Digital Branding 101: Building a Winning Online Brand

The Surprising Impact of Digital Branding.

Every single day, more users make their first contact with your brand online. Every. Single. Day. They’re finding you via search, social media, and referral links that you forgot you posted. If you have a strong brand that was built to thrive on digital channels, this is great news! If you have a brand that’s less pliable, or maybe a brand that’s changed so much, you don’t remember what your blog posts looked like two years ago, you could be going into this battle seriously undermanned.

That’s why digital branding is so important. If you don’t like a billboard you post, you can take it down, but when you have hundreds or even thousands of webpages and social media posts floating around the Google-verse, it becomes extremely difficult to pivot your brand when you see fit.

That’s why we’re here. In this blog, I want to teach you the importance of your digital brand and how you can build a digital brand that can scale, adapt, and pivot with your company.

The Surprising Impact of Digital Branding on SEO

Brand is not a ranking factor. This much is clear if you pay attention to sites like Moz who test and measure the various factors that impact Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Because of this factor, many digital marketers sweep branding under the rug and start link-building or keyword stuffing. I cannot advise against this strongly enough.

While the strength of your brand is not a direct ranking factor, several independent studies have shown a very distinct positive correlation between brand and search rankings. As Rand Fishkin of Moz pointed out in a great Whiteboard Friday video on this very topic, brand has a notable impact on several direct ranking factors in Google’s algorithm, including:

  • Quality of Links
  • User Behavior data
  • User Experience data
  • SERP Click-Through-Rate

So while your competitors may not out-rank you because they’re more well-known, they’ll eventually out-rank you if they beat you on-page and on SERPs. If you’re serious about SEO, your best move right now isn’t to double-down on what you’ve been doing, it’s to take the time to build a brand for SEO success. Follow the steps below and you’ll be out-ranking your competition in no time!

Building a Digital Brand Identity: Your Visual Assets

We’ve written at length in the past about building an effective visual identity for your brand, but the digital realm can present new challenges that you may not consider if you’re developing a brand identity primarily for print. Make sure your brand has the following visual assets if you’re looking to compete online:

  • A color palette
  • A primary logo and word mark
  • A secondary logo mark and/or word mark
  • Fonts1-3 preferred textures
  • Documented style guide for photography
  • Web style guide that dictates website actions (i.e. “A CTA button should do this while in hover state and that while in active state)
  • Headshots for employees’ social media profiles
  • Consistent email signatures

Once your brand has all of the assets listed above, you’re ready to shift your focus to your brand’s voice.

Building a Digital Brand Identity: Your Brand’s Voice

We’ve already talked extensively about how to create an authentic brand voice for your company, so if you’re interested in more detail, head over to this blog to learn more.

At a high level, your brand’s voice is the most essential item to your digital branding efforts because of how ubiquitous your brand’s voice is throughout your digital efforts. Sending out a tweet? Need a voice. Writing a blog? Need a voice. Responding to a customer complaint? Need a voice. Despite this fact, brand voice is overlooked by many marketers out of sheer laziness. At a minimum, your brand voice should consist of a few key factors, including:

  • A written description of your brand’s position in the marketplace.
  • A list of your brand’s “personality traits” to help your team understand how your brand thinks.
  • A documented list of things your brand does and does not say, this includes words you like to use and words you never want to use.

Once you’ve documented these three items, you can move on to scaling your brand.

Building a Digital Brand That Scales

The single most powerful aspect of online branding is the fact that it can scale pretty much infinitely. Buying another TV spot costs money. Putting up another billboard costs money. Once you start down the path of digital marketing, however, you can scale up your marketing efforts disproportionately faster and cheaper than you could with traditional vehicles.

So how do you build a brand that can scale as fast as your digital marketing efforts?

The only way to make your brand scale online is by building it right the first time. It’s important that you create an authentic brand that resonates with your team. Without this, it becomes increasingly harder to get new team members to speak your brand’s language. By creating a visual identity and voice that is authentic to your brand, you make it easier for your team to buy in and for everyone representing your brand to look and sound the same.

Let’s run a quick scenario. Let’s say your company is looking to ramp up your content marketing efforts. To facilitate this goal, you’re hiring a new writer. Congratulations! Which would be easier?

  • Policing every post and giving detailed feedback on what the “XYZ brand is supposed to sound like.”
  • Giving detailed direction at the onset about what your brand looks and sounds like, only providing feedback when necessary.

The decision here seems simple, but a shocking number of marketers choose #2 because it saves them time and energy upfront. Don’t fall into the trap. Do it right the first time.

So what can I do today?

Great question, rhetorical device!

If you’re looking to build a stronger digital brand, I’d recommend the following course of action immediately:

  1. Sit down with all relevant decision makers ASAP and emphasize the importance of improving your brand for your digital marketing efforts tobe successful.
  2. Perform a brand audit to understand where your brand is today.
  3. Compare the current state of your brand to the branding recommendations in this blog. Where do you excel? Where do you fall short?
  4. Reach out to a professional for help. Branding is tough, and there’sno reason to go it alone! If you need help building a brand that will out-rank and out-perform the other guys, give us a call.

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