Once upon a time, in the early days of internet marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) was the hot topic of the time. Fortunes were made by figuring out what it took to get your pages ranked near the top of the Google search results. If you had the magic touch and were able to get the right balance of keywords, domain names, and backlinks you were almost guaranteed a page one ranking, and with that all the income that came from the extra traffic your listing generated.
Then came the infamous “Google slap” and just as quickly as they were made, those fortunes were lost. To make a long story short, marketers finally realized that the search engine programmers were always going to be once step ahead of them. If they wanted to build successful online businesses, then building a brand had to take precedence over search engine optimization. That’s not to say that SEO is not important, because it is. But the way it’s done now has a lot more to do with how strong your brand is, more than how many times you can stuff your keywords into a blog post.
Why Building a Brand Wins Every Time
If I had to pick a winner between SEO and building a brand, for me the brand wins every time. Why? It’s a classic case of human versus machine, and I’m always going to go for the human to come out the winner.
Brand building focuses more on the relationship and value that you offer your clients and customers. There’s so much more to it than a logo and a tagline. The goal is to provide quality content, products and services on a consistent basis. In short, your brand is what makes you and your business unique. And no matter how you slice it, content created for the express purpose of ranking in a search engine is going to lack the human factor so necessary to building good relationships.
But the truth is, that both a strong brand and good SEO practices both play a role in building a successful business.
Let’s look at this in a little more detail…
Building a brand lets your customers get to know, like, and trust you.
When it comes to creating relationships with your clients and customers, “know, like, and trust” is the trifecta of marketing theory. And you can spout it all you want, but if you don’t have a brand that invites your customers in to get to know, like, and trust you, believe me when I say it’s not going to happen.
Your brand is the foundation on which the relationship is built. The general consensus among marketers is that when customers recognize a brand and associates it with positive experiences they’re more likely to buy from that business again.
Quality content is the first step in the process
Building a brand means your focus must be on creating quality content. This is the first step to building up the knowing and liking parts of the ‘know, like, and trust’ process. Visitors to your site expect to find well-written content that provides the information they were looking for when they clicked on a link to bring them to your page. Give them what they’re looking for and they will be more inclined to stick around, opt in to your mailing list, and even buy from you.
If, on the other hand, your site is full of keyword-stuffed articles with little personality, it’s pretty hard for someone to decide whether they like you or not. You’re not giving them any quality on which to make a confident decision to buy. Articles written specifically for SEO purposes are so focused on being keyword optimized that they sound fake, and that doesn’t present you in a very favorable light.
Even Google recognizes this and its algorithms now quality into account. It’s one of the major reasons that long-form “epic” blog posts are so popular these days.
Using social media to build your brand
One of the best ways to build your brand and engage with your audience is through social media. Being able to directly interact with the people you want to build relationships with takes the process out of the hands of the search engines such as Google. It still doesn’t give you complete control because even the larger social media sites, Facebook and Instagram in particular, still use algorithms to determine who sees your content. But if you’re taking the time to get to know and interact with your followers, you’ll have a much better chance at building a relationship on social media then you ever will from an anonymous search engine visitor.
The reality of internet marketing these days is that there is no clear winner. You can’t choose to build a brand OR do SEO. You have to do some combination of both. SEO is still important but it’s focused more now on on-page factors such as post titles and readability and less on how many times you’ve used your keywords, or how many unrelated backlinks you have.
Concentrate on building a brand and providing your audience with quality, informative content so that they have an opportunity to get to know you, your search engine rankings will take care of themselves.