9 Clues That Your Branding Program Sucks

Sometimes it’s difficult for non-marketers to reasonably gauge the overall success of branding programs, because they have neither dashboard nor perspective to use as benchmarks. This post suggests easy-to-identify measurements to serve as general indications of the marketing department’s success in building a brand (henceforth referred to as [brand]) to top of mind with the general search and social media public.

We’ll follow the 9 clues with a simple questionnaire any stakeholder in [brand’s] success can forward to the marketing manager to help improve [brand's] public image.

1. Google rarely shows ads for [brand name] because of “low quality score,” and when the ads do display the destination URL points to the brand’s homepage. This means in part that when users do search for [brand] they don’t click on the ads. Even the freakin’ brand doesn’t have a clue what the brand is about. This is a true sign that [brand] = sucks!

2. For searches that are [brand name] + [product category] (e.g. “acme lawnmowers”) AdWords indicates “low search volume.” This means that (tragically) pretty much nobody associates [product category] with [brand].

3. Due to unfortunate lack of foresight, the initials formed by your [brand word 1] [brand word 2] [brand word 3] spell out an incredibly difficult SEO challenge—for example, “Masters’ Recording Institute” = “MRI”—fail! If anyone ever does hear about this brand, they’ll search for it and find medical equipment instead of music. A lack of control over alternate expressions of brand can mean weakness.

4. Every post in [brand’s] RSS feed sports a big whopping zero in PostRank. Post rank is a free tool that measures chatter as it expands virally through social channels PostRank deems an accurate measure of reach—for instance, Delicious.com bookmarks, Retweets, comments on the post, FriendFeed views, etc. are important measures. That big honker goose-egg zero indicates total lack of engagement surrounding the feed posts. Lack of engagement can mean that nobody cares about the content.

5. Analytics exposes keyword traffic representing an unforeseen inversion of [brand word 1] and [brand word 2] which form the words of a well-known pornographic slang phrase. The smutty extrapolations run above mid-tail permutations of [brand] searches (we’ve actually seen this phenomenon). Of course the “bounce” rate was rather high, but on the other hand it would be even creepier if these particular keyword visitors hung out longer.

6. The company Twitter manager follows 2,056 people and has 154 followers. 75 of the followers are rebroadcast bots. 27 are employees. Most of the rest have 30 or fewer followers and sell stuff like Viagra.

7. The brand manager screwed up and, in a rush to secure the vanity URL because the fan page had no fans, registered Facebook.com/[Brand] to her personal account, which is the only place she made 578 friends for the brand. Friends include her mom, sisters and a motorcycle club in South Dakota she belongs to.

8. A YouTube search for [brand] yields SERPs featuring a high school rock band from Toledo featuring a song entitled, “My Baby is a [brand word 2] b_tch.” Ouch.

9. Including [brand] in PPC ads lowers the conversion rate.

Questions for brand managers

So, if your brand is exhibiting some of the unfortunate characteristics noted above, what to do? Start by asking these questions, and seeing if you can find good solutions to the problems.

  1. What is the AdWords PPC Quality Score for [brand] and why? A low quality score for literal brand searches indicates a problem.
  2. How often do users search for [brand] compared to similar brands? If users rarely search, then nobody knows the brand.
  3. How do alternate keyword permutations of [brand] such as common misspellings, initials and so on rank in unpersonalized organic search? Mid-tail [brand] keyword expressions should rank at or near the top of the SERPs for a healthy brand.
  4. How do posts from the [brand’s] feed score in PostRank? Consistently low PostRank scores means low engagement and we may be blogging to nobody.
  5. Do analytics reveal bastardizations of [brand] which are of concern? Are any of them gross misunderstandings that should be addressed? Consistent site traffic on nasty keywords formed by brand words can be indicative of SERPs confusion and lack of brand prowess.
  6. What is the ratio of Twitter followers to followed? Following many more tweople than follow back come off as spammy and might mean that twitter/[brand] offers little value to users.
  7. Does brand have any friends in Facebook and what account does the vanity URL point to? Facebook/[brand] should point to a Facebook page and not someone’s personal profile.
  8. What do the SERPs look like for YouTube [brand] queries? Lack of prominence in YouTube for [brand] and common permutations can demonstrate weakness in the public’s eye.
  9. How does using [brand] in PPC ads effect conversion? Low or negative impact on conversion can indicate no or poor brand equity.

Measuring a brand’s success past raw sales numbers was difficult in previous generations of search. However such determinations are now supported by analytics, engagement, ranking and PPC data. Use this simple checklist as a starting point for evaluating [brand’s] prowess.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Brand Aid | Channel: Strategy


About The Author: is president of aimClear; an internet focused Advertising Agency with offices in Minnesota. aimClear provides natural search optimization (SEO), traditional & social pay-per-click (PPC) management, and social media/feed marketing (SMO) services to national clients.

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  • http://postrank.com PostRank

    Adjacent to that use of PostRank for your own site/content/brand, you can use it to figure out what DOES work as well. By checking out the branding efforts of competitors or simply those who are “doin’ it right”, you can get a pretty good idea of what tactics and strategies engage the audience. (Though it’s important to remember that their audience may not be the same as yours, and all audiences have their own online activity culture.)

    There are any number of cues to look for. A few:

    - frequency of posts (regular posting trains your audience as much as it does you)
    - length of posts (mixing it up provides variety, and the longer the piece, the more readers you’ll begin to lose)
    - style of writing (is it an anecdote, how to, top 10 list…?
    - tone of writing (is it conversational and sound like an actual person is writing or does it feel like a sterile, PR-and-Legal-scrubbed corporate missive?)
    - type of content (are you providing something useful that can help or educate, or just broadcasting propaganda?)

    PostRank will show an overall score for each post, and mousing over the score will show a breakdown of the sources of audience engagement. (Even more cues — where and how an audience engages with the brand.) There some more info on how that all works here: http://postrank.com/postrank and here: https://analytics.postrank.com/docs/engagement — and I’m happy to answer questions as well.

    Melanie Baker
    Community Manager, PostRank
    melanie@postrank.com / @postrank

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Great article, Marty.

    What are your thoughts on the old “rocks/sucks” test? The idea was you search for: “[brand] rocks” and “[brand] sucks” and compare the number of listings returned. These days you need the quotation marks to get even a rough idea, but does that test reveal anything anymore?

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com nickstamoulis

    Excellent post about search engine and online branding.

    I never really used Postrank all that much, but your post has convinced me to start to utilize it going forward. Thanks again!


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