577 days ago

How do I make my branding really stand out?

Mike from mhdesign

Modern technology is truly wonderful. These days anybody can create a business card or brochure and get it printed, set up a website or online presence, write social media posts and develop a ‘brand’ for themselves or their business. The hardest part is getting noticed through all the ‘visual… View moreModern technology is truly wonderful. These days anybody can create a business card or brochure and get it printed, set up a website or online presence, write social media posts and develop a ‘brand’ for themselves or their business. The hardest part is getting noticed through all the ‘visual noise’ generated by other people doing just the same thing. If you’re trying to create a brand on a budget there are some key points you should consider:
• Do your homework. Consider the markets that your brand is designed to appeal to. What sort of imagery works for similar businesses? What doesn’t work? Certain elements are more appropriate to some markets than others. When was the last time you saw a nail salon shop frontage that featured a strong, sans-serif ‘industrial’ typeface? How about a hot pink, fully-pimped, builder’s ute with the company details in a ‘feminine’ script? (Note – in fact this would prove to be a real ‘point of difference’ and attention-grabber if the builder in question was a woman.)
• Be original. As pointed out in the headline, the aim is to make your brand stand out from the competition. Be aware of current design trends, but don't be ‘faddy’. Strive for something that is timeless. That is, unless your plans include becoming a large corporation with the resources to completely rebrand to the latest styles every five years or so.
• Be unique. Sure, there are websites where you can download a tastefully-executed generic logo image which may seem to relate to your business activity. They might even come in a colourway that appeals to you. Type in your company name in the pre-selected font and hey presto! Instant logo! Instant business cards! And instant brand collateral! Just remember the competition down the road, or even in the next town or city, could be doing exactly the same thing. I thought you said you wanted your brand to stand out?
• Tell your brand story. Humans are natural storytellers and discovering stories, myths and legends has entertained mankind for centuries. So show prospective customers what makes you unique.
• Start as you mean to go on. Branding collateral is expensive. This means that people often prioritise their branding needs and produce material as they need it. This is a logical approach, however it also pays to be mindful of how your brand will appear in future collateral. What works in one medium may not work in another, and you don't want to have to make compromises or modify your brand down the track so that it works in both instances.
• Be consistent. Consider the language and imagery that accompany your brand. If key elements are too complex for some applications, simplify things until you have something that works across the board. Explore your brand colours to see what works in different media as some colours work better on screen than in print or signage applications.
• Decide which Social Media platforms are appropriate. If your business provides a service or products to other businesses, a Facebook page isn’t going to do a lot for your brand. You’d be better promoting yourself on LinkedIn, which is a professional networking platform designed for Individual to Business or Business to Business (B2B) communications. On the other hand, if you’re running a gym or café and you’re looking to build an online community, Facebook and Instagram would be the best choice.
• Register your Domain Name. Now. One of the first things you should do is consider and register an appropriate domain name (or domain names) for your business. This doesn’t cost much and, even if you only use it for email, using your unique domain name is far more credible and professional than using a generic gmail account. Your domain name should be easy to remember. It should also clearly say something about the service that you provide, as this will improve your chances of being found in an online search.
• Develop a website. At some stage a website will need to be developed for your business. It’s a simple fact of modern life that if you don't have a website as the hub of your online presence, you don’t exist. Apply the elements of your brand to your website template. Don’t go with a generic provider's default address (mybusiness.genericprovider.com). It might be free, but it lacks credibility and you should be giving some thought to the domain name that you choose. As mentioned above, registering your own domain name is not expensive. After all, this is your online ‘shop window’.
• Listen to potential customers. Your brand might make perfect sense to you, but if potential customers can't relate to it it's not going to create much of an impression.
• Use your time wisely. As a start-up or small business, you want to keep expenses to a minimum. We get that. But before you embark on your brand project, consider how much time it's going to take out of your working day. Is researching and working on elements of your brand time well spent, or would your time be better spent building your business networks or working on actual projects for your clients? With the demands and distractions of running a new business branding can be put on the ‘back burner’ and left untended for weeks or months on end. Often briefing a brand professional and leaving them to get on with the job will result in a more complete and professional result, delivered on time.

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946 days ago

How To Get Yourself On Page One of Google

Mike from mhdesign

We’ve all received them. Those cold emails from so-called 'SEO Experts' who confidently assure you that with their help they can guarantee you a prime 'Page 1' positioning on Google.

Most of us see these emails for what they are – crude ‘fishing expeditions’ that put … View more
We’ve all received them. Those cold emails from so-called 'SEO Experts' who confidently assure you that with their help they can guarantee you a prime 'Page 1' positioning on Google.

Most of us see these emails for what they are – crude ‘fishing expeditions’ that put you in contact with ‘experts’ who will make a proposal, ask for ‘up front’ payment and subsequently disappear into the ether. The truth is, there is no way that anybody can guarantee Page 1 positioning on Google or any other Search Engine. This is why SEO is seen by some as a ‘black art’. However there are some simple things that you can do to improve your chances of being found in organic online search results:

• Make sure your pages have unique descriptive titles (that's the bit that appears in your browser title bar above the window that your page is displayed in). A simple formula is to have the page title first, followed by your business name and location. Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of your title tag so keep important keywords first. Try to relate the title to the first heading on your page. And never simply title your home page ‘Home’.

• While we‘re on the subject of page headings, use the heading tags (H1 to H6) intelligently. Search Engines pay attention to these tags and give this content priority over other content on the page. Try to include relevant keywords in this content.

• The remainder of the text content on the page should contain enough information for search engines to understand what the page is about. Studies have shown that ‘long form’ content (at least 500 words and preferably more than 1000) rates significantly better than shorter pages. Some say you can't have page content that is ‘too long’ However it pays to remember the rule of ‘Quality over Quantity‘. It's better to have a shorter page than pad your content out with ‘fluff’. Again, try to include relevant keywords in your content, without being ‘spammy’. ‘Keyword Stuffing’ will adversely affect your Search Engine results.

• Speaking of keywords, the ‘Meta Keywords’ tag is not the magic bullet it once was. Search engines ignore this information due to the way this tag was abused by spammers, in fact Google, Yahoo and Bing declared some years ago that ‘the Keyword tag is dead’. Therefore it‘s more productive to spend the time you would have spent worrying about the 'Meta Keywords' tag worrying about the other content on your page.

• Do include a description of your page content of up to 160 words in the ‘Meta Description’ tag. Not only does information this give searchers an indication of what your page is about, the more people that understand what your page is about and click your link the better your search engine rating. Your ‘Meta Description’ should be relevant to the page content – if it is misleading you will be penalised in Search Engine results. If you don‘t include a ‘Meta Description’ on your page Google will simply display the first 160 words on the page.

• Do include ‘alt’ tags on all your images. In the old days of dial-up connections this tag told users what the image was about if they had ‘images’ turned off in their browser to save bandwidth, or if an image could not load. This tag is now used by search engines to gain additional information about the page. A bonus is that this tag, combined with the heading tags, make your page more accessible to the 'screen readers' used by people with a visual impairment.

• Do consider including a ‘Blog’ feature on your website. If you have this feature add new, original content regularly. It's hard to keep adding new content throughout your website, but Search Engines love new information. If your website hasn't changed for years it may be seen by Search Engines as no longer relevant. Posting new content with appropriate keywords in blog format keeps Search Engines coming back and indexing your site. Having said that, be wary of changing things on your website too much. Using the wrong keyword or deleting a keyword completely may result in a slide down the Search Engine results pages.

• Make sure that your website has a ‘sitemap.xml’ file. While completely invisible to humans visiting your site, this file lists each unique URL (address) for each of your site's pages. It also details when the page was last updated, how often it changes and how it relates to other URLs in your site. This allows Search Engines to 'crawl' your website more effectively. To check if your website has a sitemap.xml file, type your site address in the address bar, followed by ‘/sitemap.xml’, i.e. www.mywebsite.nz...

Think about these points when reviewing your Search Engine positioning. While we can't guarantee you a Page 1 placing, taking these simple steps will improve your positioning on Google and other Search Engines. Good luck!

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