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  • Writer's pictureDan White

SEO FOR LUXURY BRANDS - A DETAILED GUIDE

Often, there's uncertainty hanging over luxury brands if using SEO as part of their marketing is for really right for them. After all, will the mass market of people searching on Google really turn into the right types of clients and customers? During the last 13 years I've worked with interior designers, wealth managers, luxury hotels and the highest end furniture markets - and can say with certainty that every one of them has benefited from SEO.


If you're operating a luxury brand then this post is designed to take you the fundamentals of what SEO actually achieves. We will be looking at the different areas of SEO you may have heard of including:

We then look at the nuances of how SEO should be applied to high end, luxury or bespoke brands which is rarely spoken about elsewhere. Before exploring this, we begin with looking at what types of searches could help win more business.


Understanding how SEO works for Luxury Brands


SEO - Search Engine Optimisation is a set of techniques and skills which when applied to your website helps it to appear in relevant search engine results for phrases being searched for by relevant customers. Visits from online channels is known as traffic; with visits from Google is known as Organic Traffic.


With more relevant people able to find you, the more good quality leads and sales you are able to generate.


Generally, when we employ SEO as a tactic it allows us to position a business across 3 different areas -

Branded Searches

When someone searches for your brand name, or a specific product you sell, SEO enables a brand site to both appear in the results and shows information that positions a brand in the best possible light. Here is luxury denim retailer Hiut Denim. On this page you can see a combination of reviews, products and results all positively showcasing the brand.

A branded search result from Google on Desktop for 'Hiut Denim' showing Shopping Ads, Regular Ads, Google My Business Listing and Organic Listing
A branded search result for 'Hiut Denim' showing Shopping Ads, Regular Ads, Google My Business Listing and Organic Listing. (Click to expand).

It amazes me how many brands can neglect this. Neglected reviews, competitors out-ranking you (via Ads) and poorly optimised listings can all deter people off before they even visit a website


Commercial searches

If people don't know of a brand but are searching for a product, then SEO will also allow the brand to appear (and compete) in these results alongside other brands.


Here is Nushka, a luxury home interiors website where I worked to optimise one of their pages for 'suzani cushions'. Their website sits in the 2nd position on Google, just behind Etsy.

The search results for 'Suzani Cushions' with Nushka appearing in 2nd position underneath Google Shopping Ads and Etsy.
The search results for 'Suzani Cushions' with Nushka appearing in 2nd position underneath Google Shopping Ads and Etsy.

Query Based Searches

When people have questions they search. So, applying SEO enables brands to supply the right answers, attracting potential customer (or future advocates) to the site.


Take luxury small group tour operator Intrepid Travel. By adding informational content to their website they cappear prominently when you search for the search 'best time to visit japan' winning them more business from potential tourists.

Intrepid Travel appearing in the People Also Ask section of Google's Results for the phrase 'best time to visit Japan'
Intrepid Travel appearing in the People Also Ask section of Google's Results for the phrase 'best time to visit Japan'

Applying SEO to a luxury brand

Now we've seen how a brand could appear in Google by utilising SEO tactics, we can look closer at the actual changes that can be made on a website in order to make this happen.


Most SEO tactics can be grouped into 6 areas. We will first look at the key elements for each. However, these would be applicable to any website. So, each section is then expanded providing additional focus on the specific challenges that luxury brand websites have.


While marketing managers can certainly apply many of the recommendations suggested, it's worth involving a SEO consultant. They can both scope out the potential ROI of such changes - as well as implementing many of the tactics which may be unfamiliar. Additionally, these recommendations aren't exhaustive. The Moz Blog is a very useful in depth resource to learn more about SEO for further details.


The key areas to split SEO into are:

Onsite SEO for Luxury Brands


Onsite SEO is another way of describing everything you see on a website - Specifically the keywords, site structure, copy and images. All of these elements play a significant role in signalling to Google about what a site is about, influencing where the website appears in Google.


Keywords

Choosing the right words and phrases (known as Keywords) are a cornerstone of SEO. If we don't align a website with the words people are searching for then Google cannot make the connection between the two, meaning fewer rankings and less business.

Screenshot showing Google Keyword Planner will show what people are searching for, the demand, seasonal demand and device types used.
Google Keyword Planner will show what people are searching for, the demand, seasonal demand and device types used.

Finding the right keywords is a skill in itself and you can learn more about how to conduct keyword research here.


Keywords for Luxury Brands

One of the more unique aspects of marketing a luxury brand is the keywords chosen will almost always attract two audiences.


Your first audience will be customers and clients who have the necessary budget to buy. The second audience will be people without the budget but with the curiosity or aspiration to see what a brand does. We will need to manage traffic for both.


Let's use interior design as an example. By its very nature interior design is something which requires a certain level of disposable income to pursue. One of your core keywords to optimise for is 'interior design surrey'.


Some people searching for this keyword may be looking for a room interiors scheme and have a budget of only £1k. Others may be looking for a whole house renovation with a budget of more than £500k. Both will be searching using the same key phrase to search. Depending on which end of the market you are focussed on you will need to demonstrate the type of client you work with through your website experience - through the tone of voice in your copy, the photography you use and the case studies you provide. However, dual audiences will always be a feature of SEO for luxury markets.


Site Structure

I like to structure a website so that there is an individual page for each product or service a brand offers. These are then grouped into categories; and these categories can be grouped into larger categories. For example if you offer high end jewellery you can have a category for men and a category for women. In each category you could have a sub-category, ie. rings, necklaces, bracelets. Then depending on your inventory you can further sub-divide this by most specific pages as gold rings, silver rings, platinum rings etc. This means more opportunities to rank in Google for specific topics.



Site Structure for Luxury Brands

I've sat in numerous meetings with luxury brands who tend to favour minimalism.


This often means that a luxury brand client wants the least number of pages possible. Or (even worse for myself) the whole website on a single page.


The anxiety come from having a website which can appear too cluttered or busy. Naturally, conveying the slick aesthetics that luxury products have online is paramount. However, through good design and good UX this can be achieved, rather than cutting back on content. Generally speaking more pages translates to more content, allowing us to rank for a greater number of keywords. So, content is needed and plenty of it if SEO is an important part of a brands marketing mix.


Copywriting

Naturally a website includes copy. Writing web copy is always challenge as you must create something which reads well, reflects your tone of voice, includes keywords, provides the right messaging at the right time in someone's purchase process - and fits the design and layout of a website (on both desktop and mobile).



Screenshot of the Connaught hotel The Apartment page
The Connaught hotel website is able to balance large amounts of copy and imagery through a sophisticated use of design and space

Copywriting for luxury brands

Much like site structure, many luxury brands tend to focus on a less is more approach when it comes to copywriting.


Often the emphasis is put on the imagery or videography to convince, in lieu of words. However, Google cannot use the content shown in an image or video to understand the intent of a website as easily as the written word. As a result rankings will suffer.


While there is never a 'right' word count to be aiming for a well designed layout should easily contain large quantities of copy without compromising on aesthetics so focus on a more is better than less approach in order to rank a page.


Imagery

Strong photography will always be important to a website, whether it's for selling a brand's purpose, product images or supporting shots for a blog. Alongside all the other components of a website these can (and should be) optimised. This both allows these images to feature in the results for Google's Image Search as well as supporting the overall intent of a page helping the page to rank alongside the copy and site structure.


Images can also hinder a website though. Large image file sizes can slow a page from loading and file names and alt-text are often missed, losing out on more opportunities for a website to rank.



Imagery for luxury brands

Images on luxury websites are often one of the biggest headaches when optimising a website. Alongside the minimal aesthetic often favoured for luxe brands the minimal copy that is added is replaced by an over-abundance of images.


Often the images added are huge, visually straddling the entire width of a wide screen monitor. File sizes of a single image over 25mb are not uncommon, when typically I would expect an entire page to be less than 2-3mb. Consequently, these huge dimensions equate to a huge file size, greatly slowing down a page (and indirectly impacting its performance in Google).


The natural solution is to reduce the file size of images, however, this can only be done so much without compromising on the quality of the image so further work is required focussing on the website infrastructure and Technical SEO.


I have often spent time working with web developers to ensure there is the technology behind the scenes which ensures the images load fast and still retain the high quality definition required. How this is completed varies from website to website but it can be achieved.


Offsite SEO for Luxury Brands

Just like Onsite SEO, Offsite SEO is one of the other crucial components which influences where a brand website finds itself in Google. However, unlike Onsite SEO it often feels like. a much more neglected topic.


Offsite SEO can often be known by another name - Link Building. As the name suggests the process of link building aims to encourage (through various means) other websites to place on their website a link back to a brand website. This could be through providing quotes to journalists, product features, news or distributing press releases.


These links are seen by Google as a vote of trust. In theory, the more high quality links a website has, from high quality, reputable websites the more votes of trust a website has, all helping it to rank for certain keywords.


The ways in which this can be achieved are numerous and is widely considered to be a specialist area of expertise.



Unlike Onsite SEO however, Offsite SEO is occasionally a tactic which does not always need investing in. If a luxury brand already has a strong reputation, a strong heritage, or both, then it may have naturally acquired links over time which are sufficient to provide it with enough votes of trust for whatever keywords it aims to rank for.

Link Building for Luxury Brands

There are two significant differences when it comes to link building for luxury brands.


The first area is placements. Often in the world of SEO the metrics we use to score how useful a website would be to have a link from is vastly different to the metrics a brand would look at. While we are looking at Domain Authority, a client, completely understandably, will be aware of the brand reputation that comes with being featured on certain websites. If you were to offer top of the range ethical organic make-up, would a placement on fast fashion blog be right for you?


Finding the right balance between SEO performance and brand reputation is always a tricky one - and made harder still when luxury brands have to be so much more aware of where their publicity is coming from.


The second area is how niche certain luxury brands can be. If a brands audience is only made up of high net worth individuals then of course, the market size of people you wish to target is much fewer. However, finding corresponding websites who talk about such topics is also going to be more restricted. Gaining coverage in mainstream publications may do wonders for link building however the pool of potential websites interested in running features will be all the more restricted.


This leaves me to say that while link building can be done and certainly should be done, the ability to execute it and execute it well is made that much harder. Should a luxury brand be looking at engaging in offsite SEO then it would be highly recommended to hire a specialist PR firm. Not only will they know the specialist websites out there, they also are expert at the positioning of brands to avoid irrelevant r embarrassing affiliations.


Content Marketing for Luxury Brands

Adding supporting blogs, copy and video to your website is all content marketing.


Not only can it help drive more traffic to a brand's website through query based searches, it helps reinforce the intent of the website, acting as a helpful foundation for other commercial pages to rank. This can also be a useful way to also attract links from other website helping your Offsite SEO.


Although there is a vast range of topics any brand can tap into the process of creating well-written, well-researched and authoritative content is harder than many people think. There is also Google EEAT to consider.



Creating Content for Luxury Brands


The main challenge that I've seen with luxury brands is less to do with creating content but more about how does creating content for content marketings sake conflict with overall brand reputation? You could draw it on a spectrum. At one end, the SEO, dozens of question and answer posts which draw in traffic but make a brand website look like a niche customer service forum. At the other end creative campaigns which energise and engage readers - but do nothing for SEO.

Screenshot of 5 blog posts from the Tom Raffield Blog
The Tom Raffield Blog

Take Tom Raffield as our example. At the time of writing they have hundreds of blog posts covering their News & Events, Sustainability and Lookbooks. All essential items for reinforcing their brand ethos.


Throwing them in at the SEO end of the content marketing spectrum would meaning writing inane posts about different lighting styles and how to make your own wooden lampshade. Useful to someone perhaps but certainly not in the spirit of the brand, nor likely to win any new business.


If they were to pursue content marketing you could talk about agroforestry or biophilic design - all of these topics would be searched for. Although it would mean moving further down from the default brand part of the content spectrum, there are certainly sweet spots where balance can be found to deliver traffic without causing conflict.


Local SEO

Local SEO often is focused around a brand's Google My Business listing.


These listings can be optimised and managed as a satellite to a brands website. However, they operate independently allowing a brand to generate more impressions and clicks when people search for 'local' phrases. For instance searches such as 'architects near me' or location specific phrases 'exclusive use wedding venues in Edinburgh'. All of this helps generate additional traffic to a website which would otherwise remain unclaimed.


Google itself has provided a guide for how you can optimise your Google My Business listing here.


Local SEO for Luxury Brands


There are few nuances that I have come across for optimising a luxury brand via Local SEO that would be any different than when compared to a regular brand. However, one particular item that comes up time and time again is that of reviews.


Reviews on a Google My Business listing can make or break the appearance of a brand on a Google results page. A high number of 5* reviews encourages people to visit the website. A handful of 3* reviews is just as likely to deter.

Map pack of a Google Search Result showing Wentworth Club and Foxhills Country Club dominating the local map results for Surrey Golf Clubs
Wentworth Club and Foxhills Country Club dominate the local map results for Surrey Golf Clubs with almost 5* reviews

When it comes to luxury brands however, clients and customers can understandably be uncomfortable with leaving reviews, revealing their identity. This can mean the number of reviews a brand receives can be low. Although rarely an issue (particularly if they are all 5 stars), it can cultivate a greater problem in the long term for when someone will inevitably leave a bad review. As the star rating is an average, a single bad review can automatically blight a listing causing lasting damage. The solution is more positive reviews, but how to encourage them?


I've found what works best is for brands to deviate away from their encouraging their customers for reviews and instead focus on encouraging suppliers to leave them instead. Other brands are often much more open and accepting to the request and helps cultivate good relationships as you can often leave a review in return.


Combine this with other best practices and the whole listing creates an immediate positive impression of a brand.


International SEO for Luxury Brands

International SEO focusses on ensuring a website appears in the right international versions of Google, in the right language. For instance a German version of your website appears when someone searches using Google.de


International SEO is particularly important if a luxury brand serves a client base which crosses multiple borders and territories. However, the adjustments for this are universal and there are few specific differences between leveraging SEO for luxury brand versus a regular brand looking to sell across internationally.


How content adjusts based on location. The same section of the Tesla Model 3 shown in German and French
How content adjusts based on location. The same section of the Tesla Model 3 shown in German and French (click to expand)

Successful international SEO rests on a correct technical configuration of a website, alongside adjustments to the content and UX of a site to best reflect the linguistic, societal and financial differences which occur across territories. It is one of the hardest aspects of SEO to implement correctly, so it is highly recommended you engage a professional.


A primer covering the fundamentals of International SEO has been written by Moz.


Technical SEO for Luxury Brands

Unlike On-site SEO which works on everything you can see, technical SEO is the behind the scenes infrastructure. This is the code which makes everything work and like every component of a website can certainly be optimised to increase a brands visibility in Google.


Technical SEO can be broken down into various different sub-categories including site speed and site architecture. You may also hear the words 'XML sitemap' and 'Robots.txt' mentioned. All of this translates into the inner workings of a website working fast and working in a way which Google can find and understand.



However, because so much of this is behind the scenes, the actions you can carry out to optimise your site do not differ between regular brand websites and luxury brand website. At least not in my experience, which is why this has been left until the last area to mention.

 

Any brand will only succeed at SEO with a combination of tactics incorporating Onsite SEO, Offsite SEO, Content Marketing, Technical SEO and if relevant Local SEO and International SEO. You'll also need to include an SEO Audit. The guides referenced throughout will provide excellent starting points to explain the practical steps to go through in order to begin optimising a website. However, I have seen on multiple occasions luxury brands drive significant quantities of traffic and sales by incorporating SEO into their marketing.


Knowing which of these to pursue however, in what order and what the potential return on investment will be is a job for an SEO consultant.


If you have any further questions for how I could be best placed to help you then please get in touch.

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