Google SEO

A Google search for logo design turns up 150 million results and we already know that these are skewed towards big average Joe. Those longstanding firms that sell cheap and quick design or DIY services to ‘the average person’ in a hurry.

You already know there is not much hope of people finding you amongst the 150 million needles in that backlinked haystack.

But here’s the thing, the kind of businesses you want to create identities for don’t judge you by the amount of backlink muscle you flex. They don’t find you this way either.

Google can’t optimise your best offering. It can’t optimise what makes you and your designs unique. And most of all Google can’t really optimise what the non-average, exceptional, client you would kill for wants to buy.

Google can’t optimise your purpose, your heart or your soul, your art or judgement, your professionalism and enthusiasm.

Google is terrible at defining your talent and your edge, your clarity of vision or communication skills.

Google SEO will rarely demonstrate your work ethic and dedication, your inspiration or your ability to solve problems and overcome obstacles.

Google can’t tell clients who will be the best in their world. Only you can do that.

Might be an idea to stop competing for average and just concentrate on being great.

Also by Bernadette Jiwa:
Beyond the portfolio — why being a great designer isn’t enough
Beyond the logo… “I love this!” moments

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October 18, 2010


Hi Miles,

That’s an interesting comment I would love you to elaborate on your initial reaction to this post.

This idea doesn’t always sit comfortably with people. It’s a return to old school values where service and caring about clients and customers mattered more than being biggest……..very pre-google.

My point is that we should be marketing and selling our talent and our art with humanity. I notice that’s exactly how you position your own business on your website.

“Best work, best value.

I specialise in providing ‘humanist’ identity for medium
and large sized organisations.

The process is simple, and divided into logical steps.
It is done quickly, practically, and economically.
The results innovate, communicate and add value.

Large branding agencies make money by selling lengthy process;
evaluation, analysis, consensus, strategy, management….
That’s ok when you need it and have the money,
but when it comes to the idea and what it looks like, come to me.”

How do you optimise the kind of edge you are selling in your business? You do the best work and provide the best value. You sell ideas not process. Most probably you get new projects through word of mouth from people who have worked with and trust you for over twenty years.

You’re website tells the story of a business that is a perfect model of something Google can’t paint a picture of in search. That’s not to say we shouldn’t use the tools of SEO just that it’s a hopeless strategy to rely on alone.

I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s easy to get sucked into designing for SEO, and then waste time dealing with enquiries from people looking for a cheap logo or website (unless that’s what you want to provide). Let the “average Joe” providers get all that traffic. Educated clients (the ones you really want) don’t just type “logo design” or “web design” into Google and pick the first company listed. They often look at other sources, like design community websites, magazines, LinkedIn, social networking, recommendations from colleagues, etc. So yes, SEO is important – but it’s a means, not an end.

Hi Bernadette,
thank you for taking the time to look at my website:-)
I am in complete agreement with you. When I said ‘strange preconception’ I was referring to my surprise that any creative person would consider SEO as a strategy for their business, it’s almost laughable to me.

Thanks Carolyn,

You could spend your hours every day trying to work out how to be ranked on the first page of Google. Hours you could have spent doing great work, networking with peers and being generous by blogging and contributing to the design community as a whole.

I know that I have found a number of designers to follow up with from subscribing to Identity Designed based on their showcased work not their Google rank.

Thanks Debashis!

When you define your ideal client by setting your standards, your marketing becomes much more targeted than competing for Google-searched clients. Like Carolyn mentions its educated clients that you want, not people looking for ‘fast-food’ designs.

When you land your ideal client, they will do your ‘viral marketing’ and put you on top of their ‘keyword search’ by spreading the word about you to those who inquire. You just have to make sure you provide value.

Personal Networking and Word-of-Mouth are still the best marketing strategies for a designer

Hi Miles,

Thanks :).
I think that even creatives sometimes feel a little sucked in to the whole SEO thing and being findable. It’s a modern malady although I think we are beginning to wise up.
I loved the fact that on you don’t pretend to be a “big agency” on your website. You write like you are doing business not to just sound like you are doing business, which of course you are and great design work too!

Thanks Neel,

I couldn’t agree more with you. Word of mouth is definitely the best kind of marketing.Designers have fantastic opportunities to create work that people just can’t help talking about. $100 logos look like $100 logos they don’t stand out.
Working with your ideal client enables you to do your best work.

I love this! And it’s so true, I know people who spend so much of their time optimising their website for Search Engines and stay up all night monitoring traffic flows and bounce rates… and yet, don’t really have all that much to offer.

It all begins, and ultimately ends, with making your self and your talents AWESOME.


There are instances when SEO can actually compliment word-of-mouth marketing.

If you decide to set up a company with an original name then you will have little to no competition on Google because it is unique. With a little bit of SEO and social media presence you can secure the top spots, or even a full page on Google with your company and your personal profile. A potential client may request a URL to your online portfolio or bio, you can simply tell them to Google your name.

Of course, the challenge in this is coming up with a unique and simple name.

Hi Neel,

I agree that being a unique name to Google is a neat but sadly you can’t rely on that. My business name is a case in point. When I registered (a unique and simple name :)) there were no other etchd’s out there….. now other domains have been registered. It’s costly to try and own a word even if I’d registered etchd.everything nothing to stop someone adding a little prefix. I’m still number one in Google for etchd but I don’t think that’s what makes working with me attractive to clients.

I like this quote from Seth Godin (I quote him way too much!). He wrote this back in 2004.
“SEOs are not a shortcut to success, at least not for 99% of the companies out there. You won’t win by fooling Google into listing you first for a common search term. You will win once you figure out the simple mechanics of turning strangers into friends and friends into customers.”

More than anything, isn’t a bit of a case of knowing how your target market is going to find you?

If you’re after clients who want ‘churn and burn’ logo creation, you’ll need to be listed against the other churn and burn’ers… or above them. Alternatively, if your target audience is large corporates after a redesign, your marketing strategy as a designer should be different.

It’s all in the context.

Thanks Theo.

Think about who you want to work with and what it is you are really selling.

Identity designers are not just selling a marker or a shop front they are selling icons and “I love this!” moments.

Designers hold the visual representation of a business owners dreams in the palm of their hands.

As someone who’s name is always at the the top of the Google pile (apart from Wikipedia and those companies that pay to be there) I wonder what David Airey thinks of this.
The Google search for “graphic designer” has become a much appreciated part of my online-branding class. I’m still amazed that after all this time David hasn’t been usurped by another super-savvy SEO-ologist. Of course the criteria for choosing any business (not just logo designers) has been stated here more eloquently than I can but being on the first page when your name isn’t AAAAAAAAAAADesigns Inc. isn’t totally worthless. At the very least you’re easy to find.

Hi Rob,
I’m really interested to see your new website and information when it launches.
Yes context is part of how you frame what you do. Being remarkable at being found by Google doesn’t mean you are remarkable at what you do. It might mean you get more visits but doesn’t guarantee you’ll get work or more referrals though. A marketing strategy has to involve more than just targeting a niche.

Hi David,

David Airey is a good case in point (kudos for bringing him up I was waiting for someone to).
What David did by launching his personal blog and subsequently two other design blogs may not have been a strategic move at the time but has worked well for him. Sharing what you know and helping others online has proven to be a great strategy for marketing your business. David has gained trust not just backlinks through a ton of hard work over many years.
So yes being on page one of a search isn’t worthless but you’ve got to to be able to hold peoples’ interest and deliver the goods beyond the first click if you want to build a business.

Hello David, there are pros and cons of being so easily found. Pro: Some people attach a certain amount of credibility (rightly or wrongly) with those at the top of search engine results. Con: Higher traffic attracts a broader quality of potential client, meaning more time spent filtering through dead-end communications.

Bernadette summed it up well when she said, “Sharing what you know and helping others online has proven to be a great strategy for marketing your business.” I’d go with that.

100% agreed – great insight. What’s funny is how much less you need to try for those Google rankings once you know how to get them. It’s actually more about knowing what parts of Google’s algorithm are broken and what parts they’re giving away if you’re willing to put in some thought and play ball. That means using your imagination to find something other than “logo design” to pin your hopes on. Obviously, you’d never want a client who was one-dimensional enough to look for creative services that way. As for buying AdWords; you’ll never outspend stupidity, so why try? The more you delve into SEO / SEM, the more you realize that social marketing and PPC are just as powerful. It’s still all about who (and what) you know. Again; great post!

Hi Bernadette,

Thanks for pointing out the insanity in chasing rankings, and traffic for that matter.

In defense, my company name was chosen to try and illustrate that when someone searches LOCALLY they typically will not go beyond the 1st page of the results to chose a vendor.

I also chose the name because many businesses think that “if only I could get seen, I’d get more business”. Well, maybe, and maybe not, it does tend to allow me to ease into their world and then I get to go deeper with them to find real answers and provide well thought systems that work specifically for them.

The geographic addition to practically any vocation or type of business can be used as an SEO tool to stand out amongst the others in your given field.

That said, you still have to have a decent product or service to provide, some additional useful and helpful content, and a compelling enough story “why you” to have people wanting to know more about your solution.

Being everything to everybody in any business is a sure path to frustration and poverty.

Being authentic and thorough about a specific thing and a proven way to do it well,
is much more enjoyable and rewarding fro everyone involved.

Lateral business may be a good way to generate some bread and butter money, but going deep with a relationship based solution is definitely a lot more fun, and profitable.

Thanks again for your insight,


Hi Rick,

Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughtful comment. We learn and grow at every stage in our business journey. The name you have right now might not be the name you would have chosen today but you’re working with it.

I like what you said here;

“Being everything to everybody in any business is a sure path to frustration and poverty.

Being authentic and thorough about a specific thing and a proven way to do it well,
is much more enjoyable and rewarding fro everyone involved.

Lateral business may be a good way to generate some bread and butter money, but going deep with a relationship based solution is definitely a lot more fun, and profitable.”

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