But is SEO always the most important tactic for every site and every situation? The answer may be no. For some sites, online brand management is more important.
I have worked on many Web sites going back to the mid-90s that are either pure online brands or extensions of offline brands.
The pure online brands usually get the great majority of their traffic from search engines.
There is no question that they must emphasize SEO techniques to attract the maximum number of visitors, especially if they have little to no money to spend on promotions.
Brand Extensions are Much Different
he situation is quite a bit different for online brand extensions, such as the Web presence for a TV station or local business.
Over and over again, I have seen Web metrics for brand extensions showing two characteristics that stand out from the pure brands.
The first characteristic is a much higher level of direct traffic, meaning that people come to the site already knowing the name of it.
On a related note, these sites also tend to have a much higher return visit rate.
The second and more revealing characteristic is the list of top keywords used in search engines to reach the site. Nearly all of the top 10 keywords are related to the brand in question.
Let’s say the business is Joe’s Auto Body at JoesAutoBody.com. The top 10 keyword list might include the following:
- Joe’s Auto Body
That’s right, many people who know the actual URL of the site will enter it into the search engine box rather than the address window of their browsers.
More importantly, the top keywords for reaching the site are not generic, such as “auto body shop.”
It leads to an interesting problem. Should page titles, meta descriptions, anchor text and other methods be adjusted to match how visitors actually get to the site and use it? Or should they be modified to reach both those visitors and niche audiences that lie beyond them?
The answer of course is both. It’s just a challenge to find the right balance.
Brand Changes SEO and Site Structure
he simplest example of how online brand management can impact SEO is through the use of links on inside pages back to the home page.
I have been to many sites that do not have such links because of the belief that Google penalizes sites for having too many links back to home.
I’m not smart enough to claim that those sites are wrong for not having backlinks to home. But I will offer four reasons why sites should consider them even if there is a penalty:
If visitors first land on the home page and click inside, how do they get back to home again?
- Visitors landing on an inside page just might want to see more of the site.
- Visitors who see more of the site lower the bounce rate and increase pages per visit, ad inventory and ultimately the site revenue.
- Visitors with a better user experience are more likely to come back to the site and share it or follow it.
Are your visitors’ user experiences more important than what Google thinks of your site? Or is it the other way around?
Are Brand and SEO Mashable?
Some sites have perfectly good reasons to leave the home page link off inside pages if Google does penalize them and if their numbers back up such a decision.
It is understandable why SEO is so important for these sites and why they may not have time to devote to anything other than SEO.
But I believe brand should be an important consideration in any site’s marketing efforts, especially when online competition is becoming so much more intense.
The point could be made that the brand is often a keyword and therefore brand and SEO are mashable.
But it also can be dangerous to focus on brand keywords exclusively — which I have seen done many times — if the offline brand is declining.
It also ignores potential visitors who don’t know the brand at all and who would have found the site through generic keywords.
In the end, it’s all about results rather than opinions, so let the numbers decide the future course.
At least for brand extensions, some important results come from sacrificing pure SEO for the sake of brand.