Are Branding and SEO at Odds?

October 8, 2009 | Branding, Web Design

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SEO)BrandingSeveral items have crossed my virtual desktop recently that had me wondering: “When did branding and SEO become opposing goals for a web site redesign?”

For example, I recently read Hub Spot’s materials on Web site redesigns. I also listened to a podcast by SEO Rockstars called Branding versus SEO on Corporate Websites which used the Target web site as a case study. Both of these presentations seem to suggest that branding and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) were at odds with one another, and that SEO should be of primary importance.

Let’s start with what we all agree on:

  • You should build a web site so that search engines can easily find you. This means use of key words in content, titles and tags.
  • Key content should be searchable. Which means it should not be embedded in graphic files or within a flash presentation.
  • Content matters. You need to have lots of fresh and inviting content.
  • Don’t redesign without good reason. You may be sick of your web site design, but it’s likely that your viewers are just getting used to it.

But… I disagree with:

  • Somehow the act of elevating the branding of a web site will automatically lower the rank in search engines. This is only true if you start converting everything to graphics or flash; or if you throw out all your current links. Remember to follow the points above.
  • Branding doesn’t matter. SEO may get a visitor to your site, but if they don’t recognize you or don’t trust you, you haven’t gained a whole lot.

Many judgments, both conscious and subconscious are made based on brand perception. If your site doesn’t look familiar, a customer may think they’re not at the right place. If you don’t look professional, a potential client may view your financial situation negatively. If you don’t stand out, a user may never remember to return to your site.

Further, a generic call to increase search traffic is not the cure all either. Do you want to get lots of traffic, or do you want lots of buyers? Do you want lots of traffic or qualified leads?

Define your goals

Every web site redesign should have goals. Increasing search engine results, as well and brand building is likely to be part of nearly every project. But don’t throw out the importance of brand equity, just to improve search rankings. Your brand identity has incredible value.

A well designed web site backed by a complete internet strategy should increase traffic and build your brand.

4 comments

  1. Mike Maddaloni - @thehotiron | October 8, 2009 at 7:58 am

    The most important thing you mentioned here Emily is goals. When business owners stop and think about goals, they eventually come to decisions on increased revenues and sales. Where of course a Web site’s conversion rate eventually results from traffic to the site, you still have to sell them once they get to the site!

    I do not believe SEO and branding are at odds – rather they should be partnering together and continuously re-evaluating themselves. Those who say branding is more important tend to be designers who don’t do SEO and those who say SEO is more important tend to be marketers who don’t do design. If it’s not what you do, why sell it, right? This is why people need to find a firm who understands the entire landscape of Web sites.

    mp/m

  2. Emily Brackett | October 8, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I agree that designers who don’t understand SEO tend to downplay SEO and SEO experts say SEO is more important. I think these conflicting views can be very hard for a business person to sort through. I think either side who doesn’t see the balance is going lead a business person through a web site design or redesign that’s likely to be off the mark.

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