People often undervalue the importance of having a solid plan and setup for their online presence. With the advent of mobile high-end devices, it’s never been more crucial to take the values and consistency you’re used to implementing in your business and transitioning those practices to the “online version” of your business because to many, this will be your first point of contact and ultimately your first impression.
To help you better take control of your online world, we have created a simple information guide and set of rules for you to follow. These tools were originally created for TillerPhish to use internally and as a guideline for setting up new clients and the services that we offer. But then we thought, why not share it with everyone?! It aims to cover all aspects of your online presence and covers all avenues, so we feel it is an invaluable tool in the setup, creation, and maintenance of your online business.
We’ve broken it down into 4 major categories: branding, website, social (but not just social), and global; each having its own set of rules and guidelines. So, whether you’re starting from the beginning or revamping what’s already there, this guide should be easy to follow and navigate as needed. To make it even easier for you, we’ve also included various files and artwork you’ll need when following this guide. All files can be downloaded individually in this guide or found collectively on the “downloads” page.
Many people forget that a website or a social media profile isn’t just a way for people to get information, it’s an extension of your company. Often, it’s the first point of contact for your potential customers. It would stand to reason that you would want your branding to be consistent here, as well as for offline avenues. Imagine going to Pepsi’s website and seeing a red background with a regular Arial font for the name and no logo. You wouldn’t stay at the site long, or even believe it was the real Pepsi website, would you? This same concept rings true for your company as well, whether you operate a large corporation or a small business.
Use the same color scheme consistently that you do with your printed material.
It’s important to use the same layout of colors in your online media that you do with your printed media. If you have certain font colors and background colors or patterns, make sure to utilize these and not random or “almost” colors. The tools we use to help manage this are:
Have two logos, but with the same branding.
You’d think that having only one logo would be correct. While for the most part this IS correct, you’ll also have to take into consideration that your logo might not work well in certain situations. Take our logo. It’s comprised of the three fish, with the name TillerPhish spelled out next to it. This is the consistent branding of the logo we use, unless we are unable to have it fit correctly. For Facebook, we use a version of the logo we created that’s more squared and has the name spelled out above the three fish. This way, your logo looks good across the board and you won’t have to worry about your logo cropping badly. (PSD for logo sizing on social networks is at the bottom of the website section)
If one place changes, every place changes.
It’s unrealistic to think that once you’ve set you’re branding that it will stay that way forever. Your branding will change and evolve just as your business does. What’s important, though, is to make sure that when this change happens, nothing gets left behind. To keep track of all the places we’ve setup and utilized for branding we use OneNote. It’s a Microsoft product that comes with Office and also has a free web based version if you don’t have Office. (A note about OneNote: We actually use this for just about everything we need to keep track of. It is the best organizational tool you could ever use!)
Use the same character styles.
Character styles determine the visual aspects of how your text and headings will look. Make sure to use the same paragraph and heading styles that you do on your printed materials. For character styles, it’s important that you use web fonts, because regular fonts, while they will look right on your computer, probably won’t load on another machine. The best resource online (Unless you have Adobe Creative Cloud) is Google Web Fonts.
Resonate your brand in your content.
Your brand not only covers the way your company looks but also what it provides. Make sure that your content is speaking true to your brand and providing the same services that you do offline, allowing you to provide resources that line up with your services. Small things to keep in mind is your company’s name. Simple things like not saying “The XYB Company LLC” and “XYB Company” but keeping the company references the same.
No “one off”ing.
This seems to happen frequently. This is when you have an established website but create individual landing pages for various reasons that aren’t on your central website. The branding ends up breaking and there is no integration with your already established web presence.
Enforce a policy company wide.
Your employees need to know that company branding is important and not something they should take into their own hands. Make sure that everyone is on the same page and that you offer the resources required for them to keep to the branding consistent. To help us manage this here, we’ve setup a simple shared Google Drive folder that has all of our branding and promotional materials. If an employee needs the logo for some reason, they have it. Or, if they need a letterhead, they’ll have the pre-designed letterhead and won’t resort to creating their own, which will deviate from the brand.
Email counts too – make it consistent.
Something that is often missed are emails. Emails also need to form to the company brand. This is done by ensuring the domain for email addresses is the same as the domain for the website as well as creating a signature that has your company contact information and logo. It’s also recommended to include social media links in your email signature.
Here are PSD templates and jpegs you can use for each social media outlet to setup your branding and logos.
Your website will serve as your central hub online. It might not be the initial point of contact, but it will serve an important role in providing information and interaction with your customers. If done correctly, your website will function as both an organic source of new potential customers, and a wealth of information and resources for customers new and old.
Have a domain that fits with the company name, but is also short, easy to enter, and easy to remember.
At the surface, and depending on your company name, this could be hard to do. It’s best to stick to one domain if possible, but if your current domain or the domain most appropriate for your company name is too long, we suggest securing a second, shorter domain that redirects to the first one. For example, if your company name is “Widgets and Trinkets for the World Unlimited,” it’d be pretty hard to come up with a decent domain name that isn’t 10 miles long. What you would do is setup a domain like “widgetsandtrinketsunlimited.com” and then setup a second domain like “wtfwu.com” and have it redirect to the first one. Some things to keep in mind as well is to keep it easy to type in. Numbers and symbols are generally harder for people to conveniently type in, especially on mobile devices, so it’s best to stick to A thru Z characters. It’s also recommended to have your email setup on both and have the short domain forward its email to the long domain. This way, when people first email you, they type in the short. Then when replying, the see the full domain without having to type it in. To help you find domains that work for your company we recommend taking a look at GoDaddy. Pretty simple to use and they offer suggestions when a domain isn’t available. Lastly, try to stay away from domain names that don’t end in “.com”, unless it’s relevant to your business, as for an organization, school, non-profit or government agency.
Your website needs to load fast
A slow website can mean the difference between website click through and website bounce outs. Each section of your website should be optimized to load fast on desktop as well as mobile devices. Some tools we use to help with this are:
The same experience needs to be had across all devices
Content needs to be plentiful, valuable and original
Content will serve two purposes for your website; to bring in new customers and to offer quality resources to the ones you have. When people talk about “getting to the top of Google” what they should really be saying is “getting enough content so I can get to the top of Google”. You’ll never rank high without valuable content and your customers will interact online less without something worthwhile. While the only tools we use to create content are our content creators themselves, we do use a tool to make sure that our content is always as original as possible on the internet. This is important because even if you type something up from the top of your head, there’s a good chance someone, somewhere in the internet landscape has said it before. It’s also important that both your audience and Google know how to find all of your content easily. The tools we use for this are:
Your email address needs to match your domain
We see this a lot. A company will have the domain “xwycompany.com” and use a gmail.com or yahoo.com email address. While this is fine with corresponding with your customers, it’s not recommended to have this listed as a contact method on your website or social media. Take a look at most, if not all major websites as an example. When email contact information is given it follows a standard format: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Also, each employee should have an email setup under the companies domain.
Don’t have third party branding on your website
Sometimes you need to use online tools to help you create your website and that’s fine, but don’t use the free ones that place “this website created with xwy software” in the body or footer of the website. This small line of text will cause a potential client to see less professionalism in your company. The only real way to combat this is to pay for hosting and design your website with more robust tools. The tools we use are: Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Edge Animate, Adobe Edge Inspect, Adobe Edge Reflow, Adobe Edge Code and Adobe Muse. Also, we are our own hosting provider and we offer this service to our customers as well. For more information on our hosting and website tools, check out our hosting page by clicking here
Interaction is mandatory
Interaction is what will keep people coming back to your website. Most people think this is hard to do, especially if your company has no need for calculators or widgets of any kind. But really, it could be as simple as the integration on a blog or forum. That would fit in with any company or website. We use our own content management system to manage our blog. We use Facebook’s commenting system to provide a response mechanism for our blog. It’s easy to use and great to integrate social media. Check it out here.
Give your customers what they came there for
There are 3 main reasons people will come to your website. 1. To learn more about your company. 2. To purchase a product or service 3. To learn something new or how to do something. If you are not offering all three of these, then you’re not providing what people have come to your website for and you will see a drop off in click through rates.
Let people know how to reach you easily
If someone can’t figure out how to contact you on every page of your website in less than 1 minute, your contact information is not easy to find. This is simple to setup by having your phone, address, and email address in your website footer on every page.
Don’t leave anything blank
Blank pages on your website not only hurt your Google ranks, but it will also take away some of the professionalism with your customers. If there is a blank page on your website there should be no reason you cannot remove it.
Integrate what you can
Social media can be a great way to integrate content in your website. If you have a social media feed, put it in a place that’s convenient but doesn’t take away from the call to action or message of the page. Some examples are the footer or sidebar. Don’t overdo it, though. Here are some social widgets that are easy to use:
Let people know what your content is about and who created it, no matter where they find it
This can only be done through Meta tags. Most people say that Meta tags are dead with the way search engines work now. I say they’re not! While they may not increase your ranks, they will certainly increase your appeal to people that are searching. They know what the page is about, what company it came from, and who created the content. Here are the Meta tags we use and how we use them:
<meta property="og:site_name" content="WEBSITE NAME" /> <meta property="og:title" content="PAGE TITLE" /> <meta property="og:type" content="CONTENT TYPE" /> <meta property="og:image" content="IMAGE URL" /> <meta property="og:url" content="PAGE URL" /> <meta property="og:description" content="PAGE DESCRIPTION" /> <meta property="fb:admins" content="PROFILE ID" />
The website name would be the name of your website. The title would be the title of the current page. The content type will either be “website” or “blog” depending on what the content is. The image url will be a link to the image you would like for social media websites to use when sharing the link. The page url is the link that will be displayed when sharing your it on social media. The page description will be the snippet of text under the page title in your Google listing. The profile ID is the Facebook ID of the person that created the content. Then, provide a link on that page to the Google+ Profile of the person that created the content, like the “webmaster” link in the footer of this page.
Have a clear call to action
You don’t want to leave your visitors wondering what to do next. There needs to be a clear call to action and a direct path to it. The call to action can be a purchase, a request for more information, or to sign up for a newsletter. Whatever it is, it needs to be direct and easy.
Don’t just promote yourself, give them something useful
Companies often miss this step on their website. They offer all the information someone will need to know about them or their company and the tools to interact with them, but they don’t give them anything useful. Give people resources they can use that don’t revolve around your company. This could be how-to’s, case studies, instructional videos, news and updates in a certain field of study or anything that someone would want to consume or use and share socially. This will keep people coming back to your website and also sharing it with their friends and associates.
You need some type of analytics on your website. This will allow you to see where your traffic is coming from, how they are interacting with your content, and where the drop off is. Knowing this information will set you up to reconfigure your website and content as needed to help people navigate and complete call to actions. The best analytics you can use, and what we use, is Google Analytics.
Social (but not just social)
When saying ‘social, but not just social,’ we are simply meaning that these rules and guidelines, while being written for social media, really stand true for any aspect of business to client communication and interaction. That aside, what we really need to focus on here is making sure that we interact socially in a way that maintains the brand, helps customers, and provides valuable information.
If you don’t use it, remove it
This is pretty simple. If you don’t plan to, or are not posting on a social network profile, then that social network profile should not be setup or should be deleted. You might love the idea of being on Instagram, but if you only plan on posting 5 times a year, it’s best not to even have the account to begin with. It will give people that want to follow you false promise of good content and create a drop off point.
Tag where tagging is valid
Social media tags can help you get found by more people but not on all networks. Make sure that you are using tags (hashtags) on the networks that people are searching by those hashtags on like Twitter and Instagram.
Don’t just advertise
If all you do is advertise your services or business on social media people will either not follow you at all or they won’t follow you for long. You need to provide people with interesting, engaging content.
Give back what you receive
It’s important to respond, comment, and thank your followers when they interact with you. If not, they might think you aren’t listening to what they have to say to you. It’s also a good rule of thumb to follow people back that follow you. Let them know that you are just as interested in them as they are of you.
Share from like-minded people and businesses
Not only should you be sharing original content you create, but it’s also good to share content from other sources. This is beneficial because it not only lightens the amount of content you have to create, it also shows your customers that you find value in the rest of the internet, not just your own online presence. Plus, there are a lot of interesting things out there!
Make a plan
Having a social plan is hands down one of the most important things you can do. Without a plan, you and your employees will not know how to manage your social media from day to day. Create a plan and schedule to follow and then delegate tasks out to team members, making sure they know their role in your social media. We use HootSuite to plan and manage our social media accounts and postings. It has proven to be a very useful tool and saves a ton of time.
Use the available analytics
Using analytics for social media will give you key insights into what your followers are interested in and how they are interacting with your content. Analytics will provide you with target audience information such as gender, age, and what time of day they are most active. If using HootSuite, they offer a wide range of valuable reporting that can be utilized. Facebook also offers great insights directly from your administration area of your page.
Give them a reason to interact
Along with the solid content you offer, you also need to encourage followers to interact by liking and sharing your posts with friends. Offer them something free, discounted, or maybe provide a coupon for sharing.
You need to remember that your online presence doesn’t stop at just your website and your social media. There are tons of ways that you can be represented online and you need to make sure that your information and branding is consistent and up to date. Some examples of this include being listed on Yelp, Urban Spoon, or Yahoo Business Directory.
Don’t let old information linger
If you’ve submitted your website and business information to online dictionaries and have since then updated your business information, you’ll have to do that with your directory listings as well. They won’t keep this information updated for you and having incorrect information can keep people from being able to contact you.
Don’t rely of this information to be found
With having this supplemental content online, there’s no guarantee of people being able to find these resources. The only resource you should rely on is your website because this is really the only thing that we can control.
If there are bad reviews, don’t try to hide them
It’s easy to see why you’d want to hide something negative online, but there’s a little silver lining to having a negative review or two. It shows you’re human. You’re not just some corporate entity. You’re a company made up of humans that sometimes make mistakes. The best thing to do with negative feedback is to respond sincerely and offer a way to better assist them or to make up for the level of service that was provided.
Integrate and automate when possible
There are some tools you can use to help manage this and other aspects of your online business a little easier. They integrate and streamline some of the processes you need to do in order to keep everything alive and running smoothly. One tool we find useful for this is Google Webmaster Tools
So, when following this guide and keeping these simple rules in check, you’ll have an online presence that is alive, useful, interactive, and fully integrated into your full marketing plan. All the tools and downloads listed throughout this instructional guide are listed at the bottom, as well as on our “downloads” page. All of these resources and tools are completely free except for the Adobe Edge products which are part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. Feel free to let us know what you think of these ideas and ways you’d think they can be improved. If they’ve helped you in bringing your business online, please share your success!