People often associate branding with money. Lots and lots of money. Generally, if you try to run a branding campaign you might see from companies like Target, you most certainly will have to fork over a big chunk of change. But small business owners don't have that kind of money to brand themselves in similar fashion. Fortunately, there are other ways to brand your small business online.
From my examples in my post Why Branding Matters to Small Businesses, you might conclude that a full-scale SEO or PPC campaign is the only way to brand yourself online. SEO can play a role in branding, but you can engage it strategically so you're spending less time and less money while still building brand recognition.
What are you branding?
First you need to know what it is you are branding. Is it your company name? Your products? Your services? Your personal name or online handle? What is it that you want people to remember?
If you're a blogger your name is definitely important. So is your blog name. If you're a business then your business name will be important, as might be your products if they are exclusively yours. The point is, before you start spending money to brand yourself you first need to determine what you have that needs to be branded. Now you have your starting place.
How to use SEO for branding
SEO is a great way to brand your business, products, services or blog. Since you're not going after high-volume keywords, the cost of using SEO for branding is relatively minimal. The idea is to make sure you come to the top of the results when someone searches for whatever it is you're trying to brand. The goal here is to make sure your brand is prominent in the results so you begin to build that brand-name recognition.
The easiest way to do this kind of branding is to simply edit your title tags to include your brand name. If it's your company name, then put your company name first and foremost in your title tag. If you're branding own name, put that there. Most SEOs will tell you not to put your business name in the front of your title tag. If you're targeting non-branded keyword searches I fully agree. However if your focus is on building brand name recognition, then you'll have to sacrifice some keyword real estate for your brand.
The goal here is to make sure people see your company name, or whatever it is you're branding, whenever your site comes up in the search result. This will also help ensure that when someone does a search for your branded name they'll find you up top. It will still be important to optimize your site for non-branded keywords, however. The more keywords you rank on the first page for they more opportunities you have to build brand name recognition.
Look for opportunities to optimize for your pages for some of the long-tail keyword phrases. Being ranked on those often generates more highly targeted visitors so branding to that audience is even better.
How to use PPC for branding
Another thing you can do to brand yourself is to buy cheap ads through Google, Yahoo and Bing. You can do this for your name, products or even specific keyword searches. When going this route you're not competing for top spot, or even for a lot of clicks. Instead, you're looking to appear on a search result page where you'll be seen for as little money as possible. Don't compete. Find keywords that have low click cost or more expensive keywords where you can rank further down the page. Again, the point here is just simply to get eyeballs to fall on your ad--and your brand name--not necessarily to get the searcher to click on your ad (though that's never a bad thing.)
PPC ads are a great way to get visibility for incorrect or alternative spellings of your brand. Bidding on most variations of your brand name will cost you next to nothing on a per-click bases. You can also run your ads on dozens, or even hundreds, of low search volume keywords. These will get very little traffic, and therefore cost very little, but it gives you yet another opportunity to get your name in front of searchers eyeballs. Lots of little exposures often dwarf the benefit of a few big exposures.
I'm fully convinced that there isn't a company in the world, regardless of size, that shouldn't be working on branding itself in some way or another. Branding for your web site or company name is usually the easiest thing to do as most web sites inherently come to the top of the results for those types of searches. But taking it a bit further, expanding your reach can be significantly rewarding, even allowing you to be a little brand in a big commercial pond.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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