Branding (or re-branding) a business has always been tough, but in the digital age it has become exponentially tougher. With Google, Facebook, and Twitter looking over your shoulder on every decision you make, the pressure to perform is immense. Effective brands can excel more than ever, while ineffective brands still struggle to gain momentum.
So how can you brand your business with search engine optimization in mind? What decisions should you make differently and what decisions should you keep the same?
If you’re doing your job as a marketer, the real key to SEO success is ranking for your own name. Whether it’s through word-of-mouth, email, or a sales call, the first time someone hears your name, they’re going to go looking for you. If they can’t find you, you’re in trouble.
So how can you determine whether ranking for your new brand name is realistic? Start with a simple Google search. Ask yourself these questions:
Once you’ve taken a look at these factors, you should have a good understanding of what’s there. If you’re competing with a bunch of sub-brands from a major company for the exact phrase, you should back off. If you’re competing with Huffington Post articles for a variation of the keyword, you should be good!
Very rarely does it make sense to brand around a keyword. For one thing, exact-match domains are not viewed highly by Google, who tends to devalue them as spam. Additionally, most industry-centric brand names are generic, unmemorable, and hard to turn into a great, bold brand.
Instead, focus on building a strong brand name first and worry about keywords in your tagline. You can have a creative brand name that has nothing to do with your industry, but use your tagline to express exactly what you do. This will carry the same (and in some cases, more) weight with Google as a domain name and it opens the door up for you to be more creative and memorable with your branding.
Unless you’re an extremely large consumer-facing brand, don’t abandon ship because someone’s squatting on your Twitter handle. If someone else is operating with your desired brand across multiple networks, that’s one thing, but don’t worry if your first choice is taken on one of the major networks. Consider the following:
So if someone else is on a network or two, don’t sweat it. If they’re operating across several domains, however, you may have some competition if you proceed.
Lyft and Flickr are the exception, not the rule. When you choose a misspelled word for your brand, you have the advantage of a blue ocean in front of you, but you have the far greater disadvantage of lost traffic due to people not being able to find you in the first place. Consider this, if your name contains a misspelling, users who Google you will likely be greeted with a “Did you mean on the top of their results. This means that you are, in essence, being out-ranked by a different word. Maybe you’ll show up on top for those search results, but even if you do, there’s no reason that you couldn’t find another name that accomplishes that same goal without confusing your audience.