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November 5, 2007

Creating a Strong Web Identity

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As was mentioned, I was out of the office on Friday enjoying a cocktail of muscle relaxers, chocolate and daytime television. I know it sounds fun, but it really wasn’t. You can only ingest so much daytime television before you find yourself getting altogether depressed. I mean, does anyone know who their baby’s daddy is anymore? It’s a dog eat dog world out there, man.

In order to lift my spirits a bit, I became a Sphinnster for the day. Hell, with the amount of content uploaded to that site, taking time off work to dig through the mess is the only way to uncover the real gems. One of the gems I found was a blog entry written by Chris from Westward Strategy entitled The Web Is No Longer About Presence, It’s About Identity.

True that, my friend.

The idea of Chris’ post is that while it was acceptable 5 or 6 years ago just to exist on the Web, today you need to do more than that. Your Web site can’t just be a placeholder. It should hold your marketing strategy and communicate to your audience who you are, why you’re different and makes you so much gosh darn better than your competition.

This is one of the biggest problems we see with a lot of prospective clients’ sites. Everyone is so consumed with staking their presence on the Web that that’s all they’ve managed to do – exist online. They buy the domain name, plan out the site, write up some relevant content and then they wait for the Internets to bring them the traffic and the adoring fans. Soon they will be rich!

Only they’re not rich. They’re not even successful. They’re Just Another Web site and nobody cares.

It’s like going to a flea market where every tent looks exactly the same. Except that one tent over there that’s just a little bit different and for some reason is mobbed. It’s mobbed because it’s different.

I suppose if I wanted to be industry-relevant I could also compare it to the exhibition floor at an SES. Everyone in that hall is selling or offering pretty much the same thing. Sure, there are variations and slightly different focuses, but really, it’s all about optimizing your site for the search engines, right? Have you ever really walked through the hall and looked around? It’s like an experiment in banner blindness. Which booths do you recognize? Which ones have an identity? Why does everyone and their mother always end up at the BOTW booth? Is it really that big of a mystery?

The booths that get the most foot traffic are the ones that break the Just Another Booth mold. They have a presence.

The way to create yourself a presence on the Web is to first decide who you want to be, and then live and breathe that.

Do you want to be the site that sells cowboy boots for the lowest prices? Or do you want to be the site known for only selling the most exclusive cowboy boots and for ridiculous expensive prices? Or maybe you’re the site that sells designer rip off cowboy boots (if so, call me!). Identify your site objective and then build your marketing strategy around that. Make that identity visible in everything that you do.

And I’m talking about your entire marketing strategy. Part of building your Web identity will also mean tying in your Web site in with the rest of your marketing efforts. How will it sync up with the display ads your running, with your email marketing strategy, with the television ads, the ads in the local newspapers, etc? Whatever ideas or concepts you’re working around offline and offsite should be the primary force behind your Web site, as well. This allows the whole thing to come off as cohesive and for your users to be able to trust your brand.

Instead of creating your Web site to just mark your territory, why not actually do something with it? Take the opportunity to shows customers who you are, why you’re better and to establish some sort of trust. Break out of that damn template and show me something I haven’t seen before.

The top brands don’t just have a Web presence, they have an identity that has been created and strengthened through their marketing strategy. What do you think of when you think of Apple or Google or even Search Engine Land? Whether the feeling you get in your stomach is warm and fuzzy or vile and fuzzy, what you feel is their identity.

What are you doing to shape the feeling people get about your? Does your Web site have a presence or does it just exist?

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3 responses to “Creating a Strong Web Identity”

  1. Talita writes:

    Very true… I find that in general, people still have very unrealistic expectations of what it takes to succeed on the web. We sometimes even talk our customers out of big projects when we realise they are completely naive and unprepared – we encourage them to put their toes in the water first. Otherwise, the disappointment can be great.

  2. JC Carvill writes:

    You are right. Life in the online world has changed so much. You need to be everywhere at once to be able to make it. Participate in online forums…comment on people’s blogs…network until your fingers go black. Just go out and do it. I find once people know your name they are more likely to see you.

  3. Chris G. writes:

    Thanks for the mention Lisa! Because most business people are not immersed in the web the same way we are, they have failed to see the shift.

    One way we have started to overcome this mentality is to show prospective clients the quantifiable nature of the web today. The tools and opportunites to truly make an impact whether you are a Google, an Apple or even just a Pop’s Sandwich Shop are only limited by your imagination (and sometimes your pocketbook)!

    That is often enough to propel them into action and get them to stake their presence and deliver an identity.



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