If you’ve read my content before, you’ll know that I’m a strong proponent of SEO and content marketing. I believe them to be the most cost-efficient, long-term beneficial elements of any overarching marketing campaign, and on a fundamental level that makes them higher priorities than almost any other marketing strategy. Knowing that, it may come as a shock to know that there’s one marketing element far more important than SEO or content, because without it, your SEO and content campaigns will mean nothing: your brand.
More Than a Logo
When you think about a brand, you might think of a well-known example of successful branding, like Coca-Cola or Apple. Unfortunately, most people think narrowly about a brand, only in terms of its logo and signature colors. In reality, a brand is much more than that—it’s an identity, and a culmination of countless different factors that inform your actions and customer perceptions of your company. For example, Apple isn’t just a gray apple on a white background; it represents minimalism, individuality, futurism, trendiness, and even luxury.
Apple doesn’t directly tell us it’s any of these things. Instead, it uses these qualities as motivating influencers across all its marketing campaigns. SEO and content marketing are two of the greatest tools you have to exhibit your brand, but without a brand, your efforts may come up empty.
The Progenitor of Marketing
Branding only works in one direction. It informs your marketing channels, as a kind of blueprint for what’s acceptable for your company. It must remain consistent, or you’ll lose momentum. For this reason, your branding can inform your marketing campaigns, but your marketing campaigns can’t necessarily inform your brand (though you can adjust your brand gradually after establishing a reputation).
Because of this, and because branding is an imperative indicator for more marketing campaigns than just SEO and content, branding must come first—before you ever start drafting a strategy.
Finding Your Identity
Branding is a complex subject, and demands far more research and consideration than an article like this would be able to offer. However, I can guide you in some of the most important considerations your branding will lend to SEO and content—and how they do so. If you already have a brand, this will help you understand how it should inform your strategy. If you don’t, this will help your prioritize your considerations in brand development.
First, let’s take a look at two of the most important baselines for creating a brand:
Your differentiating qualities. Your brand don’t exist in a vacuum, so think: what makes you different from your competitors? What differentiating qualities make you stand apart? Are you more approachable? More authoritative? More experienced? Do you provide better customer service? More bells and whistles on your products? Make a list of what makes you truly unique.
Your target audience. Your target audience can’t be “everyone” (or you’ll end up marketing to no one), so who is your target demographic? A middle-aged mom needs different content and different brand relationships than a teenage boy. A wealthy businessman needs different content and different brand relationships than a recent college grad. Think carefully about who your target is.
Together, these insights can lead you to the following brand guidelines:
Creating a unique image and voice. What type of “personality” do you want your brand to exhibit? Are you young, friendly, and down-to-earth? Are you more experienced, professional, and esteemed? These personality questions should inform your unique image and voice.
Finding competitive advantages. Based on your differentiating factors and what’s most important to your target demographics, what’s going to give you the best competitive edge over your competitors? A new niche? A unique angle? A specific selling point?
In turn, these lead you to the following practical applications in SEO and content marketing:
Content with a unique voice. Your content will stand out because it serves a different function than your competitors’ content. You won’t blend into the sea of white noise; you’ll have something important to say, and an identifiable, authoritative brand voice with which to say it.
Targeted content. Your content isn’t just general; your topic has been specifically chosen and your content specifically cultivated to be valuable to one specific type of user. Because of this, you’ll earn higher engagement rates, more shares, and more links to boost your domain authority.
Competitive topics and keywords. Because you know your brand (and your competitors’ brands) so well, you can choose topics and keywords that are in demand, yet less competitive than the most obvious choices. This will give you a unique “in” to develop your sitemap, content, and overall optimization efforts.
Consistency. Finally, having a consistent brand dictating both arms of your strategy (and more) will help you keep all your tactics in line with a single, ultimate goal. Furthermore, you’ll increase familiarity and appreciation among your user base.
Together, these brand-informed qualities will help you find more success in your SEO and content marketing campaign. You’ll be better differentiated, more targeted to your most important demographics, and you’ll have a better understanding of your goals and directives as well. The more you know your customers, and the more you know your brand, the better strategic decisions you’ll be able to make—in almost any marketing area.