There are many different reasons that we as companies pursue marketing or advertising campaigns. Some of the more popular include: driving more sales; increases in rankings, visibility, traffic, branding, and/or market share; or to introduce a new line of products or services. If we think about it, all of these objectives and goals can be traced back to branding. Is branding and positioning limited to the offline world, where it can be accomplished through a television or direct mail campaign? Certainly not. So, how can search engine optimization and marketing play an integral role in our efforts to brand our products and services, and position our company?

The dictionary defines branding as "A trademark or distinctive name identifying a product or a manufacturer". Another traditional definition of branding is "A brand is a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer". These are of course both correct definitions of branding, but they do not truly define what we are trying to accomplish with branding. One of the most interesting and overall best definitions of branding is from Rob Frankel, who is referred to as "the best branding expert on the planet" by many people, including Fortune 1000 companies. Rob stated that:

"Branding is not about getting your prospect to choose you over your competition; it's about getting your prospect to see you as the only solution."

I think this definition of branding exceeds the rest, as the goal of branding is not to have the customer look at two or three products and choose yours over the competition by a close margin, but for the customer to disregard your competition all together and not even think of any other alternative when purchasing your product. This is when we truly have good visibility, market share, higher sales, and of course, branding. This not only affects one of your products or services, but the company as a whole, as this gives the company better visibility, position, and branding.

How does this tie in with the search engines? Quite simply, really.

If your product is not right in front of your customer at the respective stores where these products are typically purchased, you can certainly say that you are missing out on sales, market share, and branding. The same concept applies to the Internet and search engines.

According to the latest statistics from the Harris Poll, two-thirds (66%) of all adults, or 137 million people, are now online. Within these 137 million, we know that search engines are utilized roughly 80% of the time to search for products, services, or information. We also know from a 2001 NPD Group research report, that "consumers are five times more likely to purchase products after seeing search listings versus banners". In the same market research report it was found that high search engine listings drive the highest awareness or branding for a website, with consumers recalling websites 60% of the time from search engine listings #1-3, and roughly 20% for banner ads and tiles.

If your business's main product is "running shoes", you have undoubtedly positioned your product at most of the department and athletic stores, as well as many other places that your customers have been researched to shop. Following the same suit, have you positioned your product/website at the top of the search engine results so when users search for "running shoes" roughly 3,500 times daily on the major search engines, your website shows up in the top rankings? If not, have you calculated how much business and branding you are missing out on?

Sales are indeed a huge incentive for all companies to launch a great looking, fully functional website, but there is more to gain to from the Internet. With a successful online and search engine marketing campaign you can accomplish every goal and objective that is sought after with offline marketing and advertising. There are two major differences between offline and online marketing: 1) Marketing your website via email marketing, online banner ads, or search engine marketing, have proven to be drastically less expensive than their offline equivalents, and 2) where you can reach people across the world with online and search engine marketing, you are limited to your reach with their offline equivalent.
September 27, 2002

Andrew is the Director of Search Engine Optimization Operations for a market leading company. Since the Fall of 2001, Andrew has served as the moderator of the Search Engine Promotion forum within - a leading online community of web professionals. Andrew's articles appear regularly on informative sites including Search Engine Guide, SEO Today, SitePoint and others.

Search Engine Guide > Andrew Gerhart > Branding Via the Search Engines