KISSmetrics poses this question on its blog: Will 2015 be the year of the story brand? There’s something to that idea, and the connection between SEO and branding is a topic that’s been on my mind.
You see, I’ve met a few website owners who like to tout the strength of their brand. As they should. As business owners and managers, we know that what we do is compelling and interesting, and ultimately benefits people’s lives.
But here’s the challenge. What we believe about our own brands may have little relation to what the world believes.
And it’s easy to think of brand strength as a subjective, conceptual thing that’s expensive to measure. Now for the gut check. You can get a sense of your brand’s strength, right now and for free. Are you ready to find out what web analytics says about your brand?
No One Knows Your Name
The keyword report is long gone from Google Analytics, but you can still get keyword information from Google Webmaster Tools and other tools like SEMRush. Take a close look at the keywords driving traffic to your website.
A strong brand earns a steady stream of traffic from keywords searches on the brand name. Check out the top keywords for Coke’s U.S. website. The first seven on the list are variations of the brand name. The eighth on the list is ‘happiness,’ a word that’s connected to Coke by way of branding. (Side note: how crazy is it that more people search for Coke than for happiness?)
You’re Providing Answers, but Not Experiences
Now hop over to your analytics program. Take a look at your new vs. returning visitors reporting. Consider how this activity relates to your business model. Minimal levels of returning visitors could signal a weak brand. It could mean people come to your website to find information and, once satisfied, they leave and rarely come back.
In other words, your website answered the question, but did not leave a strong brand impression.
There are other interpretations, however. Most businesses benefit from more frequent brand interactions, but those interactions don’t have to happen on your website. Maybe you have a storefront and your website is designed to get people in the door.
In that case, you wouldn’t expect a ton of returning website visitors — but you would expect to hear that some of your in-store customers found you online. The point is, consider the new vs. returning visitor trends in relation to what your website is supposed to be doing for the business as a whole. Then decide if those trends signal a brand problem.
You’re Not Even Providing Answers
Google Analytics has an engagement report that shows the distribution of session durations. In the example below, you can see that the vast majority of visitors stay on the site less than 10 seconds.
Ten seconds is not a long time. If people are coming to your site in search of information, a session time of fewer than 10 seconds means:
The information your site provides is very straightforward (like your phone number), or users arrived, took a quick assessment, and didn’t feel they were in the right place.
Many a website owner will defend a high bounce rate and short session times on the basis that users came to the site only to find a phone number. Using a tracking phone number just for your website will definitively answer this question.
If that’s not the case, then users may be leaving the site with an indifferent or slightly negative perception of your brand. The good news is this. Once you know your brand isn’t as strong online as you’d like it to be, you can take steps to fix it. That’ll be the topic of our next post.