How to start an SEO Company: Branding (part one)
As promised, this SEO blog is going to hold nothing back. I believe that if you give away your best tips, you’ll be forced to come up with something better. So, in the spirit of contributing value to the inbound marketing community, I’m starting a new series. This is going to be an ongoing series called: “How To Start An SEO Company.” I’ll tell you all the steps I did, the things I did right, and the things I did wrong (so you can learn from my mistakes). I will also interview other members of the SEO community and share their tips on how to start a new SEO company.
What Is Branding:
The number one rule of branding is that you have to be genuine. If you try to build a brand around something dishonest or shady, then it’s going to attract dishonest or shady customers. It’s ok to put your own personality into your brand, after all our logo is a coffee cup!
Most SEO companies start as a dream. One or two founders get together and begin dreaming about their ideal company. I love reading the “how we got started” sections of websites. Some of my favorites include Distilled’s and SEomoz’s. When I first started taking clients, I was working in as in-house SEO and this company didn’t even exist. After about 6 months of working LOOOOOOONG hours as an in-house during the day and an out-sourced SEO consultant at night, I decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship.
The first thing you should do when you start thinking about your new company, is branding. A brand is the most important aspect of a marketing plan. As marketers, you’d think we would all understand the value of a brand, yet sadly, that is not the case. A brand will make you a destination. Simultaneously, if you don’t have a strong brand then at best, you will be a coincidence. Here’s the difference, how many times have you gone out of your way to buy a cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop? That cafe has become a brand, it’s earned your trust and loyalty and now, you’ll go out of your way to purchase from that business. This is what you need to do for your new SEO company. There is truly no substitute for an authoritative brand and as you can imagine, one isn’t built overnight. There is a lot of planning and effort that goes into creating a brand. Here are some of the most important parts of creating a brand.
How To Develop Your Brand:
Determine your target market: Think about how old your target market is, whether your market is primarily male, or female, where do they live and what problems do they have that you can solve? This post by Laura Lippy is a great read on how to determine the target market for your SEO company.
During this phase of your planning you need to decide what kind of content you’ll be creating. For example, if you plan to target doctors and lawyers, you will need to present yourself as a professional, straight to the point company. Right now, lawyers are predominantly male. In fact, 68% of lawyers are men. Many people will look at this and automatically think they need to focus their marketing at men. Well, that is only partially true. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics approximately 80% of secretaries are female. Which means that a lawyer (who is statistically a male) will tell his assistant (which is statistically a female) to find him a good SEO company in town. This means that you need to target females that are between the ages of 25 and 55 and still impress the boss when she brings him your information.
This is the research, research, research phase. During the brand building phase, you need to read every case study and market research paper you can get your hands on. Here is a few articles to get you started.
Three Branding Articles You Should Read:
Don’t think of your target market as a limit, rather think of it as the personality, and focus of your company. There will always be room for improvement and growth down the road.
Additionally, you can have more than one “persona” in your target market. Dropbox is targeting people who can benefit from free cloud storage. Dropbox users include high school students, business owners, moms, and educators. If your target market is broad, then determine three or four personas to establish more targeted groups. No matter what, you still need a focus (even if it’s “computer users who need a free cloud service”).
Now that you’ve established who your target market is, decide what kind of voice you want to have. How do you want people to feel when they encounter your brand. Famous examples of branding is Cokes “drink happiness,” and Apple’s branding of “elitism” and “modern.”
Think about what kind of “feeling” you want your company to have. Do you want it to be hip and modern, to be cartoony, to be intense and passionate, or to be professional and elegant? The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of emotion should be connected with your brand.
One of the best ways to think about emotional branding is to think about the problems you’re going to solve. Do you want to make businesses feel hopeful, confident, excited, privileged, or taken care of? There isn’t just one right answer, you have to decide what kind of emotional experience you’ll build.
Pro Tip: Your branding needs to be built around fulfilling the needs & desires of your target market. Tweet
The only warning that I need to offer is to make sure you don’t make your target market’s problem worse. When I worked with a popular computer repair company, they helped people who were already frustrated at their computer. Their branding had to be happy and reassuring. It would have been counter productive to create a brand that was “intense.” People were already dealing with frustration, so they really needed a relaxing experience to counteract the frustration of dealing with a broken computer.
What Will You Be Known For:
“Want a bigger brand? Make bigger promises. And keep them.“ -Seth Godin.
Every good brand has built something predictable, and trustworthy for themselves. Book Book is the high-quality iPhone case that looks like a tiny book. Red lobster is a seafood restaurant, even though they have chicken, steak and pasta on their menu their brand is built around seafood. You need a focus for your brand. Create something that people will remember and use to define your brand. Here are a few examples of Inbound Marketing Brands; SEOgadget is the SEO company that does Excel really well. Blind Five year old is the SEO company that knows Google+; Point Blank SEO is an excellent link builder; Hows Your Pony owns “Customer Sentiment”; and Noble Creative is a turn-key marketing department.
Design is the next logical step of creating a brand for your SEO company. Once you know who to target and what your emotional branding is going to be known for, you need to decide HOW to target them. Design is one of my favorite parts of a brand. Every time someone connects with your brand, it will make an impression on them. Just like every other relationship you have, there will be brands who make good impressions, brands who you tolerate because they have something you need, and brands that you avoid because you can’t stand being around them. The colors and designs that you choose to represent you is going to play a major role in the impression you make on your customers.
Color is one of the most important aspects of brand-design. The proper use of color has been proven to improve sales.
I strongly recommend you read this infographic from Kissmetrics about color. You can see here that colors convey different feelings and emotions. Blue is trustworthy and reliable. Green is the color of money, and interestingly enough, it’s also the color that is easiest to look at. Colors like Red and Orange are more intense colors, they convey intensity and are usually calls to action. Pick your colors wisely, they will say a lot about your company.
Fonts: Fonts are another part of your brand. A customer should be able to recognize you by your font alone. How long would it take you to guess what company this is? (put a picture of a coke ad here, but don’t show the logo) Your font should be unique and distinctive. If you can afford to, buy a custom font. Obviously, custom fonts are not in every budget and that’s ok. Even if you can’t afford a custom font, you can do what Pinterest did and start with a font that was unique even though it wasn’t exclusive, and then create a unique logo after your site is launched.
According to Aaron, you need to pick two fonts. One of your fonts needs to be a logotype and the other one needs to be a subtext. You can use your subtext as your paragraph text on your site or as sub-headers. Each of your fonts should be in sync with your branding message, emotions and target market.
Here are a few sites to find a unique font:
In addition to colors and fonts, you’ll also want to create standards around the following design elements (to read more information about branding and design you can read this article on Smashing Magazine. You can also download this Branding Standards Notepad to start keeping track of your design standards.)
Get To Talking:
Now comes the fun part: get the word out. The first thing you should do is register your domain name and set up social media profiles. Even if the site is empty, you need a place holder. New sites take a few months to build up their authority, Google probably won’t trust you right off the bat unless you have a handful of really powerful links. You definitely need to read this article about getting indexed in 24 hours or less.
You should set up a place holder for your new site and start linking to it like crazy. Sign up for Blogger Link Up and start guest blogging. Start commenting on SEO forums and participating in industry events. Relationships are one the most important part of business. We take our partnerships and relationships very seriously because they empower you to do things that would be impossible to do alone. Once you’ve thought through everything involved in branding, it’s time to move on to the next step.