People often associate brands with money. And lots of it. Generally, if you try to run a branding campaign such as you see from big companies like Target, you certainly will have to fork over a big chunk of change. But we small business owners don’t have that kind of money. And from my examples in last week’s installment of this column, you might conclude that full-scale SEO or PPC is the only way to brand yourself online. But that’s just not true. As you will see, some SEO will come into play, but cheap and easy SEO will get you started on the path to brand recognition in search results.
Determine what you want to brand
Is it your company name, your products, your services, or even your personal name or online handle that is worth branding? If you’re a blogger, your name is definitely important. So is your blog name. If you’re a business, then your business name will be important, as might be your products if they are exclusively yours. The point is, you first need to determine what you have that needs to be branded. Now you have your starting place.
Do a little SEO
SEO is a great way to brand your products online. But this isn’t necessarily keyword-targeted SEO, the kind that tends to cost a fortune if you’re in a competitive industry. More to the point, we’re simply SEOing your business name. You want first and foremost for someone to find you when they search for your name. We also want to make sure that when someone sees your business name for any related search for which you can get ranked.
The easiest way to do this kind of branding is to edit your title tags to include your brand name. If it’s your company name, then put your company name first and foremost in your title tag. If you’re branding own name, put that there. The goal here is to make sure people see your company name, or whatever it is you’re branding, whenever your site comes up in the search result. Just as important, this will help ensure that when someone does a search for your branded name, you show up in the results. Sure, that’s not getting you branded with the industry related keywords, but nonetheless it can be effective. When people search, and continue to see your company name time after time, they’ll start to remember that.
You also need to pay attention to alternate spellings of whatever it is you’re branding. Someone might incorrectly search for your name, leave out or add a word, and so on. This is where SEO can be a bit more difficult and may require some creativity, as you don’t want to put your business name in your title tag incorrectly.
What you can do is look for opportunities to optimize for some of these variations. For example, I don’t just try to rank well for Pole Position Marketing, but I try for Pole Marketing or Position Marketing. It’s easy to leave out a word in a search and if I get my site to come up for these relatively non-difficult phrases, then I’ve increased my chances of being found. Alternatively, I can also try to come up in the results for a search for Pole Position, but that one will require a bit more creativity. And perhaps a few more dollars!
Buy cheap ads
Another thing you can do to brand yourself is to buy lots and lots of cheap ads through Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. You can do this for your name, products or even specific keyword searches. When going this route you’re not competing for top spot, or even for a lot of clicks. Instead, what you’re looking to appear on a search result page where you’ll be seen for as little money as possible. Don’t compete. Find keywords that have low click cost or more expensive keywords where you can rank further down the page. Again, the point here is just simply to get eyeballs to fall on your ad—and your brand name—not necessarily to get the searcher to click on your ad (though that would be a bonus).
This is also a great way to get visibility for incorrect or alternative spellings of your brand. If the variations are really offbeat then it will cost you next to nothing to put your ad up, even if it gets clicked. Another good option here is to just put ads up on tons and tons of low search volume keywords. These will get very little traffic, but gives you yet another opportunity to get your name in front of searchers’ eyeballs. Lots of little exposures can equal few big exposures.
I’m fully convinced that there isn’t a company in the world, regardless of size, that shouldn’t be working on branding itself in some way or another. Branding for your web site or company name is usually the easiest thing to do as most web sites inherently come to the top of the results for those types of searches. But taking it a bit further, expanding your reach can be significantly rewarding, even allowing you to be a little brand in a big commercial pond.
Stoney deGeyter is CEO of Pole Position Marketing. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.