When you start a blog online, with the intent to make money, it’s a business. Even though you may not be selling anything but adspace or using affiliate links to bring in cash you are your own company. In a sense your ideas are your product and your website is the packaging. You may not see yourself as a corporation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t think like one. In a landscape as competitive as the internet every advantage counts. That’s why putting some of these big brand marketing strategies into practice can put you ahead of the game
Some of the biggest companies in the world are famous in part due to ingenious branding. When you look at a giant conglomerate like Coke or Nike there’s no denying the strength and solidarity of their brand. It’s not just about having an eye catching logo, although that is part of it, successful branding is about presenting a clear and consistent message.
The question is what is your brand? What is the one underlying concept that defines you and your voice on the web? Knowing the answers to those questions and bringing them to the forefront of everything you do is really the essence of branding. A recognizable logo that is a visual encapsulation of what you represent is generally the first step. The logo that you create should reflect a great deal of thought and research. Everything from color to font style can change the over-all impact of the image, so choose each detail with a great deal of consideration.
It’s also important to showcase that logo on your site as well as in other places around the web. Logos are wisely used in social media profiles, as Gravatar’s when commenting on other blogs, press releases, directories and anything you do off-site. But most importantly a logo shouldn’t live solely on your site. It needs to travel. It needs to become synonymous with your name everywhere you go and in everything you do.
Another part of branding is being clear and consistent. When customers and users frequent a business or a blog they should feel secure in the knowledge that they will get what they expect. Imagine if one day Sony stopped selling electronics and instead offered ice cream. Customers would be confused; they wanted an HDTV not a banana split. Blogs can utilize this same principle by maintaining a common thread throughout the lion’s share of their content. That doesn’t mean you can only write about one thing, or that you can’t have the occasional rant or tangent, but in the end, everything you present should tie back into your main focus in some way.
Truly brilliant branding can actually drive public perception. It can help you be seen as a leader and an innovator in your industry. Is Amazon the first online book store? No. But it was the first to become a major brand. Presenting yourself as a brand is like making a promise to users. It is a pledge that you know who you are and will remain true to that vision. The simple fact is, it’s impossible to develop brand loyalty without a brand. And for a blog, loyalty can be everything.
SEO and Link Building
On a blog, comments, tweets and shares are awesome. They create buzz and conversation, interaction and community. These are all things which are vital to a blog’s survival. However, they alone won’t get you ranked in search engines. Big brands are now investing millions of dollars into improving their SEO efforts. Spending a ton of cash on SEO is great if you can afford it but if you’re trying your hardest just to turn a profit on a blog, you probably don’t have truck loads of money laying around for SEO. It’s ok though, a few simple things can really make a big difference.
Under most circumstances, searchers won’t be looking for a particular kind of blog, but it’s still a smart practice to label yourself appropriately as a “Travel Blog” or “Health and Fitness Blog” to catch those specific kinds of searches. Categories and tags are also useful for SEO and for helping users navigate a blog, so all in all they are a good idea. But beyond that, it’s important to optimize your content titles for search friendliness. Cute, clever titles serve their purpose for getting attention; but if it’s not aptly descriptive of your topic it will be passed over in search results. The key is to combine creativity with relevance.
Apart from post titles; title-tags and URL’s are an important part of the SEO process. Don’t think that a title-tag and URL always need to be an identical match to the article title. In fact for ranking purposes it’s often better to utilize title-tags and URL’s to focus on search queries that are appropriate for your blog. Consider an article about sharks called “The Blue Man’s Group”. Let’s say this is an article about the tendency of Blue Sharks to cluster in same sex schools. The title itself is not going to give search engines a clear indication of what the article is about. However if the title-TAG reads “Blue Shark Social Groups and Behaviors” and the URL is /blue-sharks-social-groups then you are telling Search Engines that your article is relevant to searches relating to Blue Shark social groups. The point is, remember to separate those 3 key elements, the title, title-tag and URL. This article would most certainly meet the user’s intent of the Blue shark query and if done well could bring you a new reader, or even better, a link.
Speaking of links, they are also imperative to search engine rankings, especially for more competitive terms than, say, shark behaviors. Getting links can definitely prove to be a tricky and time consuming process. Many people will tell you the best way to get them is to have great content, which is undeniably true. But without promotion the best content in the world won’t go anyplace. This is where we go back to social media and other blogs. Make sure you are engaging with other blogs in your niche, write for each other, comment on other people’s blogs as often as you can and keep a blog roll of people you respect. Stay active on Facebook and Twitter to publicize your content but make sure you promote more than just your own work or you will simply become self-glorifying noise. While you’re at it, don’t neglect relevant directories that actually get traffic, or the simple act of asking people to link to you. When all else fails, highlight the work of others. The best way to get someone to notice you is often to notice them first.
Online Reputation Management
Big companies spend huge portions of their budget on all things related to public relations. As a blogger, you need to be concerned with the same things, although perhaps not on the same level.
As a blogger, you can’t worry about every troll that has something negative to say. In fact if people disagree with you or even hate you sometimes that can be good for blogging business. But if any of that dissent becomes slanderous or begins to undermine your credibility, you could have an issue.
To start, it’s good to just become aware of the top 10 Search Engine results for your blog’s name, your name, and the names of any key staffers. What are the top results for those queries? Are they even about you? If they are, are they good, bad or indifferent? The main goal of this kind of reputation management is to try to own and control the top results for these key brand identities.
If you need to oust some undesirable results, start by making as many profiles for yourself as possible. Social sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter carry a fair amount of weight in these kinds of name searches. And also by claiming your name on these profiles you prevent others from doing so. If you already have those, create more press about yourself via press releases, or asking a fellow blogger if they would be interested in a two-way interview. You interview them on your blog and in turn they interview you on theirs. Strong, new content has a good way of moving less than favorable, older results off the front page.
If you are happy with your top 10, then maintenance is your goal. Make sure to use free services like Yahoo! and Google Alerts to stay on top of any new mentions. There are a host of other tools available that range from free to extremely expensive which can track everything from Twitter mentions to name drops in blog comments. If you have visitors from other countries, don’t always assume everyone stalking about you is doing so in your language and learn to think internationally as well.
There are a lot of ways for small businesses and blogs to utilize a corporate mentality in their marketing. But when it comes to making money online these are some of the most important and effective ways to channel big brand strategies for your own success.
Jessica is a writer for a German based online reputation management program. She has been working as a freelance writer and an aspiring SEO for the last 5 years. Her expertise covers a number of areas including, online reputation management, link building, branding and social media.