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Why Brand Awareness Is The Fifth Pillar Of SEO

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While the traditional SEO techniques work on non-branded search, they are ineffective on branded search. Learn how to grow branded search by embracing brand awareness as the fifth SEO pillar.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a marketing practice for increasing a website’s organic traffic through search engines.

It consists of techniques in four key areas: keyword and content, technical SEO, on-site SEO, and off-site SEO.

These four areas are typically considered the four pillars of SEO. They work together to help a website rank well on search engines.

However, even as extensive as these four pillars are, an SEO strategy isn’t complete if it ignores brand awareness.

In this article, you’ll learn why SEO marketers should consider brand awareness as the fifth pillar of SEO.

The First Four Pillars Of SEO

Before we look into the fifth pillar, let’s review the first four pillars of SEO:

Keyword And Content

Content rules – and keywords are the foundation of search.

A good piece of keyword-optimized content is the building block of an SEO strategy.

Technical SEO

Great content is insufficient if the website hosting doesn’t have a sound technical foundation.

Technical SEO covers areas like indexability and performance of the website.

It ensures a website loads its pages fast, and search engines can easily crawl the content.

Notably, Google has developed a set of metrics called Core Web Vitals to measure a web page’s technical performance and usability.

On-Site SEO

This pillar helps search engines understand the page’s content by creating a better website structure and its pages.

Site navigation hierarchy, schema markup, page titles, meta descriptions, heading tags, and image alt text are tools to create an easy-to-understand website and page structure for search engine crawlers and visitors.

Off-Site SEO

Having great content and a great website is just the beginning.

A website can’t rank well on search engines if it lacks authority and doesn’t garner trust in its subject domain.

From the onset, Google uses the amount and quality of backlinks as an indicator to evaluate a website’s authority.

Nevertheless, even as far-reaching as these four areas appear in creating a search-optimized website, they can only help drive part of your website’s search traffic, i.e., the type of traffic coming from non-branded searches.

Non-Branded Vs. Branded Searches

What are non-branded searches, and how are they different from branded searches?

Branded Queries

They contain branded names in the search terms.

If you’re Apple Inc., the search term “apple” is a branded term.

Yes, Google knows you’re looking for the company founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak rather than the fruit. Moreover, “iPhone,” ‘iPad,” and “MacBook” are also branded terms.

Branded searches are conducted by people looking for information, especially about your brand or products.

Non-Branded Queries

On the other hand, non-branded queries don’t contain any branded name in the search terms. Again, for Apple Inc., “laptop,” “smartphone,” and “tablet” are non-branded terms related to its products.

Non-branded searches are from people who may not know about your brand or products but are looking for information about the type of products or solutions you offer.

With this in mind, for a brand as strong as Apple, you may think its search traffic is largely from branded searches. And, for the most part, you’d be correct.

According to Semrush, more than half of search traffic to Apple’s website comes from branded searches.

Why Is Branded Search Important?

Branded search traffic not only reflects the level of interest of a specific brand, but also has higher commercial intent and a higher conversion rate.

Generally speaking, non-branded search traffic feeds the upper part of the marketing funnel, and branded search traffic feeds the lower part of the funnel.

A brand needs to grow both types of traffic to maintain a healthy and growing business.

A diagram illustrating non-branded and branded traffic representing different part of the marketing funnelImage created by author, August 2022

That said, most businesses don’t have the level of brand recognition like Apple’s.

What can marketers do to drive branded search traffic to a website?

Different Traffic Drivers For Non-Branded And Branded Searches

As illustrated by the formula below, search traffic is driven by two factors: keyword search volume and clickthrough rate (CTR) on the search engine results page (SERP).

A website with high aggregated keyword search volume and clickthrough rate will have high search traffic.

Search traffic = Keyword search volume * Clickthrough rate

Wait a minute! Where does keyword ranking fit into the equation?

Keyword ranking is, in fact, a critical factor in determining the clickthrough rate.

The higher your keywords rank, the higher the clickthrough rate you get.

According to Advanced Web Ranking, position #1 on Google can have a 38% CTR. CTR drops to about 5% on position #5 and stays around 1% or below after position #10.

Bearing that in mind, how do the four pillars of SEO contribute to a website’s search traffic?

They help a website increase its search traffic in two ways:

  • Maximizing the aggregated keyword search volume through keyword research and targeting.
  • Improving keyword ranking to achieve a higher SERP clickthrough rate through valuable and keyword-optimized content, technical SEO, and on-site and off-site optimization.

Nevertheless, the problem is that these SEO techniques work on mostly non-branded searches only.

They have limited effect on branded search, because branded search and non-branded search have different traffic drivers.

Non-Branded Traffic Driver

For non-branded search, a website can harvest a virtually unlimited amount of keywords and aggregated search volume.

The main lever of non-branded search traffic is improving your target keywords’ ranking to gain a higher clickthrough rate and capture a larger share of the search clicks.

Branded Traffic Driver

For branded search, assuming your website is already ranked No. 1 for your brand name (if not, you need to fix this problem first), ranking is generally not an issue.

As the brand owner, you always have an advantage on Google for your branded keywords.

The main lever of branded search traffic is simply increasing your branded keywords’ search volume.

However, the first four pillars of SEO have little effect on getting more people to search for your brand or your products.

As a result, they are ineffective on branded search.

How To Grow Brand Awareness & Branded Search

In short, branded search traffic results from a brand’s awareness and interest.

People wouldn’t search for your brand if they didn’t know or have any interest in your brand or your offerings.

To grow brand awareness and interest, you need to increase a brand’s visibility to its potential customers, develop authority, and garner trust for the brand.

Content marketing and the growth of non-branded search traffic could help increase brand awareness.

However, solely relying on people coming to your website to learn about your brand and offerings won’t take you very far.

To grow brand awareness at scale, marketers need to bring their brand to their potential customers. You can’t just wait for them to come to you.

Luckily, there are plenty of tools in the digital marketing arsenal to help marketers build brand awareness, including advertising, influencer marketing, customer marketing, and digital PR.

Advertising

At AdRoll, we classify advertising into two categories: retargeting and brand awareness campaigns.

As the names suggest, retargeting campaigns target people who have engaged with you (e.g., visited your website), and brand awareness campaigns target potential customers who have not yet interacted with you.

Marketers can choose from several targeting methods to bring your brand to potential customers.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting is one of the oldest advertising targeting methods.

Think of a hotel chain placing its ads in a travel magazine. A brand can place ads on websites or mobile apps with content relevant to its products or services.

A big difference between contextual targeting and other targeting methods is that contextual targeting doesn’t rely on personal or behavioral data about the target audience.

It’s a more privacy-friendly way for marketers to find and connect with their potential customers.

With regulators and technology companies looking at ways to improve consumer privacy protection, the importance of contextual targeting to advertisers is likely to increase.

Demographic And Interest Targeting

Demographic and interest targeting leverages your knowledge of existing customers to find new customers.

Suppose your customers fit into any specific demographic segment or are interested in certain activities or subjects. In that case, you can bring your brand to potential customers by running ads targeting people with similar demographic characteristics or interests.

Lookalike Targeting

Lookalike targeting is similar to demographic and interest targeting.

But, instead of manually defining the target audience segment based on a list of demographic or interest attributes – advertising platforms use machine learning technologies to find target audiences who look or behave similarly to the seed audience provided by marketers.

The seed audience is typically a subset of existing customers.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing covers a broad range of tactics for leveraging someone who influences your target customers to promote your brand and products.

Even before the digital age, it was common for big brands to hire famous athletes or celebrities to endorse their products. Think Michael Jordan and Nike in the ‘80s.

Today, “influencers ” are social media personalities who have built a following with a particular audience.

The vast number of influencers on social media also means influencer marketing is no longer a privilege available only to those brands with deep pockets.

Marketers can recruit influencers at very low or no cost by reaching out to those who have shown interest or already invested in the niche you serve, including your customers (more on that in the next section).

While many influencer marketing activities are in the B2C sector, it also works for B2B.

Customer Marketing

When you shop at an ecommerce marketplace, such as Amazon, you might look at the product reviews before making a purchase decision.

The number and rating of a product’s reviews are also ranking factors for product searches on Amazon.com.

The more people review a product and the higher the review rating, the more visibility and traffic a product gets.

The same logic applies even if Amazon may not be the channel for your business.

For B2B SaaS providers, customer reviews on G2, Trustpilot, etc., play the same role.

For direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, customer reviews and sharing on social media bring your brand and products to new customers and help establish trust for your brand.

Take Halfbikes.com as an example.

This D2C company from Bulgaria has a team of brand ambassadors – their customers – all around the world to promote its brand and product simply by sharing their experiences on social media.

Some of their customers even created YouTube channels dedicated to Halfbikes.

Digital PR

Among all the strategies driving brand awareness, digital PR is the one most directly related to SEO. In fact, it’s often considered “link building 2.0.”

The main difference between link building and digital PR is that link building focuses on acquiring links from other websites.

In contrast, digital PR focuses on bringing your brand to your target audiences through stories published in relevant and high-quality publications.

The types of stories vary depending on the industries and subjects.

Take Facebook’s name change to Meta. In that context, the topic of how consumers perceive the metaverse, for instance, could make an interesting story for B2C marketers.

Because well-known publications usually have very strict link policies, digital PR prioritizes brand visibility and reach, whereas link acquisition is a secondary goal.

Brand Awareness Is The Fifth Pillar Of SEO

One of the goals of a comprehensive marketing strategy should be to grow a brand’s awareness – just as a comprehensive SEO strategy should aim at growing both non-branded and branded searches.

While non-branded search traffic is driven by keyword ranking, branded search traffic is mostly driven by the search volume of the branded keywords.

The more people are aware of and interested in a brand, the higher branded search traffic a brand gets.

Given the different growth drivers of branded and non-branded searches, SEO professionals need to include brand awareness as a pillar of SEO.

If you are interested in original article by Wilson Lau you can find it here

seo-tips-for-graphic-designers

How SEO & Graphic Design Can Become A Dream Team

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Despite natural friction, SEO and graphic design go together. Here’s how to reconcile differences and tips on how to compromise

SEO pros and graphic designers don’t always see eye to eye – and that’s a shame.

Modern graphic designers often prefer clean designs with lots of white space, whereas SEO professionals are less concerned about the latter.

Generally speaking, SEO pros want content wherever we can get it.

After all, if the keyword or keyword phrase doesn’t appear on the page, the page won’t appear high in the search engine results.

Anyone who has worked on a website project knows that disagreements between SEO pros and graphic designers won’t be solved by designers specific design methodologies or SEO experts pointing to unconfirmed statistics.

I’m not a graphic designer, but, having worked closely with designers for over 20 years, I know a few tricks to help SEO experts and designers get what they want.

Below are some of the best tricks I’ve learned throughout my career.

Everything Doesn’t Have To Be Above The Fold

When it comes to content, I’ve found that both SEO professionals and designers tend to agree: The most crucial text and the copy must be at the top of a page.

Google tells us this as well.

The page is about what the page is about – and it’s up to the website’s author to discern the essence of the page and communicate that to the intended audience.

And when it comes to websites, both SEO pros and designers need to keep the intended audience top of mind.

SEO pros need to remember that the intended audience is not Googlebot. In contrast, designers need to remember that the intended audience is not an art professor, nor is it the person approving the final design – well, to a point.

Typically, designers’ work must be reviewed and approved by somebody who oversees the site.

If an SEO pro wants to place content somewhere that looks off, this could delay approval of the overall design – and thus, designers might push back on the request.

I’ve found that good designers who are willing to compromise can typically incorporate changes to a design that works for the client, the designer, and the SEO pro.

At the end of the day, the look and feel of a site are extremely important for it to be successful.

But if you spend time and money building a beautiful site, you want to make sure people are visiting it.

So, designers and SEO experts should work closely to strike the right balance.

SEO pros can advise on the proper structure to get visitors to your site, and designers can make sure you’re not sending traffic to a site that doesn’t mesh well with its intended audience.

All the traffic in the world won’t make a difference if those visitors don’t take the desired action.

Break Up Copy
While both designers and site visitors might find giant blocks of text ugly and intimidating, SEO pros often love them.

We want pixels and pixels of text that the search engine spiders can feed on, to their heart’s content.

In my opinion, SEO pros are typically wrong when it comes to the pagination of copy.

As SEO experts, our job is to make sure that the content written for each page shows expertise, authority, and trust (E-A-T).

While the way the words are placed on the page does contribute somewhat to a page’s E-A-T, pagination is not the defining factor of E-A-T.

In fact, if we are being honest, E-A-T is more a concept than a hard and fast rule.

Most SEO pros know what E-A-T is when they see it, but defining it can be a daunting task.

But, once the research is complete and the copy is written, it’s time to trust the designer to do their job.

SEO pros can insist that the copy be present, but dictating text placement is akin to telling the pilot how to fly a plane just because you are a Platinum mileage traveler.

As long as it’s placed in a way that makes sense, our job is done.

Here are some tips I’ve found for breaking up copy without interfering with traditional designer duties:

  • Break up text with bulleted and numbered lists. Bulleted lists are excellent vehicles for topics and keyword phrases. And, they can break up a wall of text to make it less daunting for the end user.
  • Pull quotes are your friend. Pull quotes break up the page and can also emphasize key points to end users and search engine robots.
  • Use image captions. I’m an old newspaper editor, so I believe every image should have a caption – though many people don’t use captions for their images anymore. Captions are also great for additional keyword and keyword phrase placement. And no, ALT Text is not the same as forward-facing captions.

Compromise On Fonts And Images

Some SEO experts sometimes act like the Maverick in “Top Gun”: We feel the need for speed.

Designers don’t always share, or fully understand, our obsession with how fast a site loads.

But, they can save themselves a ton of time, headache, and argument by using Web-native fonts.

Designers should work to optimize images so they load quickly – and if they can’t get them fast enough, they may need to be loaded via a content delivery network (CDN).

Designers should use animation sparingly, as it typically can’t be read by search engines and distracts end users. The same can be said for excessive videos.

But, SEO pros must remember that a score of 100 on the Google Page Speed tool isn’t necessary (anything above 90 is just an ego boost).

In Conclusion

SEO pros and site designers must work together to create websites that delight their intended audience.

Any organization that doesn’t have both an SEO expert and a graphic designer on the marketing team is most likely missing opportunities.

But, if they work together, the natural friction between SEO pros and designers can create some pretty brilliant diamonds.

If you are interested in original article by Tony Wright you can find it here

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5 Ways To Check If Google Analytics Is Working

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Not sure if your Google Analytics is working properly on site? Follow these 5 steps to audit and identify common tracking issues.

Google Analytics is a marketer’s lifeline in understanding performance and making decisions based on website or app usage data.

In my decade-plus of working with clients, around half of the new clients I work with don’t have GA (Google Analytics) configured properly.

Typical issues stem from duplicate tag implementation, tag manager setup, cross-domain tracking and so much more.

Whether you are launching a new site, redesigning an old one, or merging multiple websites, here are five ways to ways to check whether Google Analytics is working.

1. Conduct A Google Analytics Tracking Audit

One of the first steps to take in this process is developing clear documentation of:

  • What are the accounts, properties, and views that your Google Analytics needs to flow into?
  • What GA tracking tags need to be used on all pages? Do certain GA tags need to be used for certain parts of the site (i.e., blog, microsite, internal knowledge base section)?
  • How are the tags deployed across the site? Through manual insertion within global CMS modules or through a 3rd party tag manager?
  • What events (i.e., button clicks or form submissions) are tracked on site that need accurate tracking?

Going through this exercise allows us to identify the pages where the Google Analytics tracking code is firing vs. not being there at all.

Screaming Frog and other crawling tools allow us to identify these issues at scale.

Here are the steps to take in Screaming Frog to run this type of crawl to identify which pages of your site that Google Analytics tracking code may be missing from:

Step 1: Click on Configuration > Custom > Search.

screaming frog for google analytics checkScreenshot from Screaming Frog, July 2022

Step 2: Depending on if you are running Google Analytics tracking through tag manager or through direct script insertion, you’ll add in the unique identifier from the respective system (e.g. GTM-######, UA-#########-#, G-##########) here so that Screaming Frog will spider all sub-domains on-site to see where it is unable to find that identifier within the source code.

Screaming Frog Step 2Screenshot from Screaming Frog, July 2022

Step 3: Put in your domain and click start.

This will crawl sub-domains on your site that are linked from your root URL.

If you do have micro-sites that are not linked from your main site, then Screaming Frog likely won’t crawl those pages.

Screaming Frog Step 3Screenshot from Screaming Frog, July 2022

The outcome of this crawl will show you the percentage of pages on site that don’t have your tracking code on it.

Screaming Frog Step 4Screenshot from Screaming Frog, July 2022

2. Identify Duplicate Tracking Code Using The GTM/GA Debug Tool In Chrome

One common mistake marketers make is inadvertently deploying tracking code across the site multiple times.

It often happens during CMS (content management system) migrations, domain consolidations, or redesigns due to a lack of documentation of existing legacy analytics requirements.

The GTM/GA debug chrome browser tool allows us to quickly see the GA and GTM tags that fire on a page as we navigate from page to page.

Here is how you can use the GTM/GA debug tool to see if there is a duplicative tracking code.

GTM GA Inspection ToolScreenshot from GTM/GA testing tool, July 2022

As you test this on your site, make sure that you are only seeing a single pageview from a single GA account that fires when you go to each page.

If you are seeing multiple pageviews fire when you load a single page, you’ll know that you are at least double-counting analytics data and likely throwing off all the other metrics you’re tracking in GA.

3. Explore Real-time Google Analytics Reporting To See If Page Views Are Firing

With Google Analytics’ real-time view, you can run tests on your site to determine how many people are on there this very second.

If you’re unsure of whether your Google Analytics code is working properly, go to GA’s main page.

Click on Realtime in the left navigation and browse through the location and content reports to test tracking on different sections of your site.

Given tracking issues tend to happen when going to specific sub-domains or going across domains, use GA’s real-time reporting functionality to see if you can identify your individual user activity on site.

Real-Time Google AnalyticsScreenshot from Google Analytics, July 2022

4. Investigate Google Tag Manager

Tag managers allow marketers to manage the firing of all their tracking scripts from one place.

One of the biggest benefits of using a tag manager is that if your tag management code is placed on every page on your site, then you can easily insert tracking scripts without the need to constantly bring in IT or a developer.

Google Tag Manager is the most common solution and is a free tool for all webmasters.

Another issue that marketers often face happens when they are using a combination of a tag management system in addition to manually inserting scripts onto individual pages or sections on site.

This is common because tag management systems are often introduced after a site has been implementing tags manually for some period.

This creates redundancy in tracking scripts and requires a thorough audit to move everything to a single, organized tag management system.

If you are using Google Tag Manager, here are the steps to “preview” which scripts are firing on your site.

Step 1: Log in to Google Tag Manager and click on Preview.

Google Tag Manager PreviewScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, July 2022

Step 2: Type in the page on the site you’d like to test.

Google Tag Manager Preview SubmitScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, July 2022

Step 3: See which tags are and are not firing on that specific URL.

See which tags are and are not firing on that specific URLScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, July 2022

Within this “preview” mode, Google can also track scrolling and clicks.

So, if you are looking to use event tracking on button clicks, then this will allow you to see if clicks are triggering event tracking scripts on site.

5. Use Chrome Developer Tools To Identify Scripts Firing In Your Browser

Chrome developer tools allow us to gather information in a linear visualization around the different content that is loading on a page.

To see if Google Analytics is firing on your page, go to any page on your site in your Chrome Browser and right-click.

Click on Inspect.

Then go to the Network tab.

Chrome Inspect ElementScreenshot from Chrome Inspect Element, July 2022

Hit refresh on your browser and watch to see the different content and scripts loading on the page.

From here, type in “collect” or “gtm” in the search bar to see if the Google Analytics code has been fired.

Chrome Inspect ElementScreenshot from Chrome Inspect Element, July 2022

This also gives you a second chance to make sure that the Google Analytics tracking code is only loading once (similar to number 3).

An Additional Consideration Related To GDPR, Tracking Privacy, And CMSs

In certain CMSs and tag management systems, there is the ability to configure tracking based on local privacy laws like the GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation) or CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act).

If you are experiencing tracking issues, you’ll need to explore how the opt-in/out functionality may be impacting pageview, event, and conversion tracking data.

There are several tools you can use to diagnose GA tracking issues on site.

As a marketer, your biggest opportunity is to get comfortable in Chrome developer tools, tag management systems, and crawling tools to make sure that you can audit tracking codes based on your organization’s goals.

If you are interested in original article by Paul Schmidt you can find it here

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google-blank-page

Google: Don’t Publish Empty Or Blank Pages

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An SEO asked Google’s John Mueller if it is okay or even a good idea to publish blank or empty pages so Google can find those URLs? John Mueller said no, don’t publish empty pages to the web.

The question was “is it a good idea to make a website live even if there is no content on some pages?” I am trying to think why this would be considered a good idea? I am thinking maybe he wants to jump start indexing by feeding Google a URL, even though that page has no content? I mean, that probably will backfire being that if Google sees not content, Google might decide not to check that page again for a while (even classify it as duplicate).

John Mueller of Google responded on Twitter saying “Just make the pages live that have content? It would be annoying as a user to get promised while browsing your site and just not get it. Build it out when you have time, but don’t just publish empty pages.”

So no, don’t publish empty pages as an SEO strategy or any type of strategy…

If you are interested in original article by Barry Schwartz you can find it here

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Google testing new featured snippet layouts

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If Google begins to show two or more featured snippets, that can impact your CTR and conversions from Google Search.

Google has recently been testing new formats, layouts and interfaces for its featured snippet slot in the search results. Generally, Google shows a single source for a featured snippet but since 2018 Google has occasionally shown multifaceted featured snippets for some queries.

Many featured snippets. Google is testing showing many featured snippets, more than one, more than two – but up to four different featured snippets. Here are some tests spotted by William Alvarez on Twitter and Brodie Clark on Twitter – showing this in action.

Card Style Google Featured Snippets
Block and list view Google Featured Snippets

Why we care. Generally, Google will show a single site or source for a featured snippet. But when Google begins to show two or more sources in the featured snippet position – the “position zero” location – that can change how valuable that position is for site owners and SEOs.

These interface tests are worth keeping an eye on because the featured snippet position is one that is generally sought after to achieve by most SEOs and site owners. Changing the design, showing more than one featured snippet, can all impact your click through rate on that position and ultimately your traffic and conversions driven from Google Search.

If you are interested in original article by Barry Schwartz you can find it here

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Google Hints Useful Nofollow Links Won’t Pass Much Or Any Weight

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Danny Sullivan from Google hinted the other day on Twitter that links that are nofollowed, even if they are useful links, are unlikely to pass much weight or any weight at all. In short, despite Google changing how they see the nofollow attribute in 2019, links with the nofollow attribute on them are probably not worth much of anything in terms of SEO.

Danny said on Twitter “In the past, as the post explains, we just wouldn’t use the links at all.” “The change meant we’d consider them if there was some usefulness to be found, though the hint means aren’t likely to give them as much, if any, weight,” he added.

Last we heard on this nofollow link attribute change, there was actually no change taken, no action was changed with this policy change. We’ve asked numerous times afterwards and still, I have not heard anything new.

I find this nofollow SEO discussion topics fascinating, specifically around what Google says about it and what SEOs believe about it. Don’t you?

If you are interested in original article by Barry Schwartz, you cna find it here

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