Marketing: Create and Manage a Web Identity
Just like in good real-world brand management, you need to have a clear, consistent name and image in the virtual world of web marketing. Your web identity is the sum of your appearances on your own and others’ websites, including search engines that may list your websites, any banner or other ads you may be running on the web, and blogs and other online conversational or social appearances.
The core of your Internet marketing strategy (literally!) is a good hub website, the main website for your business or product that supports a range of uses, from general customer inquiries to press visits, and that also provides access to your online store.
Your hub website’s structure should stay relatively constant. Don’t worry about it getting old because you’ll always be updating it with new products, new press releases, and banners or boxes that highlight any special promotions you may be doing elsewhere on the web or off of it.
Around this hub and connected to it through reciprocal links, you may have a wide range of smaller and/or shorter-term web pages for specific promotions, as well as pages you may maintain on social networking and blog sites. Your ads on high-traffic websites and in web directories are additional spokes that direct traffic to your hub.
Standardize your web identity
When establishing your web identity, make sure the message you’re sending is clear and consistent. To achieve the latter, remember that you want your brand to be recognized and reinforced everywhere people run into you, both on the web and off.
Start with your URLs — the web addresses that identify and link people to your web pages — as well as any corporate or personal business names you may use on blogging sites and social networking sites. These web identities need to match and reinforce your brand identity.
If you can’t create web identities that are exactly equal to your brand name (the product or company name you want to promote), then embed that name in a longer name so it’s still visible.
If you use a variety of names on the web that don’t really add up to one simple, clear, single identity, then you need to pick the strongest name and migrate the others toward it. For instance, if your business is named Forest and Stream Natural Landscaping, having your main website address be www.forestandstream.com and your blog name be ForestandStreamGardener may make perfect sense.
You can even create a Facebook page using this same name and also load lots of photographs of your successful landscape projects on Flickr under the same moniker. If you’re using Gmail or another common e-mail platform, you can add e-mail capability to your hub website address so that anyone who sees your e-mails will see the brand name and know what your web identity is, too.
Use the top inch to advantage
When creating your web identity, maximize the amount of screen space your customers see. The top of your web page is where you get to hammer home a consistent, memorable, clear brand identity on the web. In fact, web designers and users generally accept that the top inch or two of every web page is branding space for whoever controls that page.
You want to use that top inch or two to present your brand name plus a short tag line, logo, and special promotional links and messages. Be careful, though, because this space can easily get cluttered with multiple logos, messages, and promotions.
To ensure that you’re taking full advantage of this top inch or so, select type, colors, and a visual logo that tie into your overall branding. Repeat this banner design with only minor variants whenever you control the appearance of the top of a web page.
You can do a quick audit of your web brand identity right now by looking at the top inch of every page you control. Is it as consistent and as strong as it can be? If not, clean this area up immediately.