Friday, 23 July 2010 12:04

Businesses, brands and effective keywords

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One of the biggest failings many small businesses fall into with Search Engine Marketing is overestimating their name recognition, what could be called 'brand awareness'.

If you have a small business (let's call it "Tom's Bike Parts") in an area with even a reasonable-size population, you can rest assured that no-one knows who you are. That's not to say you won't have a loyal group of customers - you will. That's not to say that the regular foot traffic won't be aware that there's a bike store along their daily route - they might be.

But, except for that group of loyal customers, no-one knows your name.

So why are all your marketing efforts directed at people who are already your customers?

Let's start by defining what a brand is and why it's likely you don't have one. Yet.

A brand isn't your business name, it's not your logo. It's what you stand for, a consistent mantra that permeates your entire business. It's about consistency of message. Who you are as a business.

Certainly part of that message is your name and logo. If you're trying to build a brand it's absolutely vital to hire a designer who can not only create the appropriate look and feel for your corporate identity (taking into account your business and its customers). However, unless the brand identity and message is applied consistently in every medium, then you're not building a brand, just a business.

The key difference between a brand and a business is awareness. What I like to call 'mind share'. Apple doesn't have a massive marketshare in personal computers (although that's changing) but everyone knows who they are.

They have exceptional 'mind share' - brand awareness.

Tom's Bike Store is a business, not a brand. They might become a brand one day, but right now they're lacking at least one critical factor - awareness.

Their existing customers know their name. Foot traffic is aware of their business (but not their name). No-one else knows they exist.

So why does their entire search marketing strategy involve using 'Toms Bike Store' as paid keywords?

This is something I see time and time again, across all industries: businesses optimising for their own name (or using search marketing to buy clicks on their name as keywords) but ignoring keywords that are used when searchers are looking for the product the business sells!

A real-world example is a display-home manufacturer here on the Sunshine Coast. A new entry to the market without the brand recognition of the big guys. They're investing heavily in print advertising.

However the only keywords in their meta tags and the only keywords they purchase for search marketing are their own name.

It's like purchasing a Blu-Ray disc only to be subjected to a spiel about why you should purchase Blu-Rays. You're already a customer, preaching to the converted - Blu-Ray needs to be advertising on DVDs!

If you're an unknown, how can you expect users to search for you by name?

What search terms will pay off?

It's simple. Find out what terms your customers use to search for your products.

Of course, there's more to it than that:

  • How much volume is there for those search terms?
  • How much competition?
  • Are they informational or purchasing keywords?

All of the above factors are critical in terms of whether your campaign is successful or cost-effective.

However, without choosing the right terms in the first place the only people you're marketing to are your existing customers.

Start marketing to the right people today - people who don't already know you.

That's how you start to build a brand!

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