Branding, Sloganizing and Search Engine Marketing
by: Ralph Tegtmeier
|The descriptions search engines offer when displaying|
search results are generally retrieved from two
a) the displayed page's title tag;
b) the displayed page's description meta tag or, in
default of same, the first characters of the page's
body text; the number of characters displayed is
limited, with some engines picking up a maximum of
150 characters, other offering slightly more;
c) the displayed page's keywords meta tag - while this
meta tag's content will not be excerpted for the
displayed text's description proper, it is one of
several factors determining which search results
are displayed at all and in which order (ranking).
(Note that this is a generalization - some, though
few, search engines refuse to take into account any
meta tags. Obviously, different rules apply in
Both a), b) and c) should relate to the specific
page's content, not the web site's or its corporate
owner's overall theme! That is why they are placed
individually in each page's header in the first
There is a popular misconception amongst web
marketeers regarding search engine positioning
mechanics, namely that web page meta tags and titles
are to be employed as instruments of branding.
However, if true at all, this would typically apply
exclusively to a web site's main or index page.
One of the metaphors commonly used in propagating this
erroneous marketing policy is that of the "business
While it is true that a search result functions as a
site's public representation it must also be noted
that this should always relate to the specific page
displayed: anything else may legitimately be deemed
diversionary tactics, meaning that the page could be
penalized for "spamming". (Yes, the respective search
engines' definition of "spam" varies widely and is all
but consistent. Also, in several cases it notably
lacks a consistent logical basis, but that is not the
topic at discussion here.)
This aside, it should be remembered that it will be
both, a page's title and its description which will
induce a searcher to actually click on the link and
visit the site.
Hence, a page's description as displayed in search
results is more akin to a product precis or summary
than a general corporate business card and should be
construed that way.
A unified approach, presenting one and the same
promotional text on each and every page displayed
by the search engines, while seemingly making sense
from the corporate image point of view, actually
constitutes a severe and unnecessary self-restriction,
effectively hampering the overall online marketing
A practical example
Let's assume that you are running a used car
dealership with an online presence (web site).
Your company's name is "Honest John Autos Inc."
and your main corporate marketing slogan which made
you famous all over your home town is "Used Cars
Galore: The Fairest - The Squarest - The Best!(TM)"
You offer a fairly extensive variety of used cars
in your products palette, ranging from farmers pickup
trucks to vintage American autos, foreign luxury and
sports cars, etc.
Your web site has some 150 pages, all of which you
will submit to the search engines for indexing.
The pages are well focused and carry specific titles, e.g.:
- "50s Chevy Beauties"
- "As good as new - Oldsmobile special offers"
- "Luxury finally made affordable - the Porsche
- "Agro Cars - the Pickup Center"
Now if you insist on putting your "Used Cars
Galore: The Fairest - The Squarest - The Best!"
slogan in every page's description tag, all you will
be able to rely on to pull visitors to your site is
your page title. But while it may appear to you that
the slogan is a nice marketing reinforcement of the
page title "Agro Cars - the Pickup Center", fact is
that you might as well qualify the title message with
a specific description which is a lot more to the
point in relation to the title - and to the surfer's
Hence, you might wish to describe your Agro Cars page
in a more focused manner, e.g.:
"California's largest selection of second hand
agricultural pickup trucks - excellent condition, and
no-questions asked 30 days full refund guarantee!"
This will usually be a far stronger incitement to
visit your page if the web surfer is actually a
serious buyer-to-be. It will also help pre-qualify
your web site traffic by eliminating visitors not
resident in California or perhaps not interested in
buying a pickup in another state than their own.
And there are even more advantages: the page will be
highly topical from the search engines' point of view,
which will normally improve its ranking considerably.
Since the page description will be indexed along with
the keywords meta tag and the body text, you will
increase your overall search engine coverage and
enhance the possibility of your page being found under
search phrase combinations you may not specifically
have optimized it for. (You can't do them all, and
some phrases and keyword combinations are so unlikely
or even contorted, it's highly probable you won't be
able to think of every possibility in advance.)
Thus, while you may be targeting the keywords or
search phrases "used cars", "second hand cars" and
"pickups", the example above may also give your page
a good ranking for combinations such as "+used
+pickups +guarantee" or "pickups California", etc.
Compare this to the limited scope of your "Used Cars
Galore: The Fairest - The Squarest - The Best!(TM)"
So what about branding and sloganizing, then?
Don't confuse the media you are working with!
And, of course, determine what your web site is
really about: do you actually want to sell products
and services online or, at the very least, draw
buyers to your brick-and-mortar sales rooms? In that
case you should proceed as suggested above, leveraging
the possibilities offered by keeping your page tags
flexible and focused.
But even if branding (without actually targeting
online sales) is all you care about, your web site
will still require some enticement to motivate people
to visit it.
You might offer some regular sports or betting
results, feature some online games, organize a
sweepstakes, etc. These, too, will require focused and
well described web pages, else no one will come and
check them out. (Nobody will visit Coca-Cola's web site
merely for the heck of it or to imbibe their online
promo, unless they offer some entertainment and a prize
of sorts to do so.)
So there are some generic limits to conventional
branding on the web, and you will be well advised to
heed them. Search engines aren't the best medium to
try for it: you may sink a lot of money into the wrong
corner of the marketplace that way.
You may, however, push your branding considerably by
other activities than search engine optimization:
press releases, newsgroup participation, banner ads,
reciprocal links, online reviews, free trial
downloads, client testimonials, etc.
Remember that search engines are supposed to be user
tools, not mere brain dead corporate billboards! If
you want to make your mark and increase your
(preferably pre-qualified) search engine traffic, make
sure to service the user first: this will in fact turn
out to be the best investment in your search engine
focused online marketing.
Users will appreciate it if your search engine
rankings prove to be relevant, informative and
truthful. Just like you, they don't like wasting
their time on confusing, misleading or nondescript
And lots of studies have shown that search engine
optimization is actually the most cost-effective
marketing activity of all. It is bound to give you a
much bigger bang per buck for the simple reason that
it's a fairly lasting effect (at least, by internet
standards it is): Many of our clients are still
profiting today from search engine positioning work we
did for them 10+ months ago - no banner ad campaign can
beat that, not in absolute terms and certainly not for
that sort of money.
"Play them right, and they will feed you.
Play them wrong, and they will eat you."
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