Branding is everywhere. It permeates our daily lives: when we shop, drive, watch TV, are online, at sporting events and reading magazines or newspapers. According to Statista, over 240 billion dollars was spent on media advertising alone in the US in 2019 with digital ad spending accounting for over half of that. Marketing can be a costly adventure for most companies, which is why getting it right and receiving value for your investment is ever-increasingly important to your business’s bottom line. Not to mention its image. Here are some key points regarding branding, whether assessing a current brand in need of updating, or creating an entirely new one.
Making a memorable impression
Your brand is your potential customers/client’s first impression. It elicits a reaction, often even subconsciously. Ideally, it should convey your business, its values and stand out as unique.
Think of all the iconic brands that have stood the test of time. There are ones that really stand out. We fondly recall those from our childhood: Disney® or Legos® perhaps. Remember that first new car you bought? How you excitedly picked out that very make and model and how it made you feel the first time you drove it. Remember those groundbreaking, iconic Apple® commercials. Some brands really hit the bullseye—and not by accident—a lot of preparation, thought and creativity goes into it.
It can all sound quite overwhelming—and expensive—but it doesn’t have to be. Even small businesses can shine with an effective brand all on its own. It just requires understanding the basics of how to get there.
Your brand should not just make a great first impression, it should also make a lasting one. Through repeat exposure, a customer should come to know what to expect from your business, that their needs will be met in a reliable and satisfying way. Your brand is your representation of a promise to them. All of this is why having brand standards with consistency of visual imagery and tone of message are important.
Wrangling all the little details
There are many aspects to creating a strong, durable brand.
- Type, fonts, colors and visual imagery are of vital importance. These elements must blend together perfectly to set the stage for all other information. They are like an invitation to come in the front door and see what is inside.
- The messaging is equally important as it tells customers who you are as a business, what your purpose is and the legitimacy in which it operates. Less is more. It should clearly and succinctly state how you will fulfill their needs and compel them to feel good about you doing so.
- Tone is something to carefully consider and should be appropriate to the unique nature of what your business is offering them.
- Once visuals and tone are determined, it can be applied across marketing platforms. Consistency and simplicity of application are of upmost importance. Whether it’s your website and social media or printed brochures and ads, there should always be a standard applied to all aspects of your brand.
Signs your brand needs an overhaul
Often business owners can be emotionally attached to a brand that they have had for a long time, but there are many reasons to rebrand completely or even just refresh or establish consistency.
- Your logo is outdated. Perhaps your business has grown in size and scope over time. In which case it is possible the original has simply outgrown its effectiveness for your current marketing needs.
- It wasn’t that great to begin with. Logos and overall branding can be slapdash in the beginning stages of creating a company. There are often more important, immediate issues at hand: financing, personnel, organizational structure or other challenges. It is never too late to take a breath and stop to truly assess your logo and branding strategy.
- You are not attracting the right audience. Always remember that the branding is not for you personally, it is for those you wish to attract. It should appeal to them and their needs. How do they feel, what are their concerns, what motivates them? The more you know about them, the better equipped your brand is to hit your target audience.
- It is hard to express what your brand is and what it does. Your brand should never be confusing, it should be easily understood. Taking time to really drill down to the essential nature of what your business does and how it does it is a good place to start. It can then be rebuilt into a crystal clear, easy-to-understand and easy-to-communicate manner.
- Your online and offline branding have never met. This is a common mistake. All channels of branding should follow a cohesive branding strategy with a consistent visual standard and written tone.
A clear brand strategy that is well thought out and consistently implemented helps your business create clarity of mission and stay focused on its marketing goals. A strong brand, when properly applied, is of immense value to your business as a whole.
The Nuts and Bolts of SEO and Why it Matters to your Business
SEO means showing up and standing out in the search engines so that what you have to offer is united properly with what people are looking for. Everything can now be found online, that means that people looking for your business or industry will be searching on Google to find answers. While numerous options will pop up on the list in Google, most people end up clicking on one of the top three results.
The problem, however, is that now a clutter of ads, instant answers and maps have forced down the listings that used to naturally appear visible in the rankings—making it even harder to get noticed in the online maze of important search terms. So many businesses are simultaneously competing for the pittance of natural rankings that are left. Creating a website and publishing content is simply not adequate—SEO is critically important for achieving the results you need. This reality, along with the highly competitive nature of SEO, creates a challenge.
Today, if you want to rank for important keywords that drive qualified leads from search traffic, you need a properly designed and implemented SEO strategy. By honing in on specific informational keywords, you can provide prospective customers with helpful content to build brand awareness, and grow your leads list.
SEO tips for solid leads to your business site
1. Conduct a thorough keyword research. Keyword, simply put, is just a descriptive of what people are typing into Google while searching—an important aspect of SEO. You will need to understand and target these words to maximize your efforts by knowing what specific words you want to rank for. You can then make the appropriate changes to your website content to reflect that. Keeping location in mind is important when conducting your keyword research.
- Navigational keywords: when the searcher is looking for a particular site
- Informational: when the searcher is seeking more general information.
- Transactional: when the searcher is aiming to make a purchase.
2. Understand site and page structure. Your navigation must be organized correctly with properly formatted individual pages. The most effective structure is pyramidical, with the home page at top, then categories and individual pages therein. Anchor text is the clickable text of a link. Anchor text is used to assign a rank to the page that is being linked to.
When formatting pages, pay attention to title tags, meta descriptions and H tags.
- Title tags: keywords near the start show how the page fits what is searched for.
- Meta description: small paragraph under page title to attract clicks.
- Header tags: structure the web page into sub-headers
3. Design transactional and investigational landing pages. Transactional and landing page keywords found during your keyword search should drive traffic toward a specific conversation. The importance is to capture the user's contact information by adding value. And, finally, a call-to-action that compels the searcher to make contact.
4. Create the perfect blog content for your informational keywords. It is ideal to place numerous pieces of content of the same or similar topic, but using different keywords so that search engines can find it.
- Assess questions your prospective customers would commonly ask and Google them.
- Review Google’s “People also ask” questions for related search terms.
- Look on Quora for questions about your businesses’ industry.
- Use short and to-the-point sentences at a non-complex reading level.
- Use an easily readable font size (20 to 22 point).
5. Make your site mobile-friendly. At least half of users will likely access your site from a phone or tablet. Google now looks for the mobile version of a site first instead of the desktop version when placing search results.
- Your site should load quickly.
- Place the most important information above the scroll line.
- Buttons should be large enough to tap easily.
6. Optimize your site for lead generation. Your business will not benefit from all of these efforts if your site is not generating leads by including lead generation forms and a call-to-action at the bottom of each page.
7. Get listed in third-party website applications. Getting other sites to link to yours is beneficial (link building). As are links from other sites that point back to yours (backlinks).
8. Get high-authority backlinks. The two most effective ways to get the best backlinks are via guest postings and infographic promotions. Reach out to sites and blogs in your businesses’ industry, offer free content and link to your site within that content.
9. Create and optimize your Google “My Business Listings (MBL).” A critical aspect of local SEO is maintaining an up-to-date Google (MBL). It pulls your business name and contact information as well as reviews from your MBL profile that influence your rankings. It is helpful to keep your information current, respond to online reviews, add posts and upload photos. It often comes from a variety of sources to display relative information to searchers. This is another way of getting prospective customers.
10. Get citations. Citations are an online reference to a business that features its name, address, and phone number (NAP). Google uses NAPs as ranking signals for local search items.
11. Get reviews on Google and Yelp. When people see good reviews, they are far more likely to go to your business’ site and contact you. These online reviews are not just important for search rankings, they also build trust.
12. Use schema markup. This is code placed on your website that helps search engines better understand the contents of your page which Google recognizes, such as contact information that it uses to check that your Google business information is correct.
13. Optimize images for better search visibility. In order to help your site show up in search results that rely on a heavier use of images, add keywords to the image title, file name and alt text of your images.
- Be descriptive in the file name
- Use PNG or JPEG file formats
- Choose the best alt text (appears in its place if the image can’t be displayed.
14. Create and promote videos that help increase your online presence. Video content is an important tool for gathering interest. YouTube has vast exposure, and is the ideal place to house them.
- Geo tag them
- Include contact information
- Post them on Google Plus
- Link to your site
15. Analyzing your SEO results
Use Google analytics to understand where your traffic is coming from and the behavior of those who are searching. Use Google Search Console to find out how many impressions and clicks you are getting for keywords and what your ranking is with them. Make sure to follow them regularly for the primary indicators of performance.
Worth the effort
This all sounds like a lot to take in, not to mention, a whole lot of work. But once you have your site set up properly and maintain a best practices regime, your business will reap the rewards with much more targeted and higher qualified leads.
What is Structured Data?
Structured Data Types
There are numerous options for the types of metadata you can provide; from designating a posted data on a news article to recipe prep times. To see all of the options available to you, Google has a very comprehensive list of data features you can read through.
Here at Avallo, we have built automatic integration into a few of the plugins we offer - for example, our blog plugin adds metadata to specific what the article headline, posted date, and primary image is.
Here at Avallo we pride ourselves on providing our clients with access to our highly reliable hosting environment, which we have been using for the past 4 years. As we grow, we want to upgrade our server so we can provide this to even more clients.
Our hardware has actually only crashed once in the last 4 years, and it was down for only a short period of time - however we have had issues with DNS lookups due to other DNS servers going down between our clients in Minnesota and our Name Servers. To help alleviate this, we will be implementing a new system where we use three NameServers from 3 different physical locations.
We are transferring all accounts to new Solid State hard drives. This means that reading and writing files on the web server will be much faster, and the process of loading a web page for one of your website visitors involves reading from many files, so we expect to see a faster time to first byte (TTFB), causing faster load times.
We will also be modifying all instances of our web server to implement HTTP/2, allowing visitor’s web browsers to load websites more quickly.
While we have not had any issues with viruses in the past 6 years, we will be implementing a system that has even more strict permission management as it comes natively in our new environment.
If you host email with us, we have had a few issues recently with email delivery that arise from when one of our clients has their password stolen (usually from a phishing scheme), and their email account is hijacked and used to send spam. To resolve this issue, we are implementing a robust outbound spam filter.
For our clients who we have registered your domain name for you - we will handle everything for you internally. For our clients who we do not have access to your registrar, we will be reaching out to you individually to either request access or work with you to let you know our new name servers and/or IP Address(s).
Using our NameServers
If you are not already using our NameServers and you would like gain this new reliability / speed upgrade for any of your domains we are hosting as a free addon, we would also replicate any DNS Zone Records you need as a part of your hosting package.