SEO is not an exact science. This becomes apparent when trying to incorporate both SEO and branding into a strategy. This process is finicky, to say the least.
On the one side, SEO deals with the placement of keywords and phrases.
On the other side, branding deals with company loyalty and culture. Incorporating both sides dilutes the prominence of both. But eliminating one or the other may not meet all strategic and marketing goals.
Once again, it should be emphasized that SEO is a series of guidelines rather than an exact science. Having said that, the following recommendation can be used to satisfy both sides of the equation.
In general, keywords and phrases (i.e. SEO) should remain the focus of any early-stage company while the incorporation of company branding should appear later in the evolution.
The reasoning is pretty straightforward. At first, no one knows the name of your company, but perhaps they are searching for your products or services. In other words, you want to target keywords and phrases that focus on your offering rather than your company.
For example, when you first open a restaurant, it is unnecessary focusing on your future customers to know the name of your brand, without familiarizing them with the food and drinks you are actually offering them. Since they haven’t actually heard of you yet, and associate nothing with your “brand”, you must make use of SEO. Your dishes and beverages will be your keywords, pictures and videos of the ingredients and your kitchen and restaurant areas a way to show what you have to offer instead of just telling. Once people are attracted to the bits and pieces of your business that you market to them, you start building loyalty and credibility, and correspondingly branding becomes more important.
It’s at this point that you may want to incorporate corporate messaging to strengthen the relationship with customers and instill trust in your brand. If you strive to be the leading restaurateur in your town, you must have a review section where the customers you have drawn leave comments about the food and drink quality, about the service, about the atmosphere… Brand image will be very important to you, so a comment section will give you valuable feedback on how you are perceived. You can even start a blog on your website page, detailing certain aspects of your workdays. Your workers can write it. You can also develop a close relationship with your customers on social media, since you can inform them about novelties introduced just for them and they will give you their stamp of approval (if you do your job properly).
One final thought about branding: If a searcher types in the name of your company, they are likely to find your website anyway. This is mostly due to anchor text and backlinks. Therefore, optimizing for the company name is rather insignificant in most cases. What you must concentrate on is defining the way people see you, the way they remember your products and services even if they don’t know your website address. Once you build a reputation, your name will come as a search engine result because Google values quality marketing content above all (as you can read in one of our previous blog posts).