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The Conflict Between Branding and SEO

Ken Gaebler

Ken Gaebler

Good branding practices and good search engine optimization (SEO) practices make strange bedfellows.

While both are intended to advance the interests of an organization, they don’t always get along.

As marketers, we take it as a given that good branding is built on the foundation of well-defined positioning. The typical branding exercise is to define a few key positioning planks that a brand will own. For example, a brand definition might be: High-Quality; Good for the Environment; and Easy to Do Business With.

The hope is that we’ll create a branding platform that is attractive to our customer targets and that has some white space around it, with strong differentiation from the branding of the competition.

With these positioning elements in place, we then operationalize the brand, making sure that every customer and stakeholder touchpoint appropriately promotes our positioning.

Consistency in messaging is key. We want everyone in the organization preaching from the same hymn sheet. To ensure consistency, we marketers will often create blurbs of text that have the official “Marketing Department Stamp of Approval”.

That templated text, so valuable to the branding effort, can cause SEO problems. Here’s how.

Let’s say you own a franchise that helps consumers with their personal taxes. There are a million franchise sites out there that can help you with lead generation to attract franchisees. Smart franchise marketers will create a presence on as many of these sites as possible. But, let’s suppose that our marketing department mandates that the exact same text be used on every partner site.

While that’s good for marketing consistency, it’s bad for SEO purposes because all of your pages on your partner sites start to look pretty identical. Google and other search engines may very well decide that they are duplicate content. For a web page, being viewed as duplicate content is akin to Superman being tied up in Kryptonite chains. It greatly limits the ability of the web pages to shine in the search engine results.

The cure for the conflict between branding and SEO is relatively easy. Don’t create a single chunk of text that has to be used everywhere. Instead, create multiple, distinct blurbs, all written with the search engines in mind, that are all consistent with the brand’s core positioning. In this way, you get the best of both worlds: strong and consistent messaging coupled with SEO-friendly text that will catapult your firm to the top of the search engine rankings.