Branding 101

Build A Brand To Remember

Brands come in all shapes and sizes. Successful brands come in a much more limited set, restricted by guidelines, business values, and investor concerns, among other things.

I have spent more than 20 years working on branding issues. It has been part of my work in creating and developing brands and their strategies for businesses around the world. One primary lesson I learned about branding is, it’s important to always be open to learning from experts who have plenty of experience in branding, even if you have a pure, raw, natural talent for it.

And while that is obviously true for just about any subject, it is even more so in branding, because branding involves making a connection between people, … not just yourself … and the ideas and messages communicated by the brand. And here’s why this lesson is so incredibly important: If you don’t make the emotional or mental connection with whoever sees the brand, then you probably won’t form any further relationship with that person, so you’ve already lost them before you ever had a chance to get to know them.

Branding pre-requisites

Understanding what makes brands succeed or fail is a preliminary requirement before you go about trying to grapple the process on your own. Normally, it involves more than one person to get the job done right.

Without being too metaphorical, a brand is a lot like a tattoo. It’s kind of permanent, if it’s done well, but even the best made brand will experience subtle changes over time. If not maintained properly, it will eventuall fade and become less appealing. If maintained well, it will become more beautiful over time, and can even be refreshed from time to time by great creative visionaries and artists.

Given this idea, it is important to spend some time considering the Pros and Cons of various color palettes and combinations. Test with your instincts, your feelings, your thoughts, and yes, with blind test groups where possible. If you’re a one-person show, then test with a professional graphic artist or brand designer. If you can’t afford to do that, then test with a trusted friend, or better yet, multiple friends, if you can’t afford to do a proper multi-panel test. You’ll be surprised how others perceive the greatness you have conceived.

Don’t just sit there. Decide.

Eventually, you will need to pick a set of colors that you think will work best.  Go ahead. Do it. Don’t be afraid. These colors can be changed .. even if only slowly .. later on.

As an example, here are the main colors I decided to go with for this site, when I got to this point in creating this lesson. They’re nice and richly saturated. They go together, complimenting each other with a strong enough contrast without blinding the eyes.

theme colors for from 2014 march 7

And here is the custom cartoon image I created and decided to use as my branded avatar for this website, once I arrived to this point in creating this lesson.

yamaha harari custom cartoon avatar

Then, I put down on paper my thoughts about what I communicate through the SEO and Marketing tutorials on this website. And I boiled it down, pretty quickly, to just three words. Marketing. Savvy. Shared.

Mixing those ideas with the colors and cartoon image of myself and my name, I came up with this branded header.

yasha harari website cartoony brand headingTotal time: 20 minutes, including 15 minutes for the graphics and 5 minutes to write about it here.

Note: If you can’t design well or make cool graphics quickly, hire a pro. It’s worth it. Go to odesk or fiverr or freelancer sites anywhere online and you can get graphics done … affordably.

    Useful Brand Builder Resource:

    Need a cool graphic done on time and under budget?
    Get what you need right now, at [button icon=heart]Freelancer[/button]

That site has been around many years, and has a network of over 10 Million users. I have used their services often, and I definitely recommend them.

By the way, here’s a great video about branding from a TEDx event, by a guy named Sasha, not to be confused with me, Yasha.

And here’s another clip, which you actually have to read, that explains pretty well (in 2011 terms) a big picture summary of the history of branding and how it has changed over the centuries.

And of course, if you enjoyed what you read in this article and want to help me in my effort to put Google to the test, then please share the link to this page on your social media profile or wherever else it could benefit others.

OK, that’s it for now. Good luck making your own kickass brand that’s memorable, and totally awesome, and stay tuned for the next lesson in building a top website.

Previous Lesson: 2014 Challenge 1 : Build a Top Website

Next Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 2.6 : SEO Overview : A brief history of search engine optimization

2014 Build A Top Website Challenge #1

Hi there.

As many of you know, I am an avid internet business guy. I have been working this digital medium for 20+ years, and using computers properly since around 1980 or so (when I was still a very young lad). So I think it’s about time that I share some of my really useful lessons and information that you can benefit from.

I spent decades learning this stuff, and I have decided to give away what I know, for free, so you don’t have to struggle as I did, to learn the hard way how this is all done. I’m about to blow your mind, by revealing deep insider secrets about how you can make your own successful website, and if you’re so inclined, earn your way up to the point where you can quit your day job if you wish, or keep it as a side income. You’re welcome. 🙂

So without further ado … here we go.

Challenge #1

On March 3, 2014, I decided to put this website, my little blog, to the test.

By following only strict white hat SEO rules as layed out in Google Webmaster Tools and other best practices used by professionals throughout the search engine optimization industry, I began testing what effect this will have on this website’s popularity with people and with google going forward.

In other words, even though this website is published by an SEO and digital marketing professional, and covers the topic of SEO and Affiliate Marketing, this site does not use any SEO strategies, tricks or techniques to artificially increase backlinks or pump up its own rankings in search results (aka: SERPs) in Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, DuckDuckGo or any other search engine. Not even my own (Yes, I have built / coded search engines from scratch). All I chose to do for this web site is follow the white hat SEO rules. Nothing more, nothing less.

Let’s see if Matt Cutts is correct when he says that all a webmaster has to do to get a site well ranked and successful as an authoritative site in any niche, is to just publish great content that people will want to share, or at least use a lot even if they keep the knowledge just to themselves.

My Promotional Strategy

To be clear, all I will do to promote this website on its path to success, is:
A) Post in forums like DigitalPoint, TrafficPlanet & WarriorForum
B) Get involved on social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc.
C) Comment on blog posts (with relevant links to my tutorials where appropriate)
D) Set up some commando Google Alerts to discover new sites and other places where I can get involved
E) Ask people to share the page to get exclusive access to my unique professional set of resources
F) Directly ask people to share
G) Ensure that it is easy for you and other people to share my content, connect with me on social media networks and subscribe to my e-mail updates.

Hopefully this simple and straightforward method, together with great content, shall suffice in growing the blog into a successful one.

Learn. Replicate. Customize. Enjoy.

By the way, if you would like to study and apply the methods of how I have grown this site from nothing into what it is today, you may simply follow and copy my work step-by-step as outlined from here on out.

Of course, your site could be about any topic; Arts, entertainmant, news, SEO, Zelda, just to name a few. And it can offer any product or service. How you pick your niche is a whole other lesson. I plan to release a post about that.

For now, lets’s say you already have your idea, and you’re ready to start to put your site up. Now what? Where will you register your domain name? Who will you choose as your web host? What about privacy? Ecommerce features? Other options? The answers to those questions will also be adressed.

Lesson 1, Step 1 : Pick a domain name registrar and web host.

The first step for newbies or anyone thinking of building a new website, is to get signed up with a domain name registrar. A registrar is simply the company that registers your domain name. Many of them also provide high quality web hosting, which is where you store your website so that it is available to people around the world.

There are many great web hosts that can handle any new website you might want to setup and run. They include Dreamhost, GoDaddy, Bluehost, Gandi, HostGator, and so many more. There are literally dozens of great ones to choose from, and they are all very affordable. Your location, and where your audience is primarily based, is also key to picking your host. Also, things like easy software installation and management, easy domain management and other goodies and freebies which hosts often give away (including hundreds of dollars worth of free PPC ads on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) can be compelling bells & whistles that may help you decide which is the best option for your needs and your budget.

If you would like to see a great registrar and web host at work, [button icon=heart]checkout Godaddy[/button]

They always have great offers. I know, they have a lot of critics. Of course, every top web host has many critics. That’s what happens when you’re successful. Still, GoDaddy has remarkably great service, and really low prices. At least that’s been my experience with them over the years, and I use many web hosts simultaneously, to handle all of the different websites I run.

Another solid domain name registrar and web host I recommend is, [button icon=heart]JustHost[/button]

Although I have more experience with GoDaddy than with JustHost, I can say that so far, I have only had great service with JustHost, and they also offer very competitive package deals with great features and low prices.

If you like what you read here and would like to contribute to this effort to put Google to the test, then all I ask is that you please share the link to this page on your social networks or anywhere else with anyone you know who could benefit from it.

While you’re thinking about that, have fun looking at these pictures and videos.

OK, that’s it for now. Be sure to check back soon. I’ll be updating these lessons.

Next Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 2: Branding 101

What I like about the new Yahoo! flickr and tumblr

The revived Yahoo! shines with a flickr of light

How one woman helped get that done.

marissa mayer caricatureIf you haven’t noticed, every since ex-Googler Marissa Mayer took up the reins as CEO of Yahoo! … the old purple bastion of human-interevened search in Silicon Valley has lifted itself up out of the grave which it once dug for itself.

In fact, Mayer has done such an outstanding job that she is now boss of the company that just last month, in July, 2013, Yahoo! saw its US search traffic top that of Google, for the first time in … well, since just about the first time that Google took first place.

So what has the new Yahoo! Chief done that has helped turn around the once dying dinosaur?

Well, I’m not going to bore you with all of the rumors and reports of internal changes, or the lavish expenses she afforded herself to build a childcare facility exclusively for her own offspring. Nope. I’m just going to focus on the three biggest changes that have rolled into town, or rather, into Yahoo! in the past year.

1) She bought tumblr. While this may not seem like anything that would help Yahoo! back to the top spot in U.S. web search, the fact is that tumblr is a fast growing service, still used mostly by teens and young adults. They are the prime demographic to target for early adoption and for social marketing. When something spreads on tumblr, it generally spreads elsewhere, too. Yes, it’s a big risk (in terms of capital) but the payoff is tremendous, if it can be actualized. And so far, so good (at least from an outside perspective).

2) She made flickr probably the coolest photo and video (and file) storage facility online. Every single flickr account now has a Terabyte (yes, that’s right, a terabyte) of free space. That’s one thousand Gigabytes. I’m not sure if you’re counting, but the last time I checked, Google accounts were in the 30 GB range, and that’s for old accounts with tons of content on them already. This makes flickr the uniquely positioned player to dominate the space of content farming.

3) She is turning Yahoo! Search into something more algorithmic, and less polluted by human interference. This one’s my favorite. When she was at Google, Ms. Mayer helped brand the extremely computer-based algorithms and SERPs of the GOOG as the most elegant way to give users what they were searching for.

However, if you’ve looked at Google over the last year, you will have noticed that their biases and other silly protocols are interfering more and more in what their search engine results pages display. In other words, Google is becoming less and less computational, and more and more based on the human bias of their editors and executives (nepotism is already in full swing there — just ask Page and Brinn, the two co-founders, who have allowed their friends and family’s websites to shoot straight to the top of their niches, without any apparent reason of actual authoritativeness).

Meanwhile, Yahoo!, which started out as a fully human directory, has started to show that it too can compete in the algorithm game, and the search results are becoming more and more bias-free, and based increasingly on science.

Oh yeah, and without adding it to the list, she upgraded the Yahoo! logo The first one I saw was on August 28. It was a simple Times looking font I saw last week looked almost accidental, only to be replaced with a kind of clean, futuristic runes font. It’s very retro … the one from last week was almost a rip-off of the old Google font. It kind of said “our logo doesn’t matter. You’re here to find what you’re looking for, regardless of the pretty face we put out front.” And now the new one seems to hark to ancient times … long before there was an Internet, or anything digital, for that matter, save for our index fingers. And now they’re rolling out (as a test?) a new logo every day in September. Here’s a sneak preview they posted on YouTube (a Google company):

So three cheers for Mayer, and may we all see a better Yahoo! grow, yay, even as hipsters and mainstream users turn away from the omnipresent and privacy-intruding Google.

A neat tool quietly rolled into Gmail

Google surprise: A neat tool quietly rolled into Gmail

There’s something nifty in a popular Google product, even if you don’t know it’s there.

Gmail attachment checker

Despite my not-always-positive views of the Google, overall I do think they are a remarkable company. One of the great value assets is their ability to create really useful software applications.

Gmail, the popular google version of email on the web, aka: webmail, is one such application. In Gmail, when you write an email, and mention an attachment to your recipient, the webmail application checks the message to see if there is in fact a file attached. That way, you don’t accidentally send without the file you intended to attach.

Here’s an example of what it looks like, from inside a Gmail account:

google gmail file attached checker feature

You’ll see a screen similar to this (minus my in-signature cartoon) when you forget to attach a file in your gmail message.

Try it for yourself. Compose a new mail in your Gmail. Write “attach” or “attachment” or “attached” in an email that you send to any of your contacts (or to yourself if you don’t have anything to send anyone). Don’t attach any file. Hit Send. You’ll see the screen get darker and a window pops up and says:

  • Did you mean to attach files?
  • You wrote “attached file” in your message, but there are no files attached. Send anyway?

And then it offers you to “Cancel” – go back to the message to attach the file you want to include, or “Send Anyway” – without an attachment.

Now, it is a little silly to call the “go back to the message” button “Cancel”. Why not just label the button “Go back to message to add attachment(s)” ? or just “Attach” and make it go straight to the file attachment facility? I don’t know. I guess they have a reason for it, like, the software engineers don’t know how to communicate plain English so fluently now that Marissa Mayer has moved over to Yahoo! All the same, it is a brilliant and handy little feature, ensuring a higher quality experience when sending email from your Gmail account.

So there you have it.  If you already use Gmail, I hope that you enjoy this useful built-in feature.  And I publicly applaud Google for this great tiny evolution of webmail. I hope other email and webmail makers include a similar feature in their own applications, sooner rather than later.

How Spam and Google effectively ruined the internet for millions of publishers and other people

How Spam and Google effectively ruined the internet for millions of publishers and other people

satire editorial cartoon of google copyright school 2011 april 14

black and white editorial comic of the google copyright school by laughzilla for thedailydose on 2011-04-14

The day the indie publisher died, care of Spam and Google

The gold rush of the first Internet wave

Back in the heady days of the 1990s until mid-2000, independent internet publishers were able to easily thrive online, both by email and on the then-nascent world wide web.

Back then, you literally just had to know how to have a web page set up (whether you built it or had a friend do it for you), set up an email list, start publishing to your email list (and sometimes to your web site, too), make sure you were indexed in Yahoo! and AltaVista, and a dozen other engines and directories, and your list would probably start to grow, as long as you delivered a consistent product or service, like a newsletter or research paper or magazine.

Once your traffic was rolling, you could start calling advertisers (by looking them up online or in the yellow pages), and start selling ads for $500 or $2000, minimum, without having to negotiate very much at all. It seemed like a lot of money for independent publishers, and an incredibly cheap deal for advertisers.

Publishers were happy. Advertisers were happy. Everyone seemed happy.

Then something happened, and it wasn’t what you might think.

In October 2000, the tech bubble popped. Billions upon billions of dollars were vaporized, and gone were the masses of well-funded no-value companies, who managed to rake in huge sums of investor funds, without so much as a penny of revenue, let alone profit.

At the same time, independent companies, with real revenue and (cough cough) real profit margins were hit by something much worse: Spam and heavy reliance on vaporware advertisers.

Those advertisers with so much money to spend on low ROI branding, were only too happy to spend a fortune when times were good, money was plentiful, and the living was easy. We were all drunk on the ease of it all. The advertisers did not want or expect results, because they were overloaded with just getting their clients online, anywhere they could be seen.

All of a sudden, they had no more money, because they were too proud of their “burn rate” for far too long. Rather than taking a long, slow approach to building real value with their substantial investments, they spent it all with a splash, and went out with the crash.

Of course, the publisher were not complaining when the dollars were raining down in a torrent. Then again, they were not doing anything to prepare for the likelihood that the party would end, and reality would sink in. The future, for anyone who had a clue, was bleak, difficult, and full of years of survival, let along growing pains.

All of that is just the fault of everyone legitimately involved in the internet publishing industry back in those days. In that sense, we were all to blame.

Even so, that failure to properly manage well-heeled bank accounts to support these fledgling companies, was nothing compared to the illegitimate abuse of internet resources.

The first villain to rear its ugly head in that way, was spam. Unsolicited mail. Junk email. The junk that used to pile up in your inbox, and somehow, despite all the advances in anti-spam filters, still does.

Spam killed email.

Yes, it’s been said before. I just have something particular to say about it.

Spam killed off the publishing of a Pangea-sized ocean of perfectly legitimate, hard-won email lists, built up by wonderful businesses whose primary access to the online world, was their inbox.

Email lists, of all kinds, belonging to all sorts of publishers, from small to large, from independent to large publicly traded corporations, could no longer reach their customers, because spam flooded their inboxes so badly, that people simply switched addresses, or stopped using email as much as possible.

While it may not sound so bad, the net result was that it killed off the creme de la creme of online publishers who had managed to build up real trust with people through their email.

Of course what led to so much spam was also partly to blame on some of the publishers themselves. They had been selling off or renting off lists of their subscribers to the highest bidder, or any buyer who would offer, without knowing anything about those buyers, their interests, their motives, or any of their future use plans. Of course, spammers did not rely solely on buying lists. They used bots. Little software robots that could gather email addresses automatically from emails, web pages, and other places on the internet.

Those little bots not only gathered the lists, they “cleaned” them by merging and purging. They formed them into new lists and automatically started blasting away highly targeted ads for pills, porn, casinos and other delightful adult products and services we all obviously need every single day.

But even that did not finish off the little publisher, or the large publisher who wanted to hang in there and ride out the storm for better days.

Nope. It wasn’t spam. Because after all, smart publishers were able to migrate from one media to the next, and if they were resourceful enough, they could do it without losing too much in the shuffle. They might even find the new media to be more profitable. For a while.

And then Google ate the Internet

It was right around the tech bubble bursting that Google became the rising superstar leading up to the lovable fuzzy cyber monster muppet that it is today.

Google, complete with its whiz-bang algorithms, was the talk of tech. They had secretly formulated the perfect recipe to deliver exactly what you asked for, by searching for things in plain human languages. Or so they said, and most people seemed to believe them.

Google is a brilliant company. Thousands of the best minds, all working together, developing software and applications that mere mortals dare not dream. Google has created many wonderful tools which have vastly improved the usability of the internet, chief among those being their search engine, and their email known as Gmail.

Still, what Google also did, was to use the power of their search engine, to legitimately buy out the online advertising industry, and like a gorilla, crush it.

Anyone could join google’s ad network. Anyone could use google’s search on their site, even customized. Anyone could let google copy their entire website, and forever own the copies they made and store. And anyone could earn a sliver of the amount they could earn with direct advertisers for the same space, before Google decided to stick itself into everyone’s business, and lower the money flow to pennies on the dollar, if that.

So yes, they managed to lower ad rates, and that was good for advertisers. But by doing so, they killed off many good and valuable media by pawning off low value traffic to the same advertisers, and not paying the good media a rate commensurate with their value. Google’s ad network became the largest cesspool of bottom feeders. And that attracted all the web spammers who ruined search, thus decreasing the value of those google ads, even further.

So much for the Google creed, “Don’t be evil.”

Google stole the Internet by asking for it

Permission marketing is a very positive idea in business, developed online by Seth Godin and others of that stream of thought, which says that sales and marketing are like a date: you have to speak to your date before you go together to the dance, or movie, or dinner. You need permission for every step. That sort of behavior builds solid trust. Lacking that behavior shows a lack of trustworthiness.

Google used permission marketing, by offering the greatest app ever (free search) for anyone’s web site, accompanied by the only app that at the time seemed even greater than the greatest app ever. And that application was: Google AdSense.

By opening up the web to millions more websites into the advertising pool, Google managed to lower the bid rate and value of advertising on the web. They effectively killed off the amounts that advertisers were willing to pay for perfectly good media on sites that had actual audiences.

Google, with all its good intentions, may have delivered better search results, but the cost was that it killed off ad revenues by more than 90% for most internet publishers. That, more than Spam, more than the economic disaster that followed the tech bubble, put millions of websites out of business.

The net effect is that now, more than a decade later, we have yet to see a return to any heyday or good times for publishers online. The exception to that are those publishers who have the means to build or buy themselves a significant, targeted distribution network, with a minimum of millions of contacts. For most media companies, even if you were reaching millions of people a day back in 2000, you probably aren’t doing that anymore. And you can thank Google for doing that, by “organizing the world’s information” in the way that they prefer, and destroying its value in the process.

By making everyone believe that they would always find what they wanted on Google, hundreds of millions, if not billions of people are now basically clueless as to other ways of finding information online. Google is not the be all and end all of search engines. Users relying on google innocently caused so much traffic to be lost from sites that had worked to build something of real value, that those sites could no longer support themselves with Google blocking everyone’s way to their sites.

Of course, the GOOG was not the only one to ask for permission to copy and own your content, in exchange for cheap-o advertising and free search tools. But, they were the best, and the fruit they bore was to build the world’s largest internet advertising network, and the most popular search engine, all at the cost of ruining the ad revenue of millions of companies that were around online, long before anyone had heard of Google.

The story doesn’t end in darkness. There is a better future.  A brighter day did arrive. It’s for another post.