Ranking for Your Brand Name When it is a Generic Phrase

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Ever wonder why you can’t rank first in Google for your brand’s name? This post will show you how.Ranking for Your Brand Name

As an SEO company that regularly helps clients build their brands, it’s been natural for us to get a few clients that want to rebrand under a different name. Naturally, they want to rank for Google searches for their new brand name, and sometimes this can require more effort than other times.

In fact, when Digital Elevator was started, the phrase “Digital Elevator” was associated with some LG (the TV-makers) ad that had some global reach. That meant that I had to do a bit more legwork to get my brand name to rank first for searches for the company.

But, as I would find out, and as I have come to find with others clients, my brand name was slightly generic and this brought out a very important consideration for how difficult it would be to rank number one:

Context.

my brand name was slightly generic and this brought out a very important consideration for how difficult it would be to rank number one:

Context.

That’s right, the context of your brand name has a lot to do with its difficulty ranking it first. For example, I once led an SEO campaign for a cosmetic dentistry website that featured a product called “Lumineers,” a type of dental veneer. At one point, we had the Lumineers page on our website ranking second, just under the brand’s website, until Google came along and made some context-related changes to the search engine results pages (SERPs).

As you may know, there is a band called “The Lumineers,” and these guys became very popular shortly after our dentistry website was created. Because Google figured that a search for “Lumineers” was more likely to be for the band than the dental product, the context of this search, at least in Google’s eyes, leaned more towards results for the band.

This remains true for this search to this day; Lumineers, the band, dominates the SERPs while the dental product only shows up once on the front page:

ranking for a brand name

This is a perfect example of how context – for a brand trying to rank or for rankings generally – can present a challenge for ranking.

In the case of Digital Elevator, we were able to successfully rank number one for our brand as well as fill the first page of the SERPs with our social media profiles. This is the marking of a successful branding campaign. I’ll teach you how to do this below.

If your company is like Lumineers, the type of name that exists already and is associated with something else, the likelihood of you ranking first depends on a few things:

  1. How popular your company is compared to the other product/service/person
  2. The context of the phrase that comprises your brand name
  3. How much SEO you are willing to do

Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up if you just named your company Coca-Cola Paint and want to have it rank for “Coca-Cola.” You’ll never do this, no matter how much money you spend on SEO.

If Google feels a phrase is contextually related to something specific, it will always want to deliver that result to searchers in an attempt to match their perceived intent.

If Google feels a phrase is contextually related to something specific, it will always want to deliver that result to searchers in an attempt to match their perceived intent.

However, if there is not some megabrand, band, or phrase dominating the space, you may have a shot.

How to Rank for Your Brand Name

Ok, so you’ve made the decision to rank for your brand name. Here’s how to give it the ol’ “college try.”

  1. Get the exact match domain

In my case, I bought the domain name thedigitalelevator.com. According to Moz’s Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015, Domain-Level Keyword Usage, or having “exact-match keyword domains, partial-keyword matches, etc.” is the seventh most highly correlated ranking signal.

domain level keyword usage

Source: Moz

If this is already taken as a .com, you can always try to buy a different TLD: .tv, .co, .biz, etc. A dot com is always going to be your best bet, but in an effort to maintain branding consistency and play nice with ranking correlations, I’d advise this. Of course, you have to take a look at whether or not a brand that owns the dot com is ranking and if you want to compete with that.

  1. Update all of Your Social Media Accounts

Slightly less tricky than getting the domain, but tricky nonetheless, getting all of your social media profiles to have your brand name in them is your next step.

Facebook

Facebook, being the nice guys that they are, will allow you to change your page name once, and only once. They will also allow you to change your business URL as well… but only once.

Obviously, with Facebook and all of your social media accounts, you want to change the name rather than create a new profile because you want to maintain your followers.

Twitter

Twitter has far less strict rules about name changes than Facebook, but this doesn’t always mean the @name you want will be available. If it is, you’re home free. If not, you have a couple of options:

  1. Contact the person who is using the handle you want and negotiate (you’ll have a better chance of getting this if they don’t use it and if they don’t have any followers)
  2. File a trademark issue with Twitter. You will, of course, have to prove all of this.

Instagram

Changing your name on Instagram is pretty easy as well. Here’s how.

However, if you’re username is already taken, Instagram is not much help. They recommend choosing an available version with “periods, numbers, underscores, or abbreviations.” Like Twitter, there is an option to allege an infringement of trademark rights though.

  1. Build Brand-based Links

If you refer to the above Moz graphic, you’ll see the most highly correlated ranking signal is Domain-Level Link Features. This would include link metrics such as the quantity of links, the trust of those links, domain-level PageRank of those links, etc.

is Domain-Level Link Features
Source: Moz

Link building may be the single most important thing you do in your effort to rank for your brand, but you’ll still want to do the other items mentioned above.

Link building may be the single most important thing you do in your effort to rank for your brand

So, what is a brand-based link? For me, a link that used the anchor text “Digital Elevator” is what I’d be shooting for. If you were to take a look at my backlink profile and that of most brands, you’d see that most instances of links to our sites include the brand name as the link text. Ex. a link to the Yankees website would be Yankees.

If you wanted to increase the likelihood that you would rank for your brand name, building links with the anchor text of your brand name would be the most powerful way to do so.

If you don’t have the resources to build links (or simply don’t know how), you have another option. You could try to make changes to the instances of your brand around the web and see how that does. This assumes that your brand is preexisting though and has mentions on the web. To do this, you’d find all the sites on the internet that mention your brand but don’t link to it, and ask them to.

Rank for Your Brand Name: Next Steps

After reading this post you should have a good idea of whether or not the brand name you want to rank for will actually have a shot of ranking first on Google. If it is super-generic, your chances become much harder, but this doesn’t mean it is impossible.

Regardless, you should try and update your domain to have an exact match of your brand name or at least contain the main words. Secondly, update your social media profiles so that they are all consistent with your new brand name.

Finally, build links to your website using the exact words of your brand name. This will be the most powerful thing you can do but will also be the most time-consuming, depending on how competitive or contextually challenging that name is.

If you have any specific questions about how to do this, for help doing this, or to determine how viable this would be, feel free to reach out to me or comment below.

Daniel Lofaso
Daniel Lofaso
Daniel E. Lofaso is the lead SEO and owner of Digital Elevator and is also the founder of startup SwellSpy. Connect with Lofaso on Twitter and LinkedIn

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