In business, sometimes image is all we have. Many companies survive on their image alone. Sure, they had to work hard to build that image, but it's the image they have built that lets them thrive.
Two quick examples: Nike would never be able to sell sneakers for $120 a pop if they slapped on a Wal-Mart logo. Same shoe, same manufacturer, same quality, but the Nike swoosh makes all the difference. I've heard stories of popular authors releasing books under a different name only to find that it was their name that sells their books, not their writing. As long as the quality that got them popular is (mostly) maintained, their image does the rest (*coughJohnGrishamcough*).
I'm sure you could think of a dozen companies that are kept alive mostly due to their image. Change the name, and they have to build an image all over again. But once you got it, you gotta do what you can to hold onto it.
Many approach SEO as an effort to build rankings. But, really, it's about building an image through the search engines. People may find you by your ranking in the search results and click through your site because they are attracted by the products or services you offer, but unless you build an image of quality and customer service, all the rankings in the world won't bring them back. Almost as if you're putting SEO Frosting on a Website Dung Pile.
But, if you use your search engine rankings to drive traffic to a site that is building a great image, each visit and transaction helps enhance that image in your customers mind. Having a professional looking website gives you a good first impression and a positive image in your visitors' mind. Providing good customer service protects your image, but, if you have a poor record of delivering solutions to your customers' problems, you'll soon suffer from a serious image problem.
SEO can play an important role in building your image. Not just by driving traffic, but by helping you build a site that your visitors truly find valuable. Employing on-page keyword targeting, analytics, site architecture, and usability strategies can all work together in creating a website that provides searchers more of what they are looking for in a way that engages with them and compels them to re-engage over time.
This is why SEO is so important NOW! Holding back on your SEO efforts doesn't just cost you in terms of rankings and revenue, it costs you in terms of image building opportunities.
Too often, business owners look at rankings as the primary means of driving traffic. "Sound the alarms, we've fallen from #3 to #5!" Sure, rankings can drive traffic, but better rankings doesn't coincide with better image. Clicks improve with rankings, but what sacrifices do you have to make in order to get those clicks?
When making sacrifices for SEO, for every visitor you add through better rankings, you probably lose two visitors through poor image. This isn't universally true. Some sacrifices are well worth it, but others are not. I'm speaking primarily of the sacrifices that are done solely for the purpose of moving up a couple of points in the rankings.
Optimizing the site = good.
Over-optimizing = bad.
While a good image must be built over time, a bad image can be created within a single interaction. For any business, it is important to constantly work on building a positive image to your customers. People are ten times more likely to tell someone of a negative experience that they had with you than a positive experience. That means you need ten positive interactions building your positive image just to break even with one customer's negative experience.
Good on-page SEO helps you build that positive image that will not only keep your customers returning again and again, but it will also draw in new customers as well.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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