible that Google has a deeper understanding of what companies have positive sentiment, and which do not?
In recent years, search engines have become ever-increasingly sophisticated. It is more important than ever to work on creating a memorable brand if you want to be competitive in SEO.
The Power of Brand Recognition
The most positive type of back link you can get is one that builds brand recognition. Recently SEMRush published a report that analyzed 600k keywords for the top 100 search ranking positions for 17 different factors.
Interestingly, their report said direct traffic to a website was the number one ranking factor. This means people go directly to the site, rather than through a link or social sharing.
What does this suggest?
Direct Traffic Means You Already Have a Known Brand
If someone is typing your domain name directly into a browser, that suggests a few things.
For one, it means that your customers believe with a high degree of certainty that they can find what they are looking for on your website.
Secondly, direct traffic suggests that your brand is memorable enough for people to go directly to your site, instead of following a Google search result or social link.
Thirdly, going directly to a site tells Google (via Google Analytics) that your website is so thorough, that a customer may not even need to do a search query to find what they need. Instead, they can go directly to your website.
The SEMRush study shows that either by causation or correlation, Google wants to rank brands.
Building a Recognizable Brand Through SEO Efforts
Earlier, we said that the best link building are the back links you would build if search engines did not exist. Putting your products in front of your ideal customers in the places they are likely to search is both good for brand building and SEO.
The truth is, build it and they will come only works in the movies. That strategy doesn’t play out the same way in real life business. If you have a website, you still need a plan for making customers aware of your existence. The fiercer the competition in your industry, the more work you will need to do to raise your visibility.
SEO is a long-term game, and it takes time and effort to build a brand. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Embrace the idea that people will need to see your brand name and your products many times before they are likely to buy from you.
Knowledge Graph Entities and the Power of Brand
Have you noticed that sometimes when you do a Google search on desktop, you’ll see extra information in the right hand column? This is the Knowledge Graph in action.
When you see company information appear when you do a search, that means that Google has compiled enough information to create an entity. In other words, this is the beginning (or culmination) of a brand.
Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be prominent in local search results.
Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.
In no uncertain terms, Google is saying that if your company has a strong brand, it is more likely to receive better local rankings.
Screenshots of Brands in Action, Part One
Let’s look briefly at some random search queries for manufacturing products that might be sold B2B. What we’re looking for is evidence that the strength of a brand may be influencing the search results.
In the first instance, we are searching for commercial air purifiers. The areas shaded in green at the top and bottom are paid ads (AdWords), and the area on the right shaded green is Google Shopping (also paid ads).
The top organic result is Oransi, with a landing page optimized for the keyword phrase, commercial HEPA air purifiers. What strikes me about this ranking is the amount of for the #1 organic ranking. This page also has a great design, and a good user experience.
Number two is an Amazon listing for an air purifier by New Comfort. Number three is a landing page for Grainger. These websites are both large brands, and being ranked this high reflects that.
Air Oasis comes in at number four, with a page with lots of information, and a good looking design. I notice there are lots of suggested products at the bottom of the page.
A landing page for US Air Purifiers comes in at number five, with many product options, and a mobile-friendly, well designed page.
Home Depot comes in at number six. Again, this is a national brand that offers lots of buying options. I will say that New Comfort is being strategic with “barnacle SEO” because they are both here and on the Amazon page. Even though they are not ranking directly in page one, they are leveraging distribution on larger sites to stay visible.
Breathe Pure Air comes in at number seven with a page that is not mobile-friendly, but has adequate information, and links to other pages.
Ebay comes in at number eight, another large brand, with an exact match URL slug for the search term.
Number nine is a product page for Air-n-Water. This has a good design, and looks user-friendly, and mobile-friendly.
The top ten is rounded out by Air Purifiers and Cleaners, which has a partial match domain (the domain name partially matches the search term). This page is not mobile-friendly, and looks dated. It looks like it is ranking in part because of the text at the bottom of the page.
The Verdict: Of the top ten organic results for this search term, four of them are national brands, not individual manufacturers. Search terms like this will usually trigger the Google Shopping module, because they have buying intent. This means it would be wise to run AdWords (pay per click) alongside an organic SEO (unpaid ranking) campaign.
The bad news for smaller brands is that large, established brands are taking up about 40% of the organic search results on page one.
Let’s look at another search query and see if the pattern stays the same.
Another Screenshot of Brands and Search Results
This time, let’s look at a search for laser cutting machine for metal, and see what influence brand has on the search rankings. Just like the previous example, we’ve shaded the paid ad areas in green.
As in the previous example, the top result is a well-designed, information-rich page that is mobile-friendly. There is also a YouTube video on this page. For this search, Kern Lasers comes out on top.
In the number two position is a landing page for eBay with several buying options. Once more, we see a big brand wth several products doing extremely well in search results.
Number three is a YouTube video with a near match of the search phrase for the video title. This video was uploaded by Golden Laser and has about 16k views. It doesn’t show any actual laser cutting until about one minute into the video. The video description is also filled out.
LVD comes in at number four with a mobile-friendly product page with links to some of their laser cutters.
Direct Industry lands at number five with a user-friendly page with dozens of options and several different manufacturers. While their brand is not as big as Amazon or eBay, this is a large brand within the B2B manufacturing space.
Another Alibaba page is result number eight.
At number nine is a page by Tesko explaining in great detail the differences between laser cutting and water cutting. This page is not mobile-friendly, but the information there is well organized.
Next up is a local results map. This may not show up for everyone.
Finally at number ten is a marketplace page by Indiamart. This is a large brand in India, and a large enough e-commerce site that they have their own Wikipedia article.
Key Takeaways: Once more, we see large brands taking up real estate on the first page of Google results. For this search query, large brands were five out of the ten organic search results.
One thing is clear: brand recognition makes some sort of difference to search results, especially when there is buying intent. However, a page that combine the highest quality content, top-notch user experience, and a means to purchase goods can still rise to the top.
What Can You Do To Build Brand Recognition?
One thing you can do is publish superior content to everyone else in your industry. If you look at some of the top performing industrial and manufacturing sites, they publish lots of informational content, not just sales content. Content that educates the customer can takes many forms: how-to’s, FAQs, instructional or application videos, or regular roundups of industry news.
Any media that can be consumed via smartphone is a place you can reach potential customers and build your brand. YouTube videos work well for manufacturing. Podcasts can be extremely beneficial for verticals like auto repair. Any questions that your marketing, support, or sales teams answer more than once can become a piece of site content, and thereby become a page that has potential to rank for a search query.
If you have a Facebook Page for your company, be sure to install a Facebook Pixel on your website.
This is a small piece of personalized code (like Google Analytics) that allows you to later serve retargeting ads to anyone who has been on your website.
Showing up in advertising space across the web to people who have already been to your site is a way to stay top of mind.
Borrow Other People’s Rankings
If you are in manufacturing, you can get additional traffic to your site by leveraging industry directories and marketplaces. Sites like ThomasNet, IQS, and Zycon are sites that may already rank for your target search terms, so why not appear there?
This accomplishes two things: raising your company visibility, and building vital back links to your website, which you need to improve your SEO.
Not in manufacturing? Every industry has specific directories and sites that already receive targeted traffic. That’s where your brand should also be.
Needless to say, getting back links and brand mentions from distributors or authorized dealers will also help your search rankings improve.
A good rule of thumb: if your main competitors are all listed on a website, it might be a good idea to appear there too.
Other Ways You Can Elevate Your Brand
How else can you stay relevant to your customers? Do things that real companies do to stay visible.
Go to trade shows. Sponsor industry events. Seek out industry websites that need content. Put on local workshops or presentations. These activities serve two purposes: making your brand more visible, and building relevant back links from industry websites back to your own. Best of all, these activities put you in front of your target customers.
Focus on Visibility and Delivering Value, and Rankings Will Follow
Your company’s digital footprint determines whether search engines see you as an authority. It takes time to build brand awareness, and it takes effort to build a robust back link profile.
Your SEO efforts concerning link building should be aimed towards:
- Building a brand that people remember throughout your industry.
- Establishing your company as an industry thought leader through informative content and customer education.
- Being better than your competitors when it comes to site content, experience, and overall marketing.