Reach and Frequency: SEO Secret to Brand Building on Google?

evolution-computer-ageFor those of us who have been in search engine optimization (SEO) for a number of years, we can recall the days when SEO efforts were measured by a ranking report, alone. That is to say, you might pick your top 50 keywords, dump these into a rank checker, run a report monthly, and determine whether these 50 keywords moved up successfully or fell in the search rankings.

SEO Evolution

We evolved. We:

  • Incorporated reports on link building efforts.
  • Started to incorporate increases in natural/organic search traffic from our web analytics reports.
  • Started breaking out branded versus non-branded keyword traffic.
  • Started looking at conversion rates (what percentage of our organic search visitors were completing lead forms and/or buying products from our site).
  • Incorporated call-tracking and looked at conversion path, to include multi-channel conversion tracking.

What’s Next?

As someone who came into the SEO/digital marketing space from a traditional marketing background (radio/television/print), it’s fun to think about where we’re heading next.

It’s been my belief, since Google’s Vince update of February 2009, that Google was going to begin to figure out how to fix the “cesspool” of search results (as Google’s Eric Schmidt called it) by placing heavy emphasis on “brand”. How, then, does one build a brand in today’s digital marketing marketplace?

Back in the day, building a brand came down to a formula I learned while studying advertising:

Reach (number of people who received your message) X Frequency (number of times those people received/were exposed to your message) = Gross Rating Points (GRPs), or otherwise the “effectiveness”/value of the marketing campaign.

Has the practice of SEO evolved to the point where we need to start looking at reach and frequency, again?

Reach Frequency is Dead, Long Live Reach Frequency!

There are many who have said that reach and frequency is an outdated measurement of marketing success. Until recently, I was one of them.

Google AdWords used to promote reach and frequency metrics for CPM-based ad buys. As my colleague Josh McCoy will often say, if Google’s reporting on it, chances are it means “something” in their algorithm.

Well, Google is reporting on it:


Perhaps we’re evolving to a point where we should consider reach and frequency metrics – not as a replacement, but as an additional metric to show value of our SEO efforts.

Brand Building Measuring Modern SEO Success

Today’s SEO incorporates many methods of creating and promoting content. Some content is

  • Video – perhaps views on YouTube is an SEO metric? 
  • PR/public relations – should we incorporate number of mentions in the press? We certainly try to measure the backlinks produced from such efforts. 
  • Blog content that goes viral. 
  • Infographics.

There are loads of tools available to SEOs nowadays to help to measure “success”, but I don’t think we’ve gotten to the point where there is a super-tool that can bring all of this together (if you guys know of one, I want you to comment below so that I can check it out).

When we develop an infographic, and promote it through social channels, if it’s done well, we can earn quite a few good links. Aside from the links, there are some instances in which the link was removed, but the brand value of the infographic can remain.

If you’re exposing your brand to a mass audience, there must be some (SEO?) value in that, right? It’s building your brand.

I believe that SEO has reached a point where you could make an argument that some traditional metrics of building a brand should be incorporated into reporting of “success” for SEO. If you can build the brand, shouldn’t it help natural search engine rankings?

If more people are searching for your company’s name, because you’ve created great content, promoted it, earned links/mentions/retweets, etc., shouldn’t that help SEO? Should SEO be given any credit for an increase in branded searches, or even increases in direct traffic?

What Was (is?) Old is New Again?

Perhaps we’re evolving toward a model that factors reach and frequency. If we can compile all of the information on exposure of the brand and how these efforts lead to higher rankings and/or more traffic (organic/direct or otherwise) and how – through multi-channel analysis – these efforts are leading to conversions, then perhaps we’ll help position SEO as more than “just” a direct response marketing effort?

Please share your thoughts!

Register now for SES London 2012, the Leading Search Social Marketing Event, taking place 20-24 February, 2012. SES Conference Expo features presentations and panel discussions that cover all aspects of search engine-related promotion. Hurry, early bird rate expires February 3!

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