September 29th, 2011

Yes, SEO & Google ranking are important – but incorporate it as part of your overall marketing plan – NOT in place of it!
“Get me to the top of Google rankings and all my problems will be solved”. I’ve heard this quote (and others similar) so many times! Advocates of this statement would be of the view that ‘if Google rankings are high, your website will be found by, more people…more often, consequently, the credibility of your business/brand is increased, everyone thinks you’re great, and you can pretty much guarantee that the cash is going to start rolling in!!’
If only people were that easy to understand. I think we have to give the average punter a bit more credibility than that! In more traditional terms, it’s pretty much the same as saying that if you buy a shop, stick it on a busy high-street, chuck some stuff in it, you can then sit back – and without a care in the world, watch the sales come pouring in.
A more rounded way to look at it, is this; ‘The performance of your website from an SEO perspective, is just one of the important things that you should consider when making sure that you’re doing everything possible to ensure the success of your business and/or brand. SEO needs to be designed so that it works in conjunction with the rest of your marketing mix – not in place of!’ Sound obvious? Maybe so, but with so many organisations out there who seem to have moved to a mindset whereby they perceive SEO (and in particular their Google ranking) as the only thing they need to concentrate on in order to lift-sales, perhaps it’s worth considering a few of the other things that marketers and business owners should consider when developing their business and/or brand:
– Be clear about what you stand for (i.e. your brand message): The benefits of having a clear understanding about what it is you stand for (or why you exist) is that it contributes to the ability to position the business so that it stands out from the crowd, and gives people a reason to choose you over a competitor. This goes beyond simply stating what it is you or your business does! It’s about finding a strategic and creative positioning in your market place that lifts the business away from being perceived as just another car-company, just another clothing, drink, food, furniture, delivery, print, finance, building, etc, company. It’s the essence of marketing – give me a reason to buy your product or use your service. (And that doesn’t mean ‘price’ or ‘price-only’ – the minute you say ‘price’ is the only reason to buy your product/use your service – you’re a commodity and you’re on a sinking-ship!). If you, ignore this point, you’re setting yourself up for a fall (no matter how good your SEO strategy is!). Embrace this point, and invest in integrating it across everything your business does, and it will pay dividends.
With this considered, and in the context of the points raised, if we think about how much more powerful an SEO strategy can be when it’s designed in conjunction with (and not in isolation of, or in place of) a clear, unique and creative strategic-positioning; it will work so much harder towards building your brand and increasing sales. Furthermore, by tapping-into a strategically considered, tactically executed message, the creative parts of SEO (i.e. keywords, content-distribution, links, social-media, etc) will work with, and add support to the over-arching brand message by pulling in elements that otherwise may never have been considered.
– Website Design & Functionality: Yes, it can be said that good website design and functionality will form part of your SEO strategy (if it doesn’t then you’re missing a trick!). However, that said, don’t design and build your website (or your business) around SEO. Integrate it as part of your design. The number of sites we see nowadays where if feels like that a business has read a book on SEO and gone absolutely ‘Search-Engine-Optimisation-mad’ at the expense of everything else – it’s a worry. Lee Casey, Head of Digital here at Hatched has the following to say on this point; “At Hatched we’re of the view that good Web Design can be a bit of a balancing act. A solid website should consider the following: information architecture, user experience, design (i.e. look and feel), SEO, functionality, build, technology and devices. It’s only when you consider all these things on an equal level that your website can begin to perform at its optimum point and contribute to the overall business objectives. We would try not to sacrifice any one of these ‘features’ because of the other”. It’s a fair point from Lee and one that’s rooted in common-sense; consider a consumer that has arrived at your website from all the good work that has been done to get them there in the first place, and when they arrive they are greeted with a website that’s confusing to use, reads terribly, doesn’t have a clear message, is cluttered, and is of poor quality. No matter how high you rank on Google, at the point in which they land on your site, if the other ‘features’ of good web-design and functionality have been compromised at the expense of an “SEO-only strategy” – then don’t be surprised when high-levels of traffic do not convert to increased sales and/or brand-engagement.
– Brand look & feel: A consistent, integrated, creative, and strategic look and feel is so important. It’s never good when a business or brand communicates in a way that feels ‘schizophrenic’. One minute the look-&-feel is this way, then it uses a completely different look, then it does something else, then the press-ad looks completely different to the website, the core-message changes, (or even the name of the business changes! Yes we’ve even seen that!). Often, messages contradict each other, its green, then its red, etc…its just all over the place. It looks un-professional, and really, there’s no excuse – no matter how big or small the budget. The use of imagery, illustration, logo, colour-palette, tone, font, style – should be consistent, and should tie directly in with the brand architecture, positioning and values.
When a prospect is exposed to anything to do with your brand – they will be judging you, they will be thinking – is this someone that I would like invest in/work with/spend money with? Again, think about the impression you are creating when they arrive at your website – is the look and feel consistent with the impression you wish to make with them? If not…think carefully about investing in an SEO strategy that is geared up for generating high-levels of traffic to your site, because if it doesn’t look great – it might do more harm than good!
So, in conclusion, a long-winded way to say that; SEO is important, but don’t think about it in isolation of (or in place of!) everything else. Think holistically, and think about how it integrates into your wider marketing strategy. Be clear on your business and marketing objectives, then build your SEO around these – and not the other way round.