DIGITAL BRAND AUTHORITY FRAMEWORK

How To Effectively Take Your Brand From Invisible To The Awareness & Positioning That Increases Traffic
by Jason Berkowitz

THE MAJORITY OF SEO CAMPAIGNS HAVE FLAWS; PLAIN & SIMPLE

I know… I get it; It’s easy to say as someone who owns an SEO agency.

But let me fill you in on some insider information the SEO community doesn’t want you to know.

Simply put, most SEO agencies aren’t evolving!
?we’ll get back to this statement in a moment

 

SEO & Inbound Marketing Is NOT Dead!

In the digital marketing community, the common thread that comes up every other month is that SEO no longer works or that SEO dead.

Aside from the fact that these marketers are likely peddling a different vertical for their financial gain, SEO is definitely not dead and will not be going anywhere anytime soon.

In fact, Forbes has stated that by 2020, investments in SEO will reach $80 Billion.

SEO Spend

While it’s no secret that there’s a stigma behind SEO as a marketing strategy, it’s one of the most powerful forms of inbound marketing and inbound traffic generation.

 

Wait… Stigma? There’s Stigma With SEO?

Simply put, most SEO agencies aren’t evolving!

It’s no secret that Google (and other search engines) are consistently advancing their algorithms to fight spam and increase the selection of quality results.

Because of this, the SEO community consistently goes haywire when a new algorithmic update is released, and their client’s websites simply drop in the rankings (possible penalty?).

Why are they tanking?… Well, to be honest, people are creatures of habit and refuse to evolve their strategies as the world around them evolves. They resort to old school philosophies because they refuse to acknowledge that times be changing

The SEO companies, unfortunately, are still living in a realm of social bookmarking, blog commenting, search engine submissions (was this ever relevant?), web property stacking; basically hours of work that will lead to nothing to show for it (proof in a moment).

Google Algorithm Updates

It’s been stated very popularly that Google updates their algorithm 500-600 times EACH YEAR.

In their internal effort to fight spam, these algorithm updates are aimed at ensuring the search results provide the most relevant and authoritative results.

As you can see below, what worked very well in 2012 will have no chance in today’s SEO world.

 
On the other side?

On the other hand, you may have spoken to an SEO agency that sounded too good to be true.

They promise the world but all you’ll be left with is extensive .xsl reports that leave you so confused you have no choice to accept the fact that they might know what they’re doing.

(real-world SEO report provided by a current client and their past experience)
Click image to enlarge

THIS SITUATION SUCKS!

Not knowing if the agency you’d like to work with can actually provide a realistic change in the search engines, or if the agency you’re already working with is actually spending the time to execute on what really works to get you the shifts in positioning.

I get it; I’ve been there. I’ve been right where you are right now.

As the previous owner of a small business (in 2008) that heavily relied on search engine traffic to grow my revenue, finding the right company to work with was a challenge for everyone involved.

One company said to us, “sign up with our services and we’ll perform our secret proprietary methods that will change the rankings in 4 months, guaranteed.”

Another company even said, “we know someone in Google that tell us exactly what to do to fix your website.” (side note: all Google employees are bound by the strictest non-disclosure agreements in the world).

Finally, I can remember one company even said, “we’ll help you publish blog content, 5-6 times/week, which is what’s only needed to increase your rankings in Google.”

Yes, this situation sucked!

SEO WONKA MEME

WHAT THESE AGENCIES WERE MISSING…

I quickly realized that the commonality these agencies had, was that there was no set standard for how they achieved results. They relied on the ‘shiny object of the week’ and didn’t have a foolproof system for getting more organic traffic from the search engines.

So, as you’ve probably figured, we decided to keep the SEO in-house.

Hours turned into days, which turned into months, which now, has turned into almost 10 years of analyzing data, testing execution strategies, measuring results, reverse engineering ‘big-wigs’ and developing a framework that can be applied to almost any SEO campaign.

A structured map for achieving the desired top positions within the Google search results.

A framework that marketing directors, marketing associates, & business owner can take and use to implement SEO & digital marketing for their own business.

The Digital Brand Authority Framework

This framework, outlined below, will show you the steps involved, in proper order, to take your website from nowhereland to becoming the go-to authority for your offering.

Here’s How It Works

[toc]

 Strategy Development / Research

Strategy DBAFMany people start their SEO campaigns with the basic approach. They’ll go to their favorite SEO keyword tool, input a broad term that they feel matches their core service offering, ensure there’s search volume and that’s that.

They’ll continue this approach for related search terms and wonder why, after a few short months, they’re nowhere to be found in Google.

It’s worth noting they likely didn’t do proper optimization, to begin with, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

As with playing chess, with working out, with playing a competitive sport, everything has a strategy that was developed from the ground up. SEO is no different and requires the same amount of attention to detail as the strategist in your favorite NFL team executes.

Thorough research must be conducted to ensure you’re optimizing for the right targets, but that these targets also warrant an opportunity for realistic results.

As I said above, merely putting a keyword into a tool can be a decent start, but it doesn’t help when you’re developing a “BIG PICTURE STRATEGY.”

Your strategy development needs to consist of 4 things:

1. Market Research – What is your target audience looking for? What is the regular buying habits of these targets? What influences the targets decision to choose one brand over another? As the future industry leader, you should have the answer to most of these. If you don’t, surveying current fans of your brand will help you break into the mind of your target audience.

Write It Down

2. Keyword Research – Now is when the search term/keyword research comes in. Every keyword has a specific intent behind them that drives the user to make a search. Perform your keyword research that not only has search volume but also contains estimated click-through percentages (which can be determined via ClickStream Data).

Whip out an excel sheet and organize these keywords into columns separated by three stages in a typical funnel; Top of the Funnel (TOFU), Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) & Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU). This will help you later on when producing the creatives.

3. Competitive Research – Who are the players in your industry whom have the positioning & awareness that’ll be crucial for your business? What things can you immediately notice that “stick” out when visiting their websites? Use a backlink checker to determine what type of incoming trust signals they have.

Write It Down

4. Target Persona Creation – Using the information above, with keywords designated by search intent, create an ideal client avatar, which lists the typical motives behind them. Why they make a certain purchase, what drives them, what are their hobbies, how old are they and everything else applicable in a typical customer profile.

You are the general in your brand’s army. You are responsible for ensuring that your brand has the awareness and visibility to make the needle move. Like every great general in history, they are not alone. They have a team of advisors that assist them and guide them through brainstorming sessions to produce & execute the right strategy.

Write down the strategy, hang it up next your daily workspace, and look at it frequently to remind yourself to stay on track.

Foundation

Foundation DBAFIt’s that time!

You’ve been saving up for 2 years and you’re finally ready to take the plans and blueprint of your dream house and make it a reality. You work with your contractors and explain, here is where the house is going to go, the land is flat, just plop the build rig

As your contractor knows, there’s more to it than simply starting to build the home.

It’s very likely your contractor would look at you with confusion.

“You can’t just build a house,” he says. “There’s a lot of foundational work that needs to be done.”

The ground needs to be analyzed for thickness. The plot needs to be dug into. The ground needs to be leveled. A frame needs to be built. Finally, concrete needs to be poured. (Not going to lie, I Google’d ‘how to lay a house foundation’)

Just like a house, the foundation sets the precedent for the entire campaign.

Any business, whether it’ a brick and mortar store or a Fortune 100 company dominating the financial market, branding is key!

Setting the foundation doesn’t need to be hard. Here are the general basics every foundational structure:

Social Media – Securing your brand profiles on the relevant platforms. Also, secure your brand on the big wigs; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram.

Public Relations (PR) – Have something unique about your brand/product/service?

Journalists are always on the lookout to write about something amazing and interesting. Doing internal PR or hiring an agency to assist will help you not only build the brand’s Semantic Web Entity but also get some good links and traffic to your website.

HOT TIP: Journalists are consistently looking for sources to quote in their work. Sign up for HARO to submit your pitch.

Citations – If your brand is local, build the local reputation by securing citations, or websites that are local directories of sorts. This includes sites like Yelp, SuperPages, Manta and of course, Google My Business.

Here’s a post on Manta in which I describe this in more detail.

Think of your brand as your home. You want it to stay strong forever and be set on a structure of longevity. Build your websites brand the way you would your home.

Creatives

Creatives DBAF

This is not only how people will link to your website and visit your website, but most importantly, stay on your website. At this stage, as the (PHASE) suggests, you need to get creative.

Creatives allow you to nurture your engaged website visitors through your funnel to get them endpoint point, which could be a sale at your core offering.

The creatives should have a direct tie into your keyword columns, created in the Strategy Development phase.

You’ve probably heard the phrase before “Content is King,” but if that’s the case, “Conversion is Queen.”

Creating content that traps the visitor into your value and getting them to take action to the next level of the funnel will be your make it or break it with getting a return from your content + search strategy investment.

Creatives can come in many forms and is not limited to just long paragraphs.

HOT TIP: Most readers will scan an article before starting to determine the readability and ease. If the content is just long-winded paragraphs, the reader will likely hit the back button.

Furthermore, creatives aren’t limited to being straight content. The best content marketers add a bit of spice to their pieces, in the form of:

  • Videos
  • Images
  • Statistics
  • Polls
  • GIF’s
  • Highlighted Quotes
  • Infographics
  • Embedded Tweets

?– All of which are focused on keeping the readers engaged.

It also goes without saying that content should be created with the keywords in mind.

Making sure your On-Page SEO is on point, Natural Language Processing (NLP) is used, and everything flows naturally, you’ll be well on your way to producing creatives that’ll give you some Google Love (Image result for google icon❤️). 

Marketing

Marketing DBAF

It’s safe to assume that this phase in the Digital Brand Authority Framework is not only the most time-consuming but also the most challenging.

‘Getting the word’ out is where many marketers get confused because proper processes and execution systems that aren’t over-saturated is few and far between. You can’t just log in and magically appear in front of your audience.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

It’s a partly serious question that branches directly into the value and content that’s been growing on your website.

Many brands that have amazing creative teams have usually gotten up to this point, became stumped and couldn’t stem further.

Marketing is the bread and butter of it all. This is what will get you that traffic which turns visitors into engaged readers to eventually customers. Every web visitor acquired digitally has a footprint or a root source — a footprint in which they’ve followed to get to your website.

This stage of the Framework is where you embark on the marketing journey and create those footprints.

Now, this article is primarily logged around Search Engine Optimization, but SEO is not the end-all-be-all of marketing. There are many, many other inbound traffic generators outside of Google search which warrant amazing results.

  • Paid Social / Sponsored Posts
  • Reddit
  • Real-Time Bidding (RTB)
  • Advertising Networks
  • Sponsored Content
  • Influencer Marketing

The list is virtually endless, but the idea behind marketing your content is getting the word out.

Similar to how PR is executed, the safest and most efficient way of getting the word out is through Manual Outreach. Reaching out to blogs, influencers, publications and letting them know that you have a fantastic piece of original information could help you acquire a mention.

But for SEO benefits, something a bit more critical than a mention is that link which branches off to your website/creative.

Backlinks are what Google classifies as the significant incoming trust signal.

If you’re data-nerds like us, you might ask the question, “but Jason, how do backlinks signal trust.”

In it’s purest form, backlinks mimic real-world word of mouth.

To keep up with the various references throughout this Blueprint, say you’re looking for a great home builder to make your dream home. Yes, you can go to the Yellow Pages (?) and look for a contractor, or you can ask your friend Jimmy who recently finished his brand new house himself.

Jimmy tells you that he had Break The House Construction build his home and the entire experience was terrific. From the planning to the development, everything was perfect.

Given Jimmy’s recommendation, you’re very likely to trust BTH Construction. You trust Jimmy, and Jimmy is willing to put his reputation on the line to recommend this construction company to you.

That’s how Google sees it. When a relevant website is willing to put their reputation on the line and link to your site, a transfer of trust is made, leafing your website with the signals needed to rank for the relevant search terms.

Quick Question; How many tree puns were made in this section? Answer correctly on a call with us and win a prize!

Optimization

Optimization DBAF

You’ve done it! You’ve created fantastic content. You’ve acquired some solid backlinks. Your web traffic is at an all-time high; unfortunately, you’re not noticing the Return on Investment.

This is the usual scenario experienced by brands that use a 3rd party SEO agency. They’ve invested a healthy budget into the SEO campaign, and the results are there, but the sales don’t reflect the efforts.

That’s because there’s more to being an authority than just amazing ranking.

Up until this point, I hope, your website been collecting data.

You can tap into your analytics and see the way people are engaging on your website. You can browse the various heatmaps that have been created to determine where the visitor’s mouse has moved to. You can view audience screen recordings to see exactly how people have navigated around your page.

These data sets are what you will use to enhance the experience on all fronts.

In the optimization phase, there are many action items that’ll need to take place:

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) – Optimizing the experience to improve conversions. A conversion doesn’t have to be a sale. It can include transitioning a visitor into the next stage of the funnel.

Lead Nurturing Optimization (LNO) – Optimize the funnel for loop removals, dead-ends, bad Call To Actions (CTA’s) and transitions that remove the initial intent.

Keyword Gap Analysis – What gaps exist within your content? Are there more keywords your content can ultimately be positioned for in Google Search? Find these gaps and optimize for them.

Content Gap Analysis – What gaps exist within your website? Did you accurately explain one topic but completely neglect the important sister-topic? Find these gaps and continue to produce amazing creatives.

Depending on your overall digital goals, this is likely a recurring phase. Always Be Optimizing (ABO) is the mindset of successful marketers.

There’s always going to be tests that can be done and improvements that can be made.

Authority

Break The Web

This is where you look back and ask yourself, “was it all worth it?”. Your answer should be, “damn straight it was!”.

If this was not your answer, it’s time to revert back and spend more time at each phase before this.

Now that you’re an authority on the web, you’re likely noticing a bunch of different things.