A few comments in my last blog raised discussions at lunch around a pizza and a beer the other day about the best balance between SEO and the wider world of marketing and branding online.
So what are the conflicts and how can we get around them?
Domain name and URL’s
The marketing rules for choosing a domain name and the SEO rules are polar opposites. Your website should be everything your brand wants to be seen as. The name needs to be memorable and easily associated with your brand. If you already have a well established brand that your customers know and trust, your domain name should simply be your business name (if it is available).
You do have a few options to help with your SEO though. If you are the law firm Mosman Lawyers*, you could go for something like MosmanLawyers.com.au. Here you still get your business name in a prominent location, making it easy to remember who you are, with the added advantage of associating your name with what you do. Be careful not to get carried away. Keep it as simple as possible so it is easy to remember, MosmanLawyersandlitigationspecialistsbrisbane.com.au is probably pushing the envelope a little bit too far.
And keywords shouldn’t stop at just your domain name. Ensure internal pages are also given sensible titles to get some good keywords in your URL’s. Don’t have MosmanLawyers.com.au/cat4#123. Instead make sure your URL’s contain useful titles e.g. MosmanLawyers.com.au/partners. This way the search engine can see you are a law firm and have content relating to the partners of the firm.
Fact: It is impossible to write the word “restaurant” using predictive text unless you can actually spell the word. There are a lot of people out there who struggle with spelling. And although search engines often display results for the correct spelling of incorrectly spelt queries (Did you mean…), it’s not always the case. An old SEO trick to gain more hits is to include misspelt words on your site and in your keywords. It’s really not a good look and is only going to make your audience question your professionalism.
There are few ways to get around the problem. One news website during the US elections chose to put some subtext at the bottom of the page saying “Common misspellings of Barack Obama: ….” ensuring they ranked well for all searches around the name, no matter how poor the literacy skills of the searcher.
I’ll leave it up to you if you want to use American spellings of English words on your site, but as an Englishman I don’t really condone this behaviour in any way – especially in a country that has the Union Jack in their flag (yes, I really am that petty).
But whatever you decide, choose one spelling and stick with it! There is nothing worse that having two types of English used on a website.
Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA)
Standing out, by not standing out. Those clever chaps building search engines now take into account the content around your keywords to put them into context and work out what web page’s main focus is. This has lead to concerns that everyone will be trying to write average content, and the most average website will get the best rankings. This is going to be a challenge for web marketers. How do you maintain a brand image, a corporate voice, a personality, when search engines are promoting vanilla, plain, grey sites because they are most like everyone else?
Only you, as a marketer or business owner can decide which route to take. Again, this will depend on your business and position in the market. As a lawyer you may not want anything out of the ordinary as a website, but some in some industries, online fashion retail for example, you may need to be seen as cutting edge and innovative to stand out amongst the masses.
Industry terminology vs. layman’s terms
The next problem marketers face is how to maintain a decent level of perceived expertise while still ranking for commonly searched terms. If your core business is B2C then your customers most likely are not experts and they probably don’t know fancy terminology, so they are going to be searching for the layman’s term. But when they get to your site, they want to be reassured you know what you are doing by seeing lots of industry specific terms they don’t really understand.
This is less of a challenge in the B2B market as your customers already have a good understanding of your business and are the ones searching for industry specific terms.
There’s a lot to consider when writing content for your website, but if you have a clear business plan for your site and strong brand awareness the answers should be obvious. And whatever you do, don’t compromise your brand image by trying to rank well in search engines too quickly. SEO is a long term strategy so taking the quickest route to the top may not be the best strategy for your business in the long run.
*This website is purely fictional for the purpose of this blog. Any relation to an actual website or company is purely coincidental.
Image credit SEOPlanter on Flickr