The Holy Grail Of Internet Marketing: Owning The Whole SERP

The Holy Grail of Internet Marketing

Photo from drp.
Used under Creative Commons license.

In many ways, taking charge of your search engine results page is like answering the age-old philosophical question, “Who am I” — but for your business.

You may still be in the dark about what motivates some of your personal actions, but if you’re a business owner, I’m pretty certain you know exactly what your business is all about. That’s the first step.

Now you need to translate that into Google results. Sound easy? Didn’t think so. It’s a bit like trying to reel in Nessy with a  Pocket Fisherman.

But all hope is not lost. You can – and should — take ownership of your SERP (Search Engine Results Page), and there are more ways than ever to do just that.

Integrated search has been a thorny issue for marketers since it came out, and the issue is only getting pricklier.

Local maps, the Knowledge Graph, one-boxes scraped from Wikipedia, and the various tools Google provides based on user searches have combined with ever-increasing screen real estate for paid advertising. The results are often chaotic, and have left some siding with Microsoft’s FairSearch rallying cry of “anti-competitive.”

Certainly, online marketing on Google is getting more complex and difficult, but even a part-time marketer such as an SMB owner can use paid, organic, and social techniques to reach the zenith of comprehensive search engine marketing: showing in each of the parts of Google’s SERPs.

Branded SERP Ownership

For the part-time marketer who is not focused on a number-one rank for every relevant keyword, the biggest goal is to allow a brand-aware user to find the business’s official site by name.

Verifying word-of-mouth with anonymous reviews, strengthening the deeper pages on the site, and surfacing real news about the business are all important to ensuring that a new brand-aware customer comes in the door.

own the whole branded serp

Branded AdWords Campaign

The first step for any small business to clearly own the SERP is to start a branded AdWords campaign. By tightly controlling keyword choice with exact and phrase match types, a marketer keeps costs low, avoids brand squatters without filing for a trademark, and strengthens the brand’s appearance on the Google SERP.

It may seem crazy to pay for clicks to your site, especially if your site shows up in the first position organically, but the data shows that having both the first and “zeroth” positions increases clicks by up to 89%.

Furthermore, by using phrase and exact match in your keyword set, you limit your ad from showing on less-related keywords, keeping your cost-per-clicks low and manageable.

Finally, the naturally high quality score the ad will have for the brand name allows a wide variety of ad extensions to show, expanding both the size and the trust factor of the ad.

Branded Organic Results

Slightly more difficult than showing ads for your brand is to ensure your site shows prominently in organic rankings. While domain name plays a role, the stronger signals come from, as you might expect, links. The easiest way to do this without trying is to get links from news sources and local blogs by doing newsworthy things as a business.

Short of getting natural links, posting press releases about truly meaningful company news can be picked up by news sources; and there’s no worry about PR links not working, as was preemptively reported by some outlets.

As important to organic’s role in owning the results pages is managing how the site’s snippet shows. Promoting and demoting sitelinks via webmaster tools allows branded searchers to find deeper, more meaningful pages on the site without refining their search. Authorship provides a face to the name, increasing trust compared to a blank set of search results.

Review pages with Schema or hReview markup show that your existing customers love you, and other semantic markup like breadcrumbs makes the content on the page clear before your analytics platform show a bounce.

Google+ & Local Optimization

Authorship has been mentioned before, but Google+ pages have become so much more than a Facebook competitor. By merging Google+ with Local results, it’s become imperative that a marketer set up a Google+ page.

Reviews, both on and off Google, +1s by friends, and accurate hours provide a wide variety of information that shows in the Knowledge Graph area above any poorer ads that might be running on your brand name. Linking your Google+ to your site with rel=publisher allows you to combine whatever +1s come to your site with your Google+

But Google+ isn’t a cure-all. Expanding a consistent business profile to Yelp and other, more mundane business directories helps ensure that your Maps listing is strong in its own right, and provides more owned and “rented” content to show for your brand search. Keeping a strong and consistent local presence also helps with the real Holy Grail: non-branded SERP domination.

The Real Win: Owning The Non-Branded SERP

Convincingly showing up on Google for your own brand name is great, and honestly not too difficult, but there is yet one more major hurdle for the intrepid internet marketer: non-branded search.

Getting all these things right is hard enough, but to have to compete with others who have a reasonable reason to show for a given keyword forces you to take all the lessons from brand-level marketing and push it to the limit. The too-short answer is to turn your branded marketing efforts up to 11 while simultaneously shifting gears to target more general terms.

own your unbranded seep Non-branded AdWords requires a well-optimized campaign, a manageable level of competition in your area, and a relevant landing page that ensures high quality scores and comparably low costs-per-click. Again, judicious use of match types can keep the budget-focused marketer from wasting an entire day’s budget on one click.

Consider reaching out for descriptive anchor text, often found in appositives, instead of linking your brand name to help your organic search visibility. The same strategies of outreach and re-publishable content creation will allow your business to reach for the stars in organic search.

Finally, making your social and local efforts relevant to unbranded search queries is the final straw to break Google’s back. Accurately categorizing your business on Google+ Local and Facebook provides on-page factors that make it more likely to show up in SERPs.

Likewise, review sites such as Yelp or DealerRater are further strengthened by the natural location and keyword data provided in organic reviews; these, when strengthened by links from your site and others, have a high chance of showing up for “money” keywords.

The trick for the non-branded ranking domination is to scale your content and linking in a way that focuses not on your business name, but on your business’s services — a logical move to pull in customers who don’t know of your business’s existence. Using “rented” space on other platforms allows you to have a variety of domains showing in the ranking pages that funnels new business to your website.

The Holy Grail Of Internet Marketing

Owning the SERP is a far-reaching goal for most SEO campaigns, but a little bit of work can assure your business is considered by Google to be the answer to a keyword query. With a well-managed strategy, a business can dominate search results, letting all roads lead to the Rome of your site.

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

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO | Google | How To | How To: SEO | SEO - Search Engine Optimization


About The Author: is CEO of Search Influence, a national online marketing firm focused on small and medium-sized businesses, and white label online marketing products for publishers and media partners who serve them. Search Influence is the largest online marketing company on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans’ only Inc. 500 honoree in 2011.

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  • Nick Stamoulis

    I’ve had so many clients tell me “we don’t need to worry about SEO for branded keywords. It’s our brand after all.” But just because it’s your brand that doesn’t mean your content is what populates the SERPs. When someone searches for you by name you want to make sure you control that interaction as much as possible and that means dominating the SERPs with content you’ve created.

  • Brian Smith

    Great article! The value of owning your own branded space in the SERPs is severely under estimated by many, especially large brands. We consistently preach this part of SEO to our clients. It’s an effective campaign when you can own the brand and show growth in the non-branded keywords to drive the bottom-line.

  • Annie Winters

    until I saw the check which was of $5055, I didnt believe that…my… brother was like realey bringing in money parttime on their apple labtop.. there dads buddy haz done this for only about 20 months and just cleard the morgage on their mini mansion and got a great new Maserati. this is where I went, fab22.comCHECK IT OUT

  • Nataliya Yakushev

    In my experience owning your BRANDED SERP is only possible when you start from scratch (aka brand new name and no brand legacy) and have no earned media links. If your brand got mentioned on a popular 100% SEO compliant website, you are out of luck. they will own this space for lonmg time. Considering if this mention is positive, good for you. If negative – than it is a challenge. Google will display only certain amount of “same kind” properties – it must be the right mix of websites, microsites, social profiles, news sites, etc.

  • Julian True Flynn

    As someone who has profited many times from brands who don’t have control over their search results I make sure the same doesn’t happen to clients and or my own businesses. A lot of gold mentioned in this post Will.

  • michael h. klein

    this is a fantastic post. great work!

  • Suits

    Great post.

  • or zilberman

    Dealing with brands is actually one of my favorite practices in seo.

    My guideline for the brand first page is to have 100% ‘autuorized’ results. This means the company pages and some positive reviews and mentions. I actually think its good to have a few results that are positive but not from you as users in the process of reviewing your brand will turn to other resources then your own company website. So having a different pages there that are ‘chosen’ by you can be a big push for your company.
    Even if not in immediate ctr and sales but later in.
    As can be seen from the multi funnels many conversions take more then 1 entrance to the site. If I can push that process and gain a bit of control over it so it’s best.

  • Matej Michalík

    I have a question, I was looking over the internet but still dont have an answer. We have an adwords campain, our business rank number one in google local places with the specific keyword we are interested in. A week before we were at 11 place in google places but also in the search results on the second page. Now, we are number one in Google local but in the search rusults we are not appearing any more. Is this normal? Is it right, that with one specific keyword your business can rank three times? (adwords, google places, search results). Thanks. Matej.

  • Derek Visser

    Love this semi-philosophical article, especially the intro. A work of art Sir.

  • Henry Smith

    If your focus is to get high SERP ranks for all your keywords then you have to rely on search engine optimization. Now, how you do it will entirely depend on you. Learn and talk to SEO consultants to get quick and effective result for your target keywords.

  • amor joy Aguelo

    All this will be discussed in a

    clickminded – an seo course. Join now!


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