Brand Signals: What They Are and Why Google Cares

The world tells you it’s better to ignore what people think about you. But, as a business, you need to be open to criticism when it comes to your own company. If you are running a business online, it’s incredibly important to know what the internet is saying about you. And, if you want to rank on the SERPs (search engine results pages), it is important you pay attention to what is being said.

That’s where brand signals come in. Google’s considered brand signals as ranking factors since about 2015.

What Are Brand Signals?

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Brand signals indicate the level of credibility your brand has. Since Google’s objective is to provide accurate, useful, trustworthy information to its users, credibility is essential. This is especially true if they’re sending users to company websites which have a monetary interest when users access their pages.

If this makes you nervous, don’t panic: brand signals are more useful for your brand, especially in the long-term. It’s all about doing the right things and getting people to notice you. The right things can include: 

  • charitable contributions 
  • interacting well with customers 
  • being a helpful member of your local and online communities 
  • any other positive interactions you can imagine

Why Does Google Care About Brand Signals?

Google wants to distinguish between brands producing innovative, quality products, services, and content, and ‘thin’ affiliate-type businesses. Brand signals are a measure to make that happen. To pass muster, Google expects you to be:

  • Real
  • Credible
  • Trustworthy

That means Google requires proof. It’s almost as though you’re on trial, and the internet is a jury of your peers. However, there are some ethical SEO strategies you can employ to influence brand signals.

How Can Google Tell If You’re a “Good” Brand?

Google uses different technical signals to evaluate the legitimacy of your brand and the nature of your business practices. In addition to these technical signals, Google can look at:

  • The variety of people talking about your brand (versus just the brand’s employees)
  • Whether influencers mention your brand
  • Whether established consumer advocacy websites like the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports have anything to say about your brand
  • If more prominent brands in and out of your niche have mentioned you (niche mentions can also help Google’s bot categorize you in the correct niche)
  • If you’ve received press coverage in a local, regional, national, or international capacity
  • How you’ve connected your Google or social media ads to whatever it is you’re selling
  • If people actually look it up on Google, especially in a way that increases over time

How Can You Track Brand Signals? What Tools Should You Use?

Thankfully, there are several tools you can use to track brand signals. Each provides different data that will help you track and improve.

  • Mention sends you notifications whenever anyone mentions your brand. You can track and follow up with these mentions by responding with thanks and asking for links in posts that mention your brand. Brand24 is a reliable alternative.
  • SEMrush allows you to do comprehensive keyword research. 
  • Buzzsumo helps you identify influencers in your niche. If you have a large brand, it will also show you who is considered an expert in that brand (important if you have a service extensively used, like Facebook). You can additionally reach out to them for links or figure out who to interact with to increase positive associations with your brand.

How Do You Prove Brand Signal Status?

If you’re a search engine optimizer, there aren’t tools to consolidate brand signal representation in one dashboard format. Instead, you’ve got to compile the brand single information yourself.

We recommend keeping it simple. Provide your clients with a dashboard view that includes highlights, tracking progress in the following areas:

  • Social media engagement growth
  • Quotes (and brand response) on social media (provide screen captures)
  • Number of mentions, and whether they’re tied to any marketing campaigns and initiatives
  • Social media follower growth (but put this last, because it’s a vanity metric)

How Do You Increase Brand Awareness and Reputation? Use This Checklist.

Increasing brand awareness and creating more positive brand signals should be a consistent, persistent, long-term process involving time and effort,

Review this checklist to determine whether you’re on the right track.

Blogging and other content: Are you consistently providing regular, informative, useful content, and answering any questions your fans and customers pose in the comments?

Natural Links: Do you form links naturally as others link to your valuable content, event notifications, and anything else displaying expertise? Natural links are a path to authority. Purchasing links is considered to be a “black hat” practice. If you have too many black hat links, Google may penalize you.

Positive Press: Have you done something newsworthy as of late? Even if you have an unexciting niche, like plumbing, you can always make a difference, especially in your community. 

Make news by sponsoring children’s sports leagues or hospitals, other sports, libraries, and community events. Support your employees doing charitable work such as volunteering at shelters.

Comprehensive Marketing Campaigns: Do you vary your marketing campaigns? Digital marketing rules the roost. But, direct mail campaigns, clever billboard advertisements, and quirky radio commercials are still effective marketing strategies, especially locally. When people view and share that content and tag you it’s a positive brand signal, and can also net you more followers on your social media sites.

Ask For Links: Every month, go through your brand mentions and ask the creators of blog posts to link to you when they mention your brand. This is part of natural link building, but it’s on you to audit and reach out to those blog post authors.

Outrank Negative Posts: Is there a negative review of your business? Don’t delete the negative review—even if it’s on your own page or completely false. Instead, do some keyword research each month on any negative review. Find out what keywords it’s ranking for and produce your own content to outrank it.

Monitor Branded Keywords and Create Relevant Content: Ensure your content includes your branded keyword. For example, this post is about branded content, but we’ll mention our business name (Dominate With SEO) a few times. 

Content creation is the least expensive way to rank for our branded keyword. We hope to have our brand name associated with SEO strategies and expertise such as this topic.

Network With Influencers: Stay top of mind with the influencers in your niche. Give them some free swag, communicate with them, and ‘like’ their content on social media. Next time they need to recommend a product or service, hopefully, they’ll remember to mention you. Make sure you scroll through those influencers each day and use a tool like Buzzsumo to continually identify and interact with influencers in your niche.

Social Media Legitimacy: Do you have people who list your business as their employer on LinkedIn? Do you have a Facebook page linking to your website? Do you have verified social media accounts, and are those accounts updated regularly? Do you respond promptly to customer inquiries and interact with people on those accounts?

Legitimate Website Credibility: Here are some things you can do to make sure your website is credible. 

  • Make sure your website list a physical address, phone number, email address, and has a contact form. 
  • Include an ‘about’ page to tell the story of your business and talk about how it was founded and who founded it. 
  • Ensure that your product descriptions uniquely describe what you sell. 
  • Regularly update and create content with substance on your website Include more than a few pages on your website, too. 
  • make sure you are listed as an LLC or company and registered with the necessary governmental agencies.

Review Sites: Are you listed on review sites like Yelp? If not, you should be, and you should monitor the reviews there and respond to them (even the positive ones—thank them for their reviews). Be sure that this includes niche-specific sites like Airbnb

Google Business is the most important listing since Google obviously checks and trusts its own business listings most. This can mesh with social media sites like Facebook (pages), which allows users to leave reviews.

Location Check: Make sure your location is accurately listed. This is really important if you have recently moved or opened, or have multiple business locations.

Interlink: Link all your social media pages (and your website) to each other. Remember, that video sites like Vimeo, YouTube and Twitch are also social media sites. Video is especially relevant content these days. This will inform Google of your business presence across multiple social media platforms.

It’s Not Personal: Ensure all your social media accounts are appropriately business accounts, not personal ones. Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook (among others) offer this option.

Run Some Ads: Even if you’re only spending a little bit of money, it’s beneficial to run some ads.

Need to Increase Brand Awareness or Improve Your Reputation Online?

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At Romain Berg, we can help. Whether you need some damage control or overall visibility, we use friendly, informative, well-researched content to impact the impression your brand holds online. 

We inform our marketing decisions based on your customer feedback and needs, your budget and capabilities, your niche, and your keyword research. 

Brand awareness can improve your search engine ranking, of course—but also brings with it crucial networking opportunities that align with your long-term evergreen content strategy.

With research, analysis, website page creation, blogging, and more, we’re ready to help you improve your branding and brand signals. Contact us today.

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