Building an online presence for your brand can be a daunting task. As you start creating content, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the huge variety of tones of voice, channels of communication, content typologies and much more. It’s just too much information to process, and most people decide to outsource the whole process to an advertising company, or even worse, quit. The good news is that it does not have to be this way.
Building your online presence is a great opportunity to really delve into the essential question of “What value your business is bringing to market?”
We don’t have any intent to oversimplify the subject, but the truth is that most businesses over complicate this process. A starting point to build your online presence comes in following 5 simple steps that will get your business online. Once you’re there it’s a matter of expanding your presence and growing your business.
Before getting to the 5 steps, it’s useful to start with clarifying vocabulary. As you build your online presence you will manage three types of content:
- Owned Media. This is the type of content that your business owns and manages directly. In this ‘box’ you’ll find your company website and all proprietary assets which are managed directly by the firm. This kind of content is very important because it’s where the business can show its best self.
On these platforms, businesses can talk about what they do, how they do it and why, in order to explain in detail all of the more or less technical information that comes with their products and services. How can you best leverage the power of this content? Through organic traffic and SEO. What’s the catch? No catch, however, these pages are not going to influence your audience very much, as people do not use this type of top-down communication in their decision-making process. Your website may be a shiny beacon of value, but it’s unlikely that this type of content will influence customers as much as the rest.
- Paid Media. This is just a more ‘fancy’ name to call advertising. With paid media, a company manages both the content and the distribution, which is paid. This type of communication is designed to interact with customers in a specific moment of their customer journey – usually in the ‘search for a solution and ‘compare alternatives’ stages but still, customers do not tend to believe advertising as much as a recommendation from a friend or family. So even if we were to invest a lot of money in advertising, this type of media ends up not being as persuasive and the last and most valuable category of content. Where does this content show up? Usually in SEM or Search Engine Marketing. Essentially this is the content that helps you when you’re looking up solutions for your problems online.
- Earned Media. This is the most relevant category of media content. This is what people say about you. Your company has little if no control over this type of media and as a result readers are much more influenced by it as it’s more believable. Customers online will always look for opinions of people who have already bought or received a particular product or survey and these opinions will convert and influence many other customers through review websites.
This content lives on social media platforms, review websites and other third-party spaces where again, firms can manage this feedback but can’t control it. As you build your web presence you are going to work with all three of these content typologies as they will all contribute towards positioning your brand online.
Great! Now that this is clear there is no reason to hesitate! Let’s move ahead and discuss the 5 steps to developing an online presence that will draw traffic to your business and help you increase profits.
To help you navigate this post, here’s a breakdown of our strategy.
- Assess the value that your brand is delivering
- Understand what searches customers are conducting at each level of the funnel
- Identify the content that ranks for each query
- Develop better, more helpful content
- Warm-up traffic to conversion and sales pages
1. Assess the value that your brand is delivering
The first step in this strategy is essential. In order to position your brand online, you need to understand exactly what value your company is bringing to market. This is the value that people see when they see your product or service. The value is the benefit for them, how your product or service helps them to solve a problem they are experiencing in their lives.
Most times companies do not really know the personal reasons that push people to buy products from your company, and if they were to make assumptions, they could be easily mistaken. These benefits are usually connected to one or more of the following:
- Functional values. These values are the simple and practical reason why a product is a means to do something that the customer needs to get done. It could be buying a drill to put a picture on the wall. When your product is associated to a functional value, chances are you are not fully leveraging the intangible value of the product, which is better valued in the following categories.
- Social values. These values are connected to the fact that a productservice may provide high social equity, and be in itself a form of social currency. Many products in the fashion industry are connected to social values, as many brands – especially those which are positioned in the luxury and pret-a-porter segments have a social value which can be simply described in helping customers with one of these 2 social jobs: either standing out or fitting in. In the former case, the customer is buying a product that will allow himher to set himher apart, in the latter an item that will show belonging. A social value is much harder to price as opposed to a functional one, as it’s much more subjective. As a result, companies that are able to connect their products to social values are out to get a higher profit margin, because of the higher markup that these products are sold with.
- Emotional values. These values are the most intangible of all, as they deal with the emotional reward that people get from a highly experiential product or service. This is the value that provides a potentially unlimited profitability potential as these values are highly subjective, and with the right trigger, there is no limit to how much someone may be willing to spend for a product that just provides happiness and joy.
In this first step of our strategy, clarifying our value is key. Remember the famous aphorism: ‘In the factory we make cosmetics, but in the store we sell hope.” Always remember that it’s very likely that as for cosmetics in many other areas of business, what you are making in the factory is not what you are selling in the store. Until you figure out what you are selling in the store, don’t proceed to the second step!
2. Understand what searches customers are conducting at each level of the funnel
Ok, great, now that you’ve addressed step 1 you’ve actually done the hardest part already. In step 2, things get digital as you need to start looking up what other solutions are out there to solve the same problem you are addressing.
Important! Think cross-industry. When it comes to ‘social currency’ a plastic surgeon or an expensive handbag can be direct head-to-head competitors. What questions do customers come up as they go through their purchase decision process? These questions will actually vary a lot! Let’s see examples at every stage:
Stage 1. Need Recognition. Here the customer is aware of the problem, but still not clear about the solutions available. For instance, I could be approaching my mid-40s and I could be looking up: ‘how to look younger’.
At this stage:
- Search queries are vague and undefined.
- Terminology is not connected to any specific (niche) keyword.
- The customer is unaware of the options available.
- Here paid media (advertising) can give you an advantage.
At this stage, however, you can at least identify the needs and see what other products and services compete with your product even aside from your specific industry.
Stage 2. Comparison of Alternatives. At this stage, your customer will have a more defined idea of what options are out there and will start a different process: not focused on information acquisition but actually focused on comparing features. The customer will look at points of parity or the ‘standard’ to compete in the industry, and points of difference or the things that may lead a brand to stand out.
At this stage:
- The closer competitors will be compared and identified
- Some queries will include most common brandssolutions
- Earned media will be able to ‘naturally’ influence the decision to proceed further
- Here earned media (online reputation) will give you an advantage.
Stage 3. Purchase. At this stage a customer may actually look into purchase options, or, if your products are sold through multiple distributors heshe may look for the best deal around. Short term promotions focused on establishing a sense of urgency are usually the most effective way to take the customer through the hurdle of typing in the credit card number.
At this stage:
- The content online should simply not deter the customer out of hisher decision to buy.
- All research queries or most of them will contain the brand within the search query.
- Your distribution strategy will be tested as the hunt for the best price will be on.
- Here your owned media (customer experience) will give you an advantage.
At this stage, however, we want to map the competition and create a spreadsheet where at each step of the customer journey we’re listing all of the ‘searches’ that customer makes, ranking on the grounds of the keyword they use.
Broad keywords will attract a lot of traffic and will be more difficult to manage (and more expensive). Narrow keywords will instead prompt much less traffic but will be easier to manage.
We will rank keywords from the broadest to the most narrow and split them into three sections connected to these 3 purchase journey steps: Need RecognitionEvaluation of AlternativesPurchase. Done? Great, this is an essential step as we’re charting and mapping the ‘battlefield’ to later identify which spaces may provide us with the best opportunities to establish our online presence and intercept our customer as he moves throughout his purchase journey.
3. Identify the content that ranks for each query
Nice! Almost done. At this point, you should run these searches, as well as similar searches and look at the type of content that shows up. For different queries, you’ll find different content typologies.
In some cases, you’ll find that the first result will be a picture, other times a video, other times a blog post. This is a great indication of the type of content that better serves your search. You should make a note of this, as it’s a highly relevant detail that will help you develop better, helpful content.
The goal here is twofold: first, you want to understand what is the content typology that better serves the query, but also second, you want to find weak links. As you explore different questions and different keywords you may come up with content that is strong and content that is less strong or in other terms, content that you could try and beat, by developing better more helpful content that search engines will serve as a better result to users.
How much of this should you do? It depends on the size of your business. A starting point is about 30-40 content pieces that can be developed over the course of about one month. Consider that it takes up to 8 months to rank content organically for search engines, so remember that the strongest results will come in time. However, if you do develop exceptional content, it will be likely to rank fast as Google will be very excited to serve it!
So let’s see how to create better, more helpful content in our next section.
4. Develop better, more helpful content
Better, more helpful content might not be enough of an indication to create higher-ranking results, so to make matters more practical here are some tips.
- Create longer, more exhaustive posts. In the context of SEO, longer can be better. The idea is that you are able to address a topic more exhaustively by addressing all of the typical sub questions which are connected to the main question. Search engines tend to favour one-stop pages, which fully address the ‘problem’.
- Create clear answer targets. At the same time, as you identify a clear set of questions that your content is wishing to address, make sure that you are clear, direct and to the point, when it comes to answering it. If Google detects that your content is clearly focused, then it will extract that answer and position it at the top of search results through a specific display feature.
- Use original pictures. Another approach to making your content stand out is to use original pictures. Stock photography is a very simple solution to addressing most typical illustration needs, but original pictures may help your reader understand exactly what you are communicating, and will contribute to making your content rank better.
- Use more media formats bundled together, for instance, video and text. As you can probably see already, the chances of ranking are directly proportional to the amount of hard work and effort that goes into each content piece. Ideally, content can be also bundled together to provide a more informative experience by leveraging different media, such as video, text, audio and more.
- Make the content viewable\readable at different speeds. Different users will read and process information at different paces. It can be really helpful to allow readers and viewers to navigate the content at different paces. To do so, include indexes in blog posts, include timestamps in video and audio, and make sure you include a summary for those who just need to read the most essential part of the content.
Provide data and evidence. Last but not least, data. Data is actually one of the most important components of your content. If you’re able to provide valid and reliable data as a foundation for your article, your post content will be much more successful in ranking. This is because more people will be interested in it, and also because data can be referenced to by other websites and as a result, you will build your backlink profile, or the authority of your website, expressed by the number of websites that quote your content as an authoritative source.
5. Warm-up traffic to conversion and sales pages
Almost done! At this point, as your content organically ranks, you will have explored all of the queries that are associated with it and you will have a lead advantage in terms of working on your owned media and in the paid advertising that may accompany your organic reach. Niche keywords will help you get a better deal, as it will cost less to target them in advertising, and overall you will understand how to build sales pages that are clearly aligned with the issues that your customers are trying to solve.
All in all, the content will help you warm up traffic, and move customers over time, from a position of awareness to be purchase ready. Of course, sales pages and landing pages are a topic that needs to be addressed in their own terms, but at least now you know how you should go about building your content and start ranking organically. As a result, your brand will position itself as a helpful solution to a clearly identified problem and will be associated with a series of features that may help convert your future customers.
Let’s now move towards conclusions and wrap the topic up.
There you have it! These are the 5 steps to follow in order to build a strong and persuasive brand presence on online media. It’s not rocket science, right? Still, this is a simple and easy to implement approach that will help you build strong SEO and SEM foundations. As you progress in the development of your web presence, you will find ways to enrich your online content and attract, convert and retain more and more customers.
Here at 440 Industries, we have a wealth of information and content that may be a good suit for your branding needs, don’t hesitate to explore our blog further to find other information and useful tips.