For small business branding, the need to have a home base online is more important today than ever. More and more companies are seeing the value that having an online presence represents.
The massive expansion in the potential customer base that comes with having an e-commerce site is self-explanatory. However, you need to ensure that you have a strong brand that is able to stand out in order to be visible online. The best way to achieve this is through an excellent online marketing strategy.
However, there are more benefits than the increase in customer base. These days, online commerce is increasingly playing a role in shaping and guiding customer behavior. Especially with the recent and immense popularity increase, and importance, of showing up in localized search results.
Implied “near me” searches that do not include the specific phrasing “near me” have grown with 150% comparably with searches that explicitly include “near me” in the search query. What this means for local and small businesses is that local searches are efficient enough now that they will guide potential new customers to what appears in their searches. To gain new customers, you must gain this type of virtual visibility.
This brings us to why we created this article – think about your small business branding from the start. While the first tip is predominantly helpful for those wanting to start a new business, the rest is applicable to all small and local businesses.
Check for domain name availability
Choosing a company name, only to discover later that it’s not available as a domain name, is a lost opportunity for instant brand consistency. From an SEO perspective, this can prove to be especially challenging. If you have to compete for visibility and ranking for your company name in search engines and another site has your company name as their domain name, the consistency and visibility of your company start off on the back-foot. So before you file those incorporation papers – check to see if your business name is available as a domain name.
You can do this through domain registrar websites like WhoIs. They are particularly good at providing listing information that will help you make a decision as to whether you ought to look for a different business name.
In terms of SEO advice when choosing your company name, many will tell you to find a way to incorporate your service into the name in one way or another. This makes sense from a business branding point of view, as well as an SEO point of view. It will provide you with a marginal leg up when starting your online visibility activities.
SEO site hierarchy and strategic planning
A good site hierarchy is one of the better ways to help your SEO, and should be well founded on the primary function of your business – or your site’s purpose. A clear site structure allows for better crawling, and thereby makes it easier for search engines to understand and prioritize your site in search results.
In other words, your site hierarchy should reflect what you do, what you offer, and have a potential for two-way communication. Your site should be hierarchical in a similar way to how you’d divide functions in your business to different departments or individuals.
To help you build your brand it can be helpful to see your website structure as being made up of layers. Your homepage is the top layer. This is your online headquarters, where you can find all relevant departments or functions. Your services, about, contact page, and other primary functions are your second layer. Further layers can get a bit muddy, however, this illustration simplifies the logic behind how you should structure the site.
When applying this structure, you can organize your online activities in a strategic manner from the start. You can then start applying content creation, with a specific purpose in mind, aimed at the different content funnels. The concept of the content lifecycle and content funnels is something we’ll touch upon in a follow up article.
Be consistent throughout in your branding
So why is a site hierarchy important to branding? While it might not directly contribute to your branding in a similar way to your logo and design, it does contribute from the sidelines. It provides a transparent and coherent sense of what and who you are.
The importance of consistency and transparency is also part of why we highly advise startups to ensure that their company name is available as a domain name as well. In other words, for you to build your brand, you need to enforce brand guidelines every day, from day one.
The next step is to ensure that your content creation and general information is consistent. Content creation is a great way to improve online visibility for small and local businesses. While there is a small ocean of things you can do to help this, we’ll focus on visual and written content you publish yourself.
Blogging and branding
Having a blog is an extremely useful way in which you can demonstrate your expertise and knowledge in your field. It simultaneously provide potential customers with valuable information. This information will enable users to make informed decisions, and if your content is of a high quality, it will increase the likelihood of these visitors converting to customers. On top of this, it’s an exceptionally useful tool for you to use when you build your brand. Many small business owners find that blogging helps them promote their product or service while creating a brand identity. Basically, it’s the modern version of a business card you give to decision makers.
Usually, a blog provides Top of the Funnel type of content, which we will discuss in a later article. In short, it is content to raise awareness and intrigue from potential customers to your brand. Additionally, if you inform your blog based on a keyword strategy you will be able to add some fuel to your rankings. So already we see many benefits from running a company blog. On top of this, when you employ a defined brand voice, you can use this content to further your branding efforts.
Visualization and brand recognition
Actively creating unique visual content is one of the most clear-cut ways you can cement your brand. While a huge host of companies primarily use stock photos for their articles and site, having unique and individually crafted graphic content is a great way to stand out from the crowd. It is estimated that you can gain 67% more audience attention by using brand-centric and detailed visual content. This is a fantastic opportunity for engaging a wider audience.
The other side of this is that you will increase the likelihood of your brand being recognized out of context quickly as well. It also appeals to most of the population, as 65% of people are visual learners. This is one of the reasons why we focus on creating all our infographics ourselves. If you’d like assistance with the branding of your business, we are more than happy to provide our content creation services.
Remember - promote yourself!
Having a great site infrastructure, good content, and a visually impressive site only gets you so far. If no-one knows to look for you, your site won’t receive enough initial attention to grow. Well, it won’t grow quickly. With good SEO, excellent content, and a well functional website, your site will rank over time. However, by reaching out to the right people, with the right purpose and content, you will improve your chances of quickly improving both ranking and traffic.
Don’t be afraid to contact relevant people in your industry, or publications that intersect between you and your target audience. Don’t sell yourself and your product short when you outreach and create buzz for your brand. For more information about creating buzz, I highly advise checking out Rand Fishkin’s article “The Pro Marketer’s Product Launch Checklist for 2018” on Moz.
Small Business Branding Summarized
The biggest takeaway here is consistency and transparency, as well as some key tactics you can employ to achieve this. Considering how shopping and purchasing habits now are so intertwined with the online components, from the very first stage of the buyers’ journey (search and apps), to the products themselves (you can see VR labels on wine these days), it is a disadvantage not to have a virtual headquarters online. This is why having a website is so important to your brand identity. It centralizes and ensures a solidified presence online. While having social media accounts is great for attracting new customers, and providing an engaging platform for your regulars, a website serves as your storefront. It allows you to build your brand every day with a clear identity.
Therefore, we recommend that you think about a domain name while deciding on your company’s name. This will ensure ensure that once you have a site, it will be built on a logical hierarchy structure, so that it’s intuitive to use and ranks well. Using an SEO keyword strategy in your content creation is a great means of improving your ranking, while simultaneously boosting your small business branding. We also strongly recommend using unique and informative visual and written content to help truly cement your brand.
Should you want to discuss, or need help with, your online branding efforts, please feel free to contact us below!