Working with SEO when brand identity is strong

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Serviceplan Group

Author, Serviceplan Group

When it comes to running an SEO campaign, brand identity can be a real headache. Tone of voice, online experience, product names or the need for discretion can obstruct a successful SEO strategy. That’s when you need to bring out the SEO scalpel.

Let’s get our ducks in a row: what is brand identity?

A brand’s identity is the set of immutable characteristics that define it. They are inherited from its backstory and history and from the offer it wants to bring to its customers, its vision of the world and how it intends to change it. It’s a set of values guiding a brand’s actions and message. For a brand like Nike, its identity is about performance and for the last few years, its commitment to social responsibility. A car brand like MINI has a certain sass and pzazz… Each brand has its own identity.

MINI, une marque à l'ADN fort, et pas forcément facile à manier en SEO

This identity guides all of a brand’s communication, and especially how it presents itself online. It also generates the brand’s specific tone of voice, how it expresses itself: one brand might be distant and formal, another might be more energetic, using short sentences and informal language. Other brands communicate primarily through images, avoiding the use of text as much as possible.

These communication choices can quickly become constraints. For example, a luxury brand might invite its customers to indulge in extraordinary experiences. That often means using extraordinary language. Some very high-end jewellery brands have rejected terms such as necklace, bracelet, and ring, considering them too low-end for their website. This obviously has repercussions for SEO: the words are very often the core target for a positioning strategy. So how can brands work on effective recommendations when the most popular search terms are ruled out?

Make SEO a lever for excellence

While SEO is often a mechanical, almost mathematical lever, how do you deal with such strong and often non-negotiable constraints on tone or customer experience? Strategies based on massive content creation or numerous pages on the brand’s website are very often excluded. Both because of the sobriety of communication sought by experiential brands and because of the cost that they can incur. Producing a lot of content while respecting a specific tone of voice often requires more qualified writers and several rounds of discussions with the client. Undeniably, that quality comes with a price tag.

Also, when a brand’s identity is so precious, SEO must become a work of art. We’re not talking about massive corrections or generic Title or META tag templates: each page of a catalogue is crafted individually, taking into account the characteristics of the products and the communication ambitions of the brand. The brand can then allow itself to say more, and to offer more optimised texts for some of them – no doubt more commercially strategic, or less critical in terms of image – and for others page elements can be identified that have less impact on the user experience (such as ALTs, descriptions or page footer content). It is no doubt easier to accept the creation of new pages, linked from the website footer, but in limited numbers, as well as the modification of strategic brand presentation pages. Readers will adapt to it.

And above all, things move more slowly. A website structure isn’t turned upside down all at once, the work of optimising websites with a strong identity happens gradually, one page and one suggestion after another, accumulating valuable experience that convinces the brand to change, little by little, some of its online habits. When it is regular and precise, SEO becomes a strategic component of a brand’s marketing operations: it contributes in the long term to its performance, but also to its influence.

All the more reason to activate it right now!

translated from French by Ruth Simpson