Most people, when choosing the Google+ image for their business, tend to choose the company logo. They may do variations of their logo for certain events or seasons, such as Christmas or Mother’s Day, but the logo itself is usually recognizable to anyone somewhat familiar with the brand.
But some companies have been choosing non-traditional images, without realizing that it could be hurting their overall traffic they receive from the Google search results. And ensuring you are doing it right is one of the easiest SEO changes to make.
Let’s look at Walmart for example.
Here is their Google+ profile that shows their throwback to old school Walmart with a photo of Sam Walton at the Shareholders picnic in 1986, along with a profile pic of Sam Walton instead of their logo. Their color scheme is very monochromatic, and yes, pretty boring, although it does have a slight “cool” factor for doing something different.
Unfortunately, it does have SEO implications that it is likely the person who designed the Google+ page for Walmart didn’t consider when they chose it. And it certainly costs them traffic in the Google search results because of this choice.
One of Google’s features is that if you search for a brand name, they will also often include other competitor’s names in the knowledge graph. When you click through to see more brands, Google will serve the options as an additional carousel at the top of the search results. It serves as a reminder to the searcher that there are other options available to consider when they searched for the original brand, a feature I have used countless times.
But in order for a brand to get traffic from this feature, they need to have an instantly recognizable logo. It is the logos that stand out the most, and many searchers don’t look at the accompanying text, simply because the logos are visual and usually recognizable.
But in the case of Walmart, they are one of the most recognizable brands in the world, and certainly in the United States. However, when faced with the logos in the knowledge graph, people will be drawn to what they recognize.
Here is an example of Target’s knowledge graph. While Kmart, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond have logos most would recognize in the US, many would likely skip right over the Walmart choice simply because there is no recognition there. To many, it is just a picture of an older man that has nothing to do with the other brands on display.
Likewise, here Walmart’s logo in a carousel. Again, with all the other logos standing out, many will very likely skip over the Walmart one because it lacks the recognizable logo that leads people to think “Oh, I should check Walmart for this!”
It is worth noting that Bing uses an actual Walmart logo for their knowledge graph for the company.
Now, this isn’t Google’s fault that the Walmart image is not their true logo. After all, it is Walmart that selected it for their Google My Business page through Google+. They have also chosen it for the profile image on YouTube to reinforce to Google that this is the right image.
There were also some previous issues where Google displayed the wrong logo, sometimes using a satirical logo by mistake. Due to this, it does make a lot of sense that they are choosing to go with the profile image from the company rather than trying to select a better one algorithmically. And it is probably the best choice for brand recognition in the majority of cases.
If you are building a personal brand, and don’t have an associated Google My Business account, ensure you choose a recognizable profile photo for yourself or an avatar version of yourself. Ideally, you want to use the same profile picture across multiple social media platforms for personal branding.
And yes, while you might think your cat is the cutest in the world and makes an adorable profile picture, unless you are in a pet related business, choose something a bit more professional and recognizable. Remember, this is also the image that those who have circled you will see in the Google search results, so you want them to easily recognize it as you and not waste the opportunity.
So while it is cool to embrace the history of a company and to choose a non-traditional image instead of a logo, consider the SEO and search traffic implications when choosing to do so. The last thing a company wants to sacrifice is additional traffic simply because no one recognizes the company logo in Google. Add the fact that it is a prime opportunity to essentially steal traffic from a competitor, there is not a viable reason for using a non-logo image for this purpose. Instead, use the cover image or individual posts to highlight the company’s history, or whatever it is a company might want to highlight instead of using their logo.
Then use that branded company logo for nabbing traffic from competitor’s knowledge graphs instead. Because while Google search traffic is awesome, stealing it from underneath your competitors is even better.
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