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Is it just me or have you also noticed that Google seems to be paying a lot more attention to brands these days? So much so, in fact, that it can almost feel that brand signals might be included as a part of their search engine ranking factors?
Are brands really being given more weight in Google? And how does it affect how we market our businesses?
First, let’s take a look at what brand is, what it isn’t, and how to establish one.
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a
“name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
So to be an identifiable brand, we need to be “distinct from other sellers”.
Sounds easy enough; however, how to do you accomplish it in practical terms? How do you come into a market that is dominated by blogs like Problogger, Copyblogger, Entrepreneurs-Journey and claim your piece of the blogging pie?
1. Define What Your Brand Is
Do you build a brand around your name or your blog/product?
Let me answer this question with a question: would you use Twitter any less if you didn’t know who the founders were?
On the other hand, would you come to Entrepreneurs-Journey.com as often, if we took Yaro Starak completely out of the equation?
These are questions that all of us will have to answer for ourselves, but here are my thoughts.
There’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t brand both YOURSELF as an expert in your chosen field AND your blog/site/product as the answer to a particular problem your readers/customers might have.
Traffic Generation Cafe, for instance, has quickly become a site known for teaching how to get more web traffic in a language everyone can understand – even when it comes down to the all-mysterious SEO.
However, I am not hiding behind my blog either. Even though I can’t yet compare myself with Yaro, Ana Hoffman is truly becoming a name that is a brand in itself.
How do I know? By looking at my Google Analytics and seeing how much traffic comes from searching for “Ana Hoffman” as the keyword.
If something were to happen and I needed to step away from Traffic Generation Cafe, it will (sadly for me) continue just fine since it’s a brand of its own.
On the other hand, if I have to ditch my blog and start all over again for whatever reason, I won’t feel like I am starting from scratch – my name alone will give me a head start in whatever new venture I branch out to.
2. Keyword.com, Brand.com, or MrSmith.com?
That’s the next important decision to make on your way to defining your brand.
I know this is a non-issue for most of the readers here – most of you have already started a blog and, of course, picked your domain name.
However, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good one or that you can’t change it.
When I started my very first blog, I had absolutely no direction. I had no idea what the blog theme was, what I wanted to write about, what my target audience was, or which direction to take my blog in the future.
No wonder that blog miserably failed.
But not all was lost.
What I did was take that very blog and completely revamp it with the new design, new niche, and, yes, the new domain name.
And it did wonders for my blog – just come over to Traffic Generation Cafe and see for yourself.
My point is that it’s never too late to start anew; and in many cases, that is exactly what you need.
So unless you are Chris Brogan, don’t go for YourName.com – it won’t get you too far.
Creating a true brand name is a long-term commitment lined with sweat and tears; Amazon didn’t become what it is today overnight.
My choice is to go for a keyword-rich domain that will also tell your visitors what your blog is all about before they ever click on the link. Actually that might be precisely why they’ll click on your link among all other competition in Google search results.
For instance, if you are searching for tips on traffic generation, would you be more apt to click on “AnaHoffman.com” or “TrafficGenerationCafe.com”?
Precisely my point.
3. Think Territorially
Not too long ago, Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com wrote an excellent post on How to Dominate Your Niche.
In it he talks about how so many bloggers are more concerned about dominating or at least breaking into the perceived blogging hierarchy in any given niche; often more so than focusing on building a thriving business.
I can completely relate to that.
It is nice to be included on different lists like “The Best of…”, “The Most Popular Among…”, don’t you think?
I’d even go as far to say that we take it personally when we DON’T see our name in any given post mentioning other bloggers in it. What do you mean I didn’t make this post? Am I not as popular as the other bloggers? Do I need to forget about the voice of reason, quit sleeping, and start networking night and day to make sure my name shows up on every bloody list out there?
Yes, we are all designed with the need to feel valued.
And value in the blogosphere is generally expressed in the mentions on other blogs, social media, etc.
However, we forget that there are many bloggers out there that win every single popularity contest, yet they are still broke.
What are you building your brand for? To have your name recognized or to build a thriving business that actually pays the bills?
I know, I know, a little of both doesn’t hurt, but realistically speaking we all have 24 hours per day and we need to choose wisely how we spend them.
Forget about the popularity contest. Carve out your territory within your niche and dominate that. Recognition will come naturally.
4. Make More with Fewer People
This point ties in nicely with marking your own territory, so to speak.
Connect with your readers. Show them who you are. Stand out. Be a personality. Or become one if you aren’t already.
No, you don’t have to be the next Naomi Dunford to succeed. And you don’t have to go to an extreme to find loyal readership.
In most cases, you just need to be… you.
Build trust with your readers, and they will build your brand for you.
Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about how this emphasis on brand changes, or should change, your online marketing strategy.
To be more precise, how can you “help” Google to see and accept you as a brand and bring you more SEO traffic as a result of it?
1. Make Sure Your Brand is Memorable
Now that you are settled on what your brand is, it’s time to market the heck out of it.
Make sure your readers can easily remember your brand and can easily find it by searching for any number of keywords on Google.
If, for instance, my new visitor forgets the exact name of my blog, they can Google “Ana Hoffman”, “traffic generation”, “traffic cafe”, etc – all those paths will lead them back to my blog.
Think of all the possible search terms your readers might find you under and make sure your site is listed at the very least towards the top of the first page of Google for the terms – #1 spot is the goal, of course.
Real brands have people search for their brands. Let Google know that you are looked for and not simply found.
2. Social Media Presence
That’s where the magic of having a loyal audience comes in.
As I mentioned above, it’s not about the numbers; it’s about your connection with your readers and their willingness to spread your brand in the online world.
Your goal is to have your blog mentioned in the social media as much as possible, whether linking back to your blog with your brand anchor text or simply mentioning your brand somewhere around it.
I know Yaro doesn’t use CommentLuv plugin on this blog, but for those of you who do or are at least considering it, I am happy to say that I have the new beta version of the plugin installed on my blog at this very moment (it will be publicly released some time) in the fall and it’s a spectacular way to drive more brand recognition via various social media channels. Come to Traffic Generation Cafe and see for yourself.
3. Offline Techniques Work Online
Imagine a real brick and mortar business and what they have to do to promote their brand in the offline world.
They are constantly working on getting their brand out there by getting involved into all kinds of “press worthy” activities: sponsoring, donating, participating – building relationships, in other words.
That’s the type of events that will get your name and your brand out there in the online world as well.
Just a few suggestions:
All these things will not only create the brand that will become more and more recognized in the blogosphere, but also recognized by Google, making it easier for them to bump your site in their search listings.
After all, all these people talking about you and your business online can’t be wrong, right?
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