A strong brand can help you stand out from the competition, get more sales, and become a household name in your niche.
It’s also really hard to build one.
You don’t become Apple, Coca-Cola, or Geico on accident.
The good news? If you can build a brand that’s a fraction as successful as the companies above, you can dramatically grow your business.
The question is…how?
That’s what we’ll cover in today’s ultimate guide.
What is a Brand?
You can define a brand in a lot of different ways.
A brand is an overall experience of a customer that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer.
When you think of a brand, the thought of visuals, logo, and the company name might come to mind.
You might think of advertising, commercials, catchphrases, and jingles.
All these definitions work, but we’re going to focus on the brand definition that can move the needle for your business in 2019.
For this guide, we’re going to look at branding through the lens of content marketing.
Why? Because content marketing is one of the best ways to get your company in front of thousands of people and become a household name.
Branding and Content Marketing: The Perfect Marriage
The first benefit of using a content marketing campaign to build your brand is obvious – more traffic, leads, sales, and name recognition.
But did you know that strengthening your brand has positive benefits for your search engine optimization efforts? In a post titled The Future of SEO: It’s Not What You’re Expecting, Neil Patel had this to say about your brand’s impact on SEO:
The EX-CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, talked about how the Internet is becoming a place where false information is thriving. Essentially, the Internet is becoming a cesspool.
He went on to discuss how brands were becoming more important signals whether or not content can be trusted.
In other words, if you want to do well in the long run, you have to build a brand.
This makes total sense.
A few years back, SEO was pretty simple – find the right keywords, write decent content, get some backlinks, and boom, you could rank your website.
But Google’s mission has been pretty clear – they want to serve up the best possible results to searchers.
You could have a well-optimized site, but the updates to Google’s algorithm keeps making it harder to use simple techniques:
- The Penguin Update made low-quality links irrelevant, meaning you had to put real effort into promoting your content
- The Panda Update made low-quality content irrelevant, meaning you now have to write content that truly stands out to rank
- The Hummingbird Update helped search engines better understand content, meaning techniques like keyword stuffing became irrelevant
- Rank Brain ensures you need to have engagement on your website to rank
To date, Google has made thousands of updates to their algorithm. They change it all the time.
You can react to their updates in one of two ways – get frazzled and try to keep up or focus on long-term strategies that work.
The long-term strategies that help you grow your online presence fall in line with activities you should be using to build your brand:
- Creating content people want to consume
- Making sure your website is visually appealing and has a positive user experience
- Being consistent with promoting your business online
- Spending money on your marketing, like working with an agency or running PPC ads
The bottom line: anything less than in-depth, informative, and entertaining content marketing campaigns won’t work well in 2019.
It’s time to step up your content and branding game at the same time.
Here’s how you do it.
Adopt This Brand-Building Mindset First
Kevin Plank had an absurd dream.
He wanted to compete with Nike.
At the time, Nike is untouchable. To try to compete with them in the sportswear category was insane, but Kevin tried it anyway. And it worked. He also had a unique product to bring to the market – his wick wear technology undershirts. A fullback in college, he grew tired of having to changed soaked shirts during practices and games.
He chose a market segment to focus on — football. You can see Under Armour logos on gear worn in movies like Any Given Sunday and Friday Night Lights. He networked with football teams to feature his gear. Eventually, he expanded the line to feature clothing for different sports and went on to sign major athletes like Stephen Curry to endorse Under Armour products.
There are a few takeaways from his story you can use in your content marketing journey:
- Audacity – You have to be bold and audacious to become a player in your niche because there are already entrenched brands in it. You have to believe you can become one of those brands.
- Unique – Kevin didn’t try to sell basketball shoes right away. That wouldn’t have worked. When writing content, you need to find a unique angle. Writing “me too” content won’t work.
- Long-term thinking – Under Armour was founded in 1996. It took a decade for the company to get real traction. Don’t attempt brand building through content marketing if you’re not in it for the long-haul.
Are you ready to get started?
Let’s move onto the brand building tips.
Build Your Audience
You can’t build a brand without an audience
Your audience is the megaphone for your brand.
When you get more people to know, like, and trust your brand, growing your influence gets easier as your audience grows bigger.
This is true for personal brands and corporate brands.
Corporate brands don’t always consider the importance of having an audience, but that’s because most corporations don’t know how to use content marketing in a creative way.
The ones who succeed, however, do. Take a look at these companies who’ve built large audiences through content marketing and used them to build their brands:
Kettle & Fire:
The Penny Hoarder:
Having your own audience has a number of SEO benefits, too:
- Social shares – Google doesn’t outright say social shares effect rankings, but the experts are pretty sure they do. Your audience will share your content for you, sending positive signals to search engines
- Dwell time – The longer people spend on your site, the better. If you have an audience of people who love your work, they’ll stay to read your content longer than a stranger
- Backlinks – Oftentimes people in your audience will have blogs of their own. Building an audience is one simple way to get inbound links without even having to ask
Let’s look at some audience building tips one by one.
Guest posting has been around for years.
It’s been pronounced dead more than once:
You can still use guest posting to grow your audience — and even for SEO purposes — but you have to do it the right way.
Here are some good pieces of guest-posting advice from the pros:
- Choose an engaging blog – A lot of blogs don’t get great engagement. At a minimum, a guest blog you want to post on should have at least some social shares and comments
- Write good content – You’d think this wouldn’t have to be said repeatedly. There’s a difference between a “filler content” type of guest post and an amazing one that moves the needle.
- Promote – If you publish a guest post, you should be promoting it much harder than the guest blog itself. This builds goodwill with guest blogs and helps you build relationships in your niche
Some great guides on guest blogging are:
Build Your E-Mail List
The concept of list-building deserves an ultimate guide of its own.
If you can build an e-mail list of people in your target audience, you can make more sales, get more traffic to your website, and have a group of people willing to evangelize your brand.
You have to make sure you’re building a list for the right reasons, though.
Tim Soulo at Ahrefs talks about how their business grew without actively building a list:
Why focus on converting readers into leads, when you can focus on converting readers directly into customers?
The final verdict: the phrase “the money in the list,” doesn’t always ring true, but you should still consider building one if:
- You want to become an “expert” or “thought leader” – E-mail is often the life-blood for expert businesses like authors, coaches, and online course creators
- Your product/service takes some “warming up” before the sale – In Tim’s case, he could talk about his SaaS product and get people to sign up directly through the Ahrefs site. In our case – being an agency who comes up with custom packages – it pays to help you get to know us a little bit first 🙂
- You run an e-commerce store – Building a large e-mail list comes in handy when marketing an e-commerce store. You can offer special deals and hit sales volume goals with the click of a button
- You have a long customer live time value – If your business has the ability to sell to customers over and over again, an e-mail list can help create more recurring revenue.
List Building Tips
To build your e-mail list, you need the following.
A reason for someone to sign-up that’s better than “get free updates”
Offering something valuable for free is still the go-to way to get people to sign-up to your e-mail list.
You’ll need to find a way to drive traffic to your website to get people to sign up to your e-mail list. Some of the best ways to do this are:
- SEO and Content Marketing – We’ll discuss this in-depth in a bit, but increasing your organic search traffic and having a website built to convert people into e-mail subscribers is one of the best ways to get more of them
- Guest Posting – When you publish a guest post, you should always make sure to add a special offer in your bio to get people to sign up to your list.
- Republishing – We’ll dive into this in a second, but there are several sites that will let you republish your work on their platform (without getting spanked by Google)
SEO and Content Marketing
SEO and content marketing helps you build a brand by creating a footprint of your business online.
Every time a piece of content from your site ranks on page 1 of Google, people see your brand name next to the results.
If you rank for many different topics and keywords in your niche, you’ll brand start to become a household name.
Instead, we want to talk about some of the behaviors and mindsets you need to become a successful content creator who gets noticed.
The how-to’s and SEO steps are abundant, the willingness to follow through with them and have the following mindsets isn’t.
Tim Grover trained elite athletes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade. In his book, Relentless: How to go From Good to Great to Unstoppable he talks about the attitude it takes to become successful in sports, business, and life in general.
The book boils down to being able to exert a ton of effort, for a long period of time, without quitting, while staying hungrier than everyone around you.
Sounds super easy right?
Now, you don’t need to have the psychopathic levels of motivation that the athletes Grover trained had, but you’re going to have to be willing to go through some pain and hardship if you want to build a brand with content marketing.
Why? Because it takes time to rank well and build organic traffic. Google is slow 🙁
Your content marketing efforts won’t pay off right away. Unless you’re a relentless writer or have the guts to work with an agency — spending time and money — over the long-haul, content marketing won’t work for you.
If you’re forward thinking and have a little patience, however, you can build a brand that becomes an “overnight success.” One day, your business or brand will be everywhere.
Get Good at a Few Things (80/20 Rule)
There are a lot of ways to market your business and build your brand, but it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle and get stuck in “marketing tactical hell,” where you end up trying a whole bunch of different techniques, none of which work.
Instead, get good at the techniques that move the needle and double-down on them.
At MLT Group our few things are:
- Content – We try to write the best article on the topic we’re covering every single time we write a blog post
- Links/Relationships – We’re focused on getting high-quality backlinks for both ourselves and our clients. We also aim to do it the right way. Not by spamming people, but building real relationships.
- Media – From video to infographics and other media, we realize the importance of having an “omnichannel approach,” but we’re not trying everything in the book, just a handful.
You’d probably do well to focus on these 3 things, too.
Just remember this quote from Bruce Lee when it comes to building a brand through content marketing:
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Watch and Revise
I listened to an episode of the marketing school podcast by Neil Patel and Eric Siu titled “The One Marketing Strategy No One Is Using.”
What was the strategy?
Going back and updating content you already wrote.
This is super unsexy, tedious, and can even be boring, but it’s also a potential game changer.
It’s fun to create new content, but it’s not as much fun to go back and review your entire content marketing campaign to see if it’s working well. These “little things” make the world of difference when it comes to increasing organic traffic. This speaks to being relentless again. Are you (or your agency) really willing to do what it takes to succeed? Sometimes grinding it out is the only way.
Some great guides at revising your work are:
Here’s where most people fail at content marketing.
They look at it as a “one and done” process.
You can’t create your content and sit back thinking your job is done.
There are several ways to get more mileage out of the content you’ve already created.
Republishing is one of the perfect strategies for doing just that.
There are several websites who will allow you to republish their work.
Check out these great guides on finding places to republish:
- How to Get Extra Traffic From Republishing Your Articles
- The Content Marketing Institute: Guide for Sharing And Republishing Content
The sites shown are great for republishing, but one takes the cake – Medium.
How to Republish Your Work On Medium
Medium is the most popular free publishing platform online.
Even better, it has a feature that helps you avoid a duplicate content penalty:
When you import articles onto Medium, it ads a “rel-canonical” tag to it. That way, search engines know that the original article came from your website. Also, if people link to your Medium article, those links will 301 redirect to your original, giving your website an extra boost of authority.
Here are some great guides on Medium Publishing:
- How to Get Hundreds of Pageviews and Thousands of Subscribers on Medium
- How to Get More Traffic From Every Post by Republishing on Medium
Build Your Brand Through Blogger Outreach
Blogger outreach is the process of reaching out to other blogs in your niche.
You can use blogger outreach to:
- Genuinely pay a compliment to an expert you follow (highly recommended)
- Share your content with people who might find it useful
- Ask for social media shares
- Ask for backlinks
Notice the first two points involve sharing and giving, not asking and begging.
The #1 Rule to Blogger Outreach (That 99% of People Break)
I’m not the first person to write about blogger outreach, but I might be one of the few people to tell you this:
Reach out to people you actually respect and appreciate their work.
This seems like standard, obvious, and basic advice, right?
Unfortunately, most who do blogger outreach don’t even know the people they reach out to. They just want a backlink. They’re not looking to make a long-term connection. They’re not offering up a resource that’s a perfect match to the blog they’re reaching out to.
The good and bad news about blogger outreach? Most people do it very poorly.
This is bad news because a lot of popular bloggers are jaded after getting so many horrible pitches. This is also good news because genuine outreach sticks out like a sore thumb.
Personally, I’ve studied many experts in content marketing because I wanted to get better at it. I don’t have to dig through their blogs and pretend to read one of their articles to reach out to them because, I, you know, actually read their blogs.
When it comes to building a brand, just being a decent person who respects other people’s time puts you in the top 10 percent of the field.
If you want to build a brand by reaching out to other bloggers, keep it simple. You’re not going to win over every person you reach out to.
You don’t have to write essay-length pitches to get noticed (actually, don’t do that.) Just use a simple process of getting to know people in your niche and reaching out to them occasionally over time.
Here are some tips to help you get started.
Write Good Content
Content marketing boils down to a lot of things that shouldn’t need to be said but bear repeating.
If you want to build a brand and become a known player in your industry, take the time to write good content. Our company is in an extremely competitive niche. We can’t write 1,000 word regurgitated articles and expect them to rank on Google. Even if you’re not in a super-competitive niche like marketing, focus on creating the best possible content on your topic.
Here’s the run-down of boxes you need to check:
- Content length – Make your content as long as it needs to be. Don’t stuff extra words to make it long and definitely avoid thin content
- Insights – Chances are your topic has been covered before but has every single insight been given justice? Probably not. Study your competitors’ content and find angles they haven’t covered yet
- Stories – A personal or business story is one thing no one else can copy
- Better – A simple test can help you figure out if your content is worth sharing. Read the other posts on the topic and genuinely ask yourself if yours is better. Revise your work until the answer is “yes.”
- Effort – Remember, most of your competitors won’t do the work it takes to succeed with content marketing, but you will, right?
Make Yourself Known
Here are some cliff notes from some of the best blog outreach posts online:
- Leave genuine comments on other people’s blog posts that show you know what you’re talking about
- Make a list of people you want to connect with. Not a creepy list, but a list of people you admire, respect, and want to connect with
- Find non-pushy ways to get the attention of influencers in your niche like replying to their tweets or sending them a thank you note via email
- If you do pitch another blog — whether for a guest post, share, or backlink – make it succinct and find a way to show them love first
- Again, don’t be a spammer or a pushy pitcher. It’s not that hard
Here are some of the best articles on blog outreach you can find online:
- Blogger outreach made simple: a step-by-step guide
- How to Write Blog Comments that Stand Out
- How to Find Blogging Friends
If you take these steps to build your brand with content marketing, you can expect to see increase traffic, rankings, brand mentions, and even sales.
Do the work for a long enough period of time and the results will show.
Have any other brand-building tips to add? Put them in the comments below.