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.

October 13, 2010

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.


I think it is very valuable for companies to focus on good content as well as SEO. But isn't this common practice? Do websites actually not do this? It is obvious that even if you drive a ton of traffic to a site, people will quickly leave if it has nothing good to offer...

Sasha took the words out of my mouth. In the end, the businesses who make it are the ones who are committed to people as people as well as recognizing it takes money for a business to run. I write my content to answer questions I know I had and suppose others will have, too. I do it with what I know about SEO running in the background, but it is still written for a human brain to read and interpret first.

You're in a wrong business if you think SEO is about image building. SEO is ALL about the rankings, and that's all that matters. It's all about getting #1, getting the traffic from high converting keywords.

It's then a job of conversion optimization to make the sale / best use of the traffic, and as far as image goes that's a part of delivering good value to people, having good customer service, and using push marketing to let the brand name get known, not SEO.

SEO is keywords, links and rankings. Everything else is everything else, not SEO.

@Sasha d - Unfortunately a lot of site's don't, though it's not so bad as it was a few years back. A lot of it stems from the SEO provider. While some think SEO is just about rankings, others understand that it's really about marketing a website to get conversions. Rankings are a part of that, but rankings without conversions are pointless.

@rodger - see Ivan's comment above

Good & informative read, thanks.

I would like to add that any gain in SERP rankings by affecting quality (over optimizing) is a short term gain. This is because that increases the bounce rate or reduces the time spent on that site. This in turn affects your SERP ranking in long term.

In short, Google SERP ranking process has evolved such that quality content is automatically rewarded in long term.

Great article, and so true - brand IS everything when you're a big company. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet...but nobody would buy it if it was called a Stinkface".

By the way, the pedant in me is screaming out to tell you that you missed the ! from the HTML comment...

"This is why SEO is so important NOW Holding back on your SEO efforts doesn't just...."


@Louise - oops, thanks for letting me know. My bad :)

You are referring to building a brand name, a reputation online. Definitely it goes a long way to getting conversions. But when it comes to getting traffic, you must admit that SEO helps

@Dylan - Absolutely, SEO is a great traffic delivery mechanism. My point is that unless you build your image on the website, all the traffic in the world will mean very little. Just filling up a leaky bucket.

I completely agree with you Stoney. Currently most of the SEO companies out their focus on short term goals to build rankings and as the target is completed leave it. They never focus on building a brand name or image. If people recognize you with your company name or profile name they will remember you and visit your website more often irrespective of using search engines to find you. More importantly they will search for your domain name or company name on Google rather than keywords. That is the power of creating an image.

Twitter and Facebook marketing helps a lot in creating an image or brand name

@stoney - I couldn't agree more. This is I think the ultimate goal of an SEO specialist, image building.

Image building -long term
Improving your Rankings - short term

So true, nowadays, so many webmasters focus on SEO too much and forget about buidling a quality website for human readers.

Really great article, I also feel that a lot of SEO companies go for the quick fix short term solutions. Getting to the top of search engines is only half the job done, you have to then have the brand/image to then turn those visitors into customers. I feel this is where strong web design comes into play, with a professional, trust-worthy looking website/brand this is what will keep customers returning again and again.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Image (Not Rankings) Matter in SEO