Taking a look at the corporate logs in the image to the left, how do you feel about those brands? Do you feel anything? Much in marketing is focused on influencing the public’s perception of our companies, our products and our brand. We want others to think our products/services are high in quality, a good value, safe, reliable, fun, entertaining, satisfying, or simply the best. So how is this done online, is it different when compared to more traditional ad mediums? For, example in TV commercials we have just about seen it all, from diet cola commercials, which appeal to our hip and healthy side, to luxury cars like Lexus, BMW and Mercedes, which tout their extreme quality, and attempt to impress us with their prestige. All this presentation created simply to influence our perception toward these brands. And with TV being so visual, the advertiser can use all sorts of techniques to spin their products in a very positive light. Many are now wondering if TV advertising is as effective as it use to be? I’ll bet there are a million or two Tivo owners who will tell you it probably isn’t, but that is a discussion for another day, but does suggest a need to come up with other methods to improve our corporate image.
We all know TV ads aren’t real life, and although I doubt there is any girl that choose to hang out with a guy because of the type of diet cola he drank, at least I hope not, we all know some people drink certain brands of soda or diet soda because they believe they are being perceived by others to be cool, sophisticated, wealthy, discerning, or concerned with their health, etc. Many choose to use these brands because of the brand image they have in their own head, will hopefully be identified by others as the product is consumed. My wife loves Diet Coke, and I mean LOVES it. She says it tastes better than all the other diet beverage choices out there, without question. I personally disagree, I think Diet Coke tastes like licking dirt off a pitching wedge. She also thinks Diet Coke portrays a certain image, say of an attractive blonde girl cruising along a beach-side path on roller skates, bopping to the music as she enjoys her Diet Coke. But while I like the commercial quite a bit, and it matches the image of my wife well, I personally still see Diet Coke as the drink of choice for attendees of a 1929 high school reunion, held last weekend, and not the drink of anyone remotely hip. So this ad, although excellent in my opinion, has not changed my perception of Diet Coke one it, or its brand, it is still yuck, but many others feel differently. So when we work on our brand, we attempt to positively influence as many as we can, knowing full well we can’t change everyone’s perception, and that is ok.
Online we obviously don’t have the ability to visually create an image as well as a TV commercial can, although with YouTube and others we are getting closer. So we instead have to rely on other marketing opportunities to influence potential clients. In search marketing, our prestige and our perceived value are currently tied to how well we do in the SERPs. Many of us know that being on page 1 of a SERP isn’t necessarily the best way to determine if the particular product or company is the best (no offense to Google and Yahoo). And we know a high ranking it is not a guarantee of a good quality product or of excellent customer service either, but there is no doubt we notice the sites on page 1 more quickly, and we take a look at sites on page 1 more often than potentially better products and sites buried on subsequent SERP pages. So in a sense, the work of SEO directly influences the perception potential clients and the public will have on our businesses, at least initially. If we are ranking well on the results page, then we will be perceived as being market leaders, the most popular, the most cutting-edge, the highest quality, whatever, whether it is reality or not. The better we do on the SERPs, the better we will be initially perceived, and they more clients will visit our site. Then it is up to us to make sure our sites are designed well enough to deliver what client needs. We need to ensure visitors can easily find the information they need, that they feel comfortable with us, and we need to be sure they can easily order when it is time to purchase. Online, SEO should be seen as our ability to influence the initial perception of searching clients. SEO can be online marketing and online PR, all wrapped up into process, and really our opportunity to make a better first impression.
When considering the benefits of SEO, we need to remember that through the SEO process, we are improving the perception of our companies to potential clients. It isn’t just a matter of gaining more traffic to our sites, it is a matter of promoting and influencing the long-term image of our company and products. If we can make them initially believe we are great, then prove it to them with our site, products and customer service, then we have won a tough online battle.