Branding an online entity requires a whole new approach compared to traditional branding. The priority is different. Traditional brand strategy incorporates the brand proposition, tagline and colour.
Brand strategy needs to consider an additional set of criteria such as domain names (URLs), SEO and website functions. Marketers creating brands in a traditional sense, treat the URL and SEO research as an after-thought.
When creating an online-only brand, the science of how the brand is remembered and discovered is king.
Easy to remember
It is important the brand name is short. A short name is memorable. If you are using more than one word, examine how the brand name appears with no spaces. If the letters clash, avoid the temptation to add dashes or underscores. Only in special circumstances, like redirections, should these be used.
Also consider these factors:
Sticky. As the URL needs to be committed to memory, it needs to be unique. The name needs to speak through the clutter, and come to the person when they are at their computer.
Easy to spell. A URL which is difficult to spell, or has multiple permutations can present logistical problems. People trying to find it may misspell it, or add other words. You may have to purchase many URLs to block copycats.
Multi-lingual. If the domain name is planned to cover non-English speaking countries, determine what these countries are, and road test the domain.
Convey key benefit. The very URL itself in theory should not only convey the key benefit, but use words or phrases the audience use in keyword search.
Easy to discover
Being discovered is key for online-only brands. SEO plays an important part when formulating the brand name and the key proposition. The words and phrases used to describe the key proposition should be terms the audience are familiar with, and use to find competitors.
Tread carefully when creating jargon or categories which are not commonly used. They can help differentiate the brand, but make being found difficult.
Thorough keyword research will identify what these terms are and their respective search volume. Use Google Insights is a useful tool to help draft a list of keywords and phrases.
The brand name and key proposition can be reverse engineered from keyword research. Keyword research is nothing more than real-time market research. Using research to guide branding is makes sense.
Generic or niche is the key proposition
A brand optimised generically may attract many visitors to a website, because is it has universal appeal. However, optimised generically, it may appear unfocused and trying to be too many things. Or worse still, the brand may never be discovered – lost in a sea of other brands competing for the same territory.
Use generic words in the brand name, but give them a twist to make them unique. Change their spelling or add a second word to make the brand distinct.
Online-only brands have to demonstrate the brand values through the functions of the site. For example, a brand pitching social values, may have social media tools or APIs to permit social networking.
A brand which promises to listen to customers, may have a forum section, where customers can open discuss the product and services.
The brand is not something written on a vision page. It exists within the very technology of the website.