The Importance Of Brand And Networking

SEO used to be about tweaking code, but these days, it has more in common with traditional PR and marketing.

Those who command the most attention also get great rankings, no matter how sloppy their code, and they don't need to beg for links.

Google's Eric Schmidt recently indicated that Google may be looking to brand metrics as a means of determining search quality. That's not to say merely having any old brand will mean you rank highly, but the brand building process has synergies with the metrics Google uses to rank sites.

Let's take a look at a few ideas on how to turn this to your advantage.

Carve Out A Niche

When you start a site, you don't have much in the way of leverage. You don't have an established reputation, which can make it difficult to get attention and get links.

One effective way to get attention quickly is to carve out an existing niche.

Let me give you an example. Copyblogger is, as the name suggests, a copy writing blog. Copyblogger competes in the "blogging-about-blogging" niche, which is pretty crowded.

However, by focusing on one aspect - copy writing - and going deep, the writer received a lot of attention, and links, from the established blogs in that space because he wasn't seen as direct competition. Rather, he offered a complementary service.

If you're entering a crowded niche with a new site, this might be a good approach to take.

Personal Networking And How To Tie It Into Your Brand

SEOs talk a lot about PR as in page rank, but sometimes overlook the value of PR, as in "personal relationships".

One advantage the little guy has against the big companies is the cult of personality. A brand tied into a personality is very difficult to counter, no matter how much money the competition throws at it, because personalities are unique.

Building up a personal network makes it easier to get links, because it's easy to talk about you if people already know you. There are the obvious things you can do to build you network, such as attending , or talking at, meetings and conferences, and spending time where your potential audience hangs out on the web. The aim is make your name synonymous with your niche, and it also helps if you have a brand that contains keyword elements.

People will naturally use your keyword terms when they speak about you, both in links, and in context.

For example, when Aaron started, the search book market was pretty crowded, and very few people searched on the term "seo book".

Now, a lot of people use that search term - as both a brand search and a description - and associate it with the name Aaron Wall. Aaron pretty much owns that term for as long as he wants it.

This doesn't happen overnight, of course. Aaron did a lot of work building up the site, speaking at conferences, building a personal network, of people who would link to him and help spread the word. The pay off is that Aaron has become synonymous with the term "SEO book", and a wealth of related terms.

To see how this is happening more overtly now than in the past, check out Big Brands? Google Brand Promotion: New Search Engine Rankings Place Heavy Emphasis on Branding

Cult Of Personality

Once you've carved out your niche, and your personal brand, these effects start to snowball.

Not only will your rankings get better, you may well become a source for media. You might attain a level of celebrity in your niche. Oscar Wilde had a good quote, "the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about".

I suspect this is the direction Google will be heading. They will be using a lot more quality signals than links. They'll be looking at personal metrics, including social media metrics, like bookmarking. They'll be looking at the terms people use most when talking about a brand or person.

And if few people are mentioning that brand, it will become increasingly invisible in search engine results.

Published: April 14, 2009 by A Reader in marketing


JW – BayshoreBlogger
April 14, 2009 - 12:40pm

I agree with this whole post! Search is changing and branding is going to be come so important. I think this also help lead into how social becomes so important- Get out there let others understand who you are and be apart of the commmunity.

April 14, 2009 - 11:43pm


I love your blog - but the pop-up to subscribe is killing me, I'm already a member and it keeps interrupting my reading... There's gotta be a better way!

Keep writing!

April 15, 2009 - 12:04pm

Hi Dave
This is an issue we hope to fix soon. But for now, there is a link on the pop up that says "Don't ask me again" ... if you click that link (once on and once on you should not see that pop up anymore.

April 15, 2009 - 11:10am

it would be really cool and aspiring to see seobook's google analytics for the first 1-2 years - to see how it growed from a site that brings traffic by keywords to a website that brings traffic by its brand name and reputation and so on

April 15, 2009 - 12:04pm

Unfortunately I changed analytics programs many times and there is no easy way to go back to the start...when the site first started I wasn't even using any analytics tools on it (back in 2003).

April 15, 2009 - 2:31pm

The timing on this is perfect for one of my clients - I was trying to explain this, but should have known I could just wait for Peter or Aaron to put it more succinctly for me...and I love the Jim Jones reference - beware the kool-aid.

April 15, 2009 - 5:40pm

I understand why so many people want to read and learn SEO, and why this site has potential for popularity. However, as an affiliate marketer in old-school industries, I struggle to bring these concepts to fruition. It is hard to create interest in many dull and boring industries. Bankaholic had it quite easy actually because it addressed ongoing issues for consumers (saving/making money).

April 15, 2009 - 8:32pm

>>It is hard to create interest in many dull and boring industries.

Sure, especially when the product/service is generic.

However, people can and do use what I'd call "personality platforms" to affiliate market. Copyblogger, and many blogs, including this one, mention other products and services in their articles. These may not be affiliate recommendations, but they *could* be.

April 15, 2009 - 8:51pm

You get right to the core challenge of branding in today's crowded marketplace: go narrow or go home! Nearly every small biz entrepreneur reaches that point where their marketing starts to stagnate. The inclination seems to be to diversify when in fact the opposite is true. Narrow your focus so your audience can identify you with one image, one message, one strong brand.

Great post and thanks for the bonus non-SEO insights :)

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