Most search-engine optimizers focus on purely organic results, based around keywords related to your brand or industry. For example, if you’re a marketing agency, you probably spend time optimizing for phrases like “online marketing agency.”
The problem is, though, that by using such phrases, you're relying on search users who aren’t already aware of your specific brand and are merely searching for the products or services you offer.
But what about the users who already know your brand? You want those people to see results that favor your brand and influence higher click-through and conversion rates, right? As an example, if you search for my company’s name, AudienceBloom , you’ll see several key features to aim for in a branded search:
- A strong headline and description. The first thing you’ll note is the headline and description for the result, accurately and concisely describing the company.
- Expanded sitelinks. Next, you’ll see subsections in the search entry, with notable internal pages named.
- A Knowledge Graph entry. Off to the right, you’ll see a box with information like the company’s average rating, address and hours. This is from the Google Knowledge Graph and can be influenced, to some degree, by your on-site strategy.
- Other branded results. Below the main entry for the company’s site, you’ll see a number of peripheral results for its social media profiles and articles covering it.
All of these items are beneficial, because they provide more information to your users and present you as a greater authority in your industry.
With those features in mind as goals, here are some of the ways you can improve your overall branded search visibility:
1. Distinctions and variables
First, you’ll want to make sure your brand name is suitably mentioned throughout your site. It helps to link mentions of that name to your home page, and to ensure that at least one link in your site-wide navigation leads back to the homepage. Additionally, make sure to optimize your brand name and company description in your title tags and meta descriptions throughout the site.
2. Expanded site links
Everyone wants bigger, badder expanded site links in search results. Unfortunately, the entire process behind expanded sitelinks is automated, not to mention variable, based on user queries. All you can do is set up your site navigation as thoroughly as possible, making sure that you include your most important pages in it, and write descriptive titles and meta descriptions for each.
From there, it’s up to Google to decide whether it’s worth offering expanded site links for search queries of your brand name. The more branded search traffic your brand has, the more likely expanded sitelinks will appear, so engaging in a content-marketing strategy to grow your brand can help here.
3. Social media profiles
Your social media profiles have a high likelihood of showing up in your branded-search results. Accordingly, you’ll want to claim all your major social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, etc.) and fill in as much information on each of them as possible. Be sure to link to them from your website, and link from each of your social media profiles back to your website’s home page.
4. Knowledge Graph entries.
The Knowledge Graph pulls information in from a number of sources, but, most prominently, from your own website. You can tell Google which information is most relevant, and categorize that information (such as your hours of operation) using structured markup; you can find a good guide for this at Schema.org. You’ll also want to claim as many local citations as you can, through Yelp and other third-party directories, and optimize your company’s reviews -- more on that below, too.
5. Google reviews
Google reviews feature prominently in your Knowledge Graph entry (or in local results, depending on where you’re showing up), so you’ll need to make sure yours are in good shape. The quantity and quality of your earned reviews may help you earn a boost in organic search rankings, but more importantly, these factors will help branded searchers decide whether or not your company is worth doing business with.
Encourage your top customers to leave detailed reviews from their Google accounts, and do what you can to remedy any bad reviews that crop up. Before you can get reviews, you’ll need to set up and claim your profile on Google My Business, so if you haven’t done so already, do it now.
6. Branded articles
After your main site and social media profiles, there will still be room for other branded entries on page 1 of the search results. There’s a chance some negative or unwanted results could appear here, so whether you’re trying to suppress such results or just trying to prevent them from appearing in the future, you’ll want to fill this space as much as possible with positive results.
One of the best ways to do that is through branded articles, which you can publish off-site. These include press releases, interviews or any other opportunities you can imagine where you get to use your company’s brand name in the headline -- that’s absolutely key here.
7. Link to your most desirable results
Finally, build links to your favorite results -- the ones you want to boost to a position higher up the search results. Even results that are on page 2 or further down in the search results will get a boost as a result of more inbound links pointing to them. For help building links, see SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide. You may also wish to build more links pointing to your most important main navigation pages, increasing the chance they’ll be featured in your expanded sitelinks section.
With these strategies, you can practically guarantee that your online properties are the first to show up for any branded search, but more than that, you’ll make sure your brand makes the best impression possible for new and returning searchers. You’ll have more accurate descriptions, more plentiful information, higher click-through rates, higher conversion rates and fewer problems with online-reputation management. It’s a powerful approach that you can’t get any other way.