Wikipedia defines Internet or online branding as “a brand management technique that uses the World Wide Web as a medium for positioning a brand in the marketplace”. However, if you’re just starting out your business, chances are this is not very helpful to you.
With that in mind, we have decided to write a definitive, in-depth guide to online branding that will help you regardless of your experience level. Therefore, if you want to know more about what online branding is and how you can use it to advance your business, you’ve come to the right place.
What is online branding? Well, it’s a complex issue and the debate around it is still far from over in the professional marketing world.
While everyone agrees that online branding or positioning yourself on the largest global network ever created is crucial for businesses in the modern age, there are still many disagreements about how that can be done to maximize results and minimize costs.
Some believe online branding should be focused on customers continually recognizing your brand, while others think that online branding is heavily dependent on the overall customer experience of your brand. Others still believe that website development should be the primary focus of online branding.
Now, you might be wondering: alright, what does all that mean for me? Don’t worry, we will break down everything, but you need to understand that online branding is a multifaceted issue that requires careful planning and deliberation.
How to build an online brand
The process of online branding begins with website creation and domain name registration.
Companies that do not have their own, custom websites are missing out on a huge chance to better promote their business and find new clients. While this might not be an issue for you at first, it will eventually come back to haunt you, as your competitors slowly win over your customers with their attractive websites.
Create a website with an attractive domain name
Therefore, in order to create an online brand, you must first create a website and more importantly, find a name that is easy to remember and hard to forget.
The importance of your domain name simply cannot be overstated – it will define everything for the rest of your company’s lifetime, so be extra careful when you’re selecting your name. A bad name can kill a good business.
Design your online identity
Once you have selected an appropriate name, you will need to create an entire online identity around it. And this is where most businesses fail before they even get started.
This happens because companies focus too much on the short term, as they optimize their website, design logos and content for a single platform (Twitter, for example), while ignoring others.
New platforms are bound to come up and gain popularity over time and if your business does not follow and comply with the latest trends, you’re losing out on potential clients. This means that you always have to think in advance and consider how well your identity can be adapted to other platforms.
Keep your website optimized at all times
Now, when you finish designing an adaptable, multi-platform identity, you need to focus on keeping your business website optimized at all times and across all platforms.
An attractive online identity will leave an excellent first impression, but that will be quickly overshadowed if your website doesn’t function properly or even worse, is hard to navigate and understand.
Problems regarding functionality will understandably arise from time to time, but if your website is not optimized with a focus on customer experience, your prospective clients will quickly lose interest and leave your website.
To sum up, your online appearance needs to be attractive and recognizable as well as fully optimized and functional at all times.
Develop a customer-centered experience
This point neatly summarizes everything that has been said so far. Your entire online presence should be centered around your customers.
What’s more, even if this sounds foolish to you, you should try to pretend you are a customer that is seeing your brand on the Internet for the first time. Try to see what can be improved and optimized, and then implement the necessary changes.
If you can’t imagine doing this or if it seems to be unproductive, ask someone close to you to check out your online business and provide honest feedback.
However, if you decide for the latter option, be sure to insist on absolute honesty. Explain that if they “forget” to tell you something important because they are afraid of hurting you, your business will actually be hurt more than you could ever be hurt by a few negative comments.
Research your competition
In the end, it’s not a bad practice to research your competitors and see how you can potentially improve your business. You never know what you may have forgotten to include or emphasize.
More importantly, however, you can maybe even find a unique gap that your competitors failed to notice and use it to your advantage.
All in all, this is a foolproof method that allows you to check where you stand within a given niche on the Internet.
Online branding is incredibly important for your business, regardless of your specialization. In fact, it could make or break your business venture.
There is not a single successful company that hasn’t invested in online branding at one point or another and if you’re not sure how you can improve your online brand, you should definitely consider employing an Internet marketing professional to help you.
Of course, this is not a must, but it could greatly improve your online brand and save you countless hours of work.
Whatever you choose in the end, online branding should have your undivided attention.