How to Analyze Your Brand Signals

10/13/2015 01:28 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2016

If you've been keeping up with marketing buzz, you've probably heard about brand signals, a mysterious new force that seems to be usurping SEO and hijacking traditional search marketing.

What are brand signals? How do you create them? Why do they matter? And what if you have a tiny brand? Are you screwed?

Search marketing has come a long way since the free-for-all days of tier linking, keyword-stuffing, and ezine posting. We're in a brave new world where brands matter -- good ones. Search engines are savvy enough to tell a quality brand from a crappy one.

How is your brand doing? Do you know what brand signals are? Can you identify yours? Measure them? Analyze them?

Here's what you need to know about brand signals, and how to do some basic analysis.

Brand signals are all about credibility.

First, it's important to understand brand signals. What are they anyway?

Online brand signals have to do with the way that your business or company exists in the Internet sphere. Do you show up in search results? Can people tell that your brand exists? Do people talk about your brand? Do sites publish content that mentions your brand?

All of these questions center on the subject of credibility. Are you a credible brand? Are you trustworthy? Do you exist? Do you have something to say?

Brand signals impact your credibility in the following ways:
  • Search credibility -- How often people search for your brand terms is an important component of your brand's visibility and credibility. Google measures these signals to assess how interesting your brand or business is to users.
  • Social credibility -- Much of the online discussion takes place on social networks. Search engines work in concert with social networks to measure your brand's credibility. More directly, users themselves will judge your brand based on your brand's social visibility and reputation.
  • Content credibility -- As long as you're producing plenty of high quality content, you shouldn't have a problem. In the absence of content on your own site or other sites, your brand will suffer. As other websites mention your own, your brand gains credibility through cocitation.
So, are you ready to analyze some of the features of your credibility?

Check your search stats in Google's Search Console.

Google provides a helpful way to analyze your search statistics, which are a major indicator of your brand visibility. Using Google's Search Console, click search traffic → search analytics.

Make sure you have checked clicks, impressions, CTR, and position, as you want to analyze each of these.

As you look over your data, the following are signs of good brand signals:
  • Plenty of branded search volume
  • Healthy number of impressions
  • Strong clickthrough rate (30%+ is a good number, but varies depending on your niche)
  • High position. Ranking in the top three positions for branded terms is always a good sign. You should definitely be on the first page.

Look at the search results page for your branded terms.

One of the most straightforward methods of measuring your brand signals is simply to search for your brand.

Here's what you should see:
  • Your brand should appear first in the search results, or at least close to it.
  • If you are a local establishment, your shop should appear in the local pack.
  • If your branded term is a retail product, then you should see Google shopping results or schema markup indicating user reviews and/or the cost of the product.
  • If your branded term is the name of your business, you should see a Knowledge Graph entry with a description of your company.

Measure your social buzz.

There are a few ways to measure your social buzz. First, you can do the good old fashioned, check-each-one approach.
  • Does the brand have a Facebook page?
  • Does the brand have Twitter profile?
  • Does the brand have Google+ account?
  • Etc.

Assuming you have an account on all the major social platforms, find out who's mentioning you, hashtagging you, or talking about you.

It's important to take this to the next level, too. You want to understand how many user are sharing your website socially. You can find this out using Buzzsumo. A paid account is not necessary if all you do a few simple searches.

To measure how many users are sharing your blog articles or website, enter your domain into Buzzsumo, and get a quick read on your top-shared content.

The fact that your content is getting tossed around on the social networks is a good sign that you've got some healthy brand signals.

Find out who's talking about you.

Some sites might talk about you, but they won't necessarily link to you. Or even if they do link to you, you might not know about it.

There's a simple way to find out who's chatting about your brand, and more importantly, to find out what they're saying.

All it takes is a Google search or two using a few clever queries. For example, when you search, you probably want to filter out your own website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., because those will obviously have your brand name. Instead, you want to learn which other sites have mentioned your brand.

To search for my brand name, Quicksprout, in Google, I would enter this query: "quicksprout" -twitter.com -facebook.com -wikipedia.com -neilpatel.com.

This query searches for all mentions of the word "quicksprout," but filters out all results on the following websites: Quicksprout, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, and Neilpatel.com.

The search results that come up will demonstrate some of the websites that have mentioned my brand, Quicksprout.

Local brands: Look at your star ratings and customer reviews.

What about for local brands? You conduct your analysis the way I explained above, but you have another layer of care: reviews.

Let's say you run a local sushi joint. You're a one-of-a-kind shop, neither a franchise nor chain. How do you build your brand? By getting killer online reviews.

It's possible to gain rank in Google's "snack pack" without stellar ratings, but it sure doesn't hurt to have them. High rankings result in a better brand.

Remember, when it comes to customer reviews, it's not an SEO game. It's a reputation game. "Horrible sushi! Never coming back!" doesn't bode well for your brand integrity. "Amazing place! Eating here again!" will pay you back in spades.

The easy way to analyze your local business reviews is simply to look at your shop's star ratings and written ratings on all the relevant directories -- Google+, Yelp, Foursquare, Urbanspoon, and wherever else it is you have a presence.

Conclusion

Measuring online brand signals isn't complicated. It's a mix of fuzzy data, unsophisticated analysis, and digital elbow grease.

You may not find out everything that's being said about your brand, but you'll get a good sense of your brand signal. Most importantly, you'll better understand how your brand needs to adapt.

What is your experience with analyzing or measuring your brand signals?