In a world full of answers you start your journey by asking the right questions
The reply was “nothing” and my response was: Well then there’s your answer!
That was 15 years ago. 10 years ago I had revised my opinion on web sites upwards. If somebody asked my how to build their brand online I would respond. Spend 99% of your budget on traditional media and 1% on your web site. After all how can people find you if they don’t know you exist?
The way I saw it building a web site wasn’t going to help you build your brand at all. All it was going to do was add to your cost of doing business.
My advice to all who would listen was only invest in the web when you could use it to drive down your costs of doing business.
So what are my thoughts today? Well I guess you are thinking that Google, Facebook and Twitter has changed my outlook for doing business on the web. So has it?
To be honest 3 months ago I was still of the mindset: Brands are best built offline.
But I was open to be proven wrong and that’s what the original experiment was all about. I wanted to find out for myself if you could employ Google, Facebook, email and Twitter to build an online brand in 90 days.
We are now 10 weeks into the experiment and it’s time to call it a day. I think we have enough evidence to make an early call. But before we take a look at the results, let me just explain to you what I have tried to prove by running the experiment.
Firstly, what I have not tried to prove is the effectiveness of advertising online. As I pointed out in Is advertising online really your best option?, Click Through Responses Rate (CTR) for Search advertising on the internet are no better than traditional media like TV, Radio and Magazines. In fact with display advertising it is much worse.
What I have tried to do is build an online Brand without employing any online or offline advertising techniques. I wanted to see if just being online can create a brand by osmosis. After all just being in the newspaper or on radio and TV can. So why not the web now it has come of age?
For me Al Ries and Jack Trout’s book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing and Naomi Klein’s NO LOGO are the only two books on Branding you’ll ever needed to read. Both books nailed the essence of what Branding means in the modern marketplace. Reis & Trout’s showed us the world of Branding and Marketing from inside the bubble while Klein’s effort basically popped the bubble.
The Ries Trout message was all about the need to be seen to be different. I guess you could say the message flow looked something like this…
Klien’s was all about how the Logos (the word) had grabbed center stage.
Branding is about Singularity. It is about owning a word, a phrase or concept in the audience’s mind that is exclusive to you and your product. Think: Just Do It or the iPhone.
This is what I have tried to achieve. To own the word excapite online within 90 days.
The measurement I set for success was two-fold. A ten fold growth in the number search items listed for the word excapite in Google and for the word excapite to be the dominant search term driving traffic to the site by a factor of 10:1 over all over search terms.
So how successful was the experiment?
Well the most popular search term driving new traffic to the site this past month has been excapite by a factor of 20:1. And when we began this journey there were just 2.5 pages of search results on Google for the word excapite. Today there are 22 pages plus another 21 pages of similar results that have been excluded from the list. So that again is a growth in Google search listing of 20:1 for the word excapite.
On top of that are the listings on the other search engines and for other key words and phrases like MobCon and “think like a VC” .
Did we use Search Engine Optimisation techniques to achieve this result? No. Have we achieved high rankings on the search engines for topical search queries? Yes, across multiple search engines for multiple phrases.
e.g, excapite currently claims number 2 position on Google for the phrase “how much money can i make from an iphone”.
So it has taken just 10 weeks to meet these two simple online branding objectives and all I did was start out with the simple idea that FLINK! (i.e. the act of writing about and referencing other writers’ work) could build a Brand online within 90 days.
So what does all this mean? Clearly FLINK! and the 6 Degrees of Separation have succeeded in delivering high quality Search Engine rankings but is this success driving large volumes of search traffic to the site?
The answer to that question is definitely no.
Fred Wilson has mentioned that his blog gets on average 250 visits per day (See Three Statistics That Lie) my estimates put our average visitor numbers at about 10% of this figure. Yes there are days where the number is significantly higher but the base load average is somewhere between 20 to 50 visitors per day.
So back to the original question: Can you build a Brand online in 90 days? The answer is yes. Is it the most effective method of building a Brand? The reality is no. You would achieve a higher level of “drive by” traffic with a billboard strategically placed somewhere on a desert highway.
The problem of building a brand online remains the same as it always was. How can people find you if they don’t know you exist?
So would an investment in search engine marketing have increased the traffic levels? I very much doubt it. After all, if high page 1 Google rankings for topical phrases like “how much money can i make from an iphone” and ”developing iphone games” generate only 1 or 2 click-throughs a day, then just how thin is the long tail of the web?
The reality is the excapite blog and this MobCon journey are very much just billboards in the vast online desert we call the world-wide web.
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