In the dense undergrowth of the Web, search engine marketing and optimization are far more effective and economical at drawing attention to your website and products than any other online marketing tool. Traditionally, most marketers have used SEO as a direct response mechanism to generate leads.
That may fast be changing. SEO and SEM, if used effectively, can be powerful brand-building tools as well.
Building brand recall through SEO
It’s clear that a vast majority of potential buyers of goods and services, search for relevant websites through search engines; and that searching is one of the most popular activities online. It’s also well known that most searchers don’t look beyond the first few result – pages. Now, let’s say, your company is the leader in the space that you operate in. If you don’t have a good SEO strategy, regardless of how good your products or services are, you are likely to lose out on several brand-building opportunities, to the exclusive benefit of your competitors.
Being prominently present on search engine result pages can significantly increase brand recall and your brand’s association with your products and services.
The online Indian demographic is young, savvy and flush with spending power. No brand builder can afford to ignore this market irrespective of whether you sell your goods online or offline.
Besides, consumers are increasingly going online to research and compare products before they buy even offline. And the tool they use to do this is a search engine. A user-friendly, information-packed, SEO-optimized site is the only way to get traction for your products among these users.
The brand building blocks of SEO
Many marketers in their desire to rank highly on search engines often compromise a brand’s message. While getting a higher rank is important, it is equally important how your site gets displayed on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
There are three components to a listing on an SERP. (1)The Page Title, (2) The Website Description and (3) The URL. Often, companies stuff their titles with keywords that actually communicate no brand message. Use each page title intelligently, because that is what is going to make a user click to your site and experience your brand more deeply if found on first few pages of the Search Result Pages.
Many sites do not fully use the potential of the description Meta tag under the impression that it does not have great SEO value. Always write a crisp and engaging description of your company or your website. It can draw a user into your site.
An often-ignored element is the URL that is displayed on SERPs. Sites that use automated publishing tools such as a CMS have URLs that are dynamically generated. These URLs are unintelligible to users as they contain a string of alphabets and special characters. Your URLs, as far as possible, must be self-explanatory. For example, if you are a maker of digital cameras, it’s better to have something like www.yoursite.com/digital-cameras/slrs.html rather than www.yoursite.com/?l=php-i22u& r=443385294014131&w=5
SEO can help you create a positive first impression on prospective customers, but you must also ensure that your web site delivers on the promise. A mistake many marketers make is to direct users to the homepage of the site (especially with pay-for-click campaigns). A best practice is to direct users to relevant section pages that are easy to navigate, uncluttered and packed with information that is relevant to a user’s query.
Tackling the flip side
While a good SEO strategy can help you attract Internet users to your Web site to experience your brand, it also particularly useful in times of crises. The online medium is all about buzz and compulsively viral. During a crisis, adverse or false information can spread rapidly and then be picked up by search engines. If you don’t have a good SEO strategy in place, it is likely that when users search for a brand, they may find sites or pages that dilute your brand. Search engine optimisation can help you get your message across to prospective customers and make your voice heard above the din.