I’ve been reading about branded searches and SEO. I find it super interesting because I can smell the black hat proxies and bots hammering out thousands of branded searches per hour all over the globe. However, if branded searches do help SEO, there’s plenty of white hat opportunity.
The best part, as you’ll find out below, is integrating branded searches in your SEO arsenal doesn’t take much effort and it doesn’t cost a penny.
Let’s get the black hat out of the way. You can probably hire services who through some proxy technology (all totally beyond me) and computers will conduct hundreds or thousands of branded searches for you. I don’t do this. I’m not away of any such services, but I’m sure they’re out there.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against black hat tactics. It’s not like violating Google’s terms of service is a legal, ethical or moral issue. It’s more about smart business.
That’s just one black hat example. I’m sure there are many more ways to game branded search for SEO. Whether it works is anyone’s guess.
What I want to discuss are “white hat” ways to get more branded searches. Actually, what I set out are white hat and “maybe white hat” methods.
Here it goes…
1. Email newsletter
If you have subscribers, you can drop little content mysteries in there that forces people to search in Google to access the content.
For example, at the bottom of an email newsletter you could put:
3 super popular articles on oursite.com:
- “Title of super catchy article”
- “Title of super catchy awesome article #2”
- “Title of super catchy awesome article #3”
But with those titles, don’t create links. Or just link out one article and leave the other two unlinked. People who want to check out the unlinked article(s) will be forced to either visit your website and hunt around or go to Google and type in those article titles along with your site name. Not everyone will put in your site name, but some people will.
It doesn’t have to be catchy article titles. All it requires is something your audience is interested in reading, downloading, watching, etc. and are willing to go to Google to search for it.
The “maybe white hat” version is to tell people to go search in Google for “yoursite.com article title”. The question is whether this is an effort to manipulate rankings by asking people to do the search. I don’t know the answer to this. It seems pretty benign, but Google takes any effort at manipulation seriously, so who knows. I think I will stick with the less manipulative method above.
In Quora’s profile, you can put yoursite.com. For instance, you can set out as your credentials “founder of yoursite.com”. This will show up at the top of all your answers. It’s not a link. The more exposure you get on Quora, the more likely people will type “yoursite.com” into Google.
3. Social Media, Guest Posts and Your Blog
If you build up an Instagram following, you can bet your bottom dollar that people will search in google for your site. Why? Because you can’t link to your site from Instagram posts. This has been one reason I’ve more or less ignored Instagram for some time, but clearly that was a mistake.
I’m now using Instagram more for 2 reasons:
- Foster branded searches
- Build up the following count in the event there are some sponsored post opportunities down the road.
You can take it a step further by using the email newsletter concept above (unlinked catchy article titles) in the Instagram caption area. Since you can’t link out, you force people to search in google. You could say something like:
Yoursite’s most popular post “title of super awesome post”.
This would take a bit of experimenting with, but this no doubt will help get branded searches for your site.
b. Other Social Media Channels
This same concept can be applied on all social media channels including YouTube. You can create mystery or promote articles by title or go one step further suggesting to go search Google for “yoursite.com super catchy title”.
Again, I would/am doing this in a far more benign fashion avoiding suggesting people search in Google. Maybe I’m paranoid, but that’s just me.
c. Guest Posting and Your Website
The same method can be done in bylines of guest posts and throughout your blog. I’d use the method in a guest post byline (but would also get the link), but wouldn’t do it on my site. It would be pretty silly to encourage people to leave your site to search Google.
4. Forum participation
If you happen to be in a niche with a forum (not many of these left), you can use your signature to create mystery so that people search your site in Google.
Do you see a pattern?
The key here is to drop little content mystery nuggets around the web piquing enough interest so that people will go to Google to search your site’s name and title or phrase that you left in an email or on social media.
Linking vs. Fostering Branded Searches
The million dollar question is whether you’re better off creating the links (where possible) and making it easy for people to check out the content via a link or is branded search so effective for SEO that it’s worth intentionally not linking and forcing people to search in Google?
Obviously dofollow links are better, but what about when it’s a nofollow link vs. fostering a branded search?
I don’t know what’s best. Probably getting both the link and adding an unlinked catchy title.
You can do both in two ways:
- Always include a link plus one catchy title with no link
- You can sometimes only have a link and other times only have a catchy article title with no link.
I think option 1 is the best. You offer a link to your site to get the traffic, but also leave a little mystery to foster a Google search.
Is this branded search ranking factor ridiculous?
It’s kind of ridiculous because fostering such searches is actually making it harder for people to find your content (i.e. not linking directly to it). I have no idea just how effective it is for rankings. I think in many ways it makes sense for branded searches to be a ranking factor; however, the problem is when it’s manipulated, it turns into the bizarre. If branded searches have a profound impact on rankings, SEO’s will just send people to Google to conduct branded searches.
That’s why I think Quora and Instagram are actually good platforms to use because you legitimately cannot link out and so the resulting branded searches are legitimate. Nobody, ahem Google, can suggest you manufactured branded searches by participating on Quora and Instagram.
What’s interesting about branded searches, however, is that the tactics set out above, and no doubt other tactics I haven’t thought of, align 100% with Google’s interests. By encouraging people to do branded searches on Google, you’re getting more people to search in Google which Google likes.
Come to think of it, I’m surprised Google doesn’t make branded searches a top ranking factor. Just think of all the ingenious ways clever SEO’s would capitalize on this; in an aggregate, this could add a ton of Google searches every day. Seriously, imagine the massive increase in Google searches that would cause. All SEO’s would incorporate fostering and manufacturing branded searches like crazy.
What am I going to do?
I’ll definitely be using Instagram more for one niche because since you can’t link out from Instagram posts, it’s legitimate to drop little content mystery nuggets which gets people to search in Google. I’ll probably suggest catchy content topics without links on other social media channels as well and perhaps in email. I won’t be outright suggesting “search Google for…” but it doesn’t hurt to use a little mystery in a passive way to foster more branded searches.
Which content should you target for branded search?
I think fostering branded searches is ideal for further bolstering your cornerstone content just as I discussed in this article.
If you have 200+ articles on your site, it’s not realistic that you’ll get sufficient branded searches to boost all of that content. However, if you have a few cornerstone articles with huge search traffic potential, those are ideal candidates. That’s what I’m doing.
Do you have any suggestions?
If you have any suggestions for fostering branded searches, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.