Today is all about strategy.
If you aren’t completely sure about your brand, how are others supposed to be? We want to make sure we’re using our time mindfully and doing things that are most effective and most efficient.
So today we’re going to start the month off right. We’ll set specific goals, define your brand, flesh out a tangible strategy, and craft a strategic link diagram.
With your goals in mind, you’ll be fired up to do your best work for the rest of the month.
Let’s answer some initial questions:
(Yes, this day of strategy matters. Do the thinking now so we can cruise later.)
What’s the Main Keyword?
This is the main search term or phrase you are trying to rank for in search results and use as your brand. It’s important to figure this out now to keep your brand consistent.
If you’re crafting your corporate brand, the keyword will be your business’s name. If you’re tackling your personal brand, the keyword will be your name. Remember to use your full name or the name that people will actually use to look you up online. Don’t use Rick Ross if people know you by Richard Ross.
What’s the Primary Search Location
Your search location is your primary business location. It’s important to make this clear because Google is increasingly using local factors to determine relevancy in search results. There will of course be some cross-over when people search your name elsewhere, but you want to give yourself the best chance of ranking well in your main business location.
I live in Brooklyn and sometimes travel to Connecticut and Long Island but it would make no sense for those to be my primary search locations. I do the majority of my business in New York City, so that’s what I’ll choose.
Define Your Goal
Is your goal to take control of the way you’re viewed online? Is it to primarily push down a negative result? Are you trying to get more leads or build brand loyalty? The nature of your goal will inform the kind of work you do and will help to keep things consistent as you progress.
For me, my primary goal is to take control of the way I’m viewed online. I want to become the go-to resource for personal branding and online reputation management. My goal tells me I need to create content that provides value for people interested in personal branding and Online Reputation Management (ORM). It also informs what kind of social media platforms I should be using.
Define Your Brand
The next step is turning that goal into a tangible brand. If you had to describe yourself in the third person to someone random, what would your elevator pitch be?
This is important because it will inform the type of social networks you’ll choose and the content you write. If your brand is informal and fun, you’ll probably be on different social networks than someone who wants to portray a brand that’s professional and formal.
[Your Name] is the…
Ryan Erskine is the light-hearted and transparent branding expert and online reputation specialist in New York City. He’s managed dozens of personal and corporate brands and is a go-to resource for anything related to content marketing, personal branding, and online reputation management. He enjoys working out, reading, writing, and trying new foods.
Now that you have a tangible brand, you can adequately choose the foundational social media properties to use in your campaign. Remember, we’re not actually building or optimizing these profiles now -- we’re just doing all the mental legwork now to make our lives easier later.
Here are the 10 I chose with a quick explanation for why I chose them:
LinkedIn: This is a go-to profile for professional networking. It ranks incredibly well by itself and I cannot think of a reason why you wouldn’t want one. Get it.
Twitter: Same deal here. Twitter is another go-to networking tool and is standard procedure at this point for most professionals. It ranks well and will be useful for promoting the content you create over the next 4 weeks.
Slideshare: Owned by LinkedIn, this slideshow-sharing network is another high-ranker. It’s a great way to showcase your articles and insights in a visual format for a different audience.
About.me: About.me has quickly become a staple in my ORM campaigns for a number of reasons. It’s a super easy way to build yourself a professional landing page and you can even put a custom domain on it. It looks professional with just a few quick clicks, it’s a great way to visually represent your resume, and it tends to rank incredibly well.
Youtube: The famous video-sharing network is a high-ranker and it’s nice to have a video platform in your arsenal. I didn’t have any great video content to share when I first made it, but I plan to make some down the line.
Google+: I’ve seen Google+ rank well and I figure why not hedge my bets -- if I’m looking to improve my search results, it doesn’t hurt to spend a little time using Google’s own social network. Plus, Youtube and Google+ share some information with each other, so if you’re using one, you might as well use the other.
Crunchbase: Crunchbase is an online database where you can look up people, organizations, startups, products, and events. It ranks well and is super low maintenance once you’ve set it up. Go ahead and make this a staple in your campaign.
Pinterest: Pinterest is the online equivalent of ripping out your favorite magazine and newspaper clippings and pinning them on a corkboard. It’s a fun social network where you can help direct traffic to your own articles. With a little dedication, you can build yourself a really strong Pinterest following. Pinterest is a nice addition for me because I can round out my personal brand by showcasing some of my personal interests like cooking, baking, and home decor.
Quora: Quora is a question and answer forum. It’s a great way to expand the reach of the articles we write over the next 4 weeks. Simply repurpose the content you’ve already written to answer questions that folks have in your industry. It can even rank well on its own with enough time and attention.
Instagram: Like Pinterest, Instagram is another picture-sharing network that can be a fun way to visually share content with a different audience. I’m using it as another platform to personalize myself by showcasing the tasty foods I cook and eat. This is great for growing a following because there is already an active foodie community on Instagram that I can immerse myself in.
Some alternatives to consider:
Facebook: The social network giant is definitely one to consider for your campaign. I have personally grown to hate the advertisements and social culture on Facebook, so I didn’t want to use it as part of my campaign and prefer to keep it for personal use. It can definitely rank well if you optimize it correctly and adjust your privacy settings.
Medium: A platform for sharing written content, Medium is a great place to repurpose the content you create. The audience is somewhat tech-oriented, so this is definitely a profile to consider if you’re in that industry.
Vimeo: Vimeo is another video site, but it’s a bit more niche than Youtube and has a connotation for having higher quality video content. If your brand would benefit from an audience of serious video creators and viewers, then consider Vimeo a viable alternative.
Tumblr: Tumblr is a microblogging platform and social network with an active teen and college-age audience. Tumblr could be a good way to round out your brand and reach a different audience altogether. I have a client who’s a c-suite executive and is also really into comics -- Tumblr is a great place to showcase that hobby to a relevant audience.
It’s worth mentioning that there are some industry-specific social profiles that are must-haves if you’re in the given industry.
If you’re in finance, consider Stocktwits.
Creating a Link Diagram
Having a tight link structure matters and can have a dramatic impact on search results.
There are times when custom link strategies are required, but I can’t go into that without knowing more about the specifics of your campaign. When you’re working with one website, a good rule of thumb is to link all of your social profiles to that main site.
This is what my link diagram looks like. It’s a simple strategy but it works well.
You don't need to worry about actually linking any properties anywhere just yet -- that will come -- but you should think about what property you want to boost the highest in rankings. That's the one you'll probably want to link to.
Optional Step: Take Screenshots
Use your main keyword and primary search location to see how your results look in Google right now. You haven’t done anything yet, but that’s the point. We’ll use them as a measuring stick for the rest of the campaign and will be able to compare results 1 month later, 3 months later, 6 months later, 12 months later, and beyond.
Pro Tip: Download the Chrome extension called Awesome Screenshot to make this really easy.
→ Spend 5 minutes following this step-by-step process to screenshot your Google Search Results (GSR)
1. First open up an incognito window.
In Chrome, you do this by going to File → New Incognito Window. Google likes to personalize searches based on saved data, and an incognito window allows you to search without being affected by personalization factors. You’re essentially searching from the “average” person’s point of view.
2. Go to Google and search your main keyword.
3. Go to the end of the URL and type &location=new+york to give yourself the location-specific results. Of course, change the location as needed.
4. Click the Awesome Screenshot extension and capture the entire page. Then go to the 2nd page of results and do the same thing. Then do it again for the 3rd page.
→ Answer the questions above regarding keyword, location and brand definition.
→ Research “niche social profiles in ____ industry” to see if there are a couple of worthwhile profiles you’d like to add to your campaign.
→ Take time now to determine your foundational properties. You can always add to this list later, but it’s good to formulate a plan now.
→ Create a link diagram for your campaign (even it you just do it mentally)
→ OPTIONAL: Take screenshots of your search results so you can track progress.