Increasing company brand awareness — one of the main tasks for brand managers and marketers alike. It isn’t exactly an easy task, but it is a necessary one.
SEO has always played an important role in building a brand’s awareness. However, this role has changed significantly over the years. Gone are the days of the early internet, where digital marketers could simply flood their website’s landing pages with their brand name and top keywords to achieve high SERP rankings.
These days, you need a strategic SEO strategy — both for local and international visibility — in order to increase company brand awareness.
As technology has developed, search engine algorithms have gotten smarter, more complex, and much more user-focused. As of 2020, SEO marketing spend reached almost $80 billion in the US. And to top it off, brands are now competing with a global market in an extremely noisy space.
However, you can use SEO to lift your brand up over the others. How do we know? Because it’s already been done.
Let’s take a look at a great example: Hunter Branch, Founder and SEO Consultant at Rank Tree saw firsthand how much SEO can improve brand awareness:
“I’ve been working with one of my biggest clients, a writing coach, since 2017. When I started working with him, he already had incredible success as an author but he didn't get as much website traffic as you'd expect. He got about 20k organic visitors per month and most of that came from people searching his name and his books.
“Since he had just started transitioning into being an online writing coach, we decided to implement a full-blown SEO content strategy. Today, he gets an average of 140k organic visitors per month. That's great and all, but the key part is that he's now widely known as one of the top writing coaches online. Since he shows up in the top 3 organic results for some of the biggest writing-related keywords out there, aspiring writers flood his email list and want his guidance.”
Okay, so we now know that increasing a company’s brand awareness via SEO is achievable. The main question is how?
Well, we ventured out into the big, bad world of marketing to gather the best tips on using SEO to increase brand awareness. Here’s what the professionals had to say.
How to Use SEO to Build Brand Awareness
1. Use Link Building as a Strategy
We’re not going to lie, link building can be a pain in the you-know-what. However, we can’t deny the fact that the total number of referring domains linking to a page correlates with higher SERP — more so than any other factor.
And, of course, the higher you are in the search results, the higher your brand awareness will be for your target audience. Hence, using link building as part of your strategy is practically a given.
So, how do you get those highly coveted links?
Joyce Chou, a Content Marketing Strategist at Compose.ly, believes high-quality content is the answer.
“Some of our favorite pieces of content are comprehensive how-to guides and free downloadable templates (all gated). The high quality helps us land more successful links, whether through guest posting, email outreach, or even natural, unsolicited links. This, in turn, helps our search performance.”
Chou and her team contribute successfully securing major brands as customers to this exact technique. Well done, Compose.ly!
Another expert in the field, Chris Raulf — founder of Boulder SEO Marketing — has combined offline marketing with link building to increase brand awareness.
"I teach part of a Master’s degree in SEO and digital marketing for a University in Europe and I get invited to speak at conferences all over the world. All of these educational and speaking events continue to allow us to add interesting content to our website and the number of backlinks from relevant websites created is simply a nice side effect. All of these efforts have tremendously boosted our SEO results over the years and at the same time dramatically increased brand awareness."
2. Optimize Keyword Phrases to Increase Organic Search Traffic
"Organic visibility on Google is essential for reaching your coveted company brand awareness KPI and performance goals”, says Marilyn Wilkinson, a Copywriter and Digital Marketing Strategist at Full Stack Copywriter. “Otherwise you are just leaving the door open for your competitor to snap up customers searching for products in your space.”
Now, we don’t think it’s necessary to tell you how to optimize your content with keywords. Considering improving SEO and growing organic presence was the top priority for 61% of marketers in 2020, we presume you understand the basics. We’re just here to give you an extra push by showing how SEO can also benefit brand awareness.
Marilyn continues: “Ranking highly doesn’t just make it easier for potential customers to find you, it’s also a form of social proof and demonstrates credibility. This is especially important now, as with the fast adoption of voice search and smart devices, scrolling through a long list of search results is becoming a thing of the past.”
One thing we do recommend is placing more focus on your long-tail keywords, which boast a 3-5% higher click rate than generic searches.
Concerning this tip, Marilyn has something else to add, recommending all brands: “Evaluate and optimize for search intent, leverage structured data, and ensure your company is voice-search ready. Structured data is often under-estimated, but it’s essential for ‘rich snippets’ containing product images, reviews, and other details that make you stand out.
"Elements such as featured snippets, Knowledge Graphs, local packs, and People Also Ask have been shown to drive high click-through rates, which is fantastic for generating traffic and brand awareness with zero ad spend.”
“Targeting non-commercial keywords via SEO is a fantastic way to get on potential customer's radar long before they're ready to buy.”
Bonus Tip: Leverage Branded Search Terms
Another tip to consider for optimizing your keyword strategy is to focus on and analyze branded search terms, which are queries that include the name of your brand.
Consumers who use branded search terms are far more likely to purchase from your brand, as they are already aware of you. Plus, by increasing the volume of your branded search terms, you increase the overall power of your website.
The power and influence that your brand earns from large search volumes also allow you to work on increasing your SERP rankings for non-branded keywords. Essentially, you can spread the love (and ranking potential) from strong keywords and their associated landing pages to fledgling keywords.
Mini Case Study: Nike Golf
Nike Golf, Nike’s golfing brand, managed to leverage their SEO by strategically employing keyword phrases which resulted in a 169% increase in organic search traffic. The main challenge faced by Nike Golf was a lack of focused keywords to direct customers to their site.
Their SEO team used analytics to generate a report on keyword data and searched trends to see what exactly their customers were searching for and where they were located. With this data, they now had a keyword strategy and were ready to rebuild their website content accordingly.
The 169% increase in organic search traffic included both branded and non-branded search results. Not a bad result, eh?
3. Utilize Local SEO
Local SEO often gets a bad rep, as many multinational brands see it as a waste of time and resources — after all, they’re not a small mom-and-pop store with one location. However, local SEO doesn’t refer to only optimizing for one area, but instead to optimizing your content with precise locations in mind.
For example, say your brand operates all over North & South America — from NYC to San Paulo. Would it make sense to have one website that serviced all consumers in this situation? No, you need to localize your content — from language to visuals, you need to make sure your content is appropriate for your target audience.
According to SEO Roundtable, 46% of all search queries have local intent. What does this mean? People are searching for brands that fulfill their needs locally, and this is where geo-targeting comes in.
Geo-targeting is the process of delivering different content to different users based on their location. Someone located in LA who visits your website will have different needs than a user from San Salvador. Therefore, you need to have different versions of your website, with each version containing content created with that specific location in mind.
So what can you do to improve your local SEO? Well, many of the points here apply to improving your overall SEO — such as having a mobile-friendly website design, improving page speed, and optimizing alt tags.
However, you can also add local schema to your website, work on gathering backlinks from websites with influence in your location and niche, and ensure all your locations have an up-to-date Google My Business page.
Furthermore, you can work on generating local reviews, which will improve trust signals around your brand and encourage local consumers to give you a try. According to BrightLocal, online reviews have a huge impact on consumers’ opinions of local businesses — with 94% saying positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.
Ensuring that you provide localized content is also important, as it will attract the attention of users in that area. It will also let them know that your products and services were made with them in mind, creating a more inclusive brand image.
4. Integrate Other Channels with SEO
Organic traffic is necessary to success, but, unfortunately, it’s not as easy to grow in today’s overcrowded world of online marketing.
While it might require some extra effort to integrate your SEO with another marketing channel and you may need to spend money on paid campaigns to ensure your content is seen, the results are well worth it.
As an example, consider social media. SEO and social media are a match made in heaven when it comes to increasing your brand awareness and connecting with your target audience.
For one, social media content gets indexed. That’s right, search engine spiders also like to crawl and index social media posts. You just need to make sure that your posts are relevant, otherwise, that nifty indexing won’t happen.
However, if you’re going to use social media to influence SEO and, of course, your brand awareness, you need to be in it for the long run. Arek Ponski, Founder at TeamBuzz, told us:
“It is important to remember the indirect impact of social media on your search position and traffic. Publishing great content is one thing, but promoting it via social media channels is quite another, and a crucial one, too, if your marketing strategy is to remain coherent.
“Building a company’s authority and trust on social media, as well as reaching a wider audience there, helps bring more people to the content you publish on your site. Subsequently, it encourages other websites to link back to your articles supporting backlinks acquisition. This, in turn, boosts the SEO performance and increases brand awareness across all channels."
It’s not enough to simply post a piece of content and forget about it. You need to build a community on your social channels and be there for them when they need you. Sponsored posts and like/follower campaigns help a lot here.
As organic reach dwindles, you can redirect some of your marketing spend towards paid campaigns, where you can utilize target keywords and audiences to run your campaign content accordingly. Your posts will reach more consumers, making them aware of your brand and, in most cases, leading them directly to your website.
Lee Wilson, Head of Services at Vertical Leap, discusses combining SEO with PPC in more detail:
“Integrated working between SEO and PPC to reduce paid brand bidding and still maximize total brand visibility within the search engine results pages (SERPs) is one of the first things I like to experiment with when we are exploring brand exposure in this way.
“The tactic involves systematic and planned testing of increasing organic brand focus both on page and off-page, with the incremental reduction (on a keyword by keyword basis, or campaign level for larger accounts) of paid CPC.
“You will get to a pivot point whereby you can often increase the combined impressions and clicks for brand terms, decrease the paid spend, and therefore maximise the total return on advertising over both channels.
"As a side effect of this, you can frequently improve further (even with brand) the quality scores as well as the wider website impact on brand power.”
The main takeaway from this section? Post your content everywhere.
Glen Allsopp, founder of Detailed.com, agrees with the above-mentioned strategy, saying:
“One situation where I believe SEO can help massively help with branding indirectly is where you have content that covers your niche a mile wide.
“What I've noticed about people reporting about certain sites is that it just feels like they're ‘everywhere’, because you always see them in the top 10 no matter what you're looking for help with (or information about) in a particular space.
“So even if you don't click on the site the first or second time you see them, the fact that you keep seeing them almost adds to the trust factor in a way. And if you finally click and enjoy what you see, that relationship can turn into actively seeking them out for future searches.
“Here's a good example of what I mean:"
I'd have thought it would be the other way around.— Mark Rofe 🎄 (@iamrofe) December 30, 2019
Whenever I Google tech SEO stuff, I tend to always see @screamingfrog and @DeepCrawl ranking for stuff.
Feel like personal blogs have been moving to platforms like medium.
"There are thousands of SEO blogs, but he clearly remembers seeing two sites over and over again.”
5. Concentrate on Top-of-the-Funnel Content
Optimized content gets more traffic and leads, it’s just a fact.
We’ve already discussed using long-tail keywords, but most importantly, your content needs to be fresh and high-quality. Additionally, it needs to be the right type of content — the kind that your target audience is looking for at the awareness stage.
We asked Steven van Vessum, VP of Community at ContentKing, how he uses SEO to increase brand awareness and his immediate answer was “creating top-of-the-funnel content”, i.e., the content people are looking for in the early stages of their customer journey.
“Imagine you are a digital nomad in the market for a new backpack. You’ll likely start searching using queries like ‘rucksack for traveler’ or ‘rucksack for traveling’. Now, if I was a rucksack brand trying to catch your attention, I’d produce a top-of-the-funnel comparison page that describes the pros and cons of various rucksacks.
“This comparison page will provide a lot of value by helping build trust and credibility for your brand. You, as a customer, are then more likely to make a purchase on my site when you’ve made up your mind about which rucksack to buy.”
Davor Bomeštar, CEO at Fortis Agency further supports this point and explains why top-of-the-funnel content is important in the awareness stage:
“Top-of-the-funnel content has one main goal, to move people further down the funnel so they become leads and eventually customers. Just make sure content covers topics that are of interest to your target audience.”
If you’re lucky, you already have some content on your website that can be repurposed and updated to reach your target audience in their awareness stage. However, don’t forget to remove content that’s no longer relevant. You don’t want to ruin your hard work or your reputation by providing off-putting, out-of-date content.
Content strategist at Bid4Papers.com, Lesley Vos, gave us some tips on how you can update old content to help reach your brand awareness goal:
“Consider updating after a page is 6-12 months old, has enough backlinks to compete, and matches search intent. There's no need to update posts that are in the SERP's top three. Your goal is the articles in the top 15, so they can still reach the first page of Google search.
"Updating is not only about renewing old information from the text. It would help if you repaired everything that's broken: outdated links, old-fashioned visuals, out-of-date statistics, poor grammar, etc. Make it longer, refresh the title, add a table of contents to compete for Google's featured snippets... And remember to update the publishing date, too: both users and search engines will hardly care about something from 2015."
6. Create the Right Type of Content for Your Audience
Look, you can create all the top-of-the-funnel content you like and use the very-best-ranking keywords in your text — but, if you don’t create the right type of content for your audience, there’s little to no chance of increasing your brand awareness.
Georgios Chasiotis, Managing Director at MINUTTIA, had a lot to say about this topic:
“SEO has traditionally been one of the best channels to drive consistent traffic, increase brand awareness and grow. What changes in SEO is the fact that we're shifting from a model that used to place keyword intent on top of most SEO-related activities, to a new one that's using search intent instead. Identifying search intent and satisfying it through valuable, actionable content—along with a seamless experience for the visitor—is the single most important thing right now.
“This is why search intent classification is imperative nowadays. If you consistently manage to satisfy search intent by adding value to your visitors' lives, you'll eventually be able to raise awareness for your products and services. Yes, there is also a technical side on all these, but let's not overcomplicate things.
“SEO isn't that difficult after all—and, it is (still) one of the best ways to spread the message about what your business does and how you can help people overcome their problems and pain points. PS. This is a great insight for all you B2Bers out there.”
Chasiotis continues, saying:
“Let’s use a simple (yet powerful) example. Ahrefs is an SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic through an extended set of really cool features. Part of Ahrefs’ Content & SEO strategy is to create content that a) has SEO potential, b) is useful for the user/ visitor and c) promotes the product in a beautiful and not sales-y way.
"If you visit Ahrefs’ Blog, you’ll see that most of their content pieces are created with those three principles in mind.
"Most of the content pieces published on their blog, are pieces that a) can—and most likely will—rank on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), b) add value to any Ahrefs user/ visitor by demonstrating examples and actionable tactics and c) raise awareness about the product itself, since the next thing a visitor who just learned how to do keyword research would like to do, is actually finding a tool that helps her do exactly that.
"This strategy is used by many other tech and SaaS companies operating in different industries. Companies like Venngage (infographic creator), LearnWorlds (course creation platform) and systeme.io (All in one Marketing Platform) use this strategy to raise awareness about their products and perform better organically.
"Thus, you can understand that it is all about finding what problems and pain points your users have, how they’re looking for it online, what kind of content they expect to consume based on the search queries they're using, and serving that content in the best possible way. This is how you’ll be able to raise awareness about your product, grow your search traffic and educate users on how to get the most out of your product at the same time.”
Bonus Point: Don’t Forget to Add Visual Content
Posts that use images attract 94% more views compared to those without images — that statistic should be enough to convince you to try the visual route. Thousands of companies are doing it already, and it works.
Digital Marketer Nigel Lindemann of Survey Anyplace explains that they started adding charts to their content and are reaping the rewards:
“In our article on CPL we calculated the average CPL per channel as well as per industry and put it into a bar chart with our branding on it. This generated both a lot of backlinks (awesome for SEO) and some outlets shared or reused the chart in their own content (awesome for brand awareness as it had our branding and it increased our authority in the niche).”
By taking some — if not all — of this article’s advice on board, it’s nearly guaranteed you’ll be able to increase your brand awareness. However, don’t assume that the same strategy will work time and time again.
Over time, you’ll need to adjust your approach to ensure you’re reaching your target audience — but first, you need to know your target audiences’ level of brand awareness. That’s where an advanced brand tracker comes in.
Brand tracking makes it possible to access critical insights into how your brand is performing with your most important target audiences. This information can then help you tailor your SEO strategy to your audience and increase your brand awareness. Sounds like a plan to us!
Updated by: Cory Schröder on 27.07.21