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Is your brand’s Google ranking top of mind? If it isn’t, it should be; there is quite a bit at stake. In fact, in a thought-provoking article titled “Meet the Brands Hiding on Google”, Advertising Age identifies just how much is up for grabs by evaluating the organic search presence of five branded websites, four with which we’ll bet money you are likely already familiar.

The brands evaluated are Home Depot, Tiffany, Harry & David, 1-800-Flowers and CDW, and if you have yet to hear of the last name in that list of five, you are not alone; the b2b IT retailer boasts marginal brand awareness. Still, nothing about the list of brands itself surprises. All five are easily digestible.

The article’s findings, however, which point out supposed failures of brands like Harry & David to rank for incredibly generic search terms like “gift,” are what may raise an eyebrow or two, at least to those who define a brand via its website ranking. It is hard to believe, after all, a lifestyle brand of such import, one synonymous with quality and refinement, could fall short at search engine optimization.

We shudder at the thought.

Ok, let’s get serious. We think the AdAge article missed the mark. We know there is more to a brand than its Google ranking and likely more to Harry & David’s “oversight” than meets the eye. We also know the value of establishing a credible online presence and believe in the proven power of search engine marketing to build long-term brand awareness, generate demand, and boost a bottom line.

For others who believe a brand is defined by a sum of things far more intangible than one’s website ranking and recognize the proven power of search engine marketing to catapult a business to new heights, allow us to take a more critical look at what goes into building a brand over time.

1 – Developing a unique value proposition

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The problem with the AdAge article, in a nutshell, is that “Harry & David” is not synonymous with “gifts.” Furthermore, the retailer’s demographic likely searches for terms other than “gifts,” like the brand name “Harry & David,” for example, or the name of a product for which the retailer is known.

This is because, over time, Harry & David has established its unique value proposition, a combination of qualities and facts that identifies the retailer among a sea of competitors and clearly communicates to consumers the benefits they will experience by choosing Harry & David.

Normally I prefer to avoid phrases like “unique value proposition;” they sound like jargon and risk undermining the importance of the very things they describe, but in this case, it works. If your brand isn’t unique and you aren’t proposing to offer much, you haven’t done your legwork. For the sake of this article, let’s assume you have.

2 – Creating a brand experience that supports your unique value proposition

Once you’ve defined and developed a unique value proposition, you can then create a brand experience, one that shapes a consumer’s sense of who you are as a company and reinforces what your brand can offer and how you will do it. This is where online marketing tactics can take offline brand equity to the next level.

With the Internet being a primary communication tool for brands and consumers and the significant impact real-time sharing, word-of-mouth, and social networking can have on a company’s bottom line, leveraging online marketing to control the way a consumer experiences your brand is a must.

3 – Leveraging the Internet to create a brand experience

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The value of online marketing to grow and strengthen a new or existing brand is clear, but leveraging the Internet to meet any business goal must be approached with care.

For brands like Harry & David that already possess substantial offline brand equity, the years of work that went into building that equity must be supported, not diluted, by search engine marketing, through careful consideration of one’s core audience, end-goals, and coexisting marketing initiatives.

Likewise, brands without real-world equity, ones just starting out online or those who have a history of doing business but little brand awareness overall, must consider a the unique needs of a “new” brand when implementing an online strategy.

To learn more about the delicate act of online branding, come back next month for 5 tips on how to leverage search engine marketing smartly to support and strengthen your brand, whether you’re an established company like Harry & David, or an online start-up looking for a foothold in the digital age.

For more information on paid search or help advertising online, please contact sales@wpromote.com.


Comments

3 thoughts on “What’s In a Google Ranking? Not Your Brand Equity (We Hope)
  1. I think that one of the biggest obstacles to brand building online are the lack of success stories from some really major brands. Take examples like Ikea and Wal-Mart which have had absurd success offline. They probably spent billions honing their in-store experience but have little online presence.

    Wal-Mart studies things as granular as position and arrangement of products on a shelf and subliminal effects of a $9.99 price tag vs. a $9.83 price tag. The online Wal-Mart experience, though, is dreadful and it’s probably that way for a reason. They would prefer that you come into a Wal-Mart, be overwhelmed by the physical sensation of all the great deals all around you and buy more than you intended. This is difficult to duplicate online, so Wal-Mart doesn’t even try.

    Ikea has worked its in-store experience into a form of art. Not only do they make you come to the store but they force you to walk through it in a premeditated fashion. If there’s a $40 table that you want to buy, good luck not buying $200 worth of other stuff! Now that experience is probably impossible to duplicate online; even if you did, no online shopper would stand for it.

    I worry that companies that don’t have their offline experience as perfectly honed as big guys like Wal-Mart and Ikea look at them and think, “See? Wal-Mart and Ikea are incredibly successful without much of an online presence, I can be too!” What they don’t realize is that for every Ikea, there are dozens of competitors (Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, etc.) that are eating into their market share specifically because they have taken their catalog sales online and developed excellent sites to accommodate and even expand those sales.

    Ikea, Wal-Mart and other stores with low focus online are the exceptions, not the rule.

  2. Jesse says:

    You’re going to fail if you compare you business to Wal-Mart and neglect your online presence.

  3. mike stone says:

    Regarding Harry and David, I totally disagree with the AdAge article that says just because they arent ranked for “gifts” is a valid claim that they dont know what they are doing in Search.

    They are #3 in Google for Gourmet Gifts and #4 in Google for Gift Baskets; much more relevant terms to their brand and business.

    Those are the terms that are core to their brand and tied directly to revenue online. It would be great to be “branded” in Google with a high ranking for Gifts… and certainly not unattainable, but it takes tremendous resources to play that game and I would argue that is not the best place to focus your efforts.

    However, H&D does have some room still to climb in the natural listings, so if you are reading…I have some ideas 😉

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