Avoid SEO Disasters: Make A Brand Manager Your New Best Friend

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Synopsis – Quite often, those involved in search engine marketing projects for a client will find themselves at odds with those in charge of brand management. The problem can arise for many reasons, but one of the main difficulties usually comes about because those involved in SEO rely on stats and metrics to plan changes, while brand managers work from their perception of the brand. In his article “Avoid SEO Disasters: Make A Brand Manager Your New Best Friend,” Grant Crowell discusses this problem, with a case study to illustrate his points.

To find a solution to this problem, search marketers need to figure out ways to work with brand managers. Grant discusses six areas of concern to focus on when looking for ways to bridge that gap.

1.  Client Information
2.  Audience Information
3.  Keyword Research
4.  Domain Extensions
5.  Marketing Synergy
6.  Keyword Combos

Remember: “The SEO cannot succeed with changing the attitude of the brand manager by simply being confrontational.” Although each situation is unique, Crowell’s article provides a basis for beginning to approach the problem of finding a way to make peace with brand managers and maximize the synergy that is possible when all members of the team are working toward the same goal.

The complete article follows …

Avoid SEO Disasters: Make A Brand Manager Your New Best Friend

Search marketing professionals managing client projects don’t have to be in the industry for too long before they wind up butting heads with those in charge of a client’s brand management, since SEO specialists and brand managers commonly view audience perception differently. SEOs are guided by actual audience results – what people type into the search results, what people actually click on to find the site – and use that data to discern positive site activity and conversion goals. Brand managers, who may not be familiar with these means of true audience gauging (and some with no online marketing experience whatsoever), view their brand as something that everyone should already be able to perceive exactly the way they themselves perceive it internally.

The potential for disaster is great whenever brand managers override the recommendations and activities of the SEO professional, not just negating much of the SEO work done, but in worst-case scenarios, leaving the reverse effect of what was intended for the client’s business goals.

The Chiropractor Case Study - When SEO and Brand Management Collide

Driving into work recently, listening to a local radio station, I heard my chiropractor’s ad being played by the morning show host. I knew that he had purchased a sponsorship deal where the host gives an endorsement-style promo, but was surprised at the actual radio spot where the website was the only contact information – no phone, no address, nothing else. All the listening audience could go by is what they could hear as the web address, type that into their browser, and if they were lucky, it would match. But the company’s actual web address (chiroone.net) is spelled differently than people would hear it (Chiro1). Not only would traffic not make it to the site, but the client would end up paying for a lot of free website traffic to their competitor!

The potential for consumer confusion, especially when translating a brand name into a web browser domain entry, is commonplace, particularly when companies cling to an offline brand mentality. Confusion might have been avoided if the radio spot had told people to do a Google search for the company name, spelling it out for them (since it was short enough to do so).

Checking to see what new business the chiropractor received from the radio ads, I learned he had spent $7,500 for the promotion and, eight weeks later, had not received one single new customer directly from that promotion. Speaking to the chief marketing officer at head office, I wanted to understand why they would tell local chiropractic offices to do radio campaigns for the same general website, which not only was hard to match the spelling of, but have someone start all over again to attempt to find their specific location? His response – “We want to promote our brand first.”

Situations like this – where what’s obvious to the SEO professional is what the brand manager chooses to remain oblivious to – cause these types of SEO disasters.

Why Branding and SEO Aren’t a Natural Marketing Combination

P.J. Fusco, Director of Natural Search for NetConcepts, believes that most brand managers don’t understand how search engines work, largely because SEO is pretty far removed from their brand-based responsibilities. “I’ve yet to meet a brand manager who understands why a big brand name means nothing to search engines. Brand managers with distinguished brand-name products assume it’s easy for their websites to rank highly in search engine results. In actuality, the situation is precisely the contrary…. Competition for top search engine positioning among big brand names comes from rivals and resellers alike. The challenge is to get the brand manager to expend some of its resources on an organic search campaign.”

Brand managers are inclined to think they are entitled to a “Page 1 – Rank 1″ listing in the search results for their name. Making them realize that their company name and product line are not heir apparent to these results in the major search engines takes a wakeup call that includes substantive web research to redefine the perception of their brands’ online universe. Sparking this transformation takes communication and plenty of education about SEO and SEM, and often redefines the brand manager’s long-term branding strategy.

In a nutshell, what the brand manager may likely mistaken how people will find them in search, can be refuted with evidence by the SEO showing otherwise. However, the SEO cannot succeed with changing the attitude of the brand manager by simply being confrontational. The SEO needs to show a willingness to work with the brand manager, just as much as the SEO expects the reverse.

Search Marketing Solutions for Effective Cooperation With Brand Managers

Fortunately, there are a number of ways SEOs and SEMs can avoid brand management disasters and learn how to work together with brand managers as a better marketing team:

  • Show that you care about the client brand. Learn as much as you can about the client’s brand, including how the company started, who the partners are, what their corporate mission is, and why they chose the name. Be aware of any prior names under which the company operated.
  • Poll the audience. SEM work is done best in front of real customers. Poll or interview them on their impressions when they hear the company brand name. What are the positive things they associate with the brand? What do they type in if, and when, they want to go to the company website? How many of them type in the domain, and how many of them do a Google search?
  • Keyword research. Do some research on similar keywords and domain names which may create confusion with the client’s brand. Find out if any of those keywords may be bringing in more traffic than your client’s own brand, and show these results to the client.
  • Domain extensions. If the client’s brand name is already a domain reserved by someone else (especially if the dot.com is taken), this is an opportunity to get creative. Brainstorm domain extension or change-ups that will still reflect the client’s brand, but will be just as easy – or even much easier – for audiences to commit to memory. You can purchase multiple domains and have them redirect to whatever domain is the client’s default domain. That way the brand manager is more likely to be satisfied with the end result, as their original domain can be left intact.
  • Marketing synergy. Search marketers should be privy to whatever marketing activities the client is engaging in that will mention the company website. That way the SEO can consider an optimization strategy around the offline campaigns, especially if large audiences are expected, that reduces any confusion over the location of the website or local information.
  • Keyword combos for offline and online branding. Work with the brand manager on selecting keyword combinations that combine a popular keyword AND the brand name. Optimize around those terms in the search engine results, and then have all of the client’s offline marketing tell people to type that same keyword combo into Google (Google typically is the brand more of the audience will remember to type a keyword search into). For example, many people may not remember to type in “chiroone.net,” but they may be more likely to remember “Chiro 1 back pain” (which the company now shows up #1 and #2 in Google for now).

These are just a few scenarios on brand management and search marketing that indicate that many brand managers still are not up to speed on understanding how customers typically behave on the online world. However, search marketers can readily turn this into a team opportunity for further educating those responsible for brand management – all it takes is both sides showing a willingness to learn from each other and work together for the same goal.

About the Author

Grant Crowell is the CEO for Grantastic Designs, a search marketing and usability firm, and Senior Analyst of ReelSEO.com, a video solutions publication for online marketers.

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