Friday, July 18, 2008

OnlineSpin: Employee Brands Must Be Part Of Your Search Marketing Strategy

Last week Max wrote "Want To Win Customers? DonÂ't Be Like A Wireless Carrier."

Jay Deragon wrote in response, "Max, as usual, very well said -- and the points you make apply to all businesses in all industries.

All this 'social stuff' is speaking in loud voices to brands who don't fulfill on the promises they make to their markets.

Being anti-social is and will have a significant impact on brand equity and stock values.

Stay tuned and watch the power of influence shift.

Great post, thanks. I'll be quoting you in similar post."

Friday, July 18, 2008
Employee Brands Must Be Part Of Your Search Marketing Strategy
By Max Kalehoff

It's simple: Employees steward personal brands that drive intrigue among customers and other external stakeholders. These employees include senior management, client project leaders, engineers, sales managers and customer service reps, among many others. So it's no wonder employee names become frequent and critical keywords that drive targeted search traffic to company Web sites. Which begs the question: why don't marketing departments embrace employee brands as part of their search strategy?

If a company's HR department embraces search to recruit the best people, then the marketing department should embrace people to boost overall company search performance. Strategically, you should think of your employees as critical brand assets within your company. And just like your core company and product brands, market activity will generate awareness and interest.

What stimuli drive personal brand searches to company Web sites? Consider news coverage, new hires, word of mouth, sales and customer-service interactions, due diligence on significant project engagements, agency staff assignments and performance awards. With infinite drivers of searches for employee names, companies should consider how to capture that stakeholder interest and connect in more powerful and relevant ways.

Here are six key factors to consider in embracing personal employee brands in your search strategy:

1.    Employee Prominence. Employees who play more visible and important roles in the execution of a company's products and services should be weighted more heavily in search strategy. Of course, like with any branded search strategy, you'll need to consider things like segmentation, name competition and differentiation.

2.    Paid Search. Just as you would for your branded products, you should consider purchasing keywords for employees with significant brand names. Invest in quality landing pages so quality score goes up - particularly, unique employee-branded pages. Optimize your buys around key market events, like an employee's conference speaking engagement, or association with a new product launch or other promotions.

3.    Search Engine Optimization. Including key employee names and bios on the Web site is key for SEO. But go further and give individuals their own profile pages so there are more quality pages for search engines to index -- which you'd want anyway, for paid-search quality scores. Even better, presuming they're up to the challenges and responsibilities, empower employees with company-hosted blogs so they can generate more search friendly-friendly content. Also, encourage employees to cite your company brand externally -- especially on professionally oriented social networks and directories, like Linked.In or industry-oriented message boards and groups.

4.    Employee Buy-In. Incorporating personal brands into search strategy can extend into uncharted territories of personal privacy. Whether disclosing, exposing, associating or advertising names, be sure you have buy-in from those employees.

5.    Practice Etiquette. I'm sure you could come up with many examples of poor etiquette, but I think a top contender is buying the personal-name keywords of your competitors.

6.    Defensive Strategy. Finally, define a nimble, defensive strategy to manage the fluid nature of employee-employer relationships. While search is becoming a more important facet of demand capture, employees are becoming more dynamic, sometimes transient company assets. They often resign, are terminated, join competitors or break out on their own. Inevitably, some become negative forces on your brand reputation -- sometimes in high-profile cases, and others in stealth, but targeted ones.

How do employees and personal brand names factor into your search marketing strategy?

Max Kalehoff is vice president of marketing for Clickable, a search-marketing solution for small and mid-size businesses. He also writes

Online Spin for Friday, July 18, 2008:

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