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Learned: Don’t Fixate on Brand Names When Doing SEO

Sometimes I feel my real job title is Professional Bubble Burster. This week I had to burst the bubble of a company that wanted their Website to rank “number one in Google” for a particular phrase. Sounds like an innocent enough request, right?
So why was I compelled to give this company a mini-lecture on the realities of search engine optimization (SEO)? Because the phrase they wanted to be “number one in Google” for is so common (let’s pretend it was “box open” and the company makes boxes) that it already exists on over 65 million Web pages indexed by Google!

My first question to them was, “why do you care?” What was so special about this phrase that they wanted to invest a lot of time and money into SEO for? Turns out “box open” is the brand name of one of the company’s products.
Then I asked the company if they had any evidence to prove that their target market was actually searching for this brand name? Nope. Keep in mind we’re talking about “box open,” an arbitrary, two-word phrase that means almost nothing versus, for instance, a phrase like “cardboard boxes” (another pretend example) that means something to humans. And guess what, a way more specific and meaningful phrase like “cardboard boxes” exists on far fewer Web pages indexed by Google. If the company optimized for “cardboard boxes” they’d have a much greater chance of improving their ranking (not to mention their conversion rate, but that’s another discussion.)
I went on to explain to them that if lots of people were searching for their “box open” brand name, there would be a valid reason to optimize their Website for it. But if nobody is searching for “box open” (in terms of this company’s particular product) then, to be blunt, who cares! The people who were searching for “box open” certainly wouldn’t.
So, in order to avoid getting your bubble burst, remember this: Unless you have a really well known and frequently searched brand name, don’t make the brand name the main focus of your search engine optimization efforts. (I’m not saying you should ignore your brand name, but it probably shouldn’t be your main SEO focus of attention.) Instead, do your homework (or hire someone to do it for you) and optimize your Website for meaningful phrases that people are actually searching for.