Branding is a tricky subject for most small businesses. Historically brand building has been a costly effort that only big businesses could afford. But online marketing has changed that allowing even small business to build a recognizable brand. In fact, when it comes to SEO and website marketing, I see the necessity of helping our client's brand themselves in the search sphere.

In the past, we often felt that some clients just didn't need to be branded in the search results. Maybe because they were smaller clients or didn't have a nationally recognized name. But then how do companies become nationally recognized names? You got it. Branding.

Branding isn't just for big companies any more. With the internet and search, it has become easier and cheaper to for companies to brand their names in front of their target audience. Good branding efforts will always cost you some time, energy and even money, but it's not out of reach of the small businesses.

The benefits of branding your web site

A solid branding strategy is important for any small business and should be a part of your online marketing efforts. If you're like most small businesses you are more concerned about selling products or services than in establishing a name for yourself. Why go through the effort? Simply put, branding helps sales.

Let's say you can get one person to recognize your company name and can immediatly associate it with quality. Whether that be quality content, quality customer service, quality products, or whatever. But right now only one person on the planet knows your company by name and they are convinced you are the it place. Not a huge deal, right? Well, yes, it is.

This one person will choose to buy from you rather than your competitor. Your ability to brand your name, and make it synonymous with your quality, has just earned you a sale. But only one sale? For now, yes, but here's what happens next.

That one person who knows your brand tells a few other people about you. The trust you earned with the one person is beginning to multiply. Let's say that one or two of them try you out based on the brand recognition that was passed on to them, they get same quality in customer service and care, and now you have branded yourself in the minds of a couple more people. And, of course, you just got more sales. This keeps going and going, multiplying with each new brand conversion.

The reason your name gets passed on, is because you have a name that has established trust. When someone finds you with a search they are on their own. They have no brand recognition of you, no history, and no recommendations. When you're able to brand yourself to your customers you can then be passed on to others by word of mouth. That's a trusted recommendation.

With branding, you're not just selling a product, you're selling yourself, and it's you--not your product--that gets passed on to each person down the chain.

The most effective branding is not in the number of people you reach, but in the number of times you're able to reach any single person with your brand name.

Let's say you want to buy an Easy Button. (Yes, I have one!) Do you know who makes them? Do you remember those commercials? If you do, its because of branding. If you don't then you have to search for it.

A quick Google search for "easy button" shows a variety of results; Staples, amazon, youtube, metacafe, and others. By now you might remember who made the easy button commercials. If you do, that's because of their branding campaigns.

As my easy button would say: that was easy.

Branding your business online

Now let's put this into the perspective of search since online branding works a bit differently than offline. Run a search for DVD. In this search I see results for Wikipedia, DVDs, DVD Empire, Deep Discount DVD, DVD File, Netflix, Amazon, Blockbuster, and a few others. Note that I'm not just looking at natural results, but paid results also.

I realize that DVD is too broad of a search so I fine tune it to DVD Movie. Huh! Some of these results look familiar. Again I see DVD Empire, Netflix, Deep Discount DVD, Amazon, and DVDs.

I don't particularly like paying full price DVDs so I try searching again with cheap DVDs. Here again I see DVD Empire and Deep Discount DVD,.

Do you see what happened there? In three searches two companies stood out. I now have brand name recognition for each of them for the term DVD.

Every search produced different results, but some sites receive more exposure, and therefore more branding power because they came up in more than one search. Now, without even searching, I have a mental idea of where I can go to buy DVDs: DVD Empire and Deep Discount. The next time I want a DVD, I might just go directly to one of those sites without even searching.

This type of search result branding can work for your business too. It's not about getting into the #1 spot but getting your business on the first page for as many relevant keywords as possible. You don't have to go after highly competitive keyword phrases to get a good amount branding power behind your business.

In my next post, I'll provide information on how small businesses can brand themselves for little or no money.

October 27, 2009

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.


Thanks for the article. I agree that it's crucial for small businesses to build an online presence. But for many of these businesses I'm not sure it behooves them to look at branding as a way to build national recognition from the outset. Many small businesses believe that as soon as they're on the world wide web, they are, well, world-wide. But a lot of them have yet to take advantage of their locality. Depending on the type of business, they should first establish a strong local base. After all, it's much easier to come up in a local search than in a national one.

It's amazing to me how resistant clients are to branding efforts that are totally free. We developed a color palatte for a client that they approved and said they loved. So we incorporated it into a print ad for them. Then they said they wanted more red in the ad, which was not a color in the already-approved palatte. Why go through all the effort to come up with company colors if you're just going to go red in your print ads regardless? It's like branding is great until it actually comes time for execution, and then they want free reign.

I think branding your business online is a good strategy. Your market is not only within your city but with the whole internet community as well. But being recognized online would also depend on how good you are in using the tools necessary for your business to come up in every search that people do in the web.

Thanks for the tips and info on branding. I rely on natural search and by posting regularly to my blog I guess I'm branding. People looking for business ideas or small business success tips are likely to run into my site on several periphreial searches.

A great logo and tag line are key to creating the kind of branding that lets your company occupy the beach front property in the minds of your customers. SEOs will be aware of the power of incorporating keywords into your brand name itself. The trick is not to be too generic, else you'll forever compete with everyone else who targets generic keyword terms. Everything you do on your site must tell a consistent story. Everything you do is your brand. Great design is of little use if the copy writing is sub-standard, and vice-versa.

Website Branding is one of the most misunderstood metrics which is important to increase sales on your website. If your site does not convert visitors to customers, regardless of where your traffic comes from or how much, it will not make the sales you need for your website to be a success.Thus branding is essential for your website.

thanx for the valuable information.... I believe that branding should be made only if needed.... It's not what you think or feel about your business - it's what your customers/clients/users think or feel about your business. Your brand is what makes your customers/clients/users choose your products or services over your competitors.

In response to - "We developed a color palatte for a client that they approved and said they loved. So we incorporated it into a print ad for them. Then they said they wanted more red in the ad, which was not a color in the already-approved palatte. Why go through all the effort to come up with company colors if you're just going to go red in your print ads regardless? It's like branding is great until it actually comes time for execution, and then they want free reign."

That’s the problem with many small to medium sized companies. They incorporate their personal preferences into their creative. A lot of times an opinion or even a guess becomes the rule, while consistency gets thrown out the window. I deal with it every day.

This is how we did it Stoney. Our company manufactures standoffs for graphic panel displays, art and signs. We have several interchangeable hardware product lines that fall under the global name of Gyford StandOff Systems. Most people, according to our keyword analytics, find us through the following search terms:
(standoffs, standoff systems,) (ez-rod, standoffs systems ez-rod,) (wire suspension, standoff systems wire suspension,) (structurelite, standoff systems structurelite). Within each parenthesis, is a simple product keyword and a keyword combination. We appear on the first page, within the top 5 results, in every instance. The proof of the effectiveness of branding is that when the keyword combination is used, i.e. standoff systems structurelite, we appear multiple times in the top 10 results and sometimes completely dominate the top 10 or first page of results. The keyword combination is used more and more as people become familiar with the brands or, as in your example, add words to try to narrow the results to meet their specific need. Branding, visually and verbally, can be very effective for small business and the web makes it much easier to accomplish. Tie it all together with a managed marketing strategy of consistent branding and the results are killer!

Scott, excellent example of branding in action!

Great post Stoney! The internet has helped small businesses reaching to a larger number of audience, get the message delivered at lower cost comparing to other traditional channels. Being visible and having high ranking in the SERPs helps branding your company, but it is not enough. As you mentioned a brand means having trust and quality products and services. To help branding you need to use social media channels which is the great tool to engage with customers and potential customers, listening to them, answer their questions and anticipate their needs and develop products and services that would meet these needs. it does not matter how high quality products and services you have, if you do not differentiate your products and services and keep innovating the branding will not last long.

Great post Scott. Looks at the most successful companies in the world and what do they all have in common...a highly recognizable and associated brand.

Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Why Branding Matters to Small Businesses