The new marketing presents many opportunities and challenges for brands to get in front of customers, but many of them have yet to use the web to its full marketing potential.
While social media has been getting most of the attention recently, and online advertising is used to some extent, most brands have sidestepped one area that’s said to provide the best ROI either due to not understanding how it works or it’s enormous potential.
Online branding is broken down to a few main segments – online advertising, search marketing, and social media.
Within search marketing you have the paid side, and the natural listings. For the latter, there is search engine optimization, or SEO, where a website displays in the search results when someone is searching for a particular phrase.
Ranking has its benefits. If someone is searching, its often perceived as being in ‘buying mode’, and the brands that shows on that first page stand a good chance of converting a visit to a sale.
And its big business too. Ranking in the top spots for a highly competitive phrases like “life insurance” could be worth an extra $50 to 100 million to a company.
Search is a big part of how people shop now, or do their homework. Even the Yellow Pages companies know this and a few of them started offering their own SEO services this year.
Some say that branding is about being perceived as synonymous with a category or phrase. This is often related to top of mind awareness and owning a category. It stands to reason that if your website shows on page one for key phrases, you’re positioning your brand online.
Not everyone has a brand preference for every category, and will often search in more generic terms or descriptors. This is where big brands often fail to effectively promote, and where online branding and SEO are being overlooked.
Many brands will use paid search marketing such as AdWords or other types of contextual advertising (aka PPC, or Pay Per Click) to retain part of the search market share. What they may not realize is that hardly 20% are clicking those paid ads, and they’re missing out on the bigger piece of the pie. Paid search can be turned on quick, but months down the road when SEO is starting to perform, it can offset PPC costs later.
When someone goes online to search for something, they typically do it in one of three ways. They’ll type the brand name, the brand plus product name (such as “nike michael jordan”), or the category they’re after (like “running shoes”).
For most brands, they’ll often rank for their own name. Most Internet users would know to simply visit nike.com if you’re looking for their products, but many still google (or bing) it. Last month over 1 million searched for “Nike” in Canada.
And there are literally hundreds of thousands of examples like this, possibly into the millions. From “Toronto hotel deal” to “home renovations”, big brands are leaving a lot of money on the table.
Is this an opportunity for the smaller brands to get ahead? Probably.
In a report by Marketing Sherpa, SEO was considered the strongest tactic in terms of return on marketing investment. This was especially true for product sites. Other tactics, mentioned in order were email lists, ppc, pr, and media buys respectively.
Although social media traffic is now responsible sending huge amounts of referrals to many sites, its very possible that its because they’re SEO efforts have either failed them or haven’t been properly tested.
All too often companies have inexperienced providers which sours them on SEO as they see little or no return. Even though it’s a process that often takes a commitment of 10-12 months or more, there should still be evidence of making advances along the way. And as mentioned, it’s also proven to offer the best return for online marketing when properly done.
Will online branding become part of your strategy?