Your brand’s presence on the search engine results page (SERP) can often be the first impression a user will have of your brand. As such, it is important to ensure your brand is portrayed positively, delivers the right message, is unique from competitors and encourages click-through.
As there are a variety of ways a user can engage with your brand on search engines, auditing and managing your online presence is essential to presenting a cohesive brand image on the SERP.
To audit your brand’s search presence, simply start by searching for your brand on search engines, much like a searcher would, and take inventory of what you find.
We’ve identified five key areas you should pay attention to:
1. Your brand’s search results
While a SERP is made up of many components relevant to your brand, your website’s search results are typically the first place a searcher is going to look for when searching for your brand. A search result is typically made up of a title tag and a meta description.
If you do not tell search engines what to use for your page’s title and description, they will auto-populate these elements using content from your site. While it seems convenient to allow search engines to take care of this for you, they do not always get it right. You can quickly and easily customize each of these elements by defining these in your page’s HTML.
When auditing your page’s search results, ask yourself: “Does this accurately and succinctly describe who we are and what we do?”, and “Is our brand presented in a professional manner?”. Your audience is only spending as long as they need on the SERP to find the result most relevant to them, so your title and meta tag should work together to make it clear quickly to the audience what to expect if they land on your page. Remember that a first impression is often set as this stage so also ensure your result looks professional by paying attention to the styling; including language, consistency, punctuation and capitalization.
2. Your Brand in Local SEO
Brand’s with brick and mortar locations should pay special attention to their Google My Business listings. In an increasingly mobile-first world, your audience is taking to search engines to find information about your brand such as your locations, hours of operation and contact details. Google My Business makes it easy for users to get this information directly from the search result without having to visit your website.
The first step when evaluating your Google My Business presence is to ensure your listing is appearing for relevant searches. If you haven’t created a Google My Business account, search engines will automatically create a listing for you. However, it is free to create an account, so take control of this to ensure your brand is presented accurately.
Google My Business offers many fields to include information about your brand so take advantage of this and provide as much information as your audience will find useful. For businesses with multiple locations, you’ll want to make sure to have consistency in branding across the results in terms of company name, imagery and business category.
3. Your Brand in SEM
With a limited number of search results available on the first page of search engines and high competition to appear in these coveted positions, brands are increasingly using paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to appear at the top of the SERP.
Whether or not your brand is taking advantage of paid search ads, check the SERP to see who is appearing for your brand terms and related keywords. If competitors are bidding on your brand terms, their paid ads will show above your organic results if you are not bidding on your brand. While many users will skip past competitor ads and navigate to your organic result, competitors are providing an opportunity to disrupt your audience and get in front of them with a competing offer. Challenge this by protecting your brand and creating paid search ads of your own.
If your brand is using paid search advertisements, pay attention to how your paid and organic results appear alongside each other. Paid ads are highly customizable compared to organic results, so use this opportunity to differentiate your paid ad from your organic result by offering information about sales, testing new messaging, or using different sitelinks. Create a unique strategy for each result to make them both work effectively together.
4. Your Brand on Social Media
While many users will visit your website directly, some searchers will visit your brand on social media networks. Take inventory of what profiles appear for your brand in the SERP and ensure the correct profiles are indexed. If you’ve setup social media profiles for your brand but have neglected them, users will still find these pages through search so it is important to keep active profiles to maintain a positive brand presence online.
5. Your Brand in the Online Community
Your brand’s owned digital assets are not the only place where your brand will appear on search engines. For local businesses, review sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages and TripAdvisor are very popular destinations for searchers. Third-party reviews such as word-of-mouth and referrals are highly useful for influencing the purchase decisions of your target audience. While you may not be able to control the content on these pages, you can at least be aware of how your brand is presented and be an active participant. Pay attention to your brand’s rating across these sites and engage with reviews, both positive and negative.
After taking an inventory of your brand’s presence on search engines, identify areas of opportunity and begin to prioritize and address. Note that an audit is not a one-time exercise. Search engines are dynamic and continually changing, so make it a best practice to routinely monitor your brand in the SERP to ensure your target audience has a positive experience with your brand.