By: Thomas Young
Website Marketing and Branding
Online branding is an essential website strategy and is something your website does the minute it begins to attract visitors. In fact, your company website may have no other functionality or purpose than to brand the company on the Internet. How your company is presented online may be the most important piece of marketing, or branding, seen by your target market. This is especially true for those experiencing your brand for the first time online. Let’s take a closer look at a few important elements of successful online branding and how to incorporate them into your online marketing strategy.
A Simple Branding Review
There are many misconceptions about branding and a variety of opinions about how to define branding. If you ask ten people “What is branding?” you are likely to get ten different answers! The most basic and simple way to look at branding is to think of it as the answer to this question: What do people think about our company? More specifically, what do people think about when they visit your website or social media presence on the Internet? That’s online branding and this also translates to what they think about your company.
Website users do not differentiate between your website presence and your offline business. They are one and the same for most website visitors and Internet users. What people think about your website is also branding for your company. This is also carried into your social media presence. This is the power behind strategic web marketing and the reason it should not be taken lightly.
Everything on Your Website is Branding
Everything on your website and in your social media content is branding for your company. Photos, colors, graphics and content seen by the site visitors all form an impression. That impression is branding, and the reason that much thought must be given to your website and online content. Do not add elements to your website just to have them on the website. Every part of your site should have a very specific purpose. Adding unnecessary elements only leads to a cluttered and confusing website, which hurts your brand. People will quickly leave a confusing or cluttered website, and will rarely come back. Visitors make a connection between the branding coming from your website and your ability to deliver services or quality products. Basically, if you have a bad website you are likely to produce bad products and services.
Websites Make a Company Transparent
A website is your business plan on the Internet for the world to see. Companies can no longer hide behind their brand as they did in the past with ads and marketing-based content. Your target market is looking for much more depth and clarity about your company. The company website exposes the business and places the consumer or prospective customer in charge. Consumers are very smart and can see through the company by visiting your website. Be honest and to the point on your site because your company is now transparent.
Your Website is a Silent Brand
Website users leave evidence of their visit which can be found in your web data in Google Analytics, and most will never connect with you directly or provide feedback. They don’t make a lot of noise. They are more likely to vote with a click of their mouse and leave your site than to provide feedback on the brand experience. There are a few web stats that are key indicators of a website’s general branding experience with users. Total website visits and overall bounce rate are key measurements of your online brand. The bounce rate is a measurement of users leaving your site immediately after only visiting one page, which indicates very little interest.
Declining visits and a high bounce rate are negative brand indicators. Target a bounce rate below 40 percent of all site visitors. Because this happens in a vacuum, if you are not watching your web stats, your brand can deteriorate and you would never know it until you see your sales and revenues drop. This is the power of website branding.
An External Versus Internal Focus
People come to your website with an intention and a strong focus on getting value. They are looking to get information or get something done. The better you can understand user intentions the better you can drive conversions. See your website from your customer’s point of view. This is not easy. Most websites are developed from a very strong internal perspective. Avoid the internal biases of your company on your website. This is often seen in website navigation titles and content. Your website must have an external focus to adequately brand your value to visitors.
Photos Can Hurt or Help Your Online Brand
Photos tell a story and users will look at those photos before any other part of the website, especially photos of people. This drives the brand and your key messaging. Unfortunately, most website photos are clip art imagery or stock photos with no captions. Avoid stock photography and use real photos from your company with captions that tell your brand story.
The First Page of Google Results is Branding
Google has changed branding. The first page of Google search results now defines the brand for that search term. Pick the search terms most relevant in describing your company and make sure you show up on the first page of Google. There are many ways to do this and you can read more about it in the traffic generation content on this website.
Establish a Voice for Your Brand Online
Content is a key part of online branding. You must have a content strategy and plan for regular content updates and blog posts. Keep in mind that this content must be consistent to avoid brand confusion and come from one central voice or theme for the company. The voice of the brand found in your online content should meet the needs of your target market.
Online Content is Changing Branding
Online content is growing in its use and reach. Telling the story of your company is critical to developing your online brand. If you don’t tell your story, people will make one up. This is true whether it is a ten-word tagline or a 1,000-word article. The future of branding online will be very much made up of content.
Include a clear strategic branding section in your web marketing plan that explains the impression you want to leave in the minds of people that visit your website or social media pages. Review your web stats to confirm your assumptions and measure online branding efforts.
- How are visitors responding to your website?
- Set up and review Google Analytics and get feedback from visitors.
- Work to get the right type of qualified traffic on your website.
- Have a great tagline and photos with captions that communicate your brand.
- Develop an online content strategy and find the team to implement it.
- Research which keywords should cause your website to appear on page one of Google search results.
- Is your website content written from the perspective of your company or your customers?
- Write in the language of your prospective customers.
Thomas Young is the CEO and founder of Intuitive Websites. He is an author, speaker and digital marketing consultant. Order Tom’s book “Winning the Website War” to get more digital marketing insights.