Then things changed. Paid search started dominating top spots in search results. Meaningful social media sites also proliferated. The Knowledge Graph significantly altered the results page. Secure search nearly eliminated keyword data for organic visitors. And then, as predicted, 2015 turned into the year of mobile, dramatically increasing the importance of local search.
So let’s address each of these issues.
Things like title tags used to be less demanding. Now you may have to make a choice: Should your brand be included at the front or end of the title tag?
You have to keep in mind that 55 characters is the current target length (think mobile), and be aware that Google will continue to play with how elements past this threshold are treated.
Historically, you could learn about how your brand was being searched through organic analysis: what was being searched and to what degree, what wasn’t being searched. Those days are essentially over. You can get keyword data from Google Search Console, but it is far from complete. For this analysis, we must now rely on paid search, which is even more important with the top organic result frequently at or below the page fold.
The case for buying branded terms has never been stronger. The main factors are: position on the page, control and analysis. Unless you share your brand with many others, being in position one for branded search shouldn’t be costly or difficult.
With Sitelinks and other ad extensions, you can create very effective ads that are much more sophisticated than traditional paid search ads. Unlike with organic listings, you have full control over sitelinks, copy and destination pages.
Best of all, with paid search you get data for all of your keywords, and through AdWords and Google Analytics (GA), you get many more metrics and a better means of accessing and manipulating them. This means you can do brand, product and service analysis to an even greater extent than was historically possible for organic search.
Google threw down the mobile gauntlet last April. Since that time, we’ve seen desktop results align much more closely with mobile results. With more mobile searches than desktop searches in 2015, this makes perfect sense. This means that local search is now a critical element of brand management: critical and complicated.
Many large brands, including those that employ SEO agencies, have very poor local results. Getting proper results requires dedicated time and resources. You will need to be proficient with local search management tools like Google My Business (GMB), Map Maker and Bing Places to track Web site visits driven by local search results. Tag all of these, and GMB (impressions) and GA (visits) will tell you how your local results are performing.
It's easy to overlook the fact that consumers don't always find the official brand page(s) for any given social platform. How does your Facebook page appear for branded searches? Is your Twitter account integrated in the results for brand searches? Are any of your other social media sites prominently listed? How well does your page appear within the search function of a given social media platform? What terms need to be added to branded searches to find your page? Are the URLs for your social sites optimized to include the brand (e.g., youtube.com/user/brand vs. youtube.com/watch?)? Most users aren’t sophisticated enough to know how to distinguish between your verified social page and a fan’s page.
Managing brands online is a full-time effort that puts a new strain on every business. Search is a critical piece of this endeavor -- and at the very least, marketers should audit the landscape to understand where things stand today.
Document and prioritize your optimization plan and work with the new-business team to layer in the anecdotal (“We found you through search,” “We had a hard time finding your account,” etc.) with the quantitative data.