Author Jason Barnard joins me on this episode to discuss the topic and his latest book: “The Fundamentals of Brand SERPs.”
The Business Story Telling Show with Jason Barnard
[00:00:00] Narrator: This is The Business Storytelling Show with Christoph Trappe. Named a Top 20 storytelling podcast, and a Top 5% podcast globally, Christoph chats with thought leaders and experts to share tips and tricks that can help you tell your company’s stories better to drive business results. Available wherever you listen to podcasts, live streaming on major social media channels, and part of the DB and a television network available on most US television sets and streaming on Roku and Amazon Fire. Here’s Christoph with today’s episode, let’s go.
[00:00:38] Christoph Trappe: Let’s go business storytellers. Hey, how is everyone doing? Thanks for joining me today. We wanted to talk about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). And here’s the thing, I spend my days thinking about this kind of stuff. I do. I create content typically for the top of the funnel, sometimes the bottom of the funnel, sometimes the middle of the funnel, depending on who you ask, how they define certain pieces of content.
[00:01:03] Christoph Trappe: But you know what, what I don’t think about too often is The Fundamentals of Brand Search Engine Result Pages For Businesses. I don’t. Like most companies rank, from what I can see for those things. So, I was excited to read Jason Barnard’s book on the topic. It certainly comes highly recommended. That’s how I ran across it when John Mueller from Google tweeted about it. And I’m very, very excited to talk to Jason today. What are Brand SERPs? Why do we care? What the heck is navigational search? I’m not sure that’s a term I hear thrown around too often in SEO meetings. Like maybe every once in a while, but not that often. So Jason, I’m happy to have you on the show. Welcome to The Business Storytelling Show.
[00:01:55] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Thank you for having me. I’m doing my best to fist pump in the most, oh fist bump rather in the most appropriate manner.
[00:02:04] Christoph Trappe: In the most appropriate manner. We don’t need a definition of what that means, but really appreciate you coming on. Definitely appreciate the book. So, fill us in. Brand SERPs. What is that? And why the heck do we need to care?
[00:02:19] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. Yeah. I mean, your introduction is really, really interesting from the perspective of most people who don’t think about it. If you’re in the SEO industry we’ll say, well, when you search for my brand name or my personal name, or in fact my podcast name or my product name, I will rank number one.
[00:02:37] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And that’s natural. It’s really easy to rank number one for your own name. But with Brand SERPs, you’re looking much deeper than that and you’re saying what Google is showing or Bing for that matter when somebody searches your brand name or your personal name or your podcast name or your product name it’s showing what it feels is most relevant, helpful, and useful to your audience who are a subset of its users.
[00:03:03] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And that goes beyond that first result, it goes right down that SERP. And what it is showing is your “Google business card” or your “Bing business card” and what your audience sees when they Google your name, and remember they are bottom of funnel. They are the people who already know who you are and what you do, they’re just deciding whether or not to do business with you, or they’re already doing business with you. And at that point, what these search engines show them is incredibly important to how they then perceive you now and moving forward.
Make Sure Your “Google Business Card” Represents You and Your Brand Message Honestly and Accurately
[00:03:37] Christoph Trappe: So, the way I think of it a little bit too, it’s kind of like the bare minimum, right? So, when Barry Schwartz was on the show, he basically said, here’s the bare minimum.
[00:03:46] Christoph Trappe: Like if you don’t even do some of these things, like forget about it. And you know, the nightmare I just had when you mentioned, it’s not just result number one, it’s the whole page as I was actually searching for somebody’s name earlier, and this person, I know it’s a person, not a brand, but still, right? A public person and they don’t necessarily have an SEO strategy of any kind, right? So, there were a couple of negative stories that showed up pretty highly. When you search for my name, most everything that shows up on the first few pages, I participated in somehow. Right? They interviewed me, it’s my website, it’s where I work. It’s you know, something I had input and it’s this, I’m not sure you can find anything negative anywhere when you just search for your name. So, how? Is that part of it? I mean, like, you want to own what shows up?
[00:04:42] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Well a 100%, I mean, you’ve put your finger on the next step. The first step is saying, “I need to make sure that my Google business card represents me.” So, we’re going to start with that and say I have a brand message that I’m pushing out on all these different channels, offline and online. I need to make sure that when somebody Googles my brand name, that message, that brand message is being reflected in what Google shows, my Google business card.
[00:05:09] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): That’s step one. It’s saying my brand message needs to be reflected to my audience when they’re searching for my brand name. And when I say Brand SERP, I mean brand as in person, company, product, it doesn’t matter, anything that is in effect a brand in a marketing perspective. And then you move on to what you just mentioned, which is online reputation management.
[00:05:33] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And if there is something negative or not to your liking that you would prefer your audience not to see, you need to make sure that you dominate that with a content that you do want your audience to see. And the trick there is to make sure that Google understands which content represents you honestly and accurately, which content will be relevant, valuable, and helpful to you audience when they’re searching your name, and Google strangely wants to show the content it represents you. So, if that bad content is ranking or getting up onto your Brand SERP, that implies that Google thinks that it’s valuable and helpful to your audience and that’s a very bad sign for your underlying digital marketing strategy.
[00:06:21] Christoph Trappe: Because you’re not really focusing on it, but and you know what, for some people in some brands that negative content is certainly a reflection of who they are, so let’s just be real about that, right? I mean, you know, if they’re a bad brand or, I mean, there was a company I work with the other day and I haven’t heard a single person say a positive thing about them. And when you read their reviews, same thing, right? So, like that’s part of their story that they’re not very good.
Ensure Google Shows Content That’s Valuable, Helpful, and Relevant to Your Audience
[00:06:46] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. Maybe that’s their selling point. I don’t know. But, the other thing about Brand SERPs, I mean, Brand SERPs, when you say, oh, the result for a brand name, you think, oh, that doesn’t go very far. It doesn’t fly very far. But we’ve already gone through my Google business card for my audience when they’re searching for me bottom of funnel or post funnel, then we’ve gone on to online reputation management, then we can go on to saying, well, if Google is showing that negative or off message, brand message on your Brand SERP, it suggests that Google has misunderstood you or it’s understood what your audience truly thinks about you in which case it’s time to start looking in the mirror and asking yourself some very serious questions. Then the next step, if I may, is to say Google will show on that Brand SERP what it feels is valuable, helpful, and relevant to your audience. And if that content doesn’t reflect your content strategy, your digital strategy, and your digital ecosystem, you have a problem because Google cannot see what your audience is truly interested in. So, if I’m investing in videos, but videos do not appear on my Brand SERP when you search my personal name or my company name, it means I’m investing very badly in video. That video is not having an effect. So, the Brand SERP becomes a window into your digital ecosystem. It becomes a free critique from Google about what’s right and what’s wrong about your digital strategy.
Navigational Search Makes It Easy for People to Find Their Way Around Your Website
[00:08:18] Christoph Trappe: And certainly people do search for brand names and I’ll just give you an example. I mean, just even your name alone, Jason, 880 searches in a month, right? Your brand, people search for you. Coca-Cola, I’m not making any comparisons here. Coca-Cola 2.7 million per month. I don’t know why anybody needs to search for Coca-Cola, but my point is Voxpopme, my day job, 2,400. This is public information. You can use keywords everywhere or whatever. I think that’s the browser plugin I use. So, my point is whether the content people in us believe it or not, people do search for brands to do something, to look up whatever they’re about or what not. Now, how do we get started to make sure our Brand SERPs are in order? You mentioned images, it’s about sending people to the right pages, maybe from social. What else?
[00:09:15] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. Well, the first question is why do people search my brand name? And the answer is twofold. You mentioned navigational search. Navigational search simply means I know where I want to go and I’m searching on Google to get there because I’m too lazy to type in the domain name or I can’t remember the domain name or I don’t know that that’s how the internet functions. So, I type in the brand name, and the first reaction comes to that result. And then I click on the first result, which is the brand’s, hopefully the brand’s web page. So, that is navigational search. I want to get to the website. Now, that seems incredibly simple and it seems job done, but it isn’t because I might not want to get to the homepage. I might want to get to the login page or the contact page or the press page or the blog. In which case you have a big chunk of results that Google will put right under the homepage from that same website so you can navigate straight to that part of the site. That is step number one in any Brand SERP optimisation strategy.
[00:10:17] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): If you don’t have those big chunks of links onto your homepage, you make sure that Google will give them to you. And if they already have them, make sure Google gives you the ones that your users truly need. Generally speaking, Google gets it quite right, but you can help it enormously and you can influence very heavily those results that help your users, your audience get to the place on your site that they want to go as efficiently as possible, and that is key. Google and Bing are trying to get their users to the solution to their problem or to their destination as efficiently as possible. And in this case, the people, the users that they are trying to get to their destination are your audience on your website. You want to make sure that you help Google and Bing get that audience to the place they want to go as efficiently as they possibly can.
Your Social Media Channels is Another Manner For Your Users to Interact With You and Your Business
[00:11:12] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Then you mentioned social media channels. I might want to interact with your business in another manner than on your website. I might want to interact, exchange with your business on Twitter or on Facebook in which case you need those to rank right onto your homepage. So, it would go to the homepage, sitelinks, the links into your site, the Twitter profile, the Facebook profile, then potentially LinkedIn profile. Then perhaps a review site which shows how wonderful you are, then perhaps your YouTube channel. That would be a representative Brand SERP because it serves two purposes. It serves the purpose of showing your audience who you are, what you do, and how you might serve them. And it gives them the choice of how they want to interact with you. And that is key. Your Google business card says, “Here’s who I am. Here’s where you can interact with me. You choose.”
Use Your Website as a Hub and Home For Your Company
[00:12:09] Christoph Trappe: So, some of that what you just mentioned, it comes down to how you set things up correctly, right? I’ll give you an example. This is not truly social media, but I’m a part of the Amazon influencer program. So, we live stream to Amazon quite often and when I first started doing that, people said, how did you get into that program? And I said, I don’t know, I applied five years ago when it first opened and I got in and they didn’t have live streaming, and then all of a sudden they started live streaming, so I started doing that. So, my point is, my philosophy is you just sign up, right? If I want to, see Trappe on racket or whatever. The next thing is, I need to sign up for that today and set up my account. Same when I heard you talk about the website, the different sections, and the verbiage, I mean, that really comes down to when you build your website or when you update your website or whatever to set things up correctly. Right?
[00:13:11] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): 100%. And the point is your website is a representation of your brand if you’re a company or yourself if you’re a person, and the website is there to allow people to interact with you on your own territory, but your own territory is what exactly SEOs tend to focus on. And that for me is a mistake because people can interact with you on Twitter, on YouTube, on Facebook, on Amazon, as you rightly said. All of these different platforms are places where you can potentially interact with your audience and your website is let’s say the final destination where they will actually do business with you. But all those touch points on the way down are something that you can see in your Brand SERP, you can optimise by looking at your Brand SERP and thinking, is that what I expected to see? If you’re working on Amazon and you’re working hard on Amazon and your audience is on Amazon, Amazon should be ranking on your Brand SERP. And if it’s not, then you’re not doing a very good job either on Amazon or communicating that Amazon is important to your audience. And that comes down in fact and it’s quite an interesting point is use your website as a hub because you can use your website that Google has recognised as the home of your company or yourself and say, this is important. That’s important. That’s important. Simply by describing it on a dedicated webpage on your website and then linking out to it, which indicates to Google I think this platform is important to my audience. It’s giving Google clues using your own website as the hub that Google is looking at to understand what you think your audience will be interested in.
Continuously Add Content and Maintain Your Brand SERP so That Google Will Have a Clear and Direct Representation of You and Your Brand Message
[00:14:57] Christoph Trappe: That’s always the interest about anybody talking about websites the way you just did is, I think there’s some companies, just the way they’re set up, the way they work, they almost set themselves up to fail, right? Because you have the social team and you’ve got this team and you’ve got that team and nobody talks to each other.
[00:15:13] Christoph Trappe: So, start talking to each other, my friends, please. So, my last question on that, a little subtopic here is, so when you set up your website, right, you got to do that early on. When you set up your socials, you have to do that early on. All those different things you mentioned, you have to set them up.
[00:15:29] Christoph Trappe: And of course, in the content strategy and the SEO strategy, I focus most of my day on it’s a very ongoing project, right? Like yesterday I’m writing this article, I’m going after these keywords, tomorrow I’m going to write a different one going after something else, right? Or think there’s an opportunity there.
[00:15:48] Christoph Trappe: So, I don’t think that my projects will ever stop. Well, they stop when somebody doesn’t get the value, but they, in theory they shouldn’t stop and when it comes to Brand SERPs, is there an end in sight or what do you do after it’s all set up? Like how do you further optimise them?
[00:16:10] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. Well, that’s a really good question because what you just said is that my content never stops. I’m continually adding content. I’m adding value and by doing so, I’m constantly very slightly adapting who I am, what I do, and who my audience could potentially be. I’m expanding. So, the Brand SERP is always going to need to be maintained. Once you’ve done that initial three or four month chunk of work that gets the Brand SERP to represent you the way you want to get that Google business card looking great to your audience, reflecting your digital strategy, reflecting your digital ecosystem. Your digital ecosystem will change slightly over time, so you need to maintain it so it continues to represent your current digital ecosystem. And I’ll give you a really good example of misrepresentation for a person. I was a blue dog in a cartoon. I was a cartoon blue dog for 10 years.
[00:17:08] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Then I moved to digital marketing. When I moved to digital marketing, I would go to clients and I would pitch my services. They would say wonderful, great. You’re such a good digital marketer. We really want to work with you. And I didn’t sign as many of them as I thought I would. And what was happening is that they were googling my name, Jason Barnard, and they saw Jason Barnard is a cartoon blue dog, right at the top of the SERP and it talked about me as a blue dog in this cartoon, which was quite successful. And they thought I don’t want to give my digital marketing strategy to a cartoon blue dog, which is fair enough. This is how I got into Brand SERPs. I set about and it took me about three to four months changing the message that Google was giving my audience searching my brand name, my personal name, to reflect me as a digital marketer because it was reflecting something from two or three years before and I wanted it to reflect something of today. That’s quite a drastic example. Then after two or three months, what then happened is that when they searched my name it said Jason Barnard, digital marketer, writes for Search Engine Journal, writes for Search Engine Land, has this YouTube channel that talks about digital marketing. Oh, and by the way, he was a blue dog. That is an accurate representation of who I am, what I do currently and who my audience is today, and what they would want to see for me today as opposed to what I did yesterday.
Jason Was The Voice of a Cartoon Blue Dog Before Becoming The Brand SERP Guy
[00:18:38] Christoph Trappe: So many questions. So, a blue dog. Like the voice of the blue dog in a cartoon?
[00:18:44] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah, I was the voice of the blue dog. I wrote the songs and my wife and I wrote the scenarios and she did the illustrations and we made a TV series for ITV international, which was quite successful at the time. And we had a website which had 5 million visits a month. And the problem with that is that that kind of representation of my career was incredibly dominant because Google understands the entertainment industry much better than it does any other industry. So, the blue dog dominated and it was quite a struggle not to relegate the blue dog in any dismissive sense, but to make sure that it wasn’t overrepresented on my Brand SERP so that I could actually get some work.
[00:19:27] Christoph Trappe: Very interesting. And then, why did you make the move into digital marketing from creating shows like that to move into marketing?
[00:19:36] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Well, in fact, the blue dog and yellow koala were very successful online. We had 5 million visits a month from children up to 10 years old. 100 million page views a month. It was absolutely insane and we were very successful. We were competing with Disney and the BBC and PBS, and that ended for various business reasons, which are pretty boring and not incredibly encouraging in a human sense. And I needed to repurpose myself, get a new job, get a new career, make money to support my family, and because we had a million visits a month from Google, I figured that was the way to rebuild a new career.
Avoid Ambiguity When Changing or Choosing Your Brand Name
[00:20:15] Christoph Trappe: Yeah, of course. Great. Appreciate that answer. So, that actually leads into my next question a little bit. So, I was thinking that sometimes you have brands that are trying to rebrand and of course there’s a spectrum of rebranding, right?
[00:20:28] Christoph Trappe: We have the let’s fiddle with the logo a little bit and I can’t even tell the difference unless I put them side by side as a consumer all the way to we need a new name, we need whatever. Now, sometimes of course there are more serious reasons or more urgent reasons to do that. I mean, I’m thinking about the Washington football team, right? They’ve changed from the Washington Redskins, Washington football team, Washington Commanders over the last couple of years here. And then we have some companies who changed their name for another reason. Sometimes it’s just because the name they started with doesn’t work anymore or whatever. What role does having to update all this have in those discussions? I mean, does anybody think about that? Hey, somebody will have to work on this for six months to actually make it work. I mean, should that be part of the discussion and is it?
[00:21:22] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It should definitely be part of the discussion right from the get go, from the choosing of a brand name. If you’re going to change your brand name, you need to make sure that it either isn’t ambiguous or if it is ambiguous, that you can still dominate that Brand SERP. Because if somebody is searching for a yellow door, because your company is called Yellow Door, you’re competing with a concept of a yellow door which is a thing and Google is going to try to serve that ambiguity as best it can by showing your company plus a yellow door, plus the cafe next door. So, you need to actually start thinking about how you will be represented online both on all the different platforms around the web, but in your Brand SERP before you choose that new name.
[00:22:03] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Secondly, in terms of actually switching. A company like Facebook who just switched to Meta did an astonishing job. Obviously Facebook is a big, big company. They think about this kind of thing in advance. The day they switched from Facebook to Meta, within a few hours Google had switched that entire Brand SERP on the term Meta, and in fact, Meta was a company they had bought four or five years before and that they were going to sunset in March and they switched the name ahead of schedule as far as I can see and manage to get that whole thing to switch. That is the exception. It is not the rule. Most brands don’t think about it.
[00:22:42] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Most brands don’t work on it and most brands struggle to make that name switch. And one thing I’ve done with the Brand SERP book is I’ve actually built a SAS platform that can help with that because what we do is we go around the web. We find all the references to the initial brand, all the references to the new brand. You can go through the entire list of the old brand, change it all to the new brand, and then it will pop up on the other side. And that is a phenomenally big job. As you just said, six months. If you think about that six months of investment of one person’s time, full time to switch that brand name and it does take that amount of time, but if you can do it literally in three or four days, which is possible with a list that is pre-prepared as we do with Kalicube Pro the SaaS Platform. If you can switch the piece of information like Facebook did, instantaneously within a day, Google will follow. Google is that fast. The reason it doesn’t follow a brand name change is simply because that brand name change is spread over six months and it can’t get the grips with it.
The Fundamentals of Brand SERPs For Business is About Good Marketing, Addressing Your Audience, and Communicating to Google in a Non-Technical Manner
[00:23:51] Christoph Trappe: Of course, I would assume that the size of the company matters too. I’m guessing the Washington Commanders didn’t have much of a problem getting their Brand SERPs to change, but huge, huge brand, right? I mean, like everybody, all kinds of people are talking about it. In the last two to three minutes here, Jason, tell us, I think people can work with you, right? You’re a consultant in addition to an author. How do people work with you? How do they reach out to you? And who are your perfect clients so to speak?
[00:24:19] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Well, we actually have now with Kalicube. I created a company called Kalicube and we’ve developed a process whereby if you’re a beginner in Brand SERPs, the first thing to do is to read the book. The book will explain what it’s all about, what you can pragmatically and practically do, and it will get you started without any SEO experience on managing your brand on Google.
[00:24:42] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Then, if you’re the next step up, or once you’ve read the book, we’ve got a set of courses where I explain exactly what you can do in more detail with practical information, practical advice so you can start building up your Brand SERP and make it look really good to your audience and build up that digital ecosystem that represents your brand truly and honestly.
[00:25:02] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And then, the next step up is a SAS platform, which is for agencies, where we dig into the data. It’s very geeky. We dig into the data, we figure out exactly what’s necessary for your brand. We can help you switch your brand name. We can help you get more press. We can get you more mentions, push you out there to make sure that your brand message is expanded throughout the digital ecosystem to an audience who will be interested in you. And then the consultancy part is when you have a particularly tricky problem, come to me, I will do consulting and I can pretty much figure out any problem you might have with your brand when it appears on Google.
[00:25:42] Christoph Trappe: And, you know, the other thing I always think about is, I’m not necessarily a technical guy, but doing the tech stuff correctly is so important.
[00:25:51] Christoph Trappe: I’ll give you an example. I used to have authenticstorytelling.net, which made total sense 2014 or whatever it was, 2013. It does not make sense today at all. Right? So, I basically moved all this content onto christophtrappe.com, which when I say move, nothing actually moves. It’s just pointing at different directories or whatever, but the team that set everything up did such a great job technically speaking that I didn’t use, lose any SEO juice, my DA went right back up to where Authentic Storytelling used to be. Everything was working correctly. So my point is, if you’re not a technical person, make sure you have that technical know-how, whether that’s by reading the book, whether that’s by hiring somebody who can help you with that. But I think there’s, you know, we can’t all be good at everything.
[00:26:50] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Absolutely, 100% brilliant. One thing I would point out is the technical aspect is important, especially in specific cases like that where you’re moving from one place to another. So, if you’re rebranding, moving a website, incredibly important, but The Fundamentals of Brand SERPs for Business is all about good marketing, common sense, addressing your audience, and then communicating to Google mostly in a non-technical manner. Who you are, what you do, who your audience is, and which content you’re creating is important to which audience at which stage in the funnel on the way to the bottom to becoming your client.
[00:27:27] Christoph Trappe: Fantastic. Jason, thanks for joining me. I really appreciate you sharing your insights.
[00:27:32] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Absolutely brilliant. That was wonderful. Thank you.
[00:27:37] Narrator: That’s a wrap. Thanks for tuning in. Please rate and review our show on your favorite podcast channels. And don’t forget to share this episode with your networks. We appreciate you.