In SEO, Keywords and Branding Don’t Mix
Ian Lurie May 7 2009
I’m gonna get a lot of flame comments on this one. All I ask is that, before you start cursing me, you read the entire post.
Keywords and branding do not mix.
Let’s say you own your own business. Or you’re a marketing exec who works for someone who owns their own business.
For years, you’ve invested time, energy and various internal organs getting folks to think of you as, say, an ‘internet marketing agency’. Because dammit, that’s what you are.
When you’re face-to-face with a potential client, the concept works. You say ‘internet marketing agency’ and they nod sagely and pull out their checkbooks (hah).
Problem is, no one searches for internet marketing agencies. They search for Seattle search engine optimization companies, or PPC management companies, or whatever they think you should be.
But that’s OK, because DAMMIT THAT IS NOT WHAT YOU ARE AND YOU WILL SHOW THEM WON’T YOU.
So you keep optimizing for ‘internet marketing agency’, which gets 0 searches/month, and the world just passes you by.
Yup, you showed them.
That is why, for companies not named ‘Nike’ or ‘Coke’ or ‘McDonalds’ or ‘Blackwater’, keywords and branding do. not. mix.
Keywords are what bring people to your site. They are what give you the opportunity to set ‘em straight. If they never find you, you don’t get that opportunity.
If you think you sell ‘footwear’, you still need to rank for ‘shoes’.
If you think you sell ‘classic automobiles’, you still need rank for ‘muscle cars’.
And, if you think you’re a ‘psychoanalyst’, you still need to rank for ‘therapist’.
Of course, if you sell a product, you want to rank for your product name. But you shouldn’t have to optimize your site for your own product name. You should rank for it naturally. If you don’t, something’s very wrong with the way your site’s built, or the way you’re writing about your product.
Which I will probably need after the world is done ripping me asunder for this post. But, I’ll say it again:
For 99% of companies, keywords are traffic drivers, not branding tools. In SEO, keywords and branding do not mix.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More