Why Should SEOs Measure Brand? — Whiteboard Friday

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The author’s views are entirely their own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

In this Whiteboard Friday, Tom discusses why SEOs should measure their brand, with specific reference to Moz’s new metric, Brand Authority.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Happy Friday. I’m Tom Capper, Senior Search Scientist at Moz. Recently at MozCon we launched a new metric, Brand Authority, and in this Whiteboard Friday I just want to briefly explain why we think this is important, why we think that going forward SEOs are going to care more and more about measuring brand.

Why SEOs should care

This is something that I personally have been thinking about for quite a long time. This is a study I put out in 2021, which hopefully will be linked below. This is just showing that in terms of domain level ranking correlation, branded search volume, which is not the same as Brand Authority but is a simpler metric that I had available at the time, branded search volume was actually nearly as well correlated with rankings as Domain Authority and certainly more so than links to domain.

Image showing a ranking correlation between Domain Authority, links and branded search volume

This is interesting to me, and I’ve been doing studies like this since around 2017. Although I didn’t work at Moz back in 2017, but little did I know at the time there were people at Moz thinking about this too, and this is something that Moz has actually had in the works for a very long time. Even when I started at Moz about two and a half years ago, there was already a prototype of this metric, and it was something that we were thinking about and sort of improving on and iterating on.

Now the reason why I think this is interesting is that there are a few reasons why this could be the case. Well, why is it that a simple, somewhat silly metric, like branded search volume, can be nearly as well correlated with rankings as Domain Authority? How does that happen? Well, one answer that a lot of SEOs will jump to is, oh, maybe it’s a ranking factor.

I don’t think so. I’m a bit of a pedant. Personally, for something to be a ranking factor, I think that needs to be a metric which is a direct input into Google’s ranking systems. I can’t be certain. I don’t work at Google. I don’t think that branded search volume is a ranking factor. But there are a bunch of other ways that it might play into rankings, which I think are interesting or should be interesting to SEOs.

Image showing reasons why SEOs should care about measuring 'brand'

One of them is that most of us agree and I certainly think links are a ranking factor. Brand and links have a lot of interplay. If you think about the things that you might do to build links, a lot of them will also result in increased interest in your brand. You think about things like digital PR. Similarly, a lot of the things that you might do as brand marketing result in you getting links.

The better established you are in the industry, the more people are talking about you, these are the things that you would do as brand marketing, right, those will result in people linking to you because you’re an authority or because you’re mentioned in their campaign or whatever it might be. SERP signals I think is another potential factor here. Now this is a controversial one. A lot of people don’t believe that Google takes into account SERP behavior, or maybe it does it indirectly or something like that.

I think SERP signals probably do play some sort of role in Google’s algorithm. I’ve written about that elsewhere. I won’t get into it now. But having a strong brand will definitely impact things like click-through rate from the SERP. Even if you don’t think that affects ranking, you probably do care about click-through rate from the SERP. So if people get to a SERP, they see three sites, and they’ve heard of one of them, which one are they clicking?

It’s quite simple, right? Then lastly, obviously we’ve been talking a lot in the last few years about E-A-T and now E-E-A-T, expertise, authority, and trust. This is kind of what Google originally set out to measure with links. But brand, however they might want to measure that, is very relevant. If you’re talking about expertise, authority, and trust, that’s all related to brand.

So these are sort of some of the big reasons why I think that SEOs should care about brand at least.

How to approach your job as an SEO

If we think about how these translate, there are a lot of things that once you start recognizing that brand might influence rankings, it might change how you approach some other parts of your job as an SEO. So, for example, if you work with other marketing channels, well, it’s going to help you to talk to them and to get buy-in for what you’re doing and then to get buy-in for what they’re doing if you can recognize that there are a lot of these positive side effects.

If you’re working on a brand campaign, it might influence SEO. If you’re working on SEO, it might influence brand, this kind of thing. Obviously, for you to leverage this, you do need to be able to measure it. Then also a lot of SEOs have been thinking about the role of links. Now I saw a survey I think most recently last year from [indecipherable]. I’ve seen a few of them over time.

In recent years, most SEOs, when polled, think that links either are of declining importance or will be of declining importance in the future. Now, obviously, this is speculation. But we can all agree that links are not what they were in the early days of SEO. They’re not the be-all and end-all anymore. You can’t do links alone as SEO.

So if you’re thinking about links maybe having a gradually declining value, then you might want to think about, well, what would Google replace that with as an authority signal. Again, I think brand is a pretty good answer, or at the very least it’s correlated with a lot of things which are a pretty good answer. Lastly, I think there are many other use cases here, but one of the ones that’s most exciting to me is sort of competitive analysis or strategy work, where you’re trying to position yourself within your industry and figure out what’s important, how you relate to competitors, this kind of thing.

Compare Brand Authority to Domain Authority

Image comparing Brand Authority to Domain Authority with examples

So this is a visualization that we have in Moz Pro at the moment, where you can put in your site on Domain Overview, and it will show you how you compare on both BA and DA to some competitors. So I’ve done this here for autotrader.com. I should say right now Brand Authority, it’s in beta. It’s currently quite U.S. leaning in the results it will give you.

That will change over time, probably very soon. But right now, it’s quite U.S. leaning. So this is autotrader.com, not, for example, autotrader.co.uk. They are different companies weirdly. So auotrader.com, it turns out they have a stronger brand but a slightly weaker domain than their competitor Edmunds. That tells them something about where they might want to focus their efforts, what might be causing them to do better or worse in certain scenarios, this kind of thing.

Then if you compare it with a site like cars.com, they can see, okay, they’ve got a quite similar level of Brand Authority, but a much stronger domain. So if they’re being outcompeted by cars.com, then maybe links wouldn’t be the focus area, for example. You can have your own theories.

You’ll know your own competitor space. You’ll know how you’ll use this information. But I think being able to show a C-level or show your manager or show your clients this kind of contextual data can be really useful both in setting expectations and in thinking about what your priorities might be as a brand. Anyway, I hope that gave you some food for thought.

Please do go and try out the metric. There will be lots of links below I’m sure. Thank you very much.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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