Updates (Nov 25, 2019): I wrote this article in the Summer of 2018. It may not longer be accurate. But my sense is that it will be accurate for 3 to 5 years because big orgs like these change slowly and Google’s strategy of favoring large brands is not set to change anytime soon.
Google Brand Score (formerly known as Page One Score) is a formula I have developed to evaluate an organization’s brand presence on page one of Google search results.
Want to skip right to the part about how to improve your Google Brand Score? Skip to the bottom of the article.
This is also known as SERP Branding, in the SEO community, but that’s a little wonky, plus it tends to discount the importance of CRO (conversion rate optimization) copywriting, which Google tracks carefully as click-through rate, which in turns affects SEO ranking.
I use the term Google Brand Score to emphasize the continued importance of Google for most brands, though Bing matters for some – the same methodology can be applied there.
So this is what you get when someone searches for their name (in PPC marketing, we call this a “branded keyword”) on a search engine, namely Google, but the results hold true for Bing. I evaluate positioning, conversion appeal, and brand presence. This is NOT about traditional SEO (ranking); though it is search engine optimization, of a kind.
Why Google Brand Score matters
For B2B marketing, including any kind of lead generation, inbound or outbound, Google Brand Score is remarkably important.
Prospects want to be impressed when they type your brand name into Google. And if they are making a significant investment in your services, whether you are a one-woman outfit or a 100-person agency, they will almost always type your name into Google.
One way to look at it is as follows: if a copywriter and a UX designer were able to custom design the presence of your brand on Google search results for your branded keyword, what would they create? And how closely does what they would create (a “10” on a scale of 1- to 10) match the actual result?
Well, as it turns, you CAN hire a copywriter, UX designer, and on-page SEO consultant to do all those things, and to completely transform your page one score. I list out some of the best ways to do this but first let’s take a look at some real-world examples from companies.
As the global leaders and design, branding, and digital should each have a perfect brand presence on Google search results, right?
A teardown of 15 big agencies
In fact, here’s how the 15 of the world’s largest creative/digital agencies describe themselves to the world, ranked by their Google Brand Score.
|Agency name (Google search term)||Title||Description||Site Link Extensions||Google Brand Score (1 – 10)|
|IDEO||IDEO is a global design and innovation company. | ideo.com||IDEO is a global design company. We create positive impact through design.||
|Landor||Landor | Brand consulting and design||A global leader in brand consulting and design, Landor helps clients build agile brands that thrive in today’s dynamic, disruptive marketplace.||
|Frog (PPC)||Frogdesign.com | frog Design | Creating Measureable Value||e Work To Advance The Human Experience Through Brand, Product & Service Design. Ideation to Real Products. Go To Market Strategy. Leading Innovation Firm. Types: Transportation, Healthcare, Mobile & Telecom, Consumer Products, Retail, Financial Services, Social Impact, Enterprise Software.||
|FutureBrand||FutureBrand US: The Creative Future Company | FutureBrand||FutureBrand is the Creative Future Company, a global brand consultancy. We define and deliver connected brand experiences.||
|Interbrand||Interbrand – Global Brand Consultancy||As a global brand consultancy, we know that growth is achieved through clear strategies, exceptional customer experiences, and world-class capabilities.||
|Wolf Ollins||Wolff Olins||At Wolff Olins we’ve defined ‘radical’ to mean four things: fundamental, simple, different and human. But as we explored this together recently, we realized we …||
|W2O Group||W2O Group | Right Data & Actionable Insights for Your Brand||W2O Group is an analytics-driven, creative marketing and communications firm that empowers brands with the right data and insight-driven actions. Learn more.||
|Frog (Organic)||Frog Design||frog transforms businesses at scale, creating systems of brand, product and service that deliver distinctly better experiences for customers, consumers, citizens …||
|Huge||Huge Inc.||Huge is a full-service digital agency headquartered in Brooklyn with offices worldwide. We transform brands and build businesses.||
|Big Spaceship||Big Spaceship||A modern partner to ambitious brands. We help organizations connect with audiences through a deep understanding of culture and behavior.||
|Sagmeister & Walsh||Sagmeister & Walsh||Sagmeister & Walsh is an NYC based full-service design firm that creates identities, commercials, websites, apps, films, books and objects for clients, audiences …||
|AKQA||AKQA||AKQA is an ideas and innovation company. We exist to create the future for our clients.||
|Sapient-Razorfish||SapientRazorfish: A Digital Transformation Agency||From customer experience to data and AI, SapientRazorfish is business reimagined. Learn how we can help drive your company’s digital transformation.||(none)||4|
|Pentagram||Pentagram — The world’s largest independent design consultancy||Pentagram is the world’s largest independent design consultancy. The firm is owned and run by 21 partners, each of whom are leaders in their individual fields.||
|Neo@Ogilvy||Neo@Ogilvy | Leaders in Marketplace Foresight | Global Media …||Neo@Ogilvy delivers marketplace foresight and digital media solutions to performance-oriented marketers around the world.||(none)||2|
There are some interesting patterns here:
- One area of expertise: branding/design (and copywriting is never mentioned so to claim “Creative” expertise is a stretch)
- No specific types of services mentioned other than branding and digital transformation
- No specific types of clients, though some mention F500 brand names, boosting their Google Brand Score
- There is usually a Wikipedia presence filling out the right column of the search results page; if the brand is smart/lucky, the Wikipedia presence piped in includes a logo.
- Sitelinks that are usually non-distinct (About, Contact, Jobs)
- Lots of vague and meaningless catchphrases, like “positive impact through design”, or “innovation company”.
- Hardly any calls to action in the description text and/or Sitelinks (only 2 out of 15)
These companies are probably getting most of their work through word of mouth, which makes sense – a lot of them do amazing work and have done since the dotcom era. Smaller firms, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of being generic, full-service branding firms with no expertise outside of design.
Let’s just hope they are not relying on the brand presence on Google. With the notable exception of IDEO, which has interesting and easily digestible thought leadership all over the page, these firms have a disastrous Google Brand Score, despite having enormous resources at their disposal, including a (theoretically) superior understanding of the power of branding.
11 Ways to Improve Your Google Brand Score
Below you see a brand with an excellent presence on page one of Google search results. I break down some of the ways it accomplishes this below. By the way, most of this is as applicable to Bing as to Google.
- Using technical SEO, write your homepage SEO copy as though it were a piece of content (e.g. an article or a guide), so that it has an appealing, on-message, and you-focused page title (this is what Google uses to create the clickable title of a search results entry). Also, make sure your home page’s SEO title not cut off.
- Same for the homepage’s description, which you should supply by writing a meta description. By the way, this is the only meta tags which matters to normal SEO and also to your Google Brand Score. Make sure you write it as copy: descriptive, informative, useful, and include a call-to-action.
- Because Google often picks them up in search results, make your main menu items descriptive. Google often uses your main menu items to create what are called “sitelinks” below your main result entry (IDEO does better than most of its competitors because its first site link is “Design Thinking”).
- About our software firm > About
- Lead generation articles > Blog
- UX Strategy & Services > Services
- On the same token as #1 and #2, write the page title and description for each important page likely to be a part of your page one score as if you were optimizing a piece of content.
- Create a Wikipedia entry (if warranted) for your brand. If your brand doesn’t warrant a Wikipedia entry, because the general public doesn’t need to know who you are, then you are at a disadvantage. This is Google calculated strategy to improve search results by favoring big brands.
- Note: the logo that Google pulls into the informational block mostly supplied by Wikipedia comes from your primary website. The lesson there is to consistently use, name, refer and link to your logo. I’d name the actual file, OrganizationName_Logo.png, and same for the its alt tag. I’d even create an external link somewhere on your site saying, “Look at OrganizationName’s new logo!”.
- Run an
AdWordsGoogle Ads ad, where you can easily replicate steps 1-3 using AdWords conventions. Research shows that searchers are morely likely to click your organic search result if they have previously glanced at your paid ad. Of the 15 major agencies I reviewed, only IDEO and Frog Design were running paid ads above their organic ones. And fortunately Google makes it affordable to bid on your branded keyword.
- I’d take full advantage of sitelinks, callouts, and other extensions that puff your Ad up
- Maintain an active Twitter feed that is clearly connected to your brand name. Here’s where the best practices of social media management go out the door. All that matters here are recency, regularity, popularity, and being on-message.
- Create a branded YouTube channel; we’re seeing a massive uptick in the frequency with which Google pulls YouTube into branded keyword search results. All of the same requirements apply as for Twitter
- This is only relevant for very big brands, but have a news feed that also abides by the principles of frequency, regularity, and popularity.
- Instead of just having a “Jobs” or Careers page, use Google Jobs and write descriptive, attracted job descriptions optimized for your Google Brand Score – descriptions that let users infer what your business does.
- Have an excellent “Google Maps” entry. By the way, this is related to Local SEO, but it’s not the same thing. What you’re worried about here is whether the photography and copy that Google pipes in from Google Maps enhances your brand. Read about local SEO to figure this out.
There are other ways that follow the same principles, but those are most important approaches currently (always subject to change according to Google’s whims, of course).
By the way, these aren’t necessarily specific instructions; you’ll have to Google those yourself. This is just to point you in the right direction. Bon voyage!