Optimizing Your Brand SERP
When you last Googled your brand (and if you’ve read our previous piece on the value of Brand SERPs to your business you should have) did you like what you saw in the results? Does your Brand SERP give users a view of your brand that is positive, accurate and convincing?
No matter how you answered that question, we’ve got good news: there are parts to all Brand SERPs that are under your control that you can use to improve and/or further optimize your company’s Brand SERP. There are also steps you can take to influence the sources that feed into Brand SERPs that aren’t under your control.
To explain everything you can do to optimize a Brand SERP we’re once again joined by Brand SERP expert and digital nomad Jason Barnard. Jason is also the host of the "With Jason Barnard" podcast which features his conversations with experts from across the marketing industry.
Brand SERP Recap: What They Are and Why They Matter
In case you missed our last piece, a quick recap: Brand SERPs are the set of results that a search engine shows to a user when they search online using a brand’s name as their keyword.
It’s that simple.
Here’s an example of the Brand SERP for Apple:
And here’s the SERP below the fold:
And finally, the bottom third:
Brand SERPs are recognizable through the SERP features that they commonly show…
Rich sitelinks pointing to the pages Google thinks are most important or helpful for the searcher
The Knowledge Graph Panel for the brand showing the information Google has for the brand
Twitter cards showing content from the brand’s Twitter account
Top stories about the brand from around the web
Videos about or produced by the brand
People Also Ask results showing information about questions someone searching for "Apple" might have about the company and its products/services
Results from the brand’s website itself
Related entities — in Apple’s case, other big technology companies
Google shows these SERP features as a way to satisfy the two main search intents that could lead someone to search for "apple". Either they want to navigate somewhere specific on the brand’s website or they want to learn more about the company and what it has to offer.
Note that not all Brand SERPs will show every type of SERP feature since they depend on what Google finds relevant to the search and valuable to the user, but the appearance of any combination of the above features is a strong clue that you’re looking at a Brand SERP.
They’re also what users will expect to see for a trustworthy, legitimate brand when they search for that brand online. Which is what makes optimizing and perfecting your company’s Brand SERP so vital.
And while you can’t directly tell Google what SERP features to show on your Brand SERP or what to put in them, you do actually have several things under your control that will impact your Brand SERP.
Where You Have Direct Control Over Your Brand SERP
Let’s start with the easy one: the parts of your website that you can use to optimize your brand SERP.
On-page SEO for brand SERPs
This may sound obvious, but a surprising number of website owners miss the basics when it comes to on-page SEO and using it to their advantage for their Brand SERP. In fact, there’s quite a lot Google takes from a website to fill the SERP features it shows in that site’s Brand SERP.
When working to optimize your Brand SERPs, start by optimizing your homepage for your brand name.
Again, this probably sounds obvious. But again, there are many websites out there working off old SEO best practices including cramming non-brand keywords into their page titles and meta descriptions. Let’s look at two examples.
Here’s a homepage that doesn’t focus on its brand name:
Yikes. Someone researching the Acme Global brand is probably not going to think of them as a legitimate source to buy high-quality products. Instead, the brand is coming across as the stereotypical used car salesman, just desperate to get people onto the site and make a sale.
Plus, with all that "widget" over-optimization, the Acme homepage isn’t likely to rank very well, even for the keyword “widgets” — that keyword stuffing is an out-of-date tactic.
Let’s compare that example above with the snippet for Leprino Food (the world’s biggest mozzarella cheese company):
If I own a pizza place or Italian restaurant, I’m going to be very confident in clicking through to Leprino’s homepage because their page title and meta description are what I would expect from a legitimate company that actually cares about me as a customer, versus just trying to make a buck off me like the Acme example above.
Once you’ve optimized your homepage’s title tag and meta description around your brand name, make sure you write accurate and clear titles and descriptions for other important pages on your site:
This will take regular sitelinks, as seen in this Acme snippet:
And turn them into rich sitelinks like what we see with our Leprino Foods example:
Google My Business listings in brand SERPs
If your business meets with customers or clients face-to-face in a physical location you need to claim your Google My Business listing in order to add your site to Google Maps. This will also pull your local business’ information into its Brand SERP.
When you Google a local business you intend to visit, you expect certain information to appear in the Brand SERP. Information such as:
Address and location displayed in Google Maps
Hours of operation
Contact information including phone number
Information such as a link to a menu for a restaurant or showtimes for a movie theater
A description of the business telling people what to expect when they visit
Questions asked about the business and answers to those questions either from the business itself or past customers
Links to any social media profiles
All this information that Google has on the brand is shown on the right side in the Google My Business result for the brand:
And Google allows you to control much of this information through your Google My Business account - you gain direct control if you claim it.
Haven’t claimed your GMB listing yet? See how in our video on getting your business into Google Maps:
Optimizing your non-SEO channels for Brand SERPs
While your social media or YouTube links, posts and engagement (such as likes, shares, comments, Retweets, etc.) have only a limited and indirect impact on a website’s ranking in search results, that doesn’t mean your social media or video campaigns serve no purpose for SEO.
In fact, they will have a significant impact on your company’s Brand SERP.
What you post on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, along with how frequently you post, will bring your content into search results in the form of the video SERP feature, Twitter cards and organic links.
Here’s an example from meal kit subscription service HelloFresh’s Brand SERP below brand’s rich sitelinks:
The brand’s Tweets feature prominently in the results, allowing HelloFresh to project its brand messaging directly to the user without requiring them to click on anything with the added benefit that the content comes with a recommendation from Google that it’s credible.
Now compare that with a competitor’s Brand SERP:
We’ve highlighted the link to the brand’s Twitter account but notice that Plated’s Brand SERP doesn’t include any actual Tweets from the company.
You should also note that this company’s website doesn’t have any sitelinks in their Brand SERP at all and their Facebook page doesn’t appear on the first page.
Now if you had to choose between the two companies based solely on the Brand SERP, which looks like the stronger brand?
Google likes to recommend healthy and active official social media accounts for brands. And since your social media account is totally under your control, this is a nice quick win.
The steps for optimizing your social media strategy for Brand SERPs are:
Give your account an accurate title and description that resonates not only with your audience for that specific platform, but also will show off messaging that is consistent with your brand’s website.
If a platform lets you control your profile’s URL, make it your brand name and not product-related keywords.
Encourage happy and engaged customers to leave positive feedback when the platform allows. Google will show a rich snippet with your brand page’s star rating in search results, so this is important.
Feed the channel with a regular stream of relevant content. The Twitter card SERP feature will disappear if you go silent or veer into territory that isn’t on-topic for what people are searching for.
Remember, this doesn’t mean that you have to spend your valuable time pushing out content on every platform. Just focus on the ones that make the most sense for your company or industry.
A photographer, for example, should focus more on Instagram and Facebook while an animation studio should spend more time publishing videos on YouTube.
Where You Can Have Influence Over Your Brand SERP
Reviews and review sites for your brand and products
Reviews are one of the more important things people look at when they decide whether or not to do business with a brand. And regardless of whether or not you think they’re legitimate reviews, reviews and ratings that show up in your Brand SERP will be taken at face value by the majority of your audience.
In other words, perception is reality.
For example, take a look at the Brand SERP for home security system provider SimpliSafe. Once you get below the brand’s rich sitelinks, you see links to several review sites, including 2 rich snippets showing 4 out of 5 stars:
To someone deciding whether or not to use SimpliSafe to secure their home, this is a good look.
If your website has good reviews on sites such as Amazon, Capterra, Yelp, TrustPilot, the Better Business Bureau or other sites relevant to your industry, make these more visible.
Add them to your own homepage if possible
Link to them from your own website and content
Share them via your own social media channels
Include them in you other marketing channels such as email newsletters
If your business is well-rated in these reviews — scoring between 4.2 and 4.5 out of 5 — encourage your customers to leave more reviews on these sites. The more reviews you have while maintaining a high score, the more convincing your Brand SERP will be to potential new customers.
For example, here’s the listing for the Amazon product page of a product by Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day.
Not only is it rated 4.7 out of 5 stars, it achieved that ranking with 1,827 reviews! That is VERY convincing for a prospective customer researching the company on Google.
As a practical first step to working on your reviews, start with the sites that appear highest in your Brand SERP.
Career sites in Brand SERPs
Job and career sites, such as Glassdoor, tend to rank well for brand searches since Google sees them as relatively authoritative and highly relevant to your brand. Unfortunately, they are quite often full of negative reviews left by disgruntled employees (which helps explain why the average Glassdoor rating is only 3.3 out of 5).
You don’t want these to appear in your Brand SERP.
So you need to deal with them, even when your options are a bit limited by the fact that these reviews appear on sites outside your control.
There are a few simple steps you can take to address any negative reviews you receive on these sites:
Claim your page or profile that appears on the platform. You’ll likely have to pay for it, but if you have negative reviews showing up in our Brand SERP, it’s money well spent.
Ensure all the information listed in your business’ profile is an accurate assessment of your company and puts your best foot forward. You probably won’t be able to change or optimize much of the really important page content (like page title tags or HTML headers) so focus on changing what you can.
Get happy employees and former employees to leave positive reviews. Share and promote those reviews like you would a positive product review.
That last one is obviously the trickiest. Getting someone who works for you to leave a good review about working for you is a delicate task and how you do this is going to be unique for each business as well as each individual employee.
Your brand’s Wikipedia page
Many brands, particularly those that aren’t big brands or part of huge companies, don’t have their own Wikipedia pages. Which is unfortunate for them because Google relies heavily on the information provided by Wikipedia to power its search results.
Particularly when showing a brand’s Knowledge Graph panel, which we see here in FitBit’s Brand SERP:
If your brand does have a Wikipedia page, take the time to review it regularly. You will often find opportunities to improve your brand’s appearance in search results by providing sources and citations for the article.
Clicking through to FitBit’s Wikipedia page, we can see just such an opportunity:
Having a Wikipedia article that doesn’t require additional sources will make your brand and Brand SERP more accurate and convincing for potential new customers.
Don’t worry too much if Wikipedia says your company or brand doesn’t warrant a Wikipedia page. You can use other knowledge base websites in the same way. Google doesn’t rely on these sites as much as when showing information in Brand SERPs, but they still feed into the Knowledge Graph.
Knowledge base websites other than Wikipedia you should look at include:
Your partners’ websites and content
No man is an island, and neither is any business. Every company relies on partners in some way, whether they be distributors, resellers, vendors or affiliates. The point is, there are other brands out there that can appear in your Brand SERP and it behooves them to project a positive and convincing message to your shared audience.
Let’s take a look at the Brand SERP for cheese producer Sargento. Below the usual SERP features you see in a Brand SERP, you find the snippet for Target’s Sargento category page:
While I can look at this page’s title and description and see that it’s relevant to Sargento if I’m looking to order some cheese I’m likely not going to find it all that compelling. It’s a missed opportunity for both the brand (Sargento) and the partner (Target).
Compare that to the page from beverage retailer Binny’s for spirit maker Jeppson’s Malort Brand SERP:
That description of the Jeppson’s product does a much better job of projecting the message about the brand and products that Jeppson’s wants (the slogan for Malort is "Not for the faint of heart" after all).
Things You Can Try to Influence
After all your hard work creating and marketing your amazing product or service, you’ve likely been able to build some buzz around your brand. This buzz will often manifest itself in the form of articles by industry news sites, relevant blogs and other content publishers.
Since these sites are independent from you and the people you work with, you don’t have much (if any) control over how they appear in your Brand SERPs.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Here’s an example of a result that appears in the Brand SERP for the Plonk wide subscription club:
This is a great result to have show up. It’s on-brand for Plonk, which styles itself "super adventurous wine drinking journey" and is glowingly positive. You’ll also notice that it’s from 2015 (which is 5 years old at the time of this writing).
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a more recent article could be even better.
Take a moment to click through to the article and read it over. If it’s old enough, like the one in the Plonk example, there’s likely several updates you can suggest to the author:
New and updated products
Updated addresses, locations and contact information
Any new awards you’ve received or other industry recognition
Google likes fresh content, so the updates (and more recent published date) can help push it higher up your Brand SERP.
You should also include these pages in your normal content promotion. Link to it from your website, include it in your email newsletters and highlight it on social media.
Showcasing all of your positive coverage on a press page is a great idea to give more visibility to these articles in your Brand SERP.
Other YouTube channels
Along with text articles, your company has also likely attracted coverage in the form of YouTube videos. As you’ve probably noticed, Google loves to promote its own properties in search results and really wants to show its video SERP feature (which shows a large majority of YouTube videos) in Brand SERPs.
This is a really good reason for your brand to focus on its own video marketing channel. It’s also a really good reason to look at what other channels are appearing in your Brand SERP.
Some windows opened by outside YouTube channels include:
Positive coverage for your brand that Google wants to push up the Brand SERP. Much the same benefit as the text articles we just discussed. Promote these videos as you would third-party articles.
Older videos that might be considered less than stellar give you an opening to push them out of the video SERP feature and replace it with your own content. Incorporate YouTube into your multi-channel marketing strategy and regularly produce new videos and there’s a good chance you’ll see these videos become less prominent.
Optimize Your Brand SERP: Next Steps
Ready to take the next steps in optimizing your Brand SERP? It’s time to get into the details of how to go about optimizing your Brand SERP by doing the same exercise we outlined in our previous piece on Brand SERPs.
Search for your brand in Google and look at what SERP features and other results appear on the page. What are missing? What do you want to push up? What do you want to get rid of?
Learn exactly how to go about optimizing the features you need to focus on for your Brand SERP, sign up for Jason’s Brand SERP course.
Once you’ve successfully started your Brand SERP optimization campaign, check back in with WooRank and Jason for our next piece on Brand SERPs on tracking your Brand SERP success.