January 28, 2014 Jason

Why Branding is Crucial in the World of SEO

At Brandscaping, we don’t often post about SEO because our mission is to create compelling content that people enjoy reading and sharing. We understand that it’s important to optimize, and we build this into the content we deliver. SEO strategist Ross Barefoot has written a great guest post to explain why it’s important to create content for people and how your website’s authority works for Google and other search engines.

Google's Penguin Update - how has it impacted SEO?

image via Morguefile.com

If you pay attention to the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you already know  the last two years have been turbulent ones.  In my work as chief SEO strategist for Horizon Web Marketing in Las Vegas, I’ve seen many firms both blessed and cursed by the rollercoaster rankings ride.  Companies that used to take a high search engine ranking for granted have seen their listings disappear from Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).  One of the most dramatic changes occurred by way of Google’s “Penguin” initiative, introduced in 2012.

Search Engines Search for Authority

Penguin was not the first shot in the war on artificial link networks, but it was a D-Day invasion of their territory. Penguin has actually been a series of updates to Google’s famous algorithm (an algorithm is a set of rules used to solve a computing problem) that Google uses to penalize sites that have built artificial networks of links pointing at their sites.

Allow me digress for a moment to explain that one of the primary ways for any search engine to filter out junk sites from their search results is to determine whether the website has something called “authority.”  In this case, the word authority means “a trusted and respected source of information.”  In common terms, think of any supermarket tabloid vs. the Wall Street Journal.  Which one has greater “authority”?  (If you don’t know the obvious answer you probably need to spend less time in the checkout line at the supermarket. 🙂 )

When it debuted in 1998, the major innovation that Google introduced – the brilliant idea  that drove its meteoric rise – was a way to determine the authority of a website by analyzing the websites linking to that site and the websites linking to them, and the websites linking to them, and… you get the picture.  The measure of authority, named PageRank after Larry Page, co-founder of Google, was stunningly successful at producing quality results.

But along came the spammers.  They determined they could manipulate PageRank by building, buying, conning or swapping links back to their site; links created solely for the purpose of fooling Google’s algorithm into thinking their sites were highly authoritative.  Google has always condemned such schemes, justifiably, because all all they do is reduce the quality of the search experience for everyone except the spammers.

How Does SEO Relate to Branding?

First, Google figured out that most spammers relied heavily on keywords in their links.  For example, if a link says “click here for cheap auto insurance,” the keyword “cheap auto insurance” shows the intention of the person who created the link was probably to rank high for…yes…cheap auto insurance.

Secondly, although there have been some famous exceptions, most spammers are not working for a genuine marketplace brand; at least not directly.  Therefore Google is now openly looking for the authority of a brand to reinforce what they can discover about a website based on its links.

How Does This Impact The Way You Create Content?

Google knows a little something about building a brand, and they’re openly against just about anything designed to get you quick results. Great marketing isn’t done by sleight of hand; you’ve got to earn your authority to find visibility in Google’s search results. Instead of focusing on ways to trick the search engines, you should focus on winning over the marketplace in which you operate.

While working with our search marketing clients, we show them why their websites and traditional advertising should focus on creating a brand in the marketplace, and how to use great content to promote that brand.  This results in Google considering your website as an authority because people are linking heavily to your site using the brand you have created.  Continuing with the auto insurance example, a more trustworthy link to Google would be something like “click here for Farmers Insurance.”

And if you’re just now trembling in your boots, thinking it will be generations before you have a brand like Farmers Insurance, never fear.  A brand is relative to the size of the market in which you operate.  If you have a local auto repair business, you can develop your brand and be powerful within your local market.

In a way, this new world of Search Engine Optimization is long overdue.  Companies that have spent years building their reputation should not be upstaged in search results by web spammers.  Make sure your content reflects a commitment to the long term success of your brand, and you’ll be ahead; not only in search marketing, but in traditional marketing as well.

I’d love to hear your comments and feedback, and if you have any questions about SEO, please give me a call.

Ross Barefoot is a Colorado-based SEO consultant on staff with Horizon Web Marketing. He is also a Certified Search Engine Optimization Trainer for the Search Engine Academy. Find him on Google Plus

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