Can Bad SEO Hurt Your Brand?

A friend of mine is engaged, and I am to be one of her bridesmaids. As a four-time bridesmaid, I’ve unfortunately been to more wedding blogs and bridal shop websites than a sane human should. Some are fantastic, doing everything SEOs recommend: engaging and well-written content, a solid back link profile, good information architecture, attractive designs and clean code. And as with any industry, a large number are poorly designed and built, and even more poorly optimized.

Recently, my friend and I were going wedding dress shopping, and she sent me to the website of the bridal store she’d chosen. I was slightly horrified.

I’d like to say this was one of the worst wedding sites I’ve seen, but the errors they were making are quite common to sites across sites in all niches. From keyword stuffed content pages, to duplicate content, and spammy back links, this shop was doing nearly everything SEOs consider to be wrong.

Whether this hurts organic traffic, of course, depends on the niche. The wedding industry is pretty cut-throat, and unfortunately the search engines have proven that techniques like this often do still work. In fact, the bridal store ranks #2 for [bridal store mississauga], likely one of their most coveted keywords. They are outranked only by a shop in Mississauga actually named The Bridal Store. Not bad, right?

But how does a badly optimized website reflect on potential customers?

I asked my friend what her impressions were prior to visiting the store. She admitted, “yeah, the website sucks.” But she actually hadn’t chosen the store because of, or in spite of, the website, but because a friend had recommended it. Had she found the site via a search, she might not have been so eager to dress shop there. I know I was a little reluctant that the store would be any good.

First impressions are important, and a website is often the first encounter potential customers have with a brand. It can be as important as the store front for brick-and-mortar businesses, so why wouldn’t you want to put your best foot forward? Perhaps a personal recommendation can overcome the impact of the website, but what if the potential customer is discovering you for the first time via your site?

About Dawn Smith

Dawn Wentzell is currently working in custom mobile app development as Project Manager, Mobile Technology at SpeakFeel Corporation. She has experience with SEO for both local businesses and national markets, loves to do site audits and hates IIS hosting. You can find her at or on twitter at @saffyre9.

Filed under: Featured, Optimization



I think your article proves more that a bad website can hurt your brand let alone bad SEO… You can have the best SEO strategies on the internet but if the content on your page leaves your viewer confused and turned off than your SEO campaigning is virtually useless… Your goal should be to become popular enough to generate steady traffic, and your reason for wanting that steady traffic is to lure your viewers into purchasing whatever you have to offer.

Dawn Wentzell

Well, “bad website” is a little vague…what is it about the website that was bad? In this case, the design wasn’t the biggest turn off – it was the fact that the content was so keyword stuffed it was nearly impossible to read. That’s an optimization issue more than design or usability.

But otherwise, I agree with everything else you said! 🙂


Well put… I guess i was thinking in more of a general aspect of things… Only because you said other people were turned off by the site it made me think that no matter what the problem was it was sending people in the wrong direction.

Greg Taylor

When I look at the site example provided my instant brand perception is negative. I expect a sloppy, run-down store in a lousy strip mall.

What we try to do is make sure that the sites we launch for clients are cohesive with the experience the client will receive. Everything from the initial search encounter (making sure the title aren’t misleading) to the content – making sure it’s written with the same tone of communication down to the aesthetics and personality of the site.

Everything needs to work together as one machine that’s firing on all cylinders.

Julian | Sofas piel

It does not hurt, only increase traffic even if wrong, the truth is it works

Dawn Wentzell

Sure, some particularly horrible sites my attract more eyes…. people like us who want to point and stare… but that traffic isn’t converting. How many online customers did Target lose after their redesign?


This is a big problem with my competitors. Some of the top rankers have stuffed their pages so darn much with keywords and pretty messy sites. I’m trying to follow the rules but it sure makes you want to completely break the rules sometimes to get ahead.


Well, just having traffic doesn’t guarantee sales, does it? I think it’s possible to make an impression while being SEO friendly, e.g. you can use images for that. Couple that with call to actions and other cues…

Martin Evans

Having a good looking website means nothing without content the user can read and value – if a site is orientated towards its clients then it will probably do well with the search engines as long as the writer has stayed on track with their subject.

If the author has made their article interesting enough, people will want to link to it making search engines pick up on it too.

Thanks for a great article 🙂

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