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Building Brand Awareness With a Search-First Approach

Customer journeys aren’t linear, but they almost all contain search. Using a search-first marketing approach can help you build brand awareness and help you rank when it matters most.

Jun 7, 2024

6 m read

Every time your web pages appear in organic search, your company’s reputation grows. Audiences engage with your content, and as long as you make an impact, they start recognizing your brand as reputable. That’s why search visibility is about more than traffic and clicks — it’s key for building brand authority and paving the way for your company’s long-term success.

In this guide, I’ll explain how to accelerate brand awareness using a search-first marketing approach. If you’re not familiar with the term, this guide will get you up to speed. I’ll explore what a search-first strategy is and how the framework serves to boost your brand’s prominence, drive sales, and expand your market share.

What Is a Search-First Strategy?

Search-first marketing is a strategic approach that places search engine visibility and optimization at the center of your marketing efforts. It recognizes the central role search plays in the buyer journey, ensuring your site is easily discoverable when potential customers search along the path to their products or services. 

A search-first strategy also emphasizes the importance of high-quality website content and aligns the channels that drive traffic to that content with your SEO strategy. This alignment enables businesses to more consistently connect with their target audience in the right place, at the right moment, with the right message.

Other channels, such as paid ads, social media, and influencer partnerships, still have a place in your marketing. However, a search-first approach prioritizes the data gleaned from search engines as the primary driver to improve all of your channels. The goal is to create a high-performing, optimized website that ranks well in the SERPs and serves as validation for your other channels, generating leads and inspiring conversion through precisely tailored content. 

How a Search-First Approach Builds Brand Awareness

Search is central to the buyer’s journey. Sometimes it’s the starting point, sometimes it falls in the middle, and sometimes it’s the last action a customer takes before signing up for a service, scheduling a consultation, or purchasing a product.

Audiences discover your brand through search engines in a couple of ways. First, they can Google the name of your business. This is also known as branded search. In these cases, obviously, the searcher has to have encountered your brand at some point already – maybe they saw a reel on Instagram or were served a PPC ad on a previous search. Alternatively, your content — landing pages, blog posts, videos, products — can appear in search results when users seek information about your industry, services, or products. Your target audience may not have heard of you, but if search engines continue to surface your content, they’ll start to recognize your brand more and more.

With a search-first strategy, you can hone in on the most impactful queries for your business to target and create targeted people-first content along the customer journey that ranks well in SERPs. Then, as someone works their way through different queries during their buying journey, they become increasingly familiar with your brand. As long as you’re making a positive impression with your content offerings across your marketing channels, you can start to spark brand recognition and stand out from your competitors.

How To Use Search-First Marketing To Increase Brand Awareness

So, what does a search-first approach look like in practice? Below are some of the tactics that help you boost your brand visibility and impact in organic search and across other marketing channels. 

This is meant to be an example — not prescriptive — since part of the beauty of a search-first strategy is that it’s tailored around your own data.

This is also an iterative process, and to be honest, it’s not necessarily linear. You may find that you move on to step two only to realize you have more data questions. Similarly, after you have a keyword strategy, you’ll need to reassess the content on your target pages. 

Lastly, just like SEO, this isn’t a set-it-and-forget process. A search-first strategy requires frequent analysis and testing so you can assess what’s working, what isn’t, and what you want to try next. 

1. Dive Into Your Analytics Platforms

Your Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts contain actionable insights, as long as you know what to look for.

Before deciding which pages or keywords to prioritize, you want to make sure you understand what’s currently happening on your website. 

  • Which pages are ranking well? 
  • What queries and pages are driving conversions?
  • What channels are generating the most leads? 
  • What’s the breakdown for organic branded vs non-branded traffic?
  • What path are your users following to convert?
  • How do these pages fit into your marketing strategy?

Each of these questions represents threads to pull to better understand the fabric of your current traffic. As you pull, you’ll find there are additional questions you may want to answer before delving into what’s on those pages.

Knowing which pages are ranking well and which are driving conversions offers a lot of insight into the kinds of content your current audience finds engaging – but you also should understand how those conversions are impacting your overall business goals to get the full picture. . Understanding the breakdown between branded and non-branded organic traffic tells you a lot about how users are finding your site, but it’s also helpful to see how those breakdowns change across your key pages. 

2. Investigate Your Page Content

Now that you have a better idea of which pages your customers or clients find most valuable, take a look at the content on those pages.

  • Does the content align with the search terms you were initially targeting? 
  • Does it align with the queries that are currently driving traffic to those pages? 
  • What’s the user experience like? 
  • How much copy is on the page?
  • Does it present value to your reader?

Ideally, your content presents your brand as a trustworthy, authoritative source. If you understand what searchers are looking for and why, you’ll be able to craft content that meets them where they are with the information they need to take the next step. Google’s goal is to provide searchers with relevant results – iIf your page content doesn’t align with the intent of your target keyword’s search intent, it won’t rank well for that keyword. 

Similarly, if your pages don’t provide value to your reader, or if they’re difficult to navigate, they won’t stay on your page. Your content needs to be helpful, insightful, and designed to serve as a response to the search query.

3. Set Your Search Priorities 

Once you’ve got your metrics and investigated your content, it’s time to identify opportunities to rank.

A search-first approach requires a comprehensive keyword strategy to maximize your ranking opportunities and guide content creation across different marketing channels. But it’s not all about choosing the keywords that have the largest traffic potential. You also need to consider your overall marketing strategy to ensure you’re focusing on the areas that will create the most positive brand awareness. After all, you created your marketing strategy to help you reach particular business objectives. If your keyword strategy is isolated from it, you’re missing out on the opportunity to really capitalize on SEO and search as a growth channel.

At this point, you’ve learned a lot about your metrics, your website, and your content. All of that information is going to help you distill additional data from your favorite keyword research tool, allowing you to map cohesive keyword themes to specific URLs.

Since there is no perfect SEO tool, you’ll also want to actively search particular keywords to learn more about their SERPs, including search intent and SERP features, and analyze whether your content can provide enriching information that will allow you to rank.

Once you’ve identified where you’d like to focus your efforts, use to:

4. Create and Publish High-Value Content

As I discussed above, your pages need high-quality content written for your target audience to rank. You need to engage your reader and deliver a meaningful, memorable experience. This means publishing content with value, whether you’re helping readers to answer a question, make a decision, or solve a problem. After all, your audience has a specific objective in mind. If you can help them achieve that goal, they’re more likely to have positive associations with your brand and click on your content the next time you appear in the search results.

Thoroughly understanding your audience and their frustrations and challenges can help you focus your content on what matters more to your audience. What are their pain points? What’s important to them? What do they want to know when they enter a keyword into Google? 

Some of this information will be clear from the search data you’ve already collected and analyzed. Combining it with your other marketing data and audience research will provide a solid foundation so your content marketing team can bring its unique take to the table.

Once your content is ready for primetime, be sure to optimize landing pages and blog posts so they have a better chance of ranking high in SERPs and increasing brand awareness:

  • Create unique and descriptive title tags and meta descriptions.
  • Improve readability with short paragraphs, bullets, and lists.
  • Incorporate keywords into the URL, meta tags, headers, and content body.
  • Use structured data to help search engines understand specific pieces of content.
  • Link between relevant pages using clear and descriptive anchor text.

You can also create content for other channels. Use your insights about what matters to your audience and the types of information they want from you to create social posts, videos, and emails. These additional touchpoints showcase your expertise while building additional brand awareness.

Increase Your Online Reach With a Search-First Partner

With billions of searches happening every day, platforms such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo are primary channels for discovering your brand. By focusing on a search-first strategy, you can shine the spotlight on your business and build the familiarity, trust, and loyalty needed to spark results.

Our experts can customize a search-first approach for your business that includes keyword research and content creation, as well as technical, on-page, and off-page SEO. Schedule a free consultation to get started today.

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