Effective Internet Branding

Effective Internet branding is the foundation of strong online marketing. The days of conducting a successful business without a robust web presence are mostly gone. So, for most people, an ad in the phone book (remember those?) isn’t enough. For that matter, in 2021 a website alone won’t cut it; you need a full-blown web presence. And that means you need a brand.

Branding is the communication of identity. Your brand is the image your audience has in their minds when they think of you. It is what they believe about your values, your purpose, and your character. Building an effective brand requires authenticity first and foremost. In a sense, brand is a commitment; authenticity is the degree to which your actions match your words. Authenticity is honesty. 

Internet Branding: SEO Marketing is Key

Internet branding adds a complicating factor: SEO. SEO marketing is a vital method of expanding your audience. Search engines put your content in front of the people you want to communicate with. And search engines match your content with people searching for particular key words and phrases. You’re competing not just with other providers of similar content, but with the enormous amount of content that search engine web crawlers find every second. Effective use of key phrases, or SEO marketing, is essential to getting your content in front of your audience. 

The Problem with SEO

Unfortunately, the techniques that are most effective for SEO marketing can come across as inauthentic. And because people can sense a lack of authenticity very easily, your SEO optimization can backfire when building your brand. Effective Internet branding means preserving your authenticity while optimizing key phrases and using effective SEO techniques in your content. 

This isn’t an either – or scenario, thankfully. Producing quality content that delivers value to your audience and optimizing your web presence for priority search engine results aren’t mutually exclusive goals. Effective Internet branding does both. 

In the next few posts I’ll tell you a little about branding and how you can use effective Internet branding to build your own brand on the web. I’ll give you some background on branding, then I’ll tell you how effective Internet branding techniques can add clarity and structure to your content that adds value for your audience. Finally, I’ll give you some examples of effective Internet branding you can use for your own content. Stay tuned.

Online Retail: Five Observations from a Beginner

I’ve been running my online retail business, The American Made Retail Company, for about two weeks now. That’s not long, of course, but it has been long enough for me to notice a few things. I’d like to get them down here for posterity so that I can come back in a year and be embarrassed by how much I thought I knew…

Hedging with another job let’s you trade free time for debt. If I wasn’t running this business as a low-pressure side project I would have come up with a formal plan that included at least marketing and operations budgets–no inventory since I’m using dropshippers–and likely taken on some debt in order to finance the business until it became profitable. That would mean being in the hole two weeks in and owing people money. With that much on the line, I’d need to invest a lot of time getting everything online as soon as possible so that I could afford to pay the debt off. That would likely require making this my full-time job. In other words, no day job, no steady income, just jumping into the deep end of entrepreneurship and sinking or swimming. People do that all the time, but, man, talk about pressure. Instead, I’m spending very small amounts of my own money and accepting that my growth rate is going to be slower and more gradual. I’ve still got my day job, but I’m using my free time to work on the business. I don’t have all my eggs in this online retail basket, so I don’t need to go 100% from day one, which means I don’t need to go into debt. I can spend the time I have instead of money I don’t. It’s not a better way, but it’s a lower-risk way, I think.

Marketing is the most important skill a person can learn. It’s debatable how much I really gained from my MBA, which was online from the University of Maryland Global Campus and received at the age of 42. One major takeaway for me was a completely new understanding of marketing. Like a lot of people, I assumed marketing and advertising were essentially the same thing (and that advertising and writing pitches were the same thing, another common mistake) and decided I wasn’t interested. It wasn’t until a class a year ago that I learned just how big an umbrella the term “marketing” spreads. And, maybe the biggest lesson of all, the first and arguably most important part of marketing is finding the market. I think this is the thing that is going to determine the success of my business, if I do in fact succeed: my ability to determine who is looking for what and how to bring them together.

You can’t escape social media, and you shouldn’t even try…but you can engage it on your on terms. I’m not a social media guy. The last platform I was at all active on was MySpace. I was tepid about Facebook at best before deleting my personal account several months ago, and I’ve frankly never understood Twitter. Seriously, I’ve never understood how to use Twitter, not to mention I don’t really get the appeal. But the numbers don’t lie. When I compare the organic traffic my online retail store sees to referrals from Facebook, it’s not even close. This puts me in an awkward position, because I genuinely dislike the lopsided, biased way that the most popular social platforms police speech. Frankly, I even see this in the troubles I’ve had with advertising on Google and Facebook. Still, it seems to be worth at least trying to get exposure on these platforms if for no other reason than the expansive reach they command.

Volume and margin are like the chicken and the egg. In the online retail dropshipping model I’m pursuing margins are pretty thin. The short version is that I market products provided to me at cost by a dropshipping company. When someone places an order with me, I forward it to the dropshipper, who charges me for the product cost and shipping. In exchange, the dropshipper handles everything but the marketing: shipping, manufacture or supply, etc. It’s a great system in terms of ease, but the margins are necessarily narrow. In order to be competitive, I have to eat most or all of the shipping costs. When I set the retail price, I have to walk a thin line between being low enough to compete with other retailers–often other retailers who can charge lower prices–and high enough to remain profitable. The more volume I sell, the lower my retail prices can be–increasing volume–and still cover my overhead, never mind actually make a buck or two. However, to get volume, my prices need to be so low that I’m not covering my overhead at current volume. Remember the risk I mentioned avoiding earlier by hedging with a day job? It shows up here, too; I’ve got to take a leap of faith and hope that I can hit a profitable sales volume at margins too low to reach profitability at lower sales.

Selling things is addictive. I’d heard before that most entrepreneurs are driven by the thrill of success more than money. I’d always thought that was a bit of romanticism. I was wrong. There’s really nothing to compare to making your first sale, and each sale afterwards just renews that feeling. It’s genuinely exciting. I’m passionate about this in a way that I really didn’t anticipate. And it’s not just the prospect that at the end of all this I might be able to live off of my own business, with no boss and no schedule other than the one I set for myself. It’s not easy to put in words, so I’ll borrow someone else’s and paraphrase. On some level, the money is just a way to keep score.

Read more about my new business here, and find links to both my online businesses here.

NDNM Now Live on Gearbubble!

NDNM is live on Gearbubble!

NDNM (Ni Dieux, Ni Maitre, or Neither Gods, Nor Masters*) is a new brand I’m building centered around political philosophy and current events from an anarcho-capitalist perspective. These are all original designs created by yours truly. It’s more of a passion project than a business venture, but I’d love it to be both. Check it out, I’ve got some good stuff up there and I’m working on new designs around the clock.

Come and visit NDNM on Gearbubble at: https://www.gearbubble.com/gbstore/ndnm.

* This was the motto of French anarchists around the late 19th century. I like it because, while the English version was embraced by atheists and labor activists angry at the bosses, the French version can be understood to refer to all of us: neither gods, nor masters, but equals. Pretty good motto for anarcho-capitalism, I think.