Yesterday, I wrote about how a new product line needs to be taken into the context of a company's overall brand before the "how to" discussion of tactics. Assuming the product line and the company's narrative are in alignment, the next step to consider is how a new product can impact your SEO alignment.

Typically, a company's SEO is based around products, keywords, and audience, whether that's on a website, news release, social media, content, etc. In the case of my client, our research had shown although their applications applied to a wide variety of industries, they'd be more likely to gain SEO traction if we focused on just a couple of industry segments. Instead of concentrating on all foods, for instance, my recommendation was to focus on a subset of one of the four main food groups.

The reason is two-fold: first, search engines like specificity. The more targeted your content, the easier it is for search engine spiders to make a connection between an online inquiry and your product. Google, Bing, and Yahoo give you points for using the term "red fire truck" because it's a particular kind of toy. Using a general phrase like "kids toys" doesn't help the algorithm mine through the thousands of types of toys on the market to get to the one the viewer is looking for or that you are selling.

Secondly, the competition for general terms like "toy" or "dentist" or "government" is fierce because there are thousands of products and practitioners in the market. If you are using a paid search campaign, generalized terms are going to jack up what you have to spend to get eyeballs, whereas more specific terms like "Dora the Explorer toys in Seattle," "orthodontists in my neighborhood," or "environmental permitting agency" are less heavily trafficked and therefore have less competition.

In the case of my client, they wanted to alter their focus from industry-specific food services to a new product line for all types of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, etc. In other words, this new product line was going to compromise the entire SEO program we had built. The metaphor I used to explain this phenomenon was what happens to a car's steering after it hits a giant pothole? The tires begin to wear unevenly because they are no longer in synch. (If you live in the Northeast or Upper Midwest, you are very familiar with this occurrence. Florida and Arizona? Not so much.)

No business can be run successfully when the tail wags the dog. If a company wants to roll out a new product, the marketing team has to adapt and find solutions, and my client didn't want to limit their new product line to the same industry-specific food groups we had been targeting with our communications, even though we had shown them substantial gains in lead generation and search engine rankings since we built their new website and launched the SEO program.

Still, a single new product line forced us to revise not just the website, but our organic and paid search campaigns, web ads for search and publications, taglines, landing pages, brochures and video content for the site and YouTube, among other things. The disconnect didn't hit home until I delivered the budget to execute a plan for the new product line as well as manage a vastly expanded SEO campaign. Fortunately, this client has always been very level-headed about the difference between cost and value, but even so, the extent of the changes we had to make for one new product left them taken aback.

Clearly, after we went through the brand alignment exercise I outlined in yesterday's column, they thought the process was over. Just make a few tweaks and add a couple of pictures to the website, and we're ready to go. It shouldn't take more than a week, right? If it were only that easy.

There are a couple of important takeaways from this case study.

  • New products to an existing brand need a holistic and strategic look from a distance to understand how they fit the overall narrative, sort of like a pointillist painting.
  • Rarely is it worth it in the long-term to add a product to your company that will muddy brand perceptions.
  • Altering marketing tactics can't compensate for the lack of a foundational brand story and narrative.
  • Product alignment is as important as brand alignment and marketing alignment
  • The more specific your product and audience, the more efficient your SEO campaign will be.
  • The more a new product blends in with the other fingers in the company, the less complicated it will be to market it; however, the more it sticks out like a thumb, the more intensive and expensive the program will be to support it.
CleanTech Focus