Branding, Content & The New SEO Landscape

“Quality content is key to Google rankings.” – Matt Cutts, Google

People are often intimidated by SEO, probably because when you hear advice from experts they start tossing around a lot of ten dollar techie words. SEO can get technical for sure, which is what scares a lot small business owners away. Especially creative types.

Often times experts place too much emphasis on tricks and technical strategies when really,  good SEO is about people first. It’s about helping people who are looking for your services and information find what they need. It’s about creating valuable and informative content that attracts those people to your site.

Most small businesses don’t need to know and implement every possible SEO strategy out there or learn how to trick Google. In fact trying to game the system will get you black-listed.  For many creative business owners, delivering good content and taking care of a few small essentials will help you rank in the search engines and attract interested clients.

Create Good Content To Rank Well

SEO strategies have changed dramatically in 2012. SEO used to be more about keyword placement and link building.  This year there have been multiple Google Panda and Penguin algorithm updates the devalue over-optimization and link spam. Search engines are getting smarter, more personalized and more social.

Technical parts of your website are still important for SEO, like proper coding and speed. Google however is now favoring quality content and relevance which gives good content creators an advantage.

This is great news for small businesses especially those who are creating consistent and quality content.

Many sites who have been using out-dated techniques saw a sharp drop in their ratings and traffic to their sites dry up. Google’s algorithms changed overnight. Many businesses are unaware of those changes, and it will hurt them in the long run.

SEO is about having a unique brand identity, building relationships and creating great content.

How search engine rank is determined

Search engine rank is based on individual pages, not entire websites. If a web page is relevant to a particular keyword, the more likely it is to rank for it. The more ranking pages your website has the better. Keywords are the words or phrases that prospective visitors type into the search engine box. As mentioned above, the way Google determines keyword relevance has changed, and this is where branding comes into play.

Can’t I just type my website into Google to see where I rank?
Search engines take into account a lot of things for results that are displayed. For example, if you search for a local business, chances are it will rank higher for you than for users in another area. Search engines also take into account your previous searches, social media mentions by friends and other factors. True ranking can only be determined by using a search engine tool, and it’s why the results you see in the search engine may not correspond with those found by those tools.

This is why ranking number one should not be your number only goal. Ranking number one is not a guarantee that your pages will displayed in the search engine results since there are so many other factors that determine what gets displayed.

What is branding, and how does that fit in with SEO

It used to be that you could add some keywords in your content and your website pages could rank pretty well. Branding played very little part in the ranking process. As a result the web became saturated with spammy sites filled with keywords and very little quality information. Getting to the top of the search engine meant gimmicks and quality did not factor in at all to the search engine results.

The web is moving from being about generic information and more to relevancy and relationships. Social media has changed that and social signals are influenced largely by branding. The more brand awareness you build, the more engagement and social activity you have.

This is big part of how branding is becoming a factor in SEO and how it affects the signals Google uses to determine where you rank in the search results. Google wants to improve the quality of search results and branding eliminates a lot of the spammy tactics.

A brand is more than just a logo, colors and graphics. It’s an identity, an experience or idea manifested in your product or service. It’s how people talk and feel about your business. It’s about differentiating yourself and how you position yourself in the market.

In terms of SEO, a brand is about creating a clear and established identity, and being associated with a specific list of keyword terms that relate to that identity.

Building a strong brand identity means you own your space in the search results for your niche. If your business is fashion senior portraits, then you want your site to be the go to site for fashion senior portraits. Google will associate keywords with this site in order to deliver a relevant result.

No matter the size of your business, you can create a unique brand and good content, so that related searches will be associated with certain keywords.

Your brand should be something that people talk about. On the web that means commenting, sharing, Tweeting, Liking and Google +1.

Google looks for those signals and factors that into the results. In a nutshell, the search engines are getting smarter and more personalized. SEO is about building a unique brand identity, building relationships and creating great content.

About Nancy Nardi

Founder of HiFi Social Web, Co-Founder of Seniors Ignite, website maker and entrepreneur. I help photographers and entrepreneurs leverage the power of the web with WordPress.