Brand Signals: What They Are and Why Google Cares

What do people think about when they hear about your brand? What exactly what are people saying?

The world tells you it’s better to ignore what people think about you, but as a business, you need to be a gossip-hound when it comes to your own company. You need to know what the internet is saying about you—and if you want to rank on the SERPs (search engine results pages), you absolutely need to care. That’s where brand signals come in. Google’s considered brand signals as ranking factors since about 2015.

basset hound dog working on a computer
You gossip-hound, you.

*gasp* Are they talking about me?

Uh, What Are Brand Signals?

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—especially if they’re sending users to company websites which have a monetary interest when users access their pages. They don’t want to send their viewers to assy thieves, in other words. 

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 awesome things and getting people to notice you. That stuff can include charitable contributions, interacting well with customers, being a helpful member of your local and online communities, and any other positive interactions you can imagine.

Why Does Google Give a Hoot 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
  • Worth trusting

That means Google requires proof. You’re pretty much 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?

Your Culture Is Your Brand sign in a conceptual image
A damned good sign.

Is your brand behaving well? 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
  • 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?

Brand management concept. White brick interior with creative sketch. 3D Rendering
No, we didn’t draw this. You should see us draw. (No, you shouldn’t.)

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. Daisy’s BBQ is what people might search for, but if this is the name of your business, you’ll also want to track “Daisy Barbeque,” “Daisy Barbecue,” and “Daisy BBQ, LLC.”

Buzzsumo helps you identify influencers in your niche. If you have a large brand, it’ll 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?

BRAND CONCEPT with dominos and words describing brand components
You get the picture.

If you’re a search engine optimizer, there aren’t tools to consolidate brand signal representation in one dashboard format—which is how most c-suite execs love to get their marketing data. Instead, you’ve got to compile that 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!

Women Shopping Online Using Devices Concept
Get to it.. We didn’t make this checklist for our health, y’know 😉

Increasing brand awareness and creating more positive brand signals should, like most things of value to Google, be a consistent, persistent, long-term process involving time and effort (and sometimes money).

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. (Purchased ones are black hat, and Google may blacklist you if you have too many of them.)
  • Positive Press: What’s the scoop? Have you done something newsworthy as of late? Even if you have an ‘unsexy’ 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 it, 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. That’s because we want you to find our site when you look up our name, content creation is the least expensive way to rank for our branded keyword, and 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 ‘em some free swag, chat 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?
  • Legit Website Cred: Does your website list a physical address, phone number, email address, and have a contact form? Does your ‘about’ page tell the story of your business and talk about how it was founded and who founded it? Do your product descriptions uniquely describe what you sell? Do you regularly update and create content on your website? Does your site have substance and content? Do you have more than a few pages on your website? Are you 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). Don’t forget 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, video sites like Vimeo and YouTube and Twitch also count as social media sites, and 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 few bucks, run some ads. After all, that’s a thing businesses do, and it’s kind of like poking Google to help it remember you’re a business.

Need to Increase Brand Awareness or Improve Your Reputation Online?

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. Let’s get started.

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