Brand the Company or the Players?

Something that’s always interested me about the SEO community is the number of strongly-defined personal brands we have. From Bill Hartzer to Lily Ray to Shoemoney to Sugarrae to the measly The Lisa, SEO is bursting with personal brands. Brands that have been so ingrained into the industry that we don’t always even realize there’s a company behind these folks. Obviously, this goes on in other industries as well, but I think we SEOs take it to a whole new level.

It makes me wonder, is it a better idea to brand your company as an expert or to encourage your employees to create their own personal brands that empower you?

Thought Experiment

Suppose you’re the CEO of a company. In that case, allowing your employees to establish their own personal brands is probably a scary thing and something you’d rather discourage than encourage. It’s the same reason why many in the industry fear taking their minions employees to SEO conferences. Sure, the experience may be great for them, and they’ll learn a lot – but it’s almost guaranteed that they’re walking out of that show with at least a handful of offers for side jobs and full-time positions. As someone not looking to lose their entire staff and the months you spent training them, it’s understandable that you’d rather keep them close and anonymous.

Unfortunately for you, all you can do is take a Xanax for your fears and get over it. Any intelligent employee worth keeping is going to find a way to brand themselves and it’s in your business’s best interest to help them.

As an employer, you need to wake up to the fact that an employee with a personal brand is actually worth more to you than the droid you keep in the closet. (Yes, the closet with the padlock on it and that tiny slit you carved out for feeding time.) When they become more valuable and coveted, your entire company becomes more valuable.

The dangers of public employees are obvious – they’re exposed to poaching, it can be harder to keep them on staff (that’s a sign of your failure, not theirs), and it will come as a bigger hit to your company should they ever decide to leave. But the fact is, the value they bring to your company far outweighs any negatives.

For a company, allowing employees to create their own worth, gives them increased motivation to succeed. It makes them more invested in the entire operation. They’ll work harder cause there’s more at stake. Even with my pitiful little The Lisa brand, I know that every day I have to blog/write/say something that has importance. I can’t show up and write low-quality stuff because I know people are watching and it will hurt my brand if I do.

Having team members who are well-branded lightens your own load. Your customers and colleagues have another face (and email address!) to go to with problems, concerns, questions, or insight. You give your customers another friendly face to associate your company with—someone to help you publicly carry the brand promise.

I think it also helps your company when you allow your team members to be branded as experts. A lot of companies get this backwards, trying to brand the entire company as a leader instead of the folks that make it up. Personally, I don’t think you can do one without the other. They’re complementary. I’d argue that making your company more credible and well-rounded by allowing yourself to share the spotlight. As the CEO, people know you’ve got the goods. They know that you know what you’re talking about when they come to you. But wouldn’t it be nice if they knew you had a powerful team behind you who was just as smart? If they actually knew the names and faces of the folks they’d be working with before they even came to you? I think it helps you – both your company and your brand.

The person with the name on their door isn’t always the face clients will be talking with and working with on their campaign. When you allow your employees to create strong personal brands it makes them more invested in seeing the team succeed, it adds more value to your organization, and it makes them continually challenge themselves and strive for greater things.

[Oh, and to Susan, any time you want to thank me for establishing your personal brand of being a cranky, killjoy of an old lady, just let me know. Or buy me cupcakes. You know the ones I like.] [How about I thank you by not firing you today? –Susan]

Inspire your team to create powerful personal brands that amplify your company’s expertise and value  —  partner with our SEO agency today for a dynamic branding strategy that drives success.

FAQ: Should I Focus on My Personal Brand or My Company’s Brand in SEO?

As an expert, I understand the significance of having an impactful online presence. Here, we will discuss its nuances and provide essential insight so you can make a more informed decision.

  1. The Dilemma

Some individuals and companies find themselves confused as to whether their SEO efforts should prioritize personal or company brands in their SEO strategies. To navigate this decision, it’s essential to consider your specific goals and the nature of your industry.

  1. The Power of Personal Branding

Focusing on building your personal brand can be highly advantageous, particularly if you are a thought leader, influencer, or consultant. A powerful personal brand will establish you as an authority in your field while improving both its reputation and credibility for both yourself and the organization. People often connect more with a person than a faceless entity.

  1. Leveraging Your Company’s Brand

If your business offers something distinctive or exclusive, emphasizing its brand will be key in building credibility and trust among potential customers. Moreover, it can protect your business from being overly dependent on any single individual.

  1. The Synergy of Both

In many cases, the most effective approach is a balanced one. Combine efforts to enhance both your personal and company brands. This synergy can create a powerful online presence where your expertise complements your company’s strengths. By doing so, you’re building trust and future-proofing your brand strategy.

  1. SEO Tactics

When implementing your SEO strategy, ensure your personal and company brands are well-integrated. Use keywords that reflect both aspects of your brand, and create content that showcases your expertise while highlighting your company’s strengths.

A Step-by-Step Guide: Balancing Your Personal and Company Brand in SEO

  1. Establish Your Goals: Be clear about what your online presence aims to achieve and define its objectives as part of its plan.
  2. Knowing Your Audience: Identify and understand your target audience as well as their needs.
  3. Assess Your Personal Brand. Evaluate your skillset against company goals to see where it aligns.
  4. Evaluate the Brand of Your Business: Assess what differentiates and strengthens your company.
  5. Integrate personal and company branding: Create content and strategies that showcase both aspects.
  6. Optimize your website: Implement SEO best practices to improve online visibility.
  7. Monitor and adapt: Track your progress and adjust your strategy.
  8. Leverage social media: Use platforms to connect your personal and company brands.
  9. Build a content plan: Develop a content calendar that reflects your combined branding efforts.
  10. Collaborate with influencers: Partner with industry influencers to boost your online presence.

Deciding whether to focus on your personal or company’s brand in SEO is complex. Both have their merits, and a strategic blend can be incredibly powerful. The key is to be intentional in your approach and continually adapt to the evolving digital landscape. Maximizing online visibility and leaving an enduring impression are crucial steps toward success.

Your decision will ultimately depend on your goals, industry, and available resources – this decision requires thoughtful analysis before being finalized.

This article was updated on December 1, 2023.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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7 Replies to “Brand the Company or the Players?”

Excellent post, Lisa, and a timely discussion. I think this is a problem many managers are facing today.

I decided to focus more on my personal brand than my companies brand and since I only use freelance employees as it is, this has not been an issue. But I think you’re very right that it’s a win win for everybody when companies allow employees to grow and brand themselves. SEOmoz is another example of that being done successfully.

This type of post has been way overdue for our industry, and I just wanted to give kudos to Lisa for writing it. You hit the nail on the head in saying:
“The dangers of public employees are obvious – they’re exposed to poaching, it can be harder to keep them on staff (that’s a sign of your failure, not theirs), and it will come as a bigger hit to your company should they ever decided to leave.”
It’s always fighting the wrong fight when you’re trying to protect your employees from growing their skills and networks, rather than letting them become spokespersons for your company. Great post Lisa!.

Awesome post Lisa! I think a lot of people and companies run into this issue, and not just in this industry. It is a risk vs. reward for the companies in giving their employees more knowledge and exposure.

“Derrick Wheeler” stands for quality. It’s not your mom’s Derrick Wheeler. Just had to get my brand in there.
Actually it’s funny that you wrote this article. When I read the post in Sphinn I didn’t know at first that you wrote it. The first company that came to mind as doing the best at the company branding level and allowing for individual personal brands is Bruce Clay. I’d say the second would be Google with Matt Cutts & Co.
It’s not just about the CEO anymore.
Derrick Wheeler

I couldn’t agree more, but happen to work for a company that not only discourages personal branding, but has actually determined it to be a “terminable offense”.

You can tell by the fact that I have and continue to develop SEOAly that I couldn’t possibly care less about being fired…and their doing so, should it ever happen, will then be a well-publicized event that will damage the credibility of their organization as a whole…as if they don’t do enough of that on their own. ;)

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, with the re-launch of my site that was previously branded with my own name. I’m doing in-house search marketing though, so it’s not necessarily in my company’s best interest that I’m recognized as an expert. Or is it? Do you think it’s different if you never intend to freelance or work for an agency?

This is so funny, I had this EXACT conversation with my boss today about going to SMX East. He knows it’s inevitable that I am going to get other job offers, but he is an awesome boss. He knows that getting in my way of growing will push me out even faster.

Great post Lisa! And great comments Susan, you two still crack me up. :)


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