For too long, SEO has been treated as something you do to a website. Like an add on option or upgrade that will turn a poorly performing website into a success.

In some situations this is true, but it’s rare.

Treating SEO as a way of simply driving more traffic to a website feeds our desire to tick boxes and gives us a simple measure of success to aim for. Unfortunately, it’s usually a short sited and one dimensional approach. Using traffic or keyword ranking as a measure of success is important and valid, but it’s a very small part of the big SEO picture.

One of the most basic and essential considerations when planning an SEO campaign is to know what you’re trying to achieve. Ask somebody this question and you’ll usually get one of 3 answers:

“We want to rank on top of Google”,

“We want more traffic to our site” or

“We want more leads”.

All of these are good answers, but they rarely consider the full range of potential SEO benefits.

Its helpful to step back and visualise your marketing funnel as containing three main stages: awareness, consideration and conversion.

Awareness.

Usually, the easiest stage to achieve success in (and the one that most SEO campaigns aim for by default) is awareness. By driving traffic to a website via improved keyword ranking the number of people that know about your business will increase. Regardless of whether they like what they see, each new visitor becomes aware of your business when they see your website.

This awareness might end with the visitor bouncing, or it might lead to them spending time browsing your site. Either way, the approach of targeting keyword rankings or traffic only addresses the awareness goal.

To stop here is the black hole of SEO. If you focus solely on rankings you can end up in the holding pattern of chasing rankings without understanding the part they play in real success.

If you currently do any form of SEO or are considering SEO you must be crystal clear on your goal. Is it to simply to attract visitors (and increase awareness) or to actually do something beyond this?

Comparison.

To assume a visitor will transact with you once they arrive at your site is ludicrous.

Keyword rankings and traffic reports are crucial, but they are no indicator of anything more than visits to your site. If you’re hoping to actually grow your business you need to look beyond this.

At the consideration or comparison stage of the marketing funnel visitor perception is the focus. How will a visitor perceive your offering compared to your competitors’.

Having a website that presents a compelling point of difference and reason to engage that is consistent with the keywords and topics you are targeting is fundamental to this.

Conversion.

Of course for most businesses, conversions are the ultimate goal. If we know how to make sure every website visitor converted, we’d pack up and move to Monaco.

Unfortunately, this isn’t realistic. There are many tested and proven ways to build a more compelling reason for visitors to convert.

Great design, sharp copy and intuitive UI all strongly influence conversion. However, in our experience, it’s possible to build a beautiful website with all these qualities but still fail to convert.

We’ve seen it with generic sub sites built by strong brands to target a specific niche (sometimes called satellite sites). As soon as the brand is removed and replaced with a bland keyword rich name, the trust is gone – along with the conversion rate.

Which leads us to the golden goose.

Brand.

If I had to pick just one factor that influences long term SEO, I’d choose brand.

A great brand will differentiate, communicate and connect with a target audience. It will turn a business from bland to truly unique. A great brand will inject personality and life, causing those who come in contact to it to desire it.

A great brand provides the building blocks for an online success story. The visual and written tools that give a website something powerful to communicate.

The alchemy of brand, web and digital marketing.

If we’re going to frame up how great SEO looks in 2016 – it’s a growing audience of website visitors who engage and connect with what they see. They don’t bounce off your site because they trust it. And their engagement sends a message of trust to Google, which in turn rewards the site with improved ranking.

And the cycle repeats.

It’s true that a great brand can enable an effective website, but brand alone is not enough.

A web developer who has a great brand foundation to work with and also understands technical SEO, conversion rate optimisation and the power of UI, is equipped with the tools to deliver on real goals that can genuinely grow a business.

This is where the true power of online really kicks in.

Over the years we’ve worked with our partners at Luminosity to build industry leading brands that are effectively reflected online from a technical and visual standpoint. Combining this with digital marketing is not simply an add on, but integrated and planned from the start and the results are at a whole new level.

If you’d like to know more about the power of a united approach to brand, web and digital marketing – give us a call or visit some of our case studies.