A Happy Medium: Branded Content vs SEO Content

October 16, 2017 by Andrew Woods

If you’re a digital marketer, advertiser, web or graphic designer, I’m about to bring up a topic that we all know too well. Age-old demands from a client that say they want “X”, but really mean “Y”, and based on your professional opinion should be “Z”. There is no real secret formula to solving this problem, so if you have one, please share it!

At Duckpin, we’ve found that doing our best to educate the client on the specific project we’re working on tends to ease most of the confusion around client expectations and reality. That being said, one recurring item we’ve run into is balancing a clients desire for improving SEO, but at the same time requesting content only be brand focused.

At junctures like these, I usually find it helpful to define what things actually are, because as a digital marketer, even though I know what branded content looks like, and I know what a strong SEO strategy looks like, that doesn’t really mean that I KNOW those things in the moment. You know?

SEO Content vs Branded Content

What is Branded Content?

Defining Branded Content can be somewhat of a herculean task, but the simplest way I can define it is content that creates a “world” that is your brand. From how the brand speaks, walks, talks, eats, looks, and feels, branded content creates an experience. The best brands are able to do this and be recognized before you even see their logo. Think Target, McDonalds, Levis, Coca-Cola. Those brands are instantly recognizable.

This is, in many ways, the opposite of the goal of SEO Content.

What is SEO Content?

SEO Content, despite the confusion it may cause in the real world, is actually a fairly straight-forward concept. This is content that meets the demands of search engines and searchers. It tends to be more informational in order to provide a page with the opportunity to rank well for a wide range of SERP features.

SERP Features? Yes, we should probably go over those as well.

What Are SERP Features?

Though many people are focused on pages ranking well organically in a google search, there are actually a handful of ways for content to show up in a search result. SERP features can be anything from featured snippets to related questions, video and image results, AdWords Ads, the Local Pack, reviews, the knowledge panel, and so on.

How do you trigger SERP features?

So, the tricky thing about SERP features is often times you need to speak in a way that Google and other search engines understand. For an immediate example –– the headlined items in this very post you are reading, “What is Branded Content?” etc, are written that way in the hopes that Google might decide to pull text from those sections in a featured snippet or related question the next time someone searches for any of those questions.

Which…understandably, can feel not very on-brand to a lot of clients.

Finding a Happy Medium

Well, now what? To some degree, this might be a never-ending war between both worlds, but the best solution we’ve found is to meet both in the middle. From the client’s perspective, this means fitting our SEO efforts into their brand. The opposite of how an SEO might naturally think about it, which would be fitting the brand into the SEO.

Fortunately for us SEOs out there, Google is getting smarter and smarter at recognizing user intent, allowing content to be written in a more natural tone instead of being stuffed with keywords and search friendly phrases. So instead of saying, here are the SERP features we need to hit, the important keywords, the phrases and terms, etc; you can fit SEO into a brand by taking the following steps.

Step 1:

Ask yourself, what are the intangible components of this brand? How should we talk? What does this brand feel like?

Step 2:

Complete your Keyword and SERP analysis without the brand in mind. Develop your SEO game plan.

Step 3:

Connect the dots. Take one of your target keywords, phrases, or content ideas and write it down on a piece of paper or up on a white board. Then brainstorm how your brand would think about this information. How would someone who spoke like the client’s brand talk about this topic, search for this topic, and think about this topic?

In conclusion, it can be frustrating when we feel like a client is not doing what we believe is in its best interest, but by breaking down the problem from both ends, it can be possible to find a happy medium that is successful in the eyes of all parties involved.