No facet of a good digital presence operates independently of another; in a good brand, every aspect of its existence leverages and showcase the other aspects.
Every time we work on a creating new brand strategy – incorporating the ideas from every perspective – it excites me (and kind of blows my mind) how seamlessly a comprehensive plan comes together into a living brand. To show you how possible it is to fuse all of the digital components into a functional brand, I’ve broken up the brand’s digital presence into three components (or “-abilities”), which I examine from the search, content, and user experience pillars of a brand strategy.
Disclaimer: I’m just breaking it down into basics, to show the importance of making sure that everything fits in at every phase of the brand’s presence.There’s much more to all facets of good branding.
Search: Great product, brand design, target market… As much as I love social media, visual content, and blogs, all of that only matters if your site gets found. The essentials?:
Keywords: You’re proud of your brand, of course! But for search purposes, it’s important to leverage words related to your brand/industry that will get searched. You might have the sleekest imported brand, the “Ronshai boutique bursa,” but if your targeting a market that likes high-end leather purses – that’s what they’ll search: leather purse. If your content is laden with company jargon, people who are looking for you (but don’t know it yet) won’t find you.
Technical Analysis: A functional technical foundation is the premise for digital branding – make sure that nothing is blocking search engines from crawling your sites, have site maps, and have tracking on your pages. You can have a million pages – but without links or traffic to your page… well… nothing will happen.
Readability: It’s hard to believe sometimes… but Google can’t actually read. To help it know what your site is talking about, readable html content is important, since people won’t always have browsers that show images or turn text into speech. Oh, and by the way, Google wants to see natural links, too… so getting your brand talked about in the digital community is irreplaceable; it makes you seem like a thought leader when real links are driving traffic to your site (i.e. comments on other articles). Being findable also comes from being visible. The Internet is a community, and a digital brand is a part of it.
The quality: When creating content, it’s important that you use words that people will search. Design blog titles around what people typically type into Google. Visual content is enticing to your consumers, but being “findable” requires relevant words first.
The quantity: There’s no such thing as “too much” (quality) content. If I had to pick one thing that a brand can’t live without (note: yes, brands are living things), it’s good content. Why? Because Search engines and people love content. If a search engine sees that your site is active, they like that. If a person has content to attach to, they’ll fall in love with your brand.
User Experience: Using data is great for getting a pulse check: Once your brand is up and running, analytics provide a strong foundation for brand optimization. With an inherent quantitative tendency, though, it’s important that you use data only for leverage, and to qualitatively optimize. Use the numbers to guide your brand (i.e. know what people like and where your traffic comes from), but don’t let the numbers define your brand. Remember – the reason you have the numbers is because you’re an engaging brand: keep engaging. Just refine. And refine… and refine.
2. Navigability and Usability
The Logic: Your website isn’t a store, but needs to be just as easy (if not easier) to navigate. Website design and user experience need to (naturally and subtly) align with SEO components and facilitate enjoyable, natural navigation. In economics, this is called “choice architecture:” design the sight based on the nature of the users – know what people want, and cater to that. Embrace intuition, then let your creative abilities (the wireframing layout planner, the genius copy writer, and the design ninja) do the rest.
In fact, just like with many creative strategies, this concise and clean format forces the creation of stellar brand collateral. The narrowness inspires high quality.
Search: The design of the website should include the content and the right words that the search engine will favor. Know your search foundation, and then differentiate the brand further. For example, “call-to-action” buttons or newsletter sign-ups represent an example of the blend of search and user experience: search data lets us know the impact of each web layout approach, and we can alter the web design appropriately.
Web design and content: Users want simplicity – but you have a lot to tell them (we hope). How does it all come together? Use the search as guidance, design a navigable website, and place appealing content (blogs, images, company newsletters and brand showcases) within the conceptual design. Also, be sure to frequently touch base with the search expert when writing blogs: it’s an art and a science. And a nice way to vent.
Like I said with the user experience – these people aren’t with you. You’re digital presence is doing the talking. Similarly, you have to create content for personality. Whether people know it or not, that’s the aspect that they will fall in love with in the online arena. TOMS? Shoes for a cause. Chubbies? Pants with a sense of humor. IBM? Industry-giants. Why do we “know” these brands? They have a personality – which is created and maintained by an active, pristine, and personifying digital presence.
Search and content: If you’re optimizing SEO in all the right ways, social is a great place to disseminate your content, as well as maintain brand exposure, voice, and personality (and more platforms = more Google love). Blogs and page build-outs will help showcase pages that aren’t as readily “findable,” and will be an asset in the search engine world. Optimizing content – by theme, key word utilization and internal linking – helps to make your info. not only findable, but also attractive and personable. And that’s what I’m getting at:
There are creative minds, and technical minds. In digital – you can’t have one without the other: You can be attractive and personable, but you have to get found. Or, you can get found, but have to make people like what they find. One option is useless without the other.
It’s not that complex. But consistently fusing the different streams of thinking into all brand counterparts can be (in an exciting way) overwhelming.
In sum, there’s a precision involved in building a website that gets found, looks great, and locks in an emotional connection. It’s a blend that must be constantly strived for in order to have the most successful brand possible. The key: take a piece of each branding specialty and find how it fits into every branding pursuit.