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So you’ve decided to take advantage of the SEO and business-building benefits that creating a blog entails. That’s great!
But just in case you believe that launching your blog only involves installing WordPress, choosing a pretty theme and tossing up some content posts, think again! Recent estimates put the number of blogs operating online at over 200 million, which means that you’ve got some stiff competition if you want your own website to stand out and get noticed by your target market.
However, the amount of competition online isn’t the only compelling reason to work on establishing a defined identity for your blog. There’s also some evidence to suggest that Google may be placing a premium on websites with a defined brand identity in the natural search results. To understand why such a move makes sense for the search giant, it’s important to understand a little bit more about consumer behavior…
As a general rule, people tend to be swayed by well-known brand names. We pay extra for clothing made by certain labels and we aspire to own the brands of luxury cars that we’ve deemed status symbols. And when faced with the choice between a listing in the SERPs that comes from a known brand – versus one from a no-name competitor – we’re significantly more likely to click on the branded result.
Think about it… Say you were shopping online and entered the query “Men’s shoes size 10” into Google’s search box. The top two results that appeared came from Zappos – a highly-regarded brand with well-known customer service terms – and a website you’ve never heard of, whose pages offer very little in the way of a branded identity. The design is generic, the product descriptions you encounter appear to be copied directly off of manufacturers’ websites, and you can’t find any way to get in touch with the owners of the website outside of a basic “Contact” form.
Which of these two websites are you more likely to trust with your business? Odds are, you’ll choose – and even pay extra – to work with an established company like Zappos that you believe will provide you with the best possible products and customer service.
Now, keep in mind that Google’s MO is to serve up the best possible search results to meet our needs. If it doesn’t, the company’s image suffers and it loses market share to competitors who are able to offer more relevant results listings. A smaller market share means less revenue for Google – which eventually leads to unhappy shareholders and employees.
So if Google knows that we’re easily swayed by branded results, serving up these listings at the top of the SERPs seems like something of a no-brainer. If Google knows that you’re much more likely to click on and buy from a listing from Zappos, why wouldn’t the engine want to place the company’s information at the top of the SERPs if it knows you’ll walk away happy from your transaction?
But while this is all fairly common sense, the next logical conclusion that must be made is that websites without established brand identities are much less likely to receive equal consideration within the SERPs. And that means that if your blog is new (or if you’ve simply failed to undertake any meaningful branding exercises up to this point), you’re losing out on a potentially powerful benefit when it comes to natural search performance.
The only solution to this issue is to improve your own website’s branding. Fortunately, you don’t need to go out and hire the same geniuses that have brought you Coca Cola’s logo or the Doritos Locos taco at Taco Bell. Instead, there’s plenty you can do on your own in order to improve your own website’s branded potential:
Create a Consistent Visual Aesthetic
Coca Cola isn’t going to suddenly make the decision to turn all of its cans, web properties and advertising images lime green. The company knows that we’ve come to associate the deep red color used in all of its marketing materials with its brand – creating a valuable brand signifier that leads to instant recognition amongst the company’s target audience members.
And while you may not want to base your entire image around a single, specific color in this way, be aware that your blog’s visual aesthetic is a key component to your branded image. As a result, if you’ve chosen a blog template or logo simply because you liked the colors, it’s time to put a little more thought into your brand. Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether or not your brand’s visual imagery is strong enough to make an impression on potential customers:
- Does the style of my blog’s template suit my company’s image? If you’re using a theme that comes across as traditional or stoic to represent your modern, young company, website visitors will feel this disconnect.
- Do the colors I’ve used evoke the emotions I want in my readers?Again, if you’ve made decisions based on your personal preferences, you might be unwittingly sabotaging yourself by making use of colors that convey contrary emotions to what you’re trying to express. Study up on color psychology in order to choose the right colors for your brand.
- Are you using consistent visual representations on all of your web properties? Too many bloggers go all out on their blogs’ new designs, but then fail to carry over these same aesthetics to their Facebook pages, Twitter profiles or other web presences. It’s a common mistake, but it’s one that makes your brand look unprofessional.
Find Your Blogging Voice
Of course, blog branding isn’t just about appearance. In addition, the specific voice used in the content you publish to your blog posts plays a major role in differentiating your brand from others and making your blog more memorable to website visitors.
In some cases, your blogging voice will be easy to come by – it’s simply the voice you use in your everyday life. But in other cases, whether you want to use a voice that’s constructed to convey a certain image or just haven’t found your own voice yet, you’ll want to put some work into finding your own blogging voice.
To do this, determine whether you want your content to come across as:
Really, any desired tone will do, as long as you’re clear about both your intentions and how your chosen blogging voice will suit your brand’s image. Once you’ve selected a defined blogging voice, practice writing in your newly-chosen style – leaving enough time to draft content and review it for inconsistencies before it’s published to your website.
Make a Unique Contribution to Your Industry
One final consideration that’s crucial to blog branding is the type of content you publish on your site. While the way you say it (using your unique blogging voice) is important, the quality of your content is just as critical. Here’s why…
If all you ever do is publish content based off of other blogger’s work without adding any additional value that’s uniquely yours, you aren’t creating a brand. You’re creating a copycat blog that’s likely to be forgotten amongst the millions of other sites online, as you aren’t bringing anything new to the table. If you want to stand out, you simply must make a unique contribution to your industry.
To do this, focus on the subjects you know well and can comment on with some level of authority. If you must cover a topic that’s already been written about within your industry, do it in a way that still manages to add a new dimension to the existing conversation. Sure, it’s more effort to do this than to simply rehash the topics that other blogs have already covered, but it’s truly the only way you’ll be able to develop a brand that’s uniquely, compellingly yours.
Do you currently run a blog? If so, what steps have you taken to differentiate yourself from others within your industry and to create a brand that’s memorable to your audience members? Share your recommendations in the comments below:
Image: Jason Hargrove