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SEO and brand strategy: Marketing’s most under-appreciated pair

SEO is the lost sheep of the marketing world. When directly asked, most marketers (64%, to be exact)1 will say they actively need it, but SEO strategy tends to be forgotten in the research and planning stages of a project—and, sometimes, all the way through.

Which is strange, given that there were 7+ billion Google searches the day we published this article.2 And that organic search earns B2B twice as much revenue3 as any other channel.

So why don’t we all pay more attention to search?


Even though Google has been the name of the game in marketing for two decades,4 now, strategists are still rolling that SEO boulder straight uphill. The reasons vary.

  • Demand and lead generation teams need faster results than SEO can give, so it becomes a cross-channel afterthought.

  • Accounts teams feel about SEO the way I feel about my beautiful new IKEA bookshelf… and its nine pages of arcane instructions.

  • Creatives often think SEO considerations will be impediments between them and the thrill of racing toward the best ideas.

Which brings us to brand strategy.

Ignoring SEO is ignoring your audience—and that’s more of a death blow to great branding than any creative roadblock could be.

Anything that gets in the way of quick ideation is death to the creative process. So if marketers feel impeded by SEO during branding, they’ll ignore it.

But here’s the thing: People are out there at the other end of search engines, and they’re the same people you want to respond to your brand. In fact, search engines are usually the only vehicle by which they can find it to respond in the first place.

Ignoring SEO is ignoring your audience—and that’s more of a death blow to great branding than any creative roadblock could be.

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a…messaging guide?

Paired together, brand strategy and search strategy amplify each other’s effect. As long as you’re willing to do a little matchmaking to get the two working as one, they’re a perfect pair.

For instance, take messaging. An understanding of how your audience uses and responds to words is vital to brand strategists at the very beginning of the messaging ideation process, and keyword research can help answer that question.

Likewise, if copywriters keep brand story and voice in mind when they create the title tags and meta-descriptions for the assets they’re leading people to, they can elevate brand messaging right from SERPs before users ever hit a landing page headline.

Back to basics

Messaging is far from the only basic marketing principle in which brand and SEO play well together. Here are some more marketing basics whose effectiveness multiplies when the two team up.

1. Audience Insight

Both brand strategy and SEO depend on keen audience understanding. Brand strategists and search strategists ask the same set of questions to do their jobs: Who needs my product? Why do they need it? The only difference is the application of the answers: Brand strategists come up with messaging that will convince people to trust the brand enough to buy something, and search strategists shepherd people toward the content that enables them to buy it. To be effective, those processes shouldn’t be siloed. All audience research works better when shared.

2. Brand Awareness

The most creative branding in the world can’t help you if no one sees it. Noticing a brand pop up a lot on Google equals brand recognition; brand strategy shoots itself in the foot if it doesn’t account for the best ways to make that happen. Namely SEO.

3. Earned Trust

It’s elementary, but still the type of thing everyone forgets: Trust is critical in marketing. The best way to earn trust is to speak to your audience at their level, which you can accomplish by messaging to them well in the first place—and also by writing content optimized for what they actually care about. A brand’s ability to supply audiences with what they need quickly is often their first emotional impression of that brand, so if you optimize content for what your audience truly needs, they’ll trust you more.

Great marketing is always a group effort. That’s what makes this industry so much fun. It takes a village of brand strategists, sales stars, media gurus, and SEO pros to build a stellar campaign.

Which means that, no matter how you feel about search strategy, you need it. SEO may not be the final frontier of your personal marketing journey, but don’t think of it as the mudroom of your brand house, either. Creating a fully effective marketing campaign means empowering SEO strategy and brand strategy to elevate each other from the very beginning.

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1 Hubspot, “Not Another State of Marketing Report,” 2020.

2 Internet Live Stats, “Google Search Statistics,” 2021.
3 BrightEdge, “Organic Search Improves Ability. to Map to Consumer Intent,” 2019.
4. QuanticMind, “A Brief History of Search Engine Marketing,” 2019.