Originally Published on Similar Web August 9, 2021(Jason Barnard)
Want to increase your search traffic exponentially?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about playing the long game. Getting results can take time (and requires keyword research tools). But beyond that, a few core elements are often overlooked that you can use to your advantage.
In this article, I’ll zero in on my favorite topic, brand SERPs and additionally three SEO focus areas that can help you drive more organic traffic and brand awareness.
1. Branded keywords: Don’t overlook the obvious
Are you optimizing for branded keywords? Do you know what shows up when people search for your branded terms? These sound like obvious questions, but all too often, brands forget about this important work.
When brand names are included in a search query, the searcher is thinking about a business or they may already be a customer.
They’re the most valuable audience you have since they’re already familiar with you.
Ranking for branded keywords for your company is a lighter lift than non-branded terms, which can be highly competitive.
Google wants to bring searchers what they’re looking for from the highest authority. You are the authority of your own brand. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any competition out there.
In the image below, you can see that Zara dominates traffic share for the branded term “zara” worldwide over the last three months.
Still, other websites like us.shein.com and buyma.com do appear on the organic search list. Smaller sites and competitors can strategically target branded keywords to win a greater audience, so tracking the market share of your branded keywords is crucial.
For the branded term “beyond meat,” on the other hand, the company only has around 51.58% of the traffic share.
Organic search competitors include en.wikipedia.org, fool.com, finance.yahoo.com, and msn.com. The competitors are primarily news and investing sites where visitors are likely going to learn about the company and its stock.
These are just two scenarios out of others that show it’s not a given that you will rank in first for your own branded keywords. If other authoritative sites are covering your brand, they could rank higher. You need to monitor brand keywords, and continuously optimize for them using best practices.
To rank for these terms, your content needs to:
- Create the best content for the searcher.
- Make sure it’s relevant, helpful, and valuable.
- Present it in the appropriate format, i.e., text, video, or image
- Make sure it’s optimized for mobile and desktop.
Remember: Your exact match brand name is the single most important branded term and the best place to start working on your branded terms. I’ll say it again for those skimming: Always start with your exact match brand name.
The audience searching for your exact match brand name are usually the most important people to your business: This audience is often interested in learning about your business or becoming a customer, or they already are.
Your brand SERP or the results page that comes up when someone searches the exact match brand term tells you a lot about where your SEO strategy stands. Brand SERP is important to monitor closely because it shows:
- How your brand is perceived online. Brand SERP reveals the way users see your brand when they search for the exact brand name. This can tell you what Google understands about your brand as well.
- The results of your digital content strategy. If your current brand messaging, brand voice, and best content is not appearing on brand SERP, it’s time for a content refresh.
The bottom line is that brand SERP is an important representation of your brand to your audience. It’s your “Google Business Card.”
2. Beyond blue links, rich elements matter
Blue links are the ‘traditional results Google shows – a blue-text title and description. Like this:
Traditionally, SEO focuses on blue links. This is understandable because, until a few years ago, a simple list of 10 blue links on Google’s SERP was what usually appeared on SERP.
Today, the traditional 10 blue links are the exception. Similarweb data shows that only 40% of non-branded search queries in the U.S. return a result that contains only blue links. For search queries that contain a brand name, that figure is 27.5%.
For exact match Brand SERPs in the U.S. that figure is 15% according to Kalicube.
What do we mean by rich element?
Anything that isn’t a blue link: video boxes, Twitter boxes, image boxes, knowledge panels, Google my business panels, people also ask, featured snippets, see results about, and the list is growing.
Remember that brand SERPs are a special case. Google shows the content it sees as the most closely related to a search query with the intent to interact with a specific brand. According to Kalicube data, 85% of the time that includes at least one rich element: a piece of content that is more than a simple title, description, and blue link.
In brand SERPs, there is an average of eight blue links, which might seem like a lot until you consider that there are 3 rich elements.
Think about how your eye is drawn to the content on the SERP that breaks up the monotony of the blue links and is more visually attractive: images, video boxes, Twitter boxes, knowledge panels.
They aren’t some kind of fun extra Google is adding on a whim: Three rich elements on a SERP will tend to dominate the user’s attention. Rich elements are growing more common on SERPs, grabbing more and more attention and attracting more and more clicks.
Creating content with these rich elements in mind is a great opportunity to rank on a Google SERP for branded and non-branded terms alike.
- Google is actively looking to promote this content
- Many brands, marketers, and SEOs focus so heavily on blue links, the competition is less fierce for SERP features and the race is easier to win.
But don’t shift all your attention to videos, images, and Twitter just yet! The content you create for blue links also serves many rich elements like featured snippets, knowledge panels, and especially people also ask. In fact, people also ask shows up well over 40% of the time on search results for both branded and non-branded terms.
Keep in mind, the format of your written content should be optimized with these in mind since these aspects of the SERP are driven by different algorithms and Google uses different criteria to judge the relevancy of your written content.
Branded searches – your testing ground
Branded searches and your brand SERP are great places to take your new ‘beyond blue links’ strategies for a test run and evaluate their effectiveness. These are relatively controlled environments, meaning you don’t need links, a super-fast webpage, or even the best UX to rank.
You are the authority and you should be ranking high in the blue links if your content is quality. You just need quality content that will trigger these rich elements, so this is a great controlled testing ground.
For example, if you create a series of videos with the aim to rank on a branded search, and those videos do not trigger video boxes (or worse, the pages where they appear does not rank, even in the blue links), then your videos missed their mark and won’t reach your audience. This is a great opportunity to test drive your video strategy before ramping it up to cover non-branded terms.
3. The power of third party websites
In SEO, many marketers and brands tend to focus uniquely on ranking for content on their own website. This approach misses the wider picture of the performance of your content on third-party sites such as YouTube, Twitter, sales outlets, media sites, and partner sites.
Publishing on third party websites is a necessary part of your digital marketing strategy and even your SEO strategy. Your site cannot live in isolation if you want to grow your audience and impress Google, both are looking to see you in multiple places in order to understand what you do and what you offer.
Looking beyond your owned website and thinking about your content within the context of your brand’s global digital ecosystem makes a lot of sense. It is the only way to build a sustainable long term digital strategy.
Even in the short to mid-term, the advantages are:
- Offers opportunities for audience interaction in more places – Being featured on third-party sites can make it easier for you to build a relationship with top funnel prospects.
- Moves your audience down the funnel naturally – This content provides multiple touchpoints and moves your audience naturally.
- Adds visibility on Google – This rented content can help you rank higher for branded, non-branded terms, blue links, and rich elements. For example, my guest article on Search Engine Journal ranks for multiple search terms and brings visibility and authority in the minds of my audience. Your video on YouTube probably ranks in Google’s SERPs, but you might not know it if you aren’t tracking it.
Bringing these strategies together
If you think about what Google is trying to achieve with your brand SERP, then it becomes clear that it is a great window into your entire digital ecosystem. What Google aims to show on your brand SERP is an overview of your brand that is helpful and valuable to your audience.
That makes it a great way for you to judge the success of or areas to improve on your SEO, content, and overall marketing strategies. It is also a great place to start when you want to improve them all from a global perspective.
Open an incognito window (for neutral results) and take a look at your brand SERP now.
- What do you see?
- What did you expect to see?
- What do you want to see?
Now look at pages two through five and ask yourself the same questions.
Your brand SERP (including pages two through five) should reflect your digital marketing strategy in a balanced way. If it doesn’t (and it almost certainly won’t), then you can start to work on improving those aspects of your strategy that are sub-optimal, underrepresented, or missing.
- If you are investing in video, and you don’t see videos (or see the wrong ones), then you need to rethink your strategy.
- If your Twitter account is active but you don’t have Twitter boxes (or worse, Twitter doesn’t even rank in the blue links), then you are not engaging your audience and your approach needs a rethink.
- If you are actively looking for reviews on specific platforms, but they are outranked by other platforms, then you are probably focusing on the wrong places.
- If you read the text on page number one your brand SERP from top to bottom and it doesn’t project the brand message you have crafted on your site and other platforms, then ask yourself if your message is consistent and look at how and where you are pushing that message.
The list goes on and on. At first sight, a brand SERP looks easy to understand and simple to manage. Ultimately, Brand SERP gives you a window into the impact of your overall digital strategy.
When executed with precision, the strategies outlined above will naturally draw your targeted audience down the funnel to the very bottom where they search your exact match brand name and start to interact with your brand SERP on a regular basis.