Gus implores you to incorporate brand building as part of your SEO activities, to maximize the number of clicks you receive from the SERP.
Gus Pelogia says:It's getting more complicated to rank on Google; there are more ads and fewer opportunities to get the click. This is why it's so important to focus on your brand. Even if you're not the number one rank, the more that people that recognise you, the more clicks you're going to get.
Why is brand more important? Is it because there's more competition, it improves conversion rates, or other reasons?
It's both of these reasons. Competition is getting higher, and we now see brands competing on terms that are not really commercially related. You need to be at the top, even when people are doing that 'top of funnel' research. Protecting your brand, and being there every step of the journey, will become increasingly important. Google's also looking at entities more and more now. If you can connect your brand to a specific topic, that will help you rank and help users recognise you as the proper answer.
What are some of the key reasons for focusing on a brand?
You're going to get better CTRs and you're going to get your knowledge panel. I would start by researching your own brand and seeing what type of results you're getting back. Look at people's questions and the reviews that you have. Are you replying to them - even on other websites? Are you listed on the places where people are doing their searches? It's important to be visible in all of the steps of the journey. Now that it's getting harder to rank, as Google shows less results and more featured snippets, you don't want to just rank with your own website - you want to be present even when people are looking at a different blog or website.
Do you believe that a brand should be actively asking for reviews?
I see no problem in actively asking for reviews, and it's an important thing to do. You may you have an automated process so you can ask everybody. It is also important to protect the reviews you already have. If people are unhappy about something, how did you deal with it, and were you honest? Bad reviews are the ones that matter the most, because they show how the company handles these issues. If you see businesses that only have a five-star review. or everything's great, that can look a bit dodgy.
Is it potentially useful to include reviews on your own website, or are you only talking about reviews from a third-party website perspective?
I would have more belief in reviews from a third-party - but you can integrate this on your website. If a review looks dodgy, but you can validate it through a link to an external website, then you'll be provided with enough trust. It's good to look at other reviews as well, and not just the angle the company's trying to give it to you.
Is there much SEO value using things like schema to mark up review information on your website, to hopefully get some additional Rich Snippets, search results and a higher click-through rate?
There's definitely value in these things, although a lot of people do it wrong - they just toss a number there and try to manipulate them. The right way is being honest and having an automated system. Even if your reviews went down, just pull up the most up-to-date information. Don't just say, 'five stars' for everything. That sounds fake. Every company will have some unhappy customers, and not all happy customers will give you a five-star rating. Being realistic is the key.
How do you use content on your website to help educate Google about what your brand does, and what it represents?
There are lots of directions you can take. Your homepage is a great place to explain who you are, along with your Wikipedia profiles. Yes, they are hard to manage, but at least make sure the information is actually correct. Google is also looking into lots of external websites, such as Crunchbase, or LinkedIn. Make sure that all your bios across the web are up-to-date, and don't contain conflicting information. I like to map all of the social profiles that I have, and a good starting point is to Google yourself, or your company. You'll be surprised at the number of websites that have your name, bio, picture, email, and social handles. There are tonnes of places beyond Facebook, Instagram, and Google My Business where information lives. Do your best to connect all of these places and make sure the information is correct. With more evidence, Google can increase its level of trust in who you are and the topic you belong to.
Is it important to use exactly the same sentences in each social channel, to give Google more confidence?
There are mixed opinions on this. I'm fine with using the same text, as long as it accurately reflects how you want to position yourself. You don't need to duplicate your content across all the channels exactly, but be consistent about who you are and what you do, and link all the social platforms as much as you can.
How does this drive measurable SEO success? As brand isn't quite so tangible, how does an SEO explain the value of what they're doing?
It's not as straightforward as the clicks that you get, but you can measure this by looking at your branded searches - are they increasing? You can also show if you have your knowledge panel, and if your social channels are there, and whether you are seeing more conversions on your blog. If your company's on position five or six, but people started recognising the brand, CTR starts increasing across the board as well. It's not as straightforward as measuring leads or clicks, but there are ways to measure it. You could look at the referral links as well - are you getting more traffic and conversions through these? It's not going to show up directly as SEO perhaps - but you know it's a consequence of your good SEO work.
Do you think it's good practice to incorporate your brand name at the beginning or end of page titles, or meta descriptions?
Yes, it's always a good test to do. I always put it at the end, but I've seen cases where people decided to put in the front and their CTR improved. As with everything in SEO, I would not just take the word from someone else. You need to do your own test. Change the titles, put your brand in front and see if you start getting more clicks. Although, it can be difficult to isolate things if Google is changing titles.
Is this focus on the brand something an SEO should be doing every week or as a one-off project?
Not every single week, that's for sure, but there is always an iteration you can do. Maybe there's a new structured data type you can include, or a new page that doesn't include all the elements you need. Keep monitoring the panels, and Google's understanding of you as a brand connected to your competitors. This is all easy to test. Search for your brand. or your competitors' brand. and see if they show similar brands below your knowledge panel. There's some ongoing work to be done, but not as much as you do for links or content. I really like to do research on my own brand and see what type of results are out there. It's hard to own all of the space, and sometimes Google will put other websites on the list. Make sure that what's in there actually reflects your company. Sometimes it could be something simple. Maybe your YouTube profile is showing on your top five, but you forgot about that profile ages ago, you're not posting videos, and your company description there is incorrect. Make sure you are presenting yourself the way you want in all those places. Even when people know your brand, they will research in lots of other lost places, such as Reddit and Amazon. Think about the journey they will take and take note of the steps they'll make, and the things that matter for them. Do lots of research here, but not with an old-school SEO mindset of thinking about ranking.
What's one thing SEOs need to stop doing to spend more time focusing on brand?
SEO should stop bothering to follow links to save PageRank. Firstly, you're losing that PageRank regardless of whether the link has been followed or not. Secondly, Google is making their mind up about the value of links anyway. Perhaps you shouldn't spend a lot of time trying to save that information if you're leaking out anyway. Also, I wouldn't waste time bothering to 'nofollow' my internal links - even if it's a page that doesn't have a reason to rank, or wouldn't show up in searches.
You can find Gus Pelogia over at Pelogia.it.
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