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Online Brand Marketing Can Outperform SEO

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Online branding

Website publishers often overlook online brand marketing as a tactic because search engine optimization is so effective.

It’s true that pure Web brands in particular may get up to 90 percent or more of their total traffic from organic search results.

It’s also true that Web sites with a strong offline brand can get more audience via direct traffic than SEO.

Over many years of working with local newspaper websites, I noted a fact that came up over and over again in analytic reports.

The single most popular keyword that brought visitors to a newspaper website was the newspaper’s name — not its website name, but the name of the print product. Visitors would enter the brand name in search engines to find the site in search results.

Even more telling, the top five and often most of the top 10 most popular keywords were brand related:

  1. The name of the newspaper
  2. “[City name] newspaper”
  3. Several popular variations on the newspaper name
  4. The newspaper website address

The last one seemed odd until it became clear that people go to a search engine and enter a Web address in the search engine box rather than the address field of the browser.

Either way, it showed the strength of the offline brand and the weakness of the online brand.

Branding and Response

Marketing is all about branding and response. In online advertising, branding comes in the form of banner ads and response in the form of contextual ads such as Google AdSense.

Banner ads emphasize visual impact, name recognition, product association or product benefit. Response ads emphasize highly relevant text links that focus heavily on clicks.

Search engine optimization is all about response and very little about branding. The major search engines show results entirely in brief text (unless the searcher goes into the separate images database).  They prove the necessity of images in online branding.

A complete online marketing strategy should incorporate both branding and response.

How does a site develop branding? Like everything else, it takes the right effort to get results.

  • Make the site logo large and attractive.
  • Run house ads with the site name and logo.
  • Put the site name in page titles and meta descriptions.
  • Incorporate it in anything offline.
  • Mention it in external online marketing.
  • Make the site name and logo prominent in social media accounts.

Target Audiences Build Brands

A site without an established offline brand is limited in using the list above, but it isn’t helpless.

It works well when the site targets a niche audience with a reason to come back, such as a local community site, an association site, etc.

Online brand marketing is much tougher when the site competes on a national or international scale.

Then it often becomes necessary to start spending a lot of money in both online and offline marketing.

Travel sites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Priceline come to mind.

Offline Brand Equity

A site that serves as an extension of an established online brand has the great benefit of being able to tap that brand’s equity.

If the offline brand is well established and reaches that targeted niche audience, it can and will generate more audience based on the brand than it will get from search engines.

Even better, return visits are high because effective brands are memorable.

Brands work online. Analytic reports show that it can be done.

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