Does brand and design matter in an SEO world?

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

We all know that Google loves web sites that are loaded with fresh content, straight to the point, no fluff, and heavily linked to. To search engines, it’s all about the numbers. It’s cold, hard math. Jeff Jarvis’ book “What Would Google Do?” gives a great, detailed account of how a Google world would be. (I also get the impression that Jeff would love it if Google did own everything.) So, with text ads and words being the key to online rankings, is there no need for brand and design anymore? (At least on the internet.) Is there no need to appeal to human emotions since everything is reduced to it’s lowest common denominator (such as price)? And, if everything is supposed to be a “community”, is there no need to stand for anything since one of Jeff Jarvis’ rules is to let the community define you?

In my opinion, I think defining who you are, what your company stands for, and what values you hold is more important now than ever. It is these “human” qualities that separate you from others. Qualities such as emotion, esthetics, and beauty are still very important. In my experience, a brand that is able to engage as many of the five senses as possible and become relevant in a meaningful way. As Tom Peters has said in his book “Re-imagine”, “We live in a world of similar products, with similar prices, with similar features, with similar services. What makes your offering different is the experience. And now even above that, it is dream fulfillment.” If you reduce your marketing to just stats and clicks, you’ll find that you can easily be replaced because you are now just a commodity. You’ve not connected in a real way that creates loyalty and “consumer evangelism”. You don’t touch their dreams and help them realize the possibilities.

We’ve recently did a comparison test with a few web sites we’ve designed. We compared a heavily SEO driven approach with sites that were more design and brand emphasis. The intent was to find out what appealed to visitors most; pure information or a site with some personality and design. Our tech boys fully expected visitors to gravitate to the informational site to accomplish the task they set out to do. (So did I.) But, something interesting happened, visitors not only liked the branded and designed sites better, they explored them, which lead to them staying on the site longer. When asked why, the main differences came down to human qualities (beauty, entertainment, emotional copy). Granted, we made sure that the information they came to the site to find was front and center and easily accessed, but we also made sure we gave back by providing some sort of human emotion whether is was beauty, laughter, or thought provoking. Take Apple for example. They are the gold standard for simplistic beauty. They’ve been able to take cold, unassuming technology and make you “feel” something toward it through engaging your senses and their brand engages your emotion.

To me, it’s about adding a small bit of quality of life to someone’s experience with your company, that you see them as humans and not machines just trying to accomplish tasks. Ultimately, the killer combination is beauty and brains; emotional and logical. Provide the content, but present it in a way that feeds the soul and the senses.

I would love to hear your viewpoint about balancing SEO and design and some of your examples you may have.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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