Adam Stier is a published author and columnist for several mixed media websites. Also skilled in web design, marketing and advertising.
Business Awareness: Who Am I?
Building an online presence is paramount to success in the business world, and it's all the more so for smaller or individual endeavors. Before we stampede off to Facebook or Twitter and start posting haphazardly or worry about building a website, we need to discover the business and who it wants to be. Our persona must be tailored in part to our demographic while not alienating others outside the parameters. It must also be consistent across all platforms, from the website to social media to even hard copy advertisements. It must be recognizable and custom to your business.
The Importance of Branding
Branding is a major step that requires a lot of thought and planning. In fact, most business owners have the brand figured out, and it is part of their business plan. However, it's not that way for everyone—or maybe even the brand created for the plan was done so in haste or uneducated whimsy and needs to be overhauled.
Whatever the case may be, make sure it's in line with your business demographics and the services or goods your business offers. Also make sure it has actual personality, not a general monotone voice as in some government sites. We want people to not only enjoy following or visiting the pages, but also to pass them along to friends and acquaintances. Like handing someone one of your business cards. Which of course you have business cards, right? You'll see in time that is what social media and websites or portfolios even surmount to, an online business card.
First, we have to put our brand on everything. How do I brand my business? What are proven brands? What is a brand exactly? These questions and tips and steps to building a solid branding will be covered. So, get your branding iron ready and let your business become "self-aware"
What If I Don't Have A Card?..Asking For A Friend
Hard copy cards can be an expensive waste, however, they are almost expected as part of the process. Even with the Internet clients and individuals alike always ask "Do you have a card?" Chin up. There are several apps for both Android and Apple that allow you to build digital business cards. They are professional looking and you can say your Green, no waste. Try Haystack or Business Card Maker. They are great, free apps for professional business cards.
Branding? Don't You Mean Authority?
No. Many people believe they are one in the same, albeit, they are incorrect. Authority, while similar to the concept of branding is tailored for another subject, branding is what we need for online presence building. Our goal is to become searchable and attract visitors and followers to our sites and pages. The goal is then to turn them into physical customers and remain so. However, the goal of this series is to build online presence and those other subjects merit articles all their own.
Branding is your businesses persona as I have said, albeit, there are other motives as well. It will serve you as far as search engines are concerned as well. by using SEO tools, proper keywords, metadata and the like, our branding will serve as the foundation for all of that and how we model everything from our website to our social media pages. Many may disagree, but, I go as far as saying physical advertisements reflect it has well, but, that's were authority and branding start to grey. For sake of our goals, let's just worry about branding for now.
When one hears the word they either imagine a brand image like the Pepsi Cola melting ying yang or the Nike swoosh! emblem, or a select few have even admitted thinking about a cowboy branding cattle. Neither one of these analogies is correct or incorrect. More a combination of both ideas in a sense. Pepsi and Nike are easily recognizable by those emblems alone, and branding is the pursuit of being as recognizable. Sure by search engines and online consumers, all the same, it's the way of the world these days. It's also like the cattle scenario, we want all our merchandise or services to be seamlessly consistent across the board, so we "mark" everything with the same branding.
However, our main pursuit is the attraction of search engines so we start with branding. Authority is how we present our business and persona to the world. That's as clear as I can make it without going into too much detail, like in school, we want bite size chunks that are easy to digest. How do we go about starting? What's the best and fastest way to brand the business? What should my branding sound like or read like?
Well, I would hope you already knew that. It is your business after all. Let's just go over it step by step to make sure you have covered all the bases.
Drafting Your Brand
Our local fashion forward apparel shop is ready to start developing brand. Before we begin, please note that these tactics are not necessarily industry standard and—while proven to work for clients—may not fit with everyone. There, my disclaimer. Now, to start let's review our demographic:
- Professional or Independently Secure
- 25 to 45
- $50K average annual income
- No or at most One Child
Then we look at our business again, a trendy neighborhood location, selling fashion forward unique designs that are locally made and limited production, our pricing strategy is moderate to expensive depending on the item, more women's items than men's.
So, can you hear a voice for this brand yet? Just by thinking about the merchandise and our demographic you can hear it. Maybe. You might be surprised how many business owners didn't even think about it before a consultant brought it up, from content writers to SEO specialists , we all want to know what the brand, persona, is. People have walked away from social media management contracts because they couldn't answer that question, even when the consultant develops one for them, some will not be satisfied. Why? Because deep down they know the persona they want, however, they are having difficulty explaining or defining it.
So, take your time and bring your online persona to life! It will be the voice of your customers and of your search parameters alike. For sake of the article's business we will use a general branding, a generational voice of upper middle class that focuses on image and being ahead of the pack, being unique in a world were most are anything but. A trendsetting, hip, persuasive voice that will match those of our intended target demographic. As if a friend of theirs is talking to them.
To summarize our draft branding is a middle to upper class female who uses jargon and slang familiar to the Key Demo, while giving the idea that our merchandise is not only trendsetting but ahead of anyone else's on the market.
Not bad. It needs reforming, reduction and maybe even omits and additions, all the same, we have something to start with. Now what? How do I translate the concept into blogs, content, and posts?
You'll find the more you create in this persona the easier it will become. However, if you don't have a creative writing or journalistic bone in your body, besides hiring a content writer, there's your old friend back to spend time with you; Research. Look at similar businesses and read their websites, blogs and posts. See if you can find the voice. Some voices are friendly, all knowing, patient ones; Teachers. They have all the information, they share it in a pleasant and familiar voice that gives the impression the visitor is learning something from a friend or a beloved teacher. However, they are some voices that are dry and sardonic, nonsensical, witty, hilarious and even devoid of any personality whatsoever. It's all relative to your business and service or product!
Some tips would be to make it engaging, entertaining, and a little mysterious, maybe even some tongue in cheek moments to make those who follow closely feel apart of an inside joke or secret knowledge, whatever! The goal is reached, you have followers! By asking open ended questions you inspire thinking processes, the reader will answer the question in their mind regardless, it cannot be helped. Entertaining content inspires return visits and shares, which will lead to more followers. Mystery also entices followers, they want to know the secret or the outcome, like, Tune In Next Week For... suspense. Then, by creating inside jokes or insider information, you inspire followers to feel apart of something that most aren't. A secret club almost. We all like knowing something not everybody knows. right?
Your brand will come and it will give aid to develop authority down the line. It's important, it's vital and it needs to be consistent. Period. Any deviation will invoke confusion. If the Facebook page is being snarky while the Twitter feed is being posh, people are going to scratch their heads and wonder if the business is even stable, in agreement, or with it altogether. They may not come out and say it or even realize it, but, they do on at least a subconscious level. It creates doubt and uncertainty cannot be easily swayed once planted in the consumers mind. Look at Chipotle. An outbreak occurred and even after they shut down every store, replaced all the perishables, cleaned the locations from head to toe, when they reopened it wasn't the same. Even to this day the business struggles to regain its former glory. People do not forgive easily especially when it comes to the shattering of a businesses image, or branding.
Now, we have an idea of our branding, how do we use it to develop strong followings and increase our revenue? There are several ways to increase one's SEO score and presence once branding is in place but there are a few more steps, we have to develop keywords first. So, what's a keyword? How do we select them? This is a difficult step for the novice and where SEO and Content consultants shine. In actuality it's not as difficult as some imagine. Finding them anyway. Using them properly is a whole other story.
Are You the Gatekeeper?
That's right, a little geek reference to Ghostbusters. Rick Moranis' character is possessed by the Key Master who sought the Gatekeeper. The combination of the two opened the portal to the movie's villain. In a different light, while we are not trying to bring a giant marshmallow man to life, we are trying to unlock a portal to a strong online presence. The Gatekeeper is the search engines consumers use, the Key Master is personified by our businesses branding keywords.
Keywords are what search engines are looking for. Whenever you type what you are looking for in that little search bar the engine is taking the keywords from that input and searching the Internet for the closest matches to those choice words. Therefore, if we were to search "trendy apparel local made in Anytown" what would the keywords be? Most assuredly they would be Apparel, Trendy. Anytown, and Local. Why? Well, apparel is obvious, however why trendy? Wouldn't that be a common word thrown around with many apparel retailers? Anything within the current fashion trends could be considered such. We will look at why in just a moment. For now, it's a keyword. Why Local and not Made? Since the words would be generally be found together one may think the combo could be a keyword, however, Local is the keyword because made can be associated with many phrases as where local tends to imply as such, ergo, any mention of Local, with Trendy, and Apparel are likely to bring results of stores that sell trendy apparel found or made locally. It's not a perfect system however it beats looking through a phone book and making cold calls. Some of the readers will remember those days.
But, how do we research keywords? How do I know I am using the right ones? Which keywords work best for my industry? The answer to these questions lay with the first question. Our favorite new pastime, research.
Keyword Branding Research: How to Find the Words
Go to a search engine page, like Google, right now. Type in something you would shop for or a service you would seek. Now, before you strike Enter, look at what you typed. Look at it and try and see the keywords for your search. Is it indeed the path of least resistance to finding the product or service you seek? Let's work with an example; Let's say we are in need of a plumber. It's Saturday, the time is seven-thirty in the evening, and we are in a congested part of city center. We open up our Anytown Search Engine, what would we type? What would our search parameters be? First, Plumber, the service needed. Then we need to consider it's Saturday, not an easy day to find such services available, not to mention it's after seven at night. So, maybe, Emergency Plumber would be the search, however, there are other factors. Our location, downtown, some services have restricted areas or don't service specific areas. Adjust then to Emergency Plumber near me. That may produce some results however, if we think of it from another angle, it opens up another search altogether.
How would a plumber's website phrase it? Would their site content say "We are an emergency plumber near you!" Doubtful, maybe, but doubtful. One may see that the more professional plumbing services have sites that are written in a more professional voice. One may read like this;
Anytown 24 Hour Plumbing Services established in 2010 is Anytown's fastest plumbing service offering twenty four hour and seven day a week plumbers in the Anytown Metro area which means there is always someone available, since emergencies happen outside of standard business hours. For your emergency plumbing needs call Anytown 24 Hour Plumbing Services today, night or anytime!
With that foresight we can see the obvious keywords to bring this content to the top of our search. Anytown, Plumbing, Emergency. Those would be great keywords to search for in finding this professional plumbing service. Let's see what happens when we do. After we type in "Emergency Plumbing Anytown" we get several results, some ads and even for some engines a map showing where the different locations at the top. Anytown 24 Hour Plumbing Services is at the top of the search, not because it's most popular, because its content possessed the keywords we searched for more than any other. Search engines like simplicity. The more these words are found, the higher the site appears in our search. Does that mean a business should laden their site and blogs with keywords?
No, not at all. In fact, just like in life, the key is moderation.
Keyword Research: Be Your Own SEO
Researching keywords takes minimal time compared to other tasks you have looked into. There are several websites one can use to research these pesky necessities. Most work like a search engine, however, instead of webpages the results are how many ways those words you typed were searched for in the group and individually. It will present a list breaking down those words, related words and number of searches. There are these and many free SEO tools found on the Internet.
After researching our branding we conclude that our keywords are; Anytown, Apparel, Unique, Fashion and Handmade. That's better than the original list and it provides more to work with. Are they perfect? Will they promise the perfect results? Maybe. Maybe not. It's forecasting and you may find somewhere down the road you need to change or refresh your keywords. It's OK, at least with this strategy, to have fluid content. As long as it sticks with the branding, the message can be changed. With our keywords in mind, our Home or Welcome page introduction may read like;
Anytown Designer Apparel offers fashion forward, locally handmade clothing and accessories produced in limited quantities. Giving you a unique, fashion forward appearance that will put you ahead of the curve in designer apparel. Anytown is a unique and eclectic town with many handmade artisan offerings, including fashion forward designer apparel that you will find nowhere else. Only at Anytown Designer Apparel, unique handmade fashions to give you an image as unique as you are.
Did you keep track of the keywords? Did you see how they were placed? Spread out, not overused and flow well with the message? If we stripped away all the other text we would see that Anytown was mentioned three times, Apparel four times, Unique four times, Fashion three times and Handmade only twice. How did we decide that? Why are some words used more than others? Again, it depends on your analytical research into the keywords. When we researched ours, we found that the words Apparel and Unique were used most in combination, Fashion was used in most cases with that phrase and handmade only twenty-five percent of the time. Location should always be a keyword since it's likely most will use it as a search parameter or at least their location software will take it into consideration when the searcher uses "near me"
For our sake, those are great keywords and that would make a good brief introduction. Here is what you want to avoid;
Anytown Designer Apparel offers unique apparel that is fashion forward handmade apparel. Anytown's unique apparel boutique offers the most designer fashion apparel around that is handmade and unique to Anytown. Come to Anytown Designer Apparel for the best selection in unique, fashion accessories as well. Our apparel is limited edition and gives even more of a unique fashion style than other apparel outfitters. Visit Anytown Designer Apparel today and find your fashion, as unique as you are unique. Fashion forward and handmade right here in Anytown!
That's too much! It sounds awful and it's laden with obvious keywords. Not only do we notice it, the search engines will as well. In fact, they are programmed to notice it and disregard the site if they are overused. It is referred to as "spammy" and generally associated with phising or scam sites. At least, sites of questionable ethics. So, our first example is the best layout. Proper placement, reads well, and the keywords are dominate as far as structure but not overused.
While we want to use them as much as possible, we don't have to use them so much in one particular section of content. By using them strategically and in proper context throughout the website or blog site it will increase the businesses views by being Search Engine Optimized. Take some time, write some drafts, and research, research, and more research. It can be quick or take time, however, you want to make sure you are using your keywords to the optimum level.
How to Improve SEO Scores
Besides a website, there are other ways to increase your search result positioning. Separate from the website a blog site is a great way to increase visibility. Especially by using WordPress that also contributes to making the site more SEO friendly. Search Engines love fresh content, especially with properly used keyword placement. Blogs are a great way to increase your visibility online. WordPress uses automation and analytics to help boost the blogs visibility if it matches its parameters. See the WordPress.com site for more information.
Blogs can build huge followings and attract millions of followers. Blogs for businesses may or may not achieve those results however, the real goal is not followers but customers. A million followers with only a thousand customers doesn't surmount to much. We will cover blogs in another installment. There is one major task to undertake next. Granted there are tasks like Metadata, Authority, and other details, all the same, we cannot cover them all and if you can absorb information here you can anywhere. You don't even need to see the word anymore do I? When it comes to unanswered questions; research is the answer.
It should be something you do in every instance and every subject. The Octopus Story explains why research is so important. It is not a part of the article lesson and is featured at the very end of this installment.
So far, we have covered:
- Building Your Business Brand Basics
- Keywords and Keyword Research
The least you need to take away is this: Branding is an important part of building your business online persona and voice of your online outlets. Keywords when used properly will increase your business's visibility and better search engine results.
Extra: The Octopus Story
One day on Facebook a friend posted an incredible article. This article's headline stated that aliens did exist and were among us. The headline read; Science Confirms Octopus DNA Is Extraterrestrial. It was a startling idea. I read the article and while others commented such statements as "I knew it" or "this changes everything" I simply commented "I am going to research this and get back to you."
I had learned as a journalist that there is a certain point of view when it comes to reporting information. I like to reference Obi Wan Kenobi in Return of the Jedi, he said to Luke before his battle with Darth Vader, that he would find many truths we cling to are from a certain point of view. I think that's true. Many things we believe are truth are really just majority belief. Information can also get misconstrued, if you doubt that just play a game of Telephone and witness a simple sentence can completely change between eight people.
So, I began researching the article and found that Yahoo.com was the first news outlet to break this global affecting information. Another issue that sent up a red flag. If life from another planet was not only discovered but living here on earth, wouldn't that merit the entire media association to be reporting it and related information, with experts and panels and On The Streets segments? Seems like a new life form would merit that kind of attention. Alas, it was only Inter-media that was reporting on it. After reading the Yahoo article I searched for the most important piece of information in it, the source. The original source that would have to be a research or academic paper. I found it was a published research article from a prominent scientist in the field of marine biology.
Like most papers written for academia, it was dry, full of jargon, and dry. After finishing it however, for the first time after reading such a paper, I was smiling. You see? The scientist does indeed say that octopus DNA is alien. However, the sentence reads as such;
The DNA of the octopi is vastly different and alien to any other form of DNA we have seen.
How did you interpret that? I read it as the octopus DNA is alien as in different, foreign, incomparable to what we have seen elsewhere. So, did the Yahoo journalist misread it or did they just see if from a certain point of view? That's debatable and conjecture at best. No matter, the point is we can see how incorrect information and lack of research can spread falsities that are quickly absorbed as truth. When I returned to my friend's page and posted the results it received little acknowledgement or comments of acceptance. Why?
People don't like having their beliefs shattered. Especially ones they want to believe in.
Always do your research in every instance and for every subject. Not to mention online presence and purchases. Then share the truth with those who will listen.
More Information About Building Online Presence
- How to Research Customer Demographics
Social Media, Yelp!, LinkedIn. Do you really need to have and manage all these accounts? If customers can't find you online, they may be doubtful about contacting you. Content is king; online matters!
Sources and Resources
http://keywordtool.io/ - Keyword Research
http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword-density/ - Keyword Density Tool
http://www.seoreviewtools.com/seo-keyword-suggestion-tool/ Keyword Suggestion Tool
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2016 Adam Stier