Posted May 10, 2008 11:53 am by with 9 comments

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Greg makes my point for me at the end of his post: How Branding Will Replace SEO.

Also, since many customer conversations take place online, your inbound link profile will improve as will your traffic and conversion rate. And by the way, so will your SEO.

I’d like to start out by focusing on why I disagree with Greg, but I also want to point out why I also approve conceptually with what Greg is saying.

First it is very rare to start a business thru the customer acquisition channel of branding. To brand you generally need an audience and that means some sort of acquisition channel be it SEO, PPC, Affiliate, or Other. So saying branding is going to replace SEO is extremely implausible. Branding can become an acquisition channel once a business has an audience, usually of customers, without that audience there is no one to introduce the brand to.

It really seems to me Greg should be talking about, and in a roundabout way he does reference, how branding should become the 2nd phase of a successful SEO business and one that every SEO dependent business needs to consider, look at the examples he uses of his own business. The truth is success breeds branding, how hard a business chooses to push their brand is really up to them. But purely by building a customer base a business is building a brand.

Any online retail business that has built itself on SEO, has most likely also tried other acquisition channels and running multiple acquisition channels in parallel is just smart business. I believe the truth is some channels, like branding, have a dependency on other channels and this case branding is dependent on an audience acquisition channel. SEO has proven to be extremely valuable when it comes to audience acquisition and better yet customer acquisition as well.

I also have to take issue with some of the wide reaching statements Greg makes about the power of branding.

If you are a store that sells other brands and are currently depending on SEO, you are probably in deep trouble…If, on the other hand, you spend time branding your company, or if possible, your actual products, you are going to be immune to this trend.

If you have a business that was built on SEO and adjust the marketing focus to that of branding you will not be immune to any future decrease in the SEO business. Negative growth in a channel is still negative growth even if you can offset that negative growth in another channel.

Finally I would like to encourage everyone to review Greg’s three points on how to successfully brand a small business on a small business budget because I do believe he is spot on.

  • Love the back and forth on the blog. I tend to agree with Roderick. I see the importance of branding, but the beauty of the web has been, and will continue to be the ability of non-branded sites to rise from the dust. Whether this happens through social media or SEO is probably the real argument, but in my opinion there will always need to be SEO as long there is search, we have adapted as SEO pros as the technology has adapted, this will continue to be true.

    Dave Snyder’s last blog post..The Triangle is a Hot Bed for Social Media

  • We may be debating the classic “which comes first–chicken or egg?” problem.

    I maintain that in a competitive industry, if you lead with typical SEO, you are almost certainly going to fail. If for example, someone thinks they can come into my industry with a new line of supplements and drive much SEO traffic from the start, they are delusional (or they are listening to some delusional SEO “expert”).

    Now I understand that if you are going to take a branding approach, the first sales still have to come from somewhere. I have not really addressed that issue except to say that they are not going to come from SEO in 2008. If this was 2004, yes, but not 2008.

    Perhaps, I can address in another article the idea of how to prime the pump for the initial business without depending on SEO.

  • Nice point – there is no opportunity to brand without an audience and if a new company doesn’t have the money for a large ad campaign, public relations campaign or some other channel (like an already busy website) then they really don’t have an opportunity to brand anything w/o organic search engine placement. By the way, organic search engine placement is an incredible way to brand a company – IMO.

    Not sure we’re talking about the chicken and egg problem as it’s common sense that without an audience, the only person you’re reaching is your company, friends and family (for as long as they’ll listen). It’s that simple – you just can’t build an online brand without an audience. SEO is, and always will be, a great way to reach more people.

    In this branding before traffic hypothesis, there is no customer and therefore no branding opportunity.

  • The main thing I know is that SEO is low-cost —> high cost and you can still be successful. Branding is high-cost only, if you don’t do top notch branding your investment is basically worthless.

    SEO Firm Owner’s last blog post..Welcome to our SEO services website

  • SEO brings business, Branding helps convert the visitor. Both work together to build a better business.

  • I agree. SEO and the Brand both contribute to the success of the business.

    Eva White’s last blog post..Rising Hemlines.. Rising Stocks

  • SEO is the foundation of all web marketing efforts, but must be part of an overall website marketing strategy of other sources of visitors. Bottom line is that this article is truly right on the money!

    Search Engine Optimization Journal’s last blog post..Search Engine Optimization And The 80/20 Rule – Um, Rules

  • Yes you are right Roger……

  • Very Well explained!

    I agree SEO is one of the web marketing strategies that help business to improve their brand awareness and target correct audience. Also, I have over-viewed Greg’s three points those are very helpful to small business.

    Thanks for the informative post. Keep sharing!