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How a small business can construct an online brand
A powerful online brand is a potential money spinner

Marketing expert Kath Dawson assesses the key approaches to building a strong internet brand.

You can have the best website in the world, but if no one can find it when they search for the product or service you offer, it might as well not exist. When looking to build an online brand you need to consider digital content, (which influences your search ranking), social media and site usability.

Google's algorithm changes

The introduction of Google’s black and white (animal) algorithms; Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, over the past two years has virtually eliminated the dubious SEO practices of the past (including automated directory submissions, paid and buried links, and anchor text in guest blogs), and has refocused the industry on quality content.

Regular Panda updates push sites with poor quality and duplicate web content further down the rankings, whilst Penguin updates cleanse linking spam and Hummingbird improves the accuracy of results as more conversational search terms are used today. 

As a result, when building a base of both on site and off site content, remember that Google favours anything that is considered quality and useful such as answers to common customer service queries and site search information, and present this information in easily usable formats like whitepapers, online tools, infographics and digital apps.

This content should be treated much like marketing and PR activity; created specifically for target customer profiles whose behaviours, interests and preferences have been researched, and should highlight exactly why your product or service is perfect for them and stands out over the competition. Build relationships with relevant bloggers and websites of interest to your target markets and target them with useful content, which if used will all help to drive traffic back to your site. This activity, combined with ensuring good quality, useful on-site content is updated regularly, will help drive your website up the search rankings, making it easier for your desired potential customers to find you.

Social media as marketing tool

Social media can be a useful tool when building your online brand, so ensure you familiarise yourself with Twitter and Facebook and ensure you have a presence which conveys the ‘personality’ of the business. Both of these platforms provide a medium for you to engage with potential and existing customers and followers and can allow you to learn more about them and their preferences. The process is to share content, and take on board comments and feedback.  This feedback can be incredibly useful in informing your content and improving your operation, as well as helping create online ‘noise’ around your brand, building its profile further. Social media engagement done well creates the opportunity to drive traffic and sales to your site without it even touching Google.

Work out who the social media key influencers are in your sector too, and target them with content, they can act as ambassadors for your brand if they share or comment on it.

A site with good useability

Last but by no means least, ensure your site has good usability. Failing to incorporate responsive design so your site works effectively across smartphones and tablets as well as traditional PC formats is a huge mistake. Most design agencies will ensure this happens as a matter of course now, but double check, as if your site isn’t responsive you are missing a major trick – multi-screening. A hugely prevalent phenomenon, multi-screening describes the way most people now consume media on multiple screens, and will instantly search for something they see that piques their interest on television, either by subject or brand. 

In addition to multi-screening, Google will be less likely to serve up your site on results on a tablet or mobile if it won’t appear well on those devices. Mobile audiences work particularly well for certain businesses, for example those with a physical presence such as a shop will invite searches from people looking for an address, map and directions, and online vendors, all of whom are subject to online price comparison. Failure to have responsive design will mean that you miss out if you fall into these camps.

Following these guidelines will help you ensure that regardless of your budget or size, you can start building your online brand effectively, with the potential for real growth and traction. The internet has created immense opportunities for businesses and brands to thrive, and with the right approach, the sky really is the limit.

Further reading on building a brand

See also: Internet increases business competition for small business

Related topics: Marketing business

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