A Black Belt in SEO Isn’t Enough Anymore
SEO expertise is critical for any well-rounded digital marketing program, but a truly remarkable search marketer should also have an understanding of one of the most important underlying facets of marketing: branding.
Any good SEO knows that trying to rank for generic services or products is much more difficult (and possibly even less valuable) than ranking for a specific service set – whether local, niche, or company culture-driven. Specificity in long-tail keywords provides the opportunity you need to gain a crucial edge within the larger (short-tail) market. And that ability to be hyper-specific in your marketing messaging can only come from laser-focused understanding of your business’s mission, goals, and unique selling proposition. In other words: your brand.
It’s Not the Biggest Product – It’s the Biggest Brand.
Though I didn’t make it to the SEO haven of SMX NYC last week, I was able to stop by an NYU Startup Week panel called “Hacking the Future” on Wednesday night. Ostensibly this panel was about innovation in the venture capital world, but in reality early-stage investment pros Charlie O’Donnell and Dave Tisch ended up sharing advice on launching successful tech startups. The most consistent theme? Clarity of purpose.
For startups, a major part of convincing venture capitalists, angel investors, and the public at large to give you and your business a shot is a clear, polished, and passionate explanation of your concept. Entrepreneurs must be able to express the problem they will solve, how they will solve it, and how their business approach is unique. No investor will throw money at a vague idea, but an investor will support a dynamic brand when they see it. Tisch gave an excellent example: location sharing social apps Foursquare and Gowalla were competing in the same space at the same time in 2010. Who won the location wars in the end? Foursquare. Why? Because they had the biggest brand presence, not the biggest product. And that sticks with people.
Build Your Brand Before You Spend on SEO
That advice for pitching venture capitalists can apply to every business, in any stage. Don’t waste your marketing dollars – solidify a cohesive brand identity before you start spending and get better results, faster.
As a digital marketing company, we often engage clients who know they want move their business forward but who don’t have a clear reason why new customers should choose them over competitors. That makes it difficult to build effective paid and organic search marketing campaigns. That’s why good SEO strategists will always be probing clients for more detail about their services, for customer feedback, or for industry news & insights so that they can structure content and create messaging that truly tells a compelling story. In the world of search, your competitors compete for space just inches away so your pitch needs to be clear, concise, and compelling; there’s no room for ambiguity.
That compelling story in turn helps increase SEO value in more ways than one. Yes, it’s important to have a site with well-optimized content. But as site engagement and user experience factors more and more into search rankings, it becomes more and more important to offer content that’s also brand-worthy and valuable in and of itself.
Once there’s a compelling story, a marketer’s job is about integrating that story across all mediums and channels to create a consistent brand presence. Businesses hoping to build a genuine digital brand should aim to touch audience members consistently with compelling paid search ads, strong organic listings, dynamic social profiles, and targeted customer outreach.
As your digital marketing strategy scales upwards, the solidarity of your brand will be tested. Those with incoherent messaging strategies or dicey products will falter, and when that happens it makes a real impact of the efficiency of your marketing dollars.
Building a Brand Strategy: 5 Questions to Answer
If you think your brand could benefit from better focus and alignment, answer the following questions in 2 sentences or less:
- Mission: What is the reason for your business’s existence – what problem does it solve?
- Audience: Who is your ideal customer? (Age, demographic, hobbies, income, career, etc.)
- Promise: What makes you compellingly unique, and why should we choose your solution over others that attempt to solve the same problem?
- Values: What behavior and principles govern your business?
- Vision: Where do you want your business to be 10, 20, or 50 years from now?
You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a brand consultant to define your brand with a positioning statement. By crafting clear, specific answers to the questions above, you’ll have an excellent understanding of your brand and a solid platform from which to market your message across all media platforms.
Follow @sarahvnyc for more on SEO and brand strategy. Got a solid brand already? Start spreading the word with organic search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising management (PPC) services.
Photo by vxdigital , Stock Exchange