We’re all aware of just how far SEO strategies have come over the past five or so years. It’s easy to note when you’re trying to improve organic search visibility, from core search algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda, to the continuous smaller search improvements Google regularly implements. Search has changed.
When I first started working as an SEO manager some years ago, I used to hit high keyword rankings just like everyone else. I implemented techniques and tricks that others had employed with great success.
You could say it was still the final era of the ‘Wild West’ of SEO. But even at the beginning of my career, I could sense that a shift was coming. Google’s algorithms got smarter, more successful at weeding out artificial manipulation, and better at nailing a user’s search intent.
Sure, it’s still not perfect. Practiced Black Hat SEO continues with varying degrees of success, however short lived they often are. Although, even the Black Hat community couldn’t deny the impact of a core update that hit Search hard in August 2018.
Dubbed the Google Medic Update by Search Engine Roundtable – due to having a greater impact on health-related sites and their keyword rankings –few could have anticipated what was to come as we rolled into 2019.
While it was common knowledge that Google consistently altered aspects of their search algorithm, I’ve never seen as many shifts and changes in SERPs as I have in the first half of this year.
It wasn’t just health sites that were affected; different industries and niches saw dramatic changes in organic visibility. The community was spinning to find answers, and thus the acronym of E-A-T was born: Expertise, Authority, Trust.
There’s certainly been SEO community debates on whether E-A-T is truly a ranking factor. For some pages it may be, for others, it may not be. Perhaps it’s an indirect ranking factor, but there’s enough debate in the community if indirect rankings factors exist as well!
So, shifts with Google searches, the Medic Update, and E-A-T… where am I leading with all of this? It’s simple! Your business’ “brand presence” has never been more important for successful organic search visibility than it is today.
How Google sees your brand authority WILL impact keyword rankings
Regardless of whether E-A-T is a direct ranking factor, I can tell you
– based on our own website case studies – that the dominance of your brand is a factor. What do I mean by dominance? I’m talking about how a Search user would feel when seeing your brand on the web.
Think about your brand for a moment. When it comes to your products or services, just how trustworthy and authoritative are you, and how do you stack up against your competition in these areas?
Does your brand have a presence on the web outside your website? Do you have social media channels set up? If you asked one of your target market demographics about your brand, have they ever heard of it?
Why do I keep harping on about branding? Because in many industries and niches, it’s only the big brands that are pushing to the top of search for competitive keywords. One only has to read some of the commentary from SEO Webmaster World Forums about once-successful smaller businesses being squeezed out of top organic results by their big, corporate competitors.
At Vuly Play, we’re not immune to this. We’ve traditionally ranked very well for our core products: trampolines.
However, since the ‘Medic’ update, and the confirmation of core algorithm updates from Google, we’ve started to see a change in Search results. Big business brands have been climbing individual product pages at an accelerated rate.
This was confusing at first. Our brand is synonymous with high-quality trampolines. Google had always seen us as the leading search result for the non-branded search term ‘trampolines’, and for good reason. Our extensive and legitimate link-building, plus efforts to provide useful information on our page and strong mobile experience, had kept us on top for a long time. And unlike those big brands, we had content purely about trampolines on our website… a lot of content.
These big brands also didn’t just offer items in our industry. They offered a diverse range of products, but we saw their category pages climb and ours fall.
That’s when I realized that there was more to SEO than just on-page optimization, link building and being technically sound. We needed to build our brand.
Combining Your Marketing Efforts for Branding Exercises
We had to get out of the mindset of treating SEO as a silo. All our digital channels had to start coordinating together to highlight our brand and what makes it special.
One challenge I knew that we had was that we had recently moved from the brand name “Vuly” to “Vuly Play”, to emphasis our new range of outdoor play equipment. The first step was ensuring as much of our branding was updated as possible to reflect this name change.
Next we looked at what SEO, social, and content marketing strategies we could combine in multiple campaigns to showcase our brand authority.
This exercise was less about generating leads or sales, and more about getting the word out that our brand carried the weight that it deserved. Authority and trust were the key mantras – getting it on the web to be found and crawled by Google was the objective.
It became a priority to get customers involved, with photo submissions and reviews. Responding to bad reviews and offering assistance as fast as possible was paramount, along with aligning all social channels and their messaging.
We also conducted extensive surveying to find out what information customers had trouble finding on our website, and fixed it.
SEO drove content opportunities, while also becoming more strategic, with link building opportunities for brand expertise.
As our regular competitors continued to lose organic visibility, we started match it with the bigger brands.
While it’s still early days, the current results look promising, and the benefits that we’ve seen outside of SEO have truly made the endeavor worthwhile.
The views included in this article are entirely the work and thoughts of the author, and may not always reflect the views and opinions of Regex SEO.