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5 Basic Building Blocks For Branding Your Startup

A business can’t grow unless it’s been properly defined–and that’s the first step to creating a lasting brand.

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5 Basic Building Blocks For Branding Your Startup – Smackwagon Design

Starting up a business is hard work, really hard work. Every day, the founders have to juggle mundane tasks: pitching new clients or investors, making sure there’s toner in the printer, sweet-talking clients, and managing contractors–all while having cash-flow-related panic attacks.

With all these daily commitments constantly eating up your precious time, it leaves little room for the important stuff, the reason you started the business to begin with: to do things your own way, by pursuing your own unique vision and building an organization around it. However, if a company is to grow healthily, it needs a defined identity. That’s easier said than done. The branding process is not complex in itself, but it does bring up difficult and complex discussions about who you are and what you want to achieve and how to express that through language, interactions, and design. First, you need to figure out who you are.

Define Who You Are

Most entrepreneurs have a clear idea in their head what they are aiming to accomplish. However, when asked what their new company does, most entrepreneurs will respond with a confused garble of abstractions, conceptual solutions, and often some tech jargon thrown in for good measure—an explanation that would outlast an elevator ride even in the highest tower of Dubai. That’s no good. Language needs to be refined, or you are dead in the water.

The most straightforward yet challenging way to do so is boil it down to one simple descriptive sentence. Avoid lofty super-pretentious proclamations like “We are changing the world by ushering in a new paradigm in social interfacing,” or some such nonsense. Don’t worry about not sounding “advanced” enough; simplicity is always king. Distilling everything down to one sentence is incredibly hard and takes hours upon hours of word picking and philosophical discussions in the conference room. Of course, that one sentence is not going to tell the whole story, but that’s not the point. The point is to train and discipline yourself to achieve brevity and clarity while communicating your brand. You should arrive at a sentence that summarizes what you do and provokes people to ask how and why.

The key to successful brand communications is a trifecta of brevity, clarity, and consistency. Avoid mission-statement sound bites at all costs; they are useless.

Differentiate

Yes, we’ve heard it a million times, and it seems obvious. Still, so many new companies keep falling into the trap of telling everyone how fantastic they are, what a great team they’ve built, and how awesome and cutting edge their technology is. Whey are trapped in their own ego bubble. Instead, what people want to hear is why your thing is better than the other things.

Avoid the Helicopter Mom Syndrome

Your company is your baby. But there’s no need to smother it by sticking your fingers in every single pot and pie. Building an organization means delegating tasks to other people in your organization. They were hired because of their expertise, so let them go ahead and do their jobs. Micromanagement slows down the process and diminishes the quality of work. Instead, focus on the organization as whole: How do projects get done? Quality control? Processes for hiring? Knowledge sharing? Company culture?

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Avoid the Helicopter Mom Syndrome – Smackwagon Design

You might ask yourself what all this has to do with branding. In fact, it has everything to do with your brand. Early on, the people in your organization are the only thing your brand has got going except for a promise of future expectations. There is no history, no established product or service at this stage, so make double sure that you come across the way you want in every thinkable touch point. And let people do their thing.

Craft a Visual Identity

Once you have sorted out the more existential facets of the brand identity, you can start sorting out a visual identity: logo, website, fonts, colors, business cards, and letterhead. The great thing about design is that if applied correctly it can make your business instantly emit the values you want to communicate–trust, gravitas, innovation, quirkiness, luxury, whatever your brand identity dictates. However, do not attempt to design your own brand. It almost never works. Hire a professional who actually knows what he’s doing. It will pay off.

Existential Anxiety Is Normal

Building a start-up usually entails spending an unhealthy amount of time locked up with your partners strategizing, brainstorming, and planning ad infinitum. This is a necessary phase to make sure that you have kicked the tires from every angle and really polished the concept. However, a peculiar side effect of all this intense work is that sometimes you lose all judgement of what exactly you are trying to achieve. Is it good or bad? Does it even make sense? Am I the only person in this world that can see any value in what I’m doing? Am I crazy? Without any existing customers, you don’t have a real feedback loop to confirm if what you are doing is even valid.

Don’t be alarmed, this existential brand-identity anxiety is normal. You need a break. Talk to someone from the outside world who can confirm that you are still sane. Try out your descriptive sentence on some random people, show them your logo, and see how they react. It will bring back a sense of perspective.

Building a new brand is not easy, but it needs to be done. So, lastly, get at it! Call Us TODAY![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Social Media is Forcing Us to Tell The Truth… “Transparency” – Great Article!

Transparency: Social Media Is Forcing You to Tell the Truth

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You Better Tell The Truth! – Smackwagon

“I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours.” —Hunter S. Thompson.

Dr. Thompson would have loved to write about the immoral alliances between politicians, the press and the police that led to yesterday’s execution of News of the World. He’s not here to do that, and social media has replaced gonzo journalism as a force targeting corporate irresponsibility and enforcing transparency—in this case irresponsibility in media itself.

Although closing down the Murdoch’s flagship publication was inevitable under the circumstances, the timeline was accelerated by the realization by major brands such as Ford that advertising in News of The World might not be such a good idea. What’s remarkable is the speed at which advertisers shifted their position on News of The World.

“I sourced some more advertisers from Sunday’s News of the World,” said Andy Dawson, who goes under the twitter name @profanityswan, “and urged my Twitter followers to copy and paste the tweets if they felt strongly about the hacking story. Within about 90 minutes, it had started to snowball, and my timeline was filled with people tweeting at various companies.”

According to Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent for BBC Mobile, “a random collection of loosely organised people with no one leader have come together to deal a blow to the finances of a powerful media organization.”

Welcome to what political analyst and writer Micah Sifry has dubbed “the uncomfortable Age of Transparency.” Sify argues that we are in a generational and philosophical struggle between older, closed systems and the new, open culture of the Internet. Despite the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the publication of secret documents continues around the world, and citizens are demanding more accountability from government leaders and corporate executives.

In 2007, Fortune magazine estimated that there were 70 million blogs, up from 15,000 in 2002. Many blogs and websites target a particular industry or corporation and tap inside sources eager to leak information without revealing their identities and putting their relationships or jobs at risk. As an example, protestbarrick.net helps group researching and advocating around mining issues, particularly involving Barrick Gold.

“Businesses now really need to understand something that governments, dictators didn’t understand. Someday you’ll be busted. Anything you do will be known. Social media’s gonna get you, and if you’re lying we’re gonna know,” Egyptian filmmaker Amr Salama said at the annual Cannes advertising festival last month.

Today, global corporations run the risk of being busted at any time. The best defense against this is transparency. The problem is that business people don’t know what transparency looks like or how to assess whether or not their companies are, in fact, transparent.

What transparency means to business has changed dramatically. According to the Business Dictionary, transparency is the “minimum degree of disclosure to which agreements, dealings, practices, and transactions are open to all for verification.”  However, in their 2008 book, Transparency: Creating a Culture of Candor, authors Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and Patricia Ward Biederman describe transparency as “the free flow of information within an organization and between the organization and its many stakeholders, including the public.”

Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory puts corporate transparency in a new light. “Die Gläserne Manufaktur” is an automobile production plant located just 100 meters from the Dresden Botanical Gardens in the city center. It blends with the beauty of the ancient German city. Visitors are more likely to think it is an art gallery or modern office block than a car factory. No noise, dirt or pollution emits from it, and passers-by can see in real-time if things are moving, working and shipping. It is likely that Die Gläserne Manufaktur has reduced Volkswagen’s risk of being targeted by social media activism.

Is it possible to attach key performance indicators to something as intangible as transparency? Shel Holtz and John Havens, authors of Tactical Transparency, have developed the following framework for assessing transparency, to which my company, Impakt Corporation,  has added specific measurement criteria.

Leadership: The leaders of transparent companies are accessible and are straightforward when talking with members of key audiences.

Values: Ethical behavior, fair treatment, and other values are on full display in transparent companies.

Culture: How a company does things is more important today than what it does. The way things are done is not a secret in transparent companies.

Business strategy: Of particular importance to the investment community but also of interest to other audiences, a company’s strategy is a key basis for investment decisions relating to increasing transparency.

Employees: Employees of transparent companies are accessible, can reinforce the public view of the company, and are always able to help people where appropriate.

Results: Transparent companies are clear about the results of all business practices, both good and bad. Successes, failures, problems, and victories all are communicated to all stakeholders.

Charles Green founder and chief executive of Trusted Advisor Associates believes that it’s also important to remember that transparency is about more than processes and measurement. “If a company manages itself significantly by values then it is more likely to be transparent,” he says. “The reason is simple when you think about it: You can keep total secrecy with a hierarchical, need-to-know, numbers approach, but managing by values requires a lot of open communication.”

In a recent TED Talk, Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock said transparency is scary, unpredictable and risky. Last week police, politicians, and the media found out that in the age of social media not telling the truth is even more risky and transparency is paramount. As one former Fleet Street editor said: “This is Britain’s Arab Spring.”

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Search Engine Land’s Guide To SEO: Top Tips & Tutorial

Search Engine Land’s Guide To SEO: Top Tips & Tutorial

Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors is designed to illustrate the most important things that can help you gain traffic from search engines such as Google and Bing. This is our companion guide designed to explain the table in more depth and provide a tutorial into the world of search engine optimization.

Search Engine Ranking Factors

There are four major groups of SEO ranking factors:

  • On The Page Ranking Factors
  • Off The Page Ranking Factors
  • Violations
  • Blocking

Within each group are are subgroups, as further pages of this guide will explain. Each of those subgroups contain one or more individual SEO factors.

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Factors – Smackwagon

Those two letter acronyms you see on the chart? That’s our play on the periodic table of elements, and its two letter representations of each element. The first letter of each “SEO element” comes from the subgroup that it’s in. The second letter stands for the individual factor.

Factors Work In Combination

No single SEO factor will guarantee search engine rankings. Having a great HTML title won’t help if a page has low quality content. Having many links won’t help if they are low quality links. But having several positive factors can increase the odds of success. As for negative factors, they obviously can worsen the odds.

On The Page Factors

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On The Page SEO Factors Summary

On The Page search ranking factors are those that are entirely within the publisher’s own control. What type of content do you publish? Are you providing important HTML clues that help search engines with determining relevancy? How does your site architecture help or hinder search engines?

Off The Page Factors

Off The Page ranking factors are those that publishers cannot directly control. Search engines use these because they learned long ago publisher signals alone don’t help relevancy. Some publishers will try to make themselves seem more relevant than they are, for example.

More important, with billions of web pages to sort through, looking only at on-the-page clues isn’t enough. More signals are needed to better estimate what are the best pages for any particular search.

Violations

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Violations

Make no mistake. Search engines want people to perform SEO. They provide help directly about SEO techniques and encourage this, because good SEO can improve their listings.

However, there are some techniques that they deem “spam” or “black hat,” acts that if you do could results in your pages getting a ranking penalty or worse, being banned from the search engines entirely.

Blocking

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Blocking

Blocking is a new class of ranking signal. This is where searchers themselves may decide they don’t like pages from a particular web site, even if those web sites don’t violate any traditional spam rules.

Blocking has a big impact on what the individual who blocks sees, but it also has an impact on what every searcher sees.

Weighting

All the factors we show are weighted on a scale of one to three, as shown in the top right corner of each factor. Three is deemed most important, something that you either should especially pay attention to, because it has a bigger impact than other factors.

That doesn’t mean that factors weighted only two or one aren’t important. They are, or they wouldn’t have made the chart. It’s just that they are off less importance in relatively speaking, in terms of everything on the chart.

The weighting is also our opinion, based on what search engines have said, surveys done of SEO and our own experience in watching the space over time. They’re not perfect; not everyone will agree with them. But we think they’re a useful general guide.

Violations and Blocking factors are also weighted in negative numbers, with negative three being the worst.

“Missing” Factors & The Guide’s Philosophy

Some experienced SEOs may be wondering why some factors aren’t shown. How come ALT text or bolding words aren’t included as important HTML factors, for example?

The answer is that we don’t think those things are that important, relatively speaking. We’re not trying to encompass every possible signal (Google has over 200 of them) and sub-signals (Google has over 10,000 of those).

Instead, the goal with the Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors and this online companion guide help those new to SEO focus on the big picture and perhaps help some experienced SEO hit the “reset” button if they’re feeling a bit lost among the trees of the SEO forest.

That’s why this guide doesn’t try to get into the debate over whether having your most important keywords be at the beginning or end of an HTML title tag. Nor are we trying to assess if H1 header tags carry more weight than H2 tags.

We’re purposely avoiding being so specific because such things can easily become overkill. Instead, we want you to understand that your pages should have descriptive titles, that indicating page structure with header tags may help, and topping things off with easily deployed meta description tag is a good idea Do these things, and you’d probably addressed 90% of the most important HTML-related factors.

Similarly, it’s not whether a good reputation on Twitter is worth more than on Facebook. Instead, it’s trying to help people understand that having social accounts that seem reputable in general, which attract a good following and generate social shares, is a good that may help you with your search efforts.

But I Want More!

Having said that, some may want to drill down into specifics, to the degree anyone can agree on this. In that case, the SEOmoz Search Engine Ranking Factors survey is worth looking at. Every two years, it tries to harness the collective knowledge of what hundreds of SEOs think are important and specific ranking factors.

You might also look at the Covario’s SEO Audit Score whitepaper, which can be downloaded here, though you have to go through free registration to get it. It analyzes some specific factors from nearly 1 million pages to try and determine what’s most important.

Over time, we’ll add other links to detailed surveys like this. But we do hope you’ll keep any specifics in the context of the fundamentals our table covers. Also see our What Is SEO / Search Engine Optimization? page, which lists some useful guides to the fundamentals (including one from Google itself) along with many more SEO resources.

Of course, the guide you’re reading now is also a great resource for understanding the key SEO factors anyone should know. Use the “Next” link below to continue reading forward through the guide. The “Everything” links will let you easily jump between sections.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Keyword Strategy

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Keyword Strategy

Using Keyword strategy is vital to your beginning SEO strategy. The types of words you use and where you place them will have a large effect in where your link will reside when someone makes a search.

Head terms – are general terms such as “cheese” they tend to have massive traffic volume but are much harder to rank on.
Tail terms – are more specific terms such as “white goat cheese.” These terms may have less volume but are capable of ranking for.

  • Each page should have a mix of some head and tail terms.
  • Ranking on some tail terms is much better than not ranking at all for head terms.
  • Every web page should only be focused on 1 or 2 keywords. Not doing so will optimize your pages in too many directions, decreasing your overall effectiveness and ranking potential.

Just because one search has more than an other does not mean it is better. A search query with small traffic but low competition is much better than a large query and maximum competition. anything with less than 75% competition is a good opportunity to target.

For example The keyword, “build a web site” has 110,000 sq/m. sq/m=seach query per month.
This Search query is extremely competitive. Trying to organically rank your web site within that search query would be almost impossible, until your website starts to have some serious internet presence.

Another issue to consider is some of the Head terms that have a massive amount of search querys are broad terms. Such as “Directory” Someone may be looking for a different type of directory than what your website is based around. So being more specific in this case is better, so that people will find the correct type of directory they are looking for.

Another thing to consider is that Google ranks web sites on how old they are and how much of a presence they currently have in the market. Since we are new, we can only compete in sub markets for keywords that get a smaller amount of searches. As we grow we can try to build rankings in some of the more difficult key-words. It is better to have a decent percentage of something small than a very small percentage of something big.

It is more important to get your web site ranked in a smaller more specific search query with around 10,000 or less searches per month. This way the competitiveness is not overwhelming and we can at least take a small portion of those searches.

Googles algorithm has been changing since its birth in 1995. In the beginning Keywords had a massive importance for what words your web-page would rank for. Meaning the algorithm was 90% based around what keywords you used in your web pages. As people caught on people began “spamming” certain words so that there page would specifically show up for that word. As the Algorithm began to advance through the earl 2000’s Googles algorithm has since become far more complex and can actually recognize content purposely trying to spam keywords to get in for a specific search.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Pay Per Click

PPC is the act of paying a search engine to temporarily put your listing in the top 3 positions for a particular search query. You pay can set a spending limit, and pay the Search engine on a per click basis.

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Pay Per Clicks (PPC) - Is this the right thing to do?.... does it pay off? - Smackwagon Design

Pay Per Clicks (PPC) – Is this the right thing to do?…. does it pay off? – Smackwagon Design

Every-time you search for “Books” and click on one of the top three links a business just paid Google to be in that top position. Some search queries are more valuable than others such as someone searching for “buy Books” may be willing to pay as much as $10 per click to Google for a potential sale. Another search query such as “create an art web site” is more specific and less lucrative, thus would be less valuable and may bid for 20 cents per click.

All of the prices are determined by an open market of bidding leaving the prices constantly changing. After creating an adwords account with Google on www.google.com/adwords you can research keywords that you think people would use to find your product or service. They also have a tool that allows you to see how many people searched for a particular keyword or phrase last month. Since other people are also bidding for particular searches, the ones that are more competitive will naturally cost more money to win. You can also set a spending limit for yourself, for example tell Google you would only like to spend $100 at 50 cents a click, once you get 200 clicks your link is removed, and your campaign ended.

You may have noticed after making a Google search that the top 3 links are highlighted these are the PPC links, and all other links below it are naturally ranked. This is why many people will always start clicking on the 4th link which is actuality the highest natually ranked website for that search. Google has recently done away with the difference in appearance between PPC and natural, but the same underlying concept and bid system is still there.

Creating a PPC campaign is simple to start but very hard to master. This subject is a little bit too indepth for this web site. If you are actaully interested in going on a campaign I would suggest picking up a book on this particular subject. Creating a campaign without having any knowledge in this area would be a foolish mistake, and could become very costly.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Social Media Optimization (SMO)

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Social Media Optimization (SMO)

Social media optimization is the use of other networking web sites to promote your web site!

Social Media Optimization also known as SMO, is using websites such as…

Personally, I think SMO is a FULL Time Job! Updating multiple web sites while updating your own? This tends to become a full time job. There is a web site out there that allows you to control many of the different SMO sites simultaneously but I forget the name of it off the top of my head.

Generally speaking, people that use a lot of SMO are established entities that have the personal and financing to create and update them.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

SMACKWAGON

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