Do you ever long for the days of 1950′s or 1960′s America, where most Americans lived in small towns, walked to the corner store for groceries, knew their neighbors across the white picket fence, and used word-of-mouth as their gauge for knowing where to eat and who to do business with? I think we’re heading back this way with the advent of brands and, in my work circle, brand SEO.
A Bit of Explanation
A lot of talk in SEO circles recently has revolved around domain and author authority. Bing’s Director recently said on SEOmoz’s White Board Friday that they are taking author authority into account as a ranking signal. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Anti-Spam team, has also said that author and domain authority are ranking factors for GOOG’s SERPs.
The recent talk I just referred to is brands. More namely, the increased importance of brands on the Internet, of recognizeable, established brands that have earned the right to speak in their specific space. When I talk about smartphones, what brand come to mind? When I mention MP3s, what brand? How about tablet computers? What makes this brand stand out? Yes, they make great products (I’m writing this post on one), but what else?
Why Are Brands Good?
My answer to the above questions? Transparency. Openness. No, I am not talking about throwing all possible ideas out into public for everyone to see. I’m talking about Steve Jobs responding to customer emails (even if they’re not always nice). I’m talking about Bing’s Director, Stefan Weitz, talking to Rand Fishkin on White Board Friday. Shoot, I’m even talking about SEOmoz’s TAGFEE code of conduct.
Brands encourage openness. Personal openness, fiscal openness, corporate openness (treating employees well comes to mind). Over the past decade, and especially the last 3 years, America has been rocked by corporate scandal after corporate scandal. Enron. The 2008 US recession. Circuit City. Obviously the idea that corporations should keep all expense sheets, CEO salaries, and employee bonuses behind closed doors has not worked.
How Might Brand SEO Look?
Brand SEO will also have to involve transparency from the practitioners. I think that as established physical brands increasingly move to the online space (and there is talk that they should not), they should be more concerned than JCPenney was about their marketing professionals and online reputation. This will involve a greater push by the internal marketing execs to have more oversight over their contractors and consultants, which in the end will provide a more robust ethical approach to search, business, and marketing.
How will the details of brand SEO be different from current day? Maybe they will not differ significantly, but I would bet that the practice of buying links will become less widespread, as more SEO professionals seek to be white-hat because of the increased exposure, which we have seen in recent weeks, when the dark-arts practitioners are caught. I think linkbuilding will become more of an art, requiring skilled writers and PR professionals, which will also cause SEOs to become more well-rounded than currently (which is saying something).
I love working in SEO. I get frustrated when I have to keep things secret, when I have to try to cover someone’s unwillingness to be transparent about their business. I think using brand recognition and authority, and thus author authority and recognition, as ranking signals will make our lives, and search results, better because some voices, the trusted voices, will count more than others. We can no longer trust a number (PageRank) because it can be tricked.
We once again have to trust people. Yes, we trust that these people have not been paid by someone to endorse a product, and also have to trust that even if they have been, they would not agree to the money unless they truly believed in the product. We are returning to the spirit of the days when we would call Mom when wonding where we should eat, instead of stopping a stranger on the street to ask their input, which is essentially what we have been doing with many search engine results.
Long live brands, I say. These are exciting times.