SEM and Design: Why the disconnect?

Far too often, we come across brands that consider design and Search Engine Marketing two separate projects, and the resulting pages fail to contribute to the end goal: achieving leads. The three primary reasons a designer neglects to consider SEM and SEO prior to designing an entire website, a single page, or collateral material for a site are: Resources, Process, and Values.

SEM and Design

1. Failure to Acquire Resources

This is a difficult issue to address because typically, search engine marketing and search engine optimization are believed to be additional components to a website or acceptable tactics for consideration after the website is finished. In reality, search engine strategy should be considered in the very beginning, with data (the voice of the customer) driving initial decisions and strategy. If thought about and handled in the correct way, the direction and certainty from keyword research provides a specific, linear path to visual success in a page’s design. Strategy and need should become dramatically less ambiguous, thus reducing the need for revisions based on visual messaging.

2. Preferred Design Process is Flawed

Regardless of the craft or expertise, injecting a new element to a seasoned professional’s process can be difficult, especially when that craft requires a creative and emotional connection to produce success. The larger the corporation the designer supports, the more levels of approval, therefore increasing the difficulty or likelihood of implementing data like keyword research. Designers and writers alike are communicators of ideas. These professionals of messaging have struggled with search since its inception of mainstream marketing. I’ve often heard that these communicators battle with the idea of a machine or data telling them what to say or how to design, but the irony is that it’s the targeted customers asking the questions. It is the customers who drive that data, the very people to whom we are supposed to be marketing, messaging, and ultimately helping.

3. Perception of Design’s Value is Skewed

The value of design is often dependent upon the specific brand and the artist. It’s a way to tap into the emotional elements of what the brand stands for and how the brain wishes to connect with this consumer. While some may argue that data creates interruption or unnecessary barriers of communication, these strategic initiatives cannot be ignored because they represent the voice of the customer. Search marketing and search engines have evolved drastically; there’s no longer a need, nor should there be a practice or recommendation, to oversaturate a page with unnecessary vernacular exclusively using data based on voice of the customer. In the same way every brand has style guides specifying which fonts or colors to use, customer-produced data from the search engines can also be guidelines, acting as a litmus for consideration when developing websites for developing content when designing landing pages and designing messaging.

How to fix it

There are a few possible remedies to three interrupters of incorporating search marketing into the world of design. Step 1: Provide the necessary information with the project assignment. Keyword research and visitor data isn’t an afterthought. It should be baked into the visual concepts, then tested through behavior online. Step 2: Develop a process to incorporate Search data into the design. This action is as simple as validating data and desired outcomes during the rounds of revision to ensure that all the essential communication points and consumer needs are being met. Step 3: Create search marketing guidelines. These guidelines can be incorporated into the value of the brand thought leader, educator, or advocate. There’s a way to align how people search and what they are searching for into the basic guidelines of how you communicate with people online.