Sally Raymer says “My tip is about not underestimating your brand as we move to a world that is becoming dominated by AI production.”
So what do you do to treat your brand in a better way so that AI will appreciate what you're doing a little bit more?
“I think it's defining your brand and staying true to that. We can use AI for many different tasks. But when talking about the brand, we're talking about AI copywriting. And I think, because of the time savings and how cheap it can be to produce this content in mass, many brands are losing sight of their brand values, language, vocabulary, energy, and who they are. So it's really about defining that brand before you even begin an AI copywriting project. And then also installing that brand once it comes out of the other end.”
So you mentioned that phrase a couple of times, you said, defining what your brand is. How do you define your brand, and where should you include that content?
“When talking about our brand, we're talking about everything from the logo to the colours you use, the language you use, and how you express yourself. And I would start by thinking about what my goals are as a company. Who is my target audience? And how am I going to reach them? What is my brand energy? So am I quite formal? Am I quite energetic and go? Am I quite reserved? A more natural side of things? Maybe I'm a sustainable product brand. So I'd start thinking about that energy. And also, think about your brand’s attitudes, whether that's an attitude of complete authority or talking to your audience as peers, and thinking about your syntax and rules. So are you always referring to the brand as the brand, or is the brand a ‘we’ that was something really important to embody? As well as thinking about the writing styles you may use that could be descriptive and narrative, you could be persuasive, or informing people. And it depends on your audience and what you're offering as a product. And again, just going back to your audience and who your audience is, what age group are they? How does your product relate to them? For example, when we look at somebody like BooHoo, they have a lot of adjectives in their vocabularies, such as stylish, vibe, and coveted, which is very much aimed at the 20+ or audience where something like a law firm might use less objectives be more reserved me more about informing the user, then trying to sell the user something. So think about what words you're using in your vocabulary and how that will pass on to all the work you're doing with your copywriters and AI.”
What conversations do SEOs need to have internally in larger organizations, and with what job roles and how did they approach this? What do they need to ask different people internally in the companies?
“It can be quite a disparity between brands because the brand usually sits with the communication and brand teams. So the team that's actually going out there and getting PR coverage and so on, and then that whole narrative, that whole body of who we are as a brand, gets lost by the time it comes to the SEO team and down to the copywriters or to whichever tool we use to utilize that process. So as an SEO, it's not strictly your job, but it's something you need to embody, and you need to have those conversations with people in the brand, with the Head of the Brand, with every other channel to be honest, even if it's paid, how are they use utilizing that pack? How are they? How are we talking about why is there a difference between internal columns and external columns? How do we utilize this in SEO and make sure that that narrative is fluent throughout all our copy on-site and off-site?”
Are we talking about fairly traditional brand volumes that don't change much through the years, and every SEO needs to be aware of this, or have the various aspects of the key elements of what a brand is about changed over the last few years because of digital media?
“I think, in part, it’s very traditional values. But then I think we have a big transparency because we're digital. And because we're online, and because things can't be as hidden or kept away from the public as much as somebody might like, you don't have as much control of that narrative as you might like. We're talking about those traditional values. But it's also how to handle that with your public image and how the two match together because it's very well saying we are high quality, which I see on many sites. So we care about quality. Quality is our number one objective, and then you walk into one of the high street shops, and you feel the quality of their material is not one of their objectives. And we're living in an age where it’s heavily on the consumer side. It’s not in terms of businesses creating that demand. And we are in a position to say whatever we want regardless and still have customers walk through the door. We have high competition. We have a lot of different companies with a lot of creativity and a lot of resources in terms of really creating brand values that ring true throughout everything that they do.”
So we're talking about staying true to a brand in the world of AI. Are you seeing that if you do a great job of traditional brand values, and leaving that and articulating that in your websites, then that is enough for AI to understand what your brand represents, or do you have to do anything specific in relation to dealing with AI potentially, to explain to AI what your brand is about?
“I think you have to be specific. You have to give it not only the tone you're using some examples of the content that you would use because I could tell AI to write me a paragraph in a lively tone. And what it can come up with would be completely different from what I have in mind or what we already have written. You have to give examples of the vocabulary you want to use and some of the words you commonly come across on your site. It might be 20 words that commonly come across your site in different places. And that doesn't mean that we're using the same content everywhere. We are talking about adjectives here and the language you use to describe our products and services that reflect our brand and not the wider use of language. In addition, we want to be able to tell AI who our customers are and give them a description, not of their age group and where they are located, but about their interests and some more samples or some other content that resonates highly with them. And then that will give AI a view of what type of content you're looking for. And there's only so far you can take it at the end of the day. I’ve played a lot with AI, and there's only so far you can take it at the moment. But that keeps on growing. And that's going to keep on growing. There's going to be a point where you're going to get this finished product, and it's not quite where you want it, and it is going to need that human touch.”
What if an SEO worked for small up-and-coming brands in an industry with many successful incumbents with big, trusted, existing brands? What are some things that SEO can do to quickly articulate to AI and search engines what this upcoming brand is about and make it possible for them to compete with the existing players?
“In terms of brand, we're studying what they have in place already because you don't want to come across as a completely new identity to an existing brand that is quite small but hasn't developed that persona yet. So I'd say study some of the copy they've probably written in-house. If they're a small up-and-coming company, that content would have started with some of the company’s founders. So have a look at what language is used there, have discussions with every internal stakeholder about what we want from our brand, what we want to communicate, and whether that does reflect to the products and services we offer or if it doesn't, and then build that brand portfolio up again so that you're reflecting it everywhere in everything that you're doing.”
A successful way of dealing with bigger players is sometimes actually skating to where the puck will be, as opposed to actually getting the pass where it happens to be. In other words, a lot of existing players will be competing with popular keyword phrases or in markets that are quite strong at the moment. But they can think of where the business is going to be in six months in a year and plan for that. Is that a successful strategy for smaller businesses trying to build a brand?
“I always think that whatever strategy you use, there's always room for review. And you always need to check whether that resonates with your users. But you wouldn't want to move away too much from that brand that you've built. Because although a brand can be an evolving thing, it's not something that drastically changes from black to white. So yeah, I think it's possible, and with market research, you might find new target audiences that will enter the market, and you want to develop a second persona, a second brand for that target audience. And do you also think that it has to be reviewed, like any other strategy, to see if it's hitting the mark, and you can do that through traditional SEO measurement methods? So looking at things like the engagement rate, time on page, and how many pages are being viewed per session, which tells you whether users are engaging with that content or not, as well as using some of the actual UX tools that tell you how users are engaging with a page exactly.”
What tends to be a common 'poor' thing that you see in relation to what brands are doing with their online brand strategy at the moment? Is there any common trait you see with brands that aren't doing particularly well? Is there something that you recommend that businesses look at and change that they're currently doing?
“This is less so the bigger businesses because a lot of small businesses lack brand identity and knowledge of their target audience, but I hear a lot that it could be a company of one person or a company of 20. And it's not the company size that decides whether a user will buy with you. So I would say doing their research is a common pitfall that I see among companies knowing who their audience is before building that brand because it's very well saying, 'Oh, hi, here I am, but if you're not engaging with your audience, you've missed the mark.”
You’ve shared what SEO should be doing in 2023. So let's talk about what SEO shouldn't be doing. So what's something that's seductive in terms of time but ultimately counterproductive? What's something that SEO shouldn't be doing in 2023?
“AI and content production and programmatic content seem seductive, right? We can create whole pages of content for pennies compared to paying copywriters their fair share, steer away from it, and use it and rely on that tool just in itself, but still utilize your copywriters. They’re going to be investigating those tools. They’re going to be looking at ways that they can utilize it. And they will look at creating useful content with those tools rather than relying on the output. As SEOs, it can be very attractive to say, well, we've got no content there now, if we programmatically run this now, we can have 20 pages with content that didn't exist before. And it can be done overnight. But you're just damaging your topic authority really by doing that.”
Sally Raymer is an SEO consultant at SEO in Motion, and you can find her over at seoinmotion.com.
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