Where SEM and branding diverge is the fact that search listings can be manipulated through artificial means, as demonstrated by certain “black hat” optimizers. Branding can only be the result of building trust, rapport and awareness with consumers. In fact, according to Stalbaum, black hatters work against the goal of branding through SEM, and in the end will do your company more harm than good.
“If your Web site is artificially or unethically boosted to the top of the search engine listings, you’re there at the top all right, but if you don’t have what consumers are looking for, they’ll resent the fact that you dominated a keyword without relevance,” he says.
Trust, say experts, is the key to branding. When consumers click on the link to your site, they want content that’s relative to their search, they want functionality that will allow them to navigate the site smoothly, and they want to do business with a reputable company that will give them what they want at a fair price.
Using SEM to enhance brand loyalty is a fabulous two-for-one offer, says Stalbaum. While you’re positioning your Web site to appear near the top of search engine results; you’re also building relevance, consumer trust and making your company a household name.