Written by Ray Masaki
Intro – The Marketing Misconception:
So probably the greatest misconception when it comes to marketing is that advertising makes a brand successful. That statement is completely FALSE! It’s not the advertising that makes a brand famous; it’s the products and branding. Of course, you may have heard a few cases where people got lucky because someone saw Justin Timberlake wearing their shirt, but more times than not, advertising is used for different means. Advertising and marketing a brand is what maintains a brand’s success, it never creates it. Advertising and marketing should be used to supplement your brand. So before reading this article, remove that from your head. Without a great product you’ll never be truly successful regardless of your marketing.
I’m assuming that most of you indie brands out there don’t have your own brick and mortar shop, so I’m mostly going to be covering online advertising.
Online Advertising Techniques
I think a good practice in terms of web branding is to have your own domain and website. So even if you have a bigcartel which would probably be something like i.e. lowdtown.bigcartel.com; you should still have a main site called i.e. www.lowdtown.com for the sake of marketing. Hosting and domain names are so cheap nowadays, that it’s stupid not to have a website. And even if you don’t plan to get a website just yet, you should at least buy the domain name and park it. That way, no one can steal your perfect little domain name.
Your website is going to be your main engine for marketing, so you have to consider many things.
The most important aspect is probably it’s SEO ranking. SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is a whole science on its own but here are a few tips to help get you started.
Good SEO means to be easily searchable through sites like Google and Yahoo and such, so if you have a high pagerank, you will be more likely to be listed favorably, so when someone searches for “graphic t-shirts shop” or something like that, it is more that someone will click on your store’s link.
- Often times sites like Google will index your website based on your websites title. So if someone is searching for Lowdtown, my website lowdtown.com is much more likely to show up if the title is “Lowdtown Friends & Freaks Shop” rather than something vague like “Homepage.”
2. Make your site easily crawlable (aka Have a clear navigation)
- So basically what all these search websites do is use these little virtual robots that go through all the websites over the net and crawl through all your pages. If your navigation is clear and goes where they need to go, you won’t really have a problem.
- One thing to note is that the robots cannot crawl through flash-based navigations (yet?), so try to steer clear of that. If your pages cannot be crawled, your pages will not be indexed.
3. Have a lot of updating content.
- The search engine robots will keep returning to your website if you have a lot of updated content. That’s why blogs are so fantastic. If you have a lot of well-written relevant content, the search engines will love you. Ultimately, search engine’s really just want to display good content, so don’t worry too much about keywords and update your site with good relavant content.
- One thing to note about keywords is not to overload your content with keywords. Don’t be stupid with sentences like: “Hi, I own Lowdtown clothing, and I love clothing, and clothing, is awesome clothing.” Search engine robots know when you’re trying to cheat the system; they’re smarter than that! (Shit, I shouldn’t have done that, haha.)
4. Have good links.
- So when it comes to your search engine ranking, having good links to your site are really important. For example, if my blog was linked by a very popular and important t-shirt website, my page rank would go up.
- Conversely, if I were linked by twenty of my friends’ blogs, my page rank wouldn’t really be affected. Unless of course, one of my good buddies was Pharell and he linked me to his Billionaire Boys Club blog, haha.
5. Don’t freak out over metadata.
- There’s been some debate over this, but most professionals say that your meta keywords and meta descriptions don’t really affect too much in terms of page rank.
- It never hurts to add them just in case though. Some professionals also say that other search engines, with the exception of Google, do use the keywords, so you might bring in traffic from other search engines that you’ve never even heard of!
So after you’ve optimized your website, don’t forget to actually submit your websites to the actual search engines. There are plenty of free services out there, but I don’t really want to name names. Just look up “free search engine submission” on Google or something. Just keep in mind that a lot of these search engine submissions will send you a lot of spam and stuff, so be wary of that.
– Another good tip is to submit your website to t-shirt directories. I haven’t really seen a major flow of traffic from any of these sites, but it’s still a good idea to do so.
– This won’t necessarily increase your visitors, but an extremely good practice is to sign up with Google Analytics and track your visitors. Google Analytics is a really powerful tool, and you can see where your visitors came from, what pages they viewed, and even how long they stay on the site. Google Analytics will give you a good idea of how strong or weak your pages are.
– Another great tool from Google is Google Webmaster Tools. If you sign up for this (free) tool you can track what people are searching to get to your site. For example, I learned that in February 2009, I was position 87 on Google for the keywords “shat bricks”. Haha, sweet! I’m finally reaching the “shat bricks” community!
– Try to upload and consistently update your sitemap. The sitemaps are basically a clue to the search engines that you’ve updated your website, so if you have constantly updating sitemaps, more pages will be indexed. Lucky for this blog, which runs on WordPress, there’s a handy little plug-in that automatically updates its XML sitemap.
– To try to get relative visitors to your website, try to submit to relevant forums. For example, if you have a punk clothing company, maybe go on punk music forums. But don’t rub your clothing company in their faces, just be subtle, maybe put it in your forum signature or something.
– On the same note, if there’s some blogs you like try contacting them and see if they can review you. You might strike a better audience when you contact a different kind of blog, not just t-shirt blogs. Going back to the same example, if you follow a popular punk rock blog, and get featured on it, you might receive better exposure and returns than you would on the t-shirt blogs that are already filled with tons of other t-shirt designs.
– However, if you do want to get reviewed by a blog, the best way besides asking them nicely is usually to actually send them your product. People are a lot more generous when you’re generous to them.
Some other ways to market your brand:
I have never personally worked with any print or television media, but it might be something that interests you. Note that it is far more expensive than most web-based advertising, so if you’re planning on these mediums, you have to have the money to do so.
– If you live in a friendly neighborhood, a fun idea for some attention may be to contact the local newspaper to try to get an article about your brand. I mean, people have a lot of pride in their community, so it might be exciting to hear that little Ray Masaki is starting a clothing company with some potential. The plus side is that it’s free and there’s no harm in trying. If you don’t get the article, big deal, it’s not like you lost anything.
– More risky ventures include: television ads, magazine ads, billboards, etc. These are most likely not very appropriate for little indie brands like you and me, but hey, if you have the money it may be worth it. Unfortunately, I have no experience whatsoever in these fields, so I have no idea what kind of returns you get for these kind of advertisements. If you want to take the plunge, just do your research. The unfortunate thing about print and television advertisements is that you can’t really track where your visitors are coming from unlike web advertisements. However, if you see a sudden peak in your visitors after you started your print campaign, you can infer that it was the advertisement.
Well I think that’s pretty much it for today, I hope that helped! I am certainly no master of SEO or marketing, but this should at least get you on your way. The thing is, there are so many great books out there that teach you how to properly brand and market your company, so go to your local library or something. Seriously, I went through a binge of books on internet marketing a week before the launch. It really gets quite addicting, and it’s always a good thing to learn things on your own!