If you work in any wing of any kind of marketing, you are at least familiar with the concept of branding. Its a marketing imperative.
You may have even heard/read this quote a few times:
Consumers trust brands that they recognize. Despite a string of lawsuits over the quality of the product they provide, Taco Bell still grosses an enormous profit. Is it because Taco Bell has successfully established itself as a major component of our fast food culture for over a decade? I would say thats certainly part of it.
In the growing landscape of media, there are several ways to gain brand awareness. Think of Taco Bell. I think of a chihuahua that speaks limited Spanish. That's courtesy of television advertising.
I'm not going to tell you that television/print/billboard advertising aren't still effective methods of branding, because they are. A successful branding strategy has to use several different media channels.
Ubiquity is a great way to attain brand recognition. Sure, people may have complained that the Anchorman sequel was killing itself with overhype through a barrage of publicity stunts and Dodge Durango commercials over the course of several months. Guess what? The sequel ended up making more money than the original at the box office.
If there is any place where it is crucial to be ubiquitous, its the most visited website in the world: Google.
How amazing would it be for your brand recognition if you popped up as the number one result for a large amount of targeted and related search queries? That sounds like an ideal marketing end goal to me.
How can that be accomplished? Link building through link earning.
Admittedly, the more appropriate answer is holistic SEO of which link earning is one of the most important elements. Its also the toughest. For the remainder of this post we'll be talking about link building; just remember that we're not talking about the "old school" spammy kind of link building that would've gotten you into trouble with Google.
Branding isn't emphasized nearly as much in link building as it should be. I understand the discrepancy; link building isn't delivering a message in the same way that content marketing and traditional advertising are.
Link builders SHOULD be cognizant of brand recognition however. After all, a link points directly to a brand's site, and if anything sums up a brand, it's that brands site.
Here are some strategies that not only build links, but build brand awareness as well:
- Blog commenting
- Press releases
- Host an event
- Reverse image search
- Guest contributions
A responsible brand is a brand that keeps in touch and communicates/engages with their target audience. It displays awareness and responsiveness on the part of that brand.
A lot of brands engage on social media, as they should. That's not the only place to engage with an audience though.
Prominent people associated with your brand should follow blogs within their niche and leave comments appropriately. Don't consistently comment if you have nothing to add to the discussion; that borders on spamming. If you do have a valuable contribution, leave a comment. Chances are you will even get a link out of that comment. Links are typically attached to the commenters name as anchor text.
These links might not necessarily have SEO value; many blog comments are nofollowed these days. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. Not all links have to have SEO value. Links should be a source of referral traffic too. A natural blog comment link can lead to referral traffic, especially if the link is used as a source to cite further information.
Like a blog comment link, a link from a press release may not carry a large amount of direct SEO value. Matt Cutts, head of Google's spam team, has said as much.
Again, this isn't just link building; this is brand building as well.
Even before the internet existed, press releases were an effective weapon in the message relaying arsenal. This weapon is most often in the holster of a public relations department/manager.
A press release can serve the following purposes:
- Getting ahead of a controversy
- Announcement of an upcoming event
- Announcement of a new service/product
- Notice of expansion or change
- Release of any company news
There are several press release sites available, and this is where you should publish a press release. These sites wont give you the link equity you desire, but the news outlet that picks up your press release after scouring the press release site might.
Host an Event
This may not seem like a link building tactic, but it is, and it is typically successful.
However, it does play more into branding. By hosting an event, say a roundtable discussion about a topic in your niche, you assert yourself as a thought leader in your niche. Being branded as a thought leader is enviable to say the least
It might be expensive and exhausting to put together such an event, but there is a measurable ROI that comes with it. When hosting an event, the people who went are likely to write about it or post pictures from it. When they do, the write ups often come with a link.
If the write up doesn't come with a link initially, you can send the person who wrote it an email to include a link back to your site. You can find these opportunities using tools like Google Alerts. This is called fresh mention link building.
Reverse Image Search
Obviously, you don't have control over what everyone writes or publishes about you on the internet, nor should you possess that power if you want to keep the internet free and open.
If you want to achieve the pinnacle of brand recognition, you need a unique, well-designed logo.
Ideally, other webmasters will be publishing this logo or other images associated with your brand. If your instinct is to contact them to tell them to take it down because the image is yours, your instinct is wrong. This is actually a great linking opportunity.
Email that site and tell them how grateful you are they included one of your images. After you've expressed your gratitude, politely point out to them that they could include a link to your site in that image.
Not only will you get a link, it will be a link associated with your brands visual cue. This is a marketing coup.
Guest blogging isn't dead. It IS under more scrutiny though, and for good reason. Spammers hijacked the practice of guest blogging, so much so that it has received the bad rap it now has. Clearly, you dont want your brand associated with spam. So that's why you need to do guest blogging the right way.
What's the right way? The right way of guest blogging is targeting high-quality sites and asking them to publish your well-written article with an editorial link pointing to your site.
Sounds like a simple enough concept, but a lot of link builders ignored the high-quality and editorial parts of that sentence.
Your contribution should be an article that will spark discussion and clearly present a message relevant to your brand and the site you're posting on. Not only will you get a link, you can set yourself above your spammy competitors. The more sage wisdom you impart to your niche online community, the more authority you will accrue. Nothing helps a branding strategy quite like a healthy heap of authority.
Gaining brand recognition is always easier with a little PR work. I've always believed that a great PR campaign usually comes with a healthy dose of altruism. In today's world of rising education costs, simply contributing a scholarship is a very noble cause.
Most colleges and universities have pages on their sites devoted to scholarships available to students looking to attend their school. Here's the page for Yale.
Even if you cant offer a lot of money, every little bit helps. Believe me; I have five children I would like to go through adult education.
EDU sites are generally pretty keen on accepting scholarship offers. If you have the resources, its something you should consider. Not only are you building a link on a page with high authority, you're creating a positive association with your brand.