The Art of Standing Out: How to Expertly Brand your Online Business

The online world is getting crowded with websites in almost every niche imaginable. That makes branding and standing out one of the most important elements in building a successful online business.

Through this article, I will outline, in a simple manner, how you can effectively stand out from the crowd so your business can grab online users' attention almost immediately and not become just a drop in the vast sea of the internet.

 

Standing out is about being unique.

When someone comes across your website for the first time, they scan it within the first few seconds, wondering why they should continue reading your content . If your business is similar to others and does not have any unique attributes, you don't give them enough reasons to stick around.

That’s exactly what differentiation does.

Like its name implies, differentiation is the act of making your site different and unique. It is what makes a potential customer consider your brand over another.

You see, online businesses are very much like people - they can blend in with the crowd or they can stand out with their own personality and distinctness.

Your differentiation can be part of your brand (name and/or logo) or part of other elements of your business such as your tagline, your design, and your content.

The important thing is to create an instant impact on your visitors right from the start. You don’t have to write a whole section to explain what makes your business unique; Instead, you want your business to be different in an immediately apparent way.

You basically want your visitors to have positive reactions such as: "This site totally appeals to me"; “I truly identify with its message”; “finally someone speaks my language”...

 

Where to start

The first aspect you should tailor your differentiation to is your brand name. Then comes your domain name, logo, tagline, design, and finally your content.

One thing to note here is that if you already have a running business, it does not mean that you have to start everything over again. All you have to do is add that extra detail that will make your site a bit more unique.
With this in mind, let's look at each of the differentiation elements.

1. Brand Name

Your primary goal is to put the essence of your business into a handful of words. A great brand name is one that is memorable, different from your competitors, and perks curiosity. More than anything, a good name delivers your message clearly and gives your visitors a hint of what your website is all about.

Once you have some ideas, ask yourself the following questions:

[Questions related to the wording] Is my brand…?
   -   Readable?
   -   Memorable?
   -   Concise?
   -   Unique?
   -   Pronounceable?

[Questions related to readers emotions] Is my brand…?
   -   Strong?
   -   Provocative?
   -   Inspiring?
   -   Cheerful?
   -   Inclusive?
   -   Exclusionary?

[Questions related to relevancy] Is my brand…?
- Relevant to the content of my site?
- Relevant to my niche market?

Don't be afraid to be different. Originality and self-expression are a positive thing. Separate yourself from the crowd and make your voice heard - It's your business at the end of the day so find something that inspires you.

2. Domain name

It’s pretty frustrating when you come up with a killer brand name just to find out that it’s impossible to get the domain for it.

“.com” domains have more prestige than the other extensions but having a great name with another extension is much better than sacrificing for a mediocre ".com" brand name. (online users are more likely to Google your brand name anyway rather than type it in the address bars of their browsers).

Your first priority then is to get yourself a killer name that you absolutely love. If the “.com” domain is available then good for you. If not, check the ".net" extension as a second option, or explore other avenues.

It's also okay to add one small word in the beginning (e.g "my") or the end ("secrets") if it doesn’t really change the overall meaning of your brand name. Alternatively, see if you can alter your original name by slightly modifying one of the words. (e.g Passive --> Passively).

P.S. It's important to note that some people choose to use their personal name as the domain name. It's definitely an option, but you want to think of its implications. When you brand yourself, you make the whole business about you, and that might make it more difficult to add other angles or even sell it in the future if you choose to.

3. Logo

Your logo is a graphical representation of your brand and a keystone of your overall branding strategy. It is also the first point of contact with your business so it's important to create a visual element that effectively communicate your overall message.

A good logo is one that is unique, simple, and memorable. You want to create something that is easy to understand, expresses your unique positioning, and conveys your business values.

If you don't have design skills you can find a designer by searching online. I highly recommend 99designs.com, an online marketplace for crowd-sourced graphic design services.

Designing a logo is a crucial part of your overall website design (see point 5 below). It is going to set the tone for all the other aspects of your blog design (colors, fonts, patterns), so don’t hesitate to be critical in the selection process.

4. Tagline

A tagline expands the brand name by giving more details about what the business is all about. Although it is not a must-have element, I highly recommend you have one as can truly be an effective branding tool.

A good tagline is brief and no more than 10-12 words. It also makes it clear what audience your website is targeting. You basically want to create a short message that talks about the direct and tangible benefits your website offers. This can be also referred as your "big promise".

Don't worry if you don't come up with the perfect tagline that everyone is going to love right away. Instead, pick something and run with it. Inspiration and creativity will come to you as you go.

5. Design

Good design should reflect your potential customer's needs and positively represent your brand. It should create a positive first impression to your visitors and draw users in.

Design sets the tone for your site; For example, do you want your site to be…?
   -   Serious
   -   Intellectual
   -   Funny
   -   Witty
   -   Bold
   -   Unconventional

To create a unique design you can either hire a professional designer or search for a pre-made template that can be customized later. Just make sure you consider the following elements before you pick your winning design:

Images and photos - Use images sporadically and for a purpose. Don't just use them for decoration. Too many images disperse the eye path and can cause your readers to be distracted or feel lost.

You can buy images on iStokPhoto.com, or look for free ones on Flicker under The Common Creative License. Google images are another option, but you'll have to seek license or permission if you don't want to face legal action down the road.

This goes without saying but only pick high-quality images. Low-quality images kill all the prestige of your brand and make your online business look unprofessional.

Fonts - Don’t use fancy bizarre fonts. A font is supposed to be first and foremost readable. Most fonts are difficult to read so go for the standard font (Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana) and stick to it for consistency.
Also, pay attention to the size of your headlines and other text elements so they fit with the overall look and feel of your site- continuity is key.

Colors - Colors can communicate a certain mood to your audience so you might want to play with various combinations before you commit to a certain design.

Here are some examples:
   -   Red: Intensity, Passion, Sexuality
   -   Yellow: Optimism, Upbeat, Energy
   -   Blue: Power, Serenity, Seriousness
   -   Green: Money, Nature, Healing
   -   White: Safety, Purity, Cleanliness
   -   Black: Elegance, Stability, Depth

The most important part is to use colors that match well and display good balance. Don’t overuse colors; You don’t want your website to look like a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve with all the glitzy glittery colorful ornaments. When it comes to design, less is often more.

I also recommend you use a white background in your main content areas. It reduces clutter, rests the eye and helps ensure the text is readable.

6. Content

No matter how unique or impressive your design is, it is irrelevant if your content falls short. If you are ignoring the impact of your textual content on your overall brand, you are doing your business a major disservice.

In general, your writing style should be personal and benefits-driven. Your overall message should be useful and compel your readers to take action. (Read more about compelling content)

One way you can be different from everyone else is by simply being yourself and using your authentic voice. Personality is a great differentiator as each one of us is unique in some way. Don’t just blend into the background- express your personality in a way that’s different from others.

 

Passively Free as a Branding Example

There are literally thousands of websites where you can learn how to make money online. Passively Free is different. This website is branded as a gateway for financial freedom seekers.

The brand name uses the word "Passively" to reflect the main means of achieving freedom: passive income, and the word "free" to convey the ultimate objective: Freedom.

In regards to the logo, my aim was to create one that would be simple, memorable, carry the right message, and catch viewers attention. The current logo has achieved this. I used an eye-catching yellow sticky note for the "free" part of the logo in order to emphasize the primary message and to illustrate the "sticky" reminder that one might want to post on his wall.

The overall design is geared towards simplicity and readability, which is very different than the noisy banner-filled designs that you often see in sites dedicated to the "making money online" niche. The white space and clean layout allows the content to be the centerpiece of the website which was my intent.

On the content side, my focus was on publishing text that was motivating, personal, and most importantly, useful. I saw too many shallow "500 words" articles and I wanted oneyeartofreedom.com to be different in that regards. The road to financial freedom is not a get-rich-quick scheme and I believe it requires content with a more comprehensive and in-depth approach.

 

Finding the Right Balance

Despite the importance of being unique, this is not the ultimate goal. Being useful is.

Don’t just serve the goal of differentiation and sacrifice the ultimate goal of providing value to your readers. You'll need to find the right balance between differentiation and benefit to others.

The ultimate question to ask here is: ”How do I provide a benefit to my readers in a unique way?”

If your site combines both aspects, then you know you're on the right track. You can look at the benefit part as the regulatory standard that keeps you in touch with what your audience is primarily looking for.

 

Action Steps and Last Words

The following will help your business stand out:

1. Identify your niche market and your unique selling proposition. What can your site uniquely offer that no other site is currently offering? (if you haven't picked a niche yet, check out my free ebook Pick Your Nice)

2. Think how you can express your uniqueness through each of the six elements discussed in this post (brand name, domain name, logo, tag line, design, content).

3. Research other sites, especially those in your niche market, that convey a similar message and brainstorm new elements you can bring to your site.

Remember, standing out and being unique can make a world of difference. Spend the time and form a solid foundation for your business to thrive.

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