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SME Brand Strategy: SEM Tactics, Tips, and Tricks, Part 1

Carrie Hill
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Like a kid on Christmas, you've jumped feet first into a snow drift. You've decided to build your brand online. Panic may be the first reaction. You're either starting fresh with a new brand or extending your offline brand into the online market.

Launching a small business brand from scratch can be fun. The first step: name your brand. There are lots of ways to come up with a name. Big companies can spend millions of dollars to come up with hundreds or thousands of names. Some corporations start as one thing, then tweak or shorten the name to create new buzz or get a fresh look – think MSN to MSN Live – or whatever its current name is.

How long do you think it would take a big brand marketing firm to debate the merits of Exxon Mobil versus Mobil Exxon? Probably more time than it took to turn Standard Oil into Esso but less time than it took to turn Esso into Exxon. Even with the debate they might have had over two exes or three. (Don't even ask whether Esso/Exxon marketers had an "s" & "x" debate. My kids read this column!)

Keyword Research

You don't have the luxury of spending all that time. So start thinking about the keywords people might search for when they're looking for your brand.

I'd start with what you're selling or offering – plug some keywords in and start saving things with good searches. Brainstorm catchy phrases and use my best friend, Thesaurus.com, to figure out different ways to use the words or build on them. Great keywords in your brand and your domain are going to help you gain some good traffic fairly quickly. Lets say you're going to start a "CSI" fan site – so do you do all "CSI" shows, or do you concentrate on a single show? Let's look at what Google Trends tells us the searches will support.

Clearly "CSI: Miami" is much more popular in terms of search volume when compared with the other 2 shows. I'd concentrate on "CSI Miami." Now that you've made the key decision, let's look at the keyword research and the Thesaurus to help us narrow down a brand name for our site:

Google Searches (Wordtracker)

CSI Miami: 1339 per day

CSI Miami Cast: 152 per day

Domain Expertise

Now that you know the most popular keywords, NetworkSolutions.com is a great place to mess around with keyword-related domains: "csiMiamifan.com" and "csimiamifansite.com," for example. Next I think: Well I'm a maniac for the show. How about "csimiamimania.com?" It's available. Bingo. Now you can become the proud owner of a brand with good keyword searches, a catchy name, and an available domain. Do a quick search for the term and url to make sure nobody else owns it. If not, you're good to go.

What are the best bets for establishing your small business brand online in order to capitalize on it in the future? Consistency is king, along with some well-optimized pages, press releases, directory listings, and viral marketing buzz. Let's talk about the specific steps you should take to make sure your new website is set up for success.

Here's a good example. MapQuest has a great brand name. The story they're telling (quest for maps) is exactly what you get. It's catchy. It's short. Their logo? Simple and memorable. When people see MapQuest they tend to use it – and view it as a trusted source.

If you can pick a brand name and design a logo that stands out from the pack, you're going to have an easier time getting the word out about your products. You also might want to think of something that starts with a number or the letter "A" as those will be listed first in alphabetical directory listings. This is a small thing, and if you don't like it or have another idea it's not a deal breaker, just something to keep in mind.

Brand Site Organically

Your brand should be something you rank well for organically, but there are some things to think about when you're designing and optimizing your site for your brand. Traffic isn't going to come from your brand right away, so make sure you're using good keyword phrases and adding your brand at the end of that page title and in TEXT on the page. This is a step that's sometimes overlooked – logos are usually GIF files, and therefore not indexable by the search engines. Put your brand in text format in a few places on each page to be sure the search engines grab that name and know what it's for.

Brand Pays In Paid Search

Make sure you're buying PPC ads for great keywords and including your brand in the ad text. Hopefully your domain name reflects the ad, this will help – but write some ad text that establishes your business goal and your brand at the same time.

Make it easy to e-mail products and information from your site, print a page or a description and share content virally with widgets that allow social bookmarking and even browser bookmarking. The easier it is to use your site, the more memorable your brand will be.

The snow drift you thought you were stuck in is now your online branding wonderland.

Congratulations. You've come unstuck in time to learn the SEO tips and tricks that will make your brand memorable. See you in two weeks.


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