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Businesses use search engine optimization (SEO) because they want to improve their presence in web searches. However, it is true that for larger brands — and especially for national brands — SEO has little to do with what brands can appear on search results on the first page. SEO’s central value proposition can be misleading or at least misunderstood.
Knowledge panels, social accounts, Wikipedia, and job review entries are critical parts of your digital presence. Along with your website, these are the first things consumers, investors, and even journalists will see when they search for your brand.
However, despite their greater visibility on the web, they are not particularly affected by SEO, especially for direct brand searches. To understand why this would be, let’s take a look at the key components of your digital presence that SEO can help, and then delve into everything else.
Related: SEO isn’t just about link building. Don’t forget these expert strategies.
The big 3 of SEO
SEO has three main components: on-site, off-site and technical.
Website SEO covers all the copies and metadata of your website and is essential to improve the ranking of specific keywords. For example, if you’re selling handmade charcoal toothpaste, local SEO strategies will lead to the creation of content around search terms, such as “natural toothpaste,” “organic toothpaste,” and (I suppose) “old-fashioned tooth cleaners”.
External SEO takes all external actions (taken outside of your website) to get Google and other engines to see your website as trustworthy and authoritative. The most common off-site tactic is to create backlinks. Content creation can be part of this strategy because you want relevant sites (such as the Holistic Dentistry Center to follow the example above) to link to your pages.
Technical SEO involves improving the nuts and bolts of your website, which can help with search engine visibility and website functionality.
Off-site and SEO techniques are widely available for any search. The site’s SEO is focused on context and keywords. But for direct searches about your brand, these three strategies are less helpful than you think.
Related: Can SEO ruin your website forever?
Avoiding SEO blind spots
The information that appears immediately when people search for your brand is crucial to your reputation, as very few users will click on the second page of results.
So let’s think about the types of search results you see when you search for your brand name. Your company’s website should have the highest organic results; if not, you have an SEO problem.
But what comes next? If you’re a local business, you should see a Google My Business profile to the right of the organic results that includes photos, your website URL, Google Maps link, operating hours, and more. An SEO agency should advise you on how to claim and optimize this profile.
If you are a prominent national brand, however, search engines should see a Google Knowledge Panel instead of a My Business profile. Knowledge panels appear in search results for notable people, places, brands, and proper names. Google collects data for knowledge panels from many public sources, including Wikipedia. Side note: If your brand is prominent enough to be a Wikipedia article, your brand has a knowledge panel.
With the My Business profile, the most effective way to improve your knowledge panel is to claim it (using a verified account) and suggest changes directly to Google. You can also check for updates to your Wikipedia article, as the descriptive language at the top of the knowledge panel will be taken from the online encyclopedia.
Your social profiles will also appear on the first page of the search, both in the knowledge panel and as an organic entry. An SEO agency will recommend that you update these profiles to ensure that all relevant descriptive data is correct and consistent across all profiles (e.g., that you are using the same slogan, listing the appropriate website, etc.). It is up to you to use these channels effectively to promote your brand. Too often, the first page of brand search results will include links to social accounts that haven’t been updated in months, or that don’t reflect recent brand renewal.
SEO also won’t help you correct negative reviews or outdated information from Glassdoor and Indeed job sites. Both appear prominently in company search results and are frequently visited by job seekers, as well as journalists and investors.
Search engines for your brand will also see a large number of corporate profiles on Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance, Crunchbase, GitHub and many other sites. Some of these profiles can be updated directly by verified staff, and it’s a good idea to do this if you want your Google results to be accurate.
Related: 5 Common SEO Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Your digital presence is more than just your website (way more)
Again, SEO is essential for online marketing. I want to remind brands (and brand managers) that traditional SEO doesn’t cover everything, and that large and very vital parts of your digital presence are outside the realm of search engine optimization.
That’s why it’s important to regularly perform a full audit of your digital presence, starting with all of your brand name search results. It can be useful to compare your results with those of your competitors, you can see the effective measures that others are taking to improve their presence, and you can duplicate them yourself.
One thing is for sure: you can’t leave your digital presence to chance.