Running a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign without developing your brand signals can be compared to pedaling a bike with one foot. Sure, you might move forward. But, sooner or later, you’ll lose steam and fall over.

Discussions of brand signals are often confusing because the term is used to refer to two related things: the sensory triggers that evoke people’s memories of a brand, and the online branding elements that Google and other search engines consider when ranking a website. As we’ll discuss, both types of brand signals — the ones that appeal to humans and the ones looked for by search engines —are critical for boosting your online visibility.

Why Do Brand Signals Matter for SEO?

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In the real world, most people tend to prefer branded items and services over generic equivalents so it makes sense that search engine developers will give online brand signals weight when determining relevance.

While we can’t definitively know what factors Google prioritizes at any given time, a recent SearchMetrics study of Google Search ranking factors confirms that it does favor well-known brands in their SERPs (search engine results pages). We can reasonably expect that other search engines like Bing and even internal search engines such as those on Amazon and Shopee use brand signals in a similar way.

Going back to the real world, brand signals are sensory cues, things that we can see, hear, or otherwise perceive. The Nike swoosh, the Selecta ice cream jingle, and the distinct smell of Cinnabon buns are all examples of real-world brand signals that many of us readily associate with specific businesses.

Online, however, search engine bots have to sense brands in different ways. Again, we cannot say with 100% certainty how Google and other search engines determine a brand’s relevance. However, we can reasonably assume that they base it on at least some, if not all, of the following criteria:

  • Social media buzz
  • Branded anchor text
  • Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T)
  • Searches for the brand
  • Mentions of trusted websites
  • Online reviews
  • The technical SEO factors of a brand’s website
  • Quality of content discussing a brand
  • AI image recognition of brand trademarks

How Do You Improve Your Brand Signals?

Assuming the above factors are truly relevant for search engines, we can already see how we can improve our brand signals and, subsequently, search engine rankings. Google explicitly tells content creators to follow E-E-A-T as an overarching guideline, so developing your online presence as we recommend in our video Google E-A-T Explained should set you off to a good start.

However, following Google’s E-E-A-T suggestion is far from the final word on brand signal development. You also have to develop your presence outside of your site, particularly on key third-party sites, social media, and offline channels.

It’s also important to consider how people use search engines. They don’t just type in brands on Google Search out of nowhere. They need to know about your brand before they search for it.

Because of this, searches that contain a brand name likely indicate very strong intent. By increasing these searches, you are not just for ramping up your site visits and conversions but you’re also for telling Google that you have a brand worth talking about.

If you’re interested in boosting your brand signals for SEO or other digital marketing purposes, here are some strategies you can try:

  • Evergreen Content Marketing. Because of the effort involved in creating it, truly valuable evergreen content is relatively uncommon compared to low-effort clickbait. This scarcity alone will already help your brand stand out and create interest online. Importantly, this type of content marketing sends positive brand signals to both human content consumers and search engine bots that reinforce trust and authority.As an added perk, evergreen content, by definition, is highly re-sharable, which means it can produce positive brand signals across multiple platforms over the long term. Video content that discusses key topics is especially useful, as it could easily be repurposed, recut, referenced, and reshared for different platforms.
  • Link Building.As with other search terms, you can use link building to shore up branded keywords’ relevance to search engines. The more reputable and contextually-relevant websites you can get to link to your brand, the more likely that search engines will see it as a credible entity.
  • Social Media Marketing. Consistent engagement on social media will help your brand maintain strong signals among human users. This, in turn, should translate to positive brand signals on search engines over time.
  • Influencer and Brand Tie-Ups.Having your brand associated with a popular individual or another brand that has relevance in your market can amplify your mindshare, potentially resulting in a spike in branded searches that tips search engines off to your relevance. Importantly, these partnerships can improve your standing among people who already know your brand by reassuring them of its value.
  • Press Releases.Mentions of your brand by prominent institutions do a couple of things. First, they signal to human readers that your brand matters, potentially leading to a spike in branded searches. More importantly, if a press release that mentions your brand is published on an authoritative website, it tells search engine bots that your brand may be significant.
  • Paid Ads. Both online and offline advertisements can quickly put your brand in front of millions of people, creating and strengthening brand recognition. Naturally, with better brand recognition, you can expect more people to search for your brand on Google and on social media, ultimately swaying the algorithms in your favor.
  • Online Reputation Management.Actively managing your brand’s online reputation can tell both humans and search engines that your brand has some significance. Engaging with social media followers, reviewers, and other online entities in a way that is both professional and unique to your brand can boost your credibility, generating valuable brand signals in the process.
  • Offline Networking.Participating in industry-related conventions and meetups can significantly contribute to strengthening your brand. These events provide opportunities to establish meaningful connections with industry peers, potential customers, and other professionals, giving your brand better recall both online and offline.

SEO and Brand Signals: Two Sides of the Same Coin

A lot of digital marketers forget that branding efforts are mutually reinforcing, regardless of what they are or where they happen. Consumer behavior, be it online or offline, affects search engine algorithms. Offline brand recognition will almost certainly translate into online searches and vice versa.

If you’re launching a digital marketing campaign, it’s important to have a team that understands these important dynamics. If you want to learn how to execute these different brand signal-boosting strategies, contact us to set up a meeting.