Scream SEO without losing your voice

By Jordy Pickel | January 28, 2016

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SEO — those three magic letters have for some time seemed like the catchall solution to all your marketing problems. Throw extra budget its way, toss in some more keywords, and presto: forms are filled in, emails flood inboxes, phones ring off the hook, and you’re swimming in new customers! It’s the one-size-fits all solution. Marketing magic.

Obviously, that perception is wrong. And yet this oversimplified and exaggerated mindset is still a commonly held assumption in marketing departments across America. We’ve seen many companies focus so strongly on SEO (trying to keep up with every Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, or Pirate that Google releases into the wild) that their websites are a mess.

What’s worse, conflict between site-optimized copy, positioning, and key messaging is actually damaging their brands.

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But it doesn’t have to be like this — SEO and brand can live in harmony. Here, we outline some areas to focus your SEO efforts without weakening your brand and losing your voice.

Before You Get Started

Let’s just be clear: SEO is about your website traffic and ranking. On the other hand, brand is everything — social, advertising, content, sales, customer service, events, and website — it’s just so much bigger. SEO is a marketing tactic, and like all tactics, it’s worth very little without a clear, consistent and authentic brand.

So, in order for you to nail your SEO strategy, you need a full understanding of your brand’s position, purpose, and values. With those elements in your back pocket, the right keywords will come.

Basic Research

If you aren’t already doing the basic due-diligence for SEO, start now. Make sure you know what your brand keywords are and any alternative phrasing your potential customer base would use. This research can be an intensive process, but it’s invaluable. It will benefit traffic and ranking in the long run, and it may also lead you to discover valuable search phases that could influence ideas for messaging moving forward. Keep that list handy and check it often.

And about that content. Make sure that with every new blog post, whitepaper, press release, or service offering that makes it onto your website has a title tag, meta tags, image alt attributes, and H tags. If you don’t know what those are, read up here, here, here, and here.

The New Kids on the Block

Search engines like Google have one simple goal (well, maybe a few more, but we’re not going into that here) and that is to provide what the user is looking for when they ask for it. It’s as simple as that.

In SEO’s infancy, that meant keyword stuffing a business-to-business marketing website with brand-positioning digital services online advertising copy that focuses on the digital development and brand marketing services that a brand manager for a B2B and B2C business might be looking for on a search engine optimization search platform.

You see what I did there?

Today, a lot of that keyword-stuffing-for-the-sake-of-keyword-stuffing is identified and either demoted to the dregs of search results, or cast aside and evaluated for the merits of newer search ranking criteria:

Responsive design
Google made waves last year when they announced that websites that weren’t mobile friendly might take a hit in their search rankings. This of course only reflected searches made on mobile devices, but since more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers, it’s a pretty big deal.

When it comes time to create a shiny new website, make sure it’s designed responsively. And be responsible about image file size, JavaScript load time, and user interface design. That means you shouldn’t try and serve up a 2mb marquee image, or load a script on every page if it’s only used once, or have a form’s submit and cancel buttons be so small a thumb can’t find them.

To find out where you rank in terms of mobile-friendly usability, check out Google’s helpful online tool.

Video transcription
Google loves websites that contain rich media. They also love it when you make it easier to determine the relevancy of a video against the keywords your website targets. Make sure you have a transcript of a video’s content linked with a subtitles or captions tag to enhance your ranking.

Structured data markup
Arguably the most important element of all, Structured Data is becoming more and more important as Google and other search engines place an increasing amount of focus on semantic search.

Google data

By identifying key components of your business — your company name, telephone, address, business hours — you’re helping Google to identify its DNA. The search engine then matches that up with the content on your website to provide more accurate results for all those folks searching for, say, a business-to-business marketing agency with brand-positioning digital services.

Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper and Schema.org are great places to start. You can also feel free to have a conversation with us.

The Social Network
You’ve no doubt heard it before, but the impact of social media is real — even in B2B. More than just a place where your neighbor posts status updates before, during, and after his amazing crock-pot chicken dinner, social platforms are where we explore, discover, and connect with others… including in the professional world.If you’ve uploaded a blog post recently and never bothered to let your Twitter followers know, please go do that right now. I’ll wait.

Every time you have valuable insight to customers (and potential customers) make sure you’re doing your part to spread the word. Make sure you’re paying attention to other experts in your field and follow their insight as well.

That way, when you reference your latest bit of wisdom, the community gets an opportunity to digest what you have to offer and share it with their friends. And then maybe they can rave about an amazing crock-pot chicken recipe they just found.

Marketing magic

SEO is a vital part of any digital marketing strategy; it can add huge value, so it’s important you follow the steps discussed above. But it is a tactic, and it should be treated as one. In the time of the educated, informed, and engaged B2B buyer who is doing research and forming opinions, being in the first position on the first page of Google is nowhere near a clincher. You might score a few clicks because you’re highly visible, but then what? If nobody likes what they see, your search ranking is a wasted opportunity.

If the leads aren’t coming in as you’d like and your conversions are down, it’s probably not due to SEO woes. It’s more likely that your messaging is muddled, you’re not putting the right kind of content in the right place at the right time, or you’re not communicating the most relevant information to prospects.

The best way to support your SEO efforts is to establish a strong and consistent brand. The clearer your position and messaging becomes, the more familiar and more consistent those search queries will be. That’s how branding and marketing can really solve your SEO problem.

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