In today’s globally-flat, interwoven, small market world you need a strong brand. Most companies have identified basic guidelines for how to communicate their brand in advertising like a brand voice for print or television ads or a “brand bible” that outlines all the do’s and don’ts for preserving the brand. Businesses spend millions of dollars in time and money to to protect and promote their brand identity and then throw those guidelines right out the window when it comes to their search engine marketing initiatives.
There are plenty excuses, I’ve heard them all:
“We don’t have the space for branded messages.” “We need ALL the click throughs.” “My god man, our call to action is far more important than our brand’s key messages”
This is classic race-to-the-bottom thinking. You’re sacrificing quality and emotional connections with your customers for short-term results. You become a bean-counter (no offense to those of you who actually count beans, ‘tis a fine and noble profession), spending all day focusing on the bottom line and loosing sight of the big picture. In the process you leave your customers with a less-than-stellar idea of what your brand is, and more importantly, with less of a desire to purchase your product when there’s another company selling the same product a few dollars cheaper. If you think you can out-race Walmart to the bottom, good luck and god speed.
So how can you effectively communicate your brand and build an emotional connection with clients, when you only have 70 characters and a headline to deliver a message?
1. Be Authentic: Use your brand voice
Authenticity is one of the most important components of a reputable brand. You are a real life company, run by real life people! Show that in your ads, don’t just write what you think the customer wants to hear. Just because you have fewer characters, doesn’t mean you can’t carry that same verbiage over to your Search Engine Marketing (SEM) initiatives.
In addition to reenforcing your brand, a consistent voice gives your audience a level of comfort and security with your SEM ads. They know they can trust your brand and that clicking on your ad won’t result in a constant loop of “You’re the 100th visitor, claim your prize now!!!” pop-ups.
2. Be Truthful: Make sure you can deliver on your promise
If there’s one thing the Internet despises, it’s a scam. With Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and commenters eager to expose any perceived wrongdoing, there’s an army of detectives working to verify every claim a company makes. Misrepresent your brand on the Internet and the reaction will be swift and far-reaching enough to irreparably damage your brand. Whatever you’re offering in your SEM ads, whether it’s free shipping, free estimates, or the ability to increase a client’s profits, you’d better be able to deliver.
The biggest culprit of these types of misrepresentations tend to be over-the-top calls to action. An enticing call-to-action might send your click-through-rate soaring, but the real price you’re paying for those clicks is in the damage you’re doing to your brand. You can always get that conversion rate back up, but you’ll never get that customer back. Your ad is a promise. It says if you click here, we can deliver what we’ve promised and we’ll be everything you expect from us. Don’t break your promise.
3. Be Relevant: Don’t confuse your customers
Make sure your SEM ad and keywords are relevant to what your potential customer is searching for. Don’t just buy keywords that have high local monthly searches simply to show up in front of people.Your customers aren’t stupid. If your ads are consistently showing up where they’re not expected or where they aren’t “supposed” to be, people will naturally begin viewing your ads with skepticism, “Oh that ad shows up everywhere, I bet they don’t have anything to do with what I’m searching for.” The opposite holds true as well. If an ad is consistently showing up for related keywords/phrases, then it creates a natural trust with the audience.
Bottom line: If I’m Coke, I’m not going to want to show up next to a search engine result for “French Dolphins.”
4. Be Ethical: Don’t purchase your competitors' keywords
It’s hard enough for audiences to trust your message to begin with. Nothing says, “We’re a sleazy company,doing sleazy ad stuff and we care more about making a couple of bucks than about doing what’s right” like your ad showing up when people search for your competitors. Get your own customers and quit being a poacher. Buying your competitor’s keywords can seem like a genius idea when the market is crowded and you’re trying to carve out some space, but it leaves you looking looking slimy. And no one wants to do business with a slimeball.
5. Be Helpful: Talk to your customers
Don’t be a faceless company. You are not your business casual khakis! You, as a business, are providing your customers with something they need and want. You are helping them solve their current crisis. Take pride in that! Your customers are searching for something, whether it’s a new shirt, new customer management system or a new way to enjoy tuna. Offer it to them! Be informative, educational, invite them to talk to you. Treat them like the human beings they are and not like the walking wallets you wish they were.
The new consumer is smart, and has a BS detector that’s being tested virtually every minute of every day. To get through these filters and ingratiate your brand with consumers you need to craft compelling messages that promise to help solve their problems. Instead of saying “CLICK HERE I’VE GOT THE BEST WIDGET,” say something like, “OUR WIDGET REDUCES OVERHEAD 78%.” If you solve a problem for a customer that they didn’t even know they had, you created a customer for life.
Protect your brand. It’s priceless. Don’t let two little 35 character sentences destroy what took you years to build.