Episode 1: The Top Ten Reasons To Audit Your Brand In The New Year

Episode Transcript:

Alright fellow Budgetpreneurs, it feels awesome to be back in the saddle and gearing up for an amazing new year of content! As many of you know, I attempted to launch this podcast series four months ago, and upon doing so, I received some really great feedback from quite a few of you. I’ve since taken that feedback, made some adjustments, revamped the Budgetpreneur brand and now I’m back to hit the ground running. We have so much content coming out this year, and I can’t wait to share everything with my fellow Budgetpreneurs, so in order to avoid kicking this can any further down the dusty road, let’s get started!

Much of what I’ll be discussing has to do with the very things I do on a daily basis. So, for that reason, it seems perfect to start the new year off with an episode about something every brand can afford to do. In fact, every brand should start the year off with this goal in mind; become better. That seems like quite an odd and generic New Year’s resolution, but there’s one very simple way to ensure your new year gets started with your brand on the right path. It’s time... to give your brand an online audit. Yes, I said it. You’re going to audit your brand. Don’t worry, I don’t mean a staff or financial audit, but an audit of your brand’s overall presence and efficiency.

If you’re new to the world of digital branding and making money online, then this is a perfect place to begin. You’ll get a small glimpse of the different things to consider when building your online brand, and while this isn’t nearly everything to consider, it’s a great start. Let’s talk about the top ten reasons for auditing your brand.

Before we get too deep into this episode, I wanna tell you about one of my favorite tools to use for what we’re about to discuss. This isn’t a tool that will give you all the answers in the world, but it’s one that’s helped me design and build more efficient websites from the get-go. This wonderful too, is Lighthouse, a Chrome plugin by Google. All you need to do is find Lighthouse in the Chrome Web Store, install it on Google Chrome, and click on the little lighthouse icon of any page you’d like to audit.

This report will give you some amazing insight into how each of your pages rank in Google’s eyes. You’ll see everything from page load speed to SEO scores. Lighthouse is a very useful tool for getting a quick report of any of your brand’s public facing pages, then adjusting accordingly.

So let's talk about the top ten reasons to audit your brand!

1. Speed Matters

If it’s left unchecked, your website speed can do far more damage than you may realize. Studies have shown that loading times and page abandonment go hand-in-hand. If your webpage has a large file size, then it’s not going to load very quickly. The longer it takes to load, the more people abandon their attempt at viewing your website. This doesn’t sound like too good of a problem to have, does it?

While many web hosts or SaaS website companies do a decent job at compressing images, you still shouldn’t rely on them to optimize every aspect of your website. You can lessen the burden by simply compressing them yourself. There are plenty of free compression services, but even decreasing the file size and resolution goes a long way.

2. Brand Colors Should Be Consolidated

Have you ever watched a professional, well-produced television commercial? Who am I kidding, of course you have! Well, have you ever taken the time to truly absorb their branding? Take, for instance, pharmaceutical commercials. They’re absolutely notorious for trying to distract you in every way imaginable, all so they can quickly read off a list of side effects. And while they always distract you with actors taking part the most random leisurely activities you can think of, those distractions always have one thing in common… branding.

Next time one appears on television, which seems like every other second, take note of how perfectly branded each frame is. Every outfit the actors are wearing, everything in the background is somehow right on par with the colors of whichever brand created the commercial. It’s almost fascinating to watch, because we all know that 40 unrelated people wearing the same colors in a grocery store would look more like something out of the Twilight Zone, but I digress.

The point is, you should adhere to this same principle. You should only utilize three main colors throughout your branding, and I’m not talking about generic colors like blue, green or red. No, you should have both the Hex Code and the Decimal Code for your brand specific colors on standby at all times. Of those three colors, one of them will be your primary, dominant brand color. All three colors should appear commonly throughout your branding, to break up the mundane appearance of a lack of color. However, having one primary color will provide a “go-to” for many of your brand related projects, so for your brand’s sake, make it count.

3. Not All Fonts Are Created Equal

Just as you have with colors, you should decide on three primary fonts. The main font should serve as your Heading Font, your secondary should serve as your Subheading Font and the final of the three should serve as your Text Body Font. Having these on standby will save you just as much time as having your color codes will. Not to mention, it will also make it much easier to source designers that can maintain your standard in the future.

Yes, there are some amazing fonts out there, and I’m sure there are thousands being created and shared every single day. That doesn’t mean you should just go look for any free font you wish, upload it to your website and expect browsers all around the world to live in peace and harmony. It’ll actually fare far worse for you in the digital world.

You’ll want to search for Web Safe Fonts to ensure full control over your design on all devices. Even after you upload your font to your website, and see that it’s appearing no problem on your computer, you may be tempted to believe you’re seeing what others see. The reality is, however, that you have that font installed and can view it no problem in your browsers. Others may not share that trait with you, and may see fonts you didn’t intend appearing where your cute curly letters once stood. There are plenty of web safe fonts to choose from, and a simple Google search can assist quite handsomely.

Another thing to consider with fonts is your brand personality. The fonts you choose should directly reflect what your brand offers. There are so many ways to interpret what I just said, but once you find a font that just seems to go perfectly with your brand, you’ll know what I mean. If you find your perfect font, and it’s not the best of friends with web browsers, then you still have one option. In fact, I used this option myself. I sacrificed loading speed for an image of my font based logo, ensuring it’s displayed exactly as intended across all browsers. It’s not the best option for all, but it works for most. Just keep in mind, you’ll still want to choose 3 additional fonts that accent the main image, because you’ll want any Headings of your website to be text based and not image based.

4. Images Are Often The First Thing People See

Don’t be a fool with images. I spoke about this before, and images can slow your site down, and hurt your SEO if not handled correctly. Compress your images either for free online or via an application. If you don’t want to do that, then just resize and adjust the resolution manually. Let’s talk about a few major things to consider with your brand imagery.

All online brands should have a stockpile of stock images that you can use for nearly any content occasion. If you don’t have images on standby, you can easily use a free service like Unsplash.com or Pixabay.com to stock up on free, brand related images. When I say brand related images, make sure to stay within the realm of what you’re either talking about in a specific post, or what your brand represents overall.

Keep size and dimensions in mind. Don’t be the person who’s website looks like a cascading waterfall because your images are every different orientation and size imaginable. One of the best things you can do, apart from immediately optimizing your image size, is trim your image to a specific dimension. For instance, I’m a big fan of using 16:9 orientations for nearly everything I do. If you’re gonna be social, then there are different image dimensions depending on what you’re posting. I like using a free service like Canva to make my images uniform when I don’t feel like using a template.

SEO is the final thing to consider when using images in your branding. Name your image accordingly, and I don’t mean to hide a bunch of unrelated keyword metadata. I mean if there’s a picture of a red apple on a table, then simply title the image Red Apple On A Table, and describe it further in the meta description box if you’re able. This will not only make your website user friendly for people who may be visually impaired, but search engines will also love you for doing this.

5. Get Your Logos & Graphics In Check

Speaking of imagery, let’s talk about your logo and web graphics. Many of you may already have a logo, and that’s wonderful! But, how many variations of this logo do you have? I hope, for your sake, the number is 3 or more. Why do you need variations of the same logo? I’ll break down the best logo variations all brands should have on standby.

For the sake of this episode, I’ll discuss the most common type of logo I worked with, which is best described as an icon along with the brand name in a brand-specific font. This covers the vast majority of logos in the world, so it’s a pretty safe example. Whether you’re creating this logo yourself, or outsourcing the project to a designer, here are the top variations of logos to create.

- Icon

The icon is a symbol that represents your brand without the name in plain sight. A few of the more famous examples of icons are Apple, Nike and Target. You can see any of those three icons and immediately think of the correlating brand. While you may not have that type of brand authority right now, it definitely doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start somewhere. Being that the design options for icons are endless, I’ll just suggest one thing. Make sure your icon, regardless of dimensions, looks good in a square. That may sound odd, but some rectangular icons can still pull it off, so I can’t rule them out, but make sure your icon can fit in a relatively square dimension, for reasons that we’ll discuss in a moment.

- Stacked Logo Variation

The stacked variation of your logo is simple and contains only one additional element to the icon, your brand name. Whatever font you may have chosen for your brand name, now’s where it comes into play. Create a version of your logo with your icon directly above your brand name, and one directly below your brand name. I don’t mean to duplicate your icon, but save two separate versions of each of these stacked logos. I hope the name speaks for itself, so I won’t bother going into detail on that, but I will say that there is a strong likelihood that you’ll use either of these two logos at some point, and if you don’t already have a version like this, I suggest you make one and utilize it. Stacked logos look absolutely great in thumbnails, in my opinion, so if you’re into creating video content then a stacked version of your logo may be the main go-to for your online branding.

- Linear Logo Variation

The linear variation of your logo is remarkably similar to your stacked variation. For this, all you’ll need to do is place the icon on the left and the right side of your brand name, then save two separate files. If you’re outsourcing this, then you can either request this file type or save it in an image processor after final delivery. Depending on the layout of your website, linear variations look sleek and great in both headers and footers.

- Single Color Variations

Now that you’ve created the icon, stacked and linear versions of your logo, create a single color option. If you’re using a gradient in your logo, then you’ll want to have a version which removes that gradient and delivers a single solid color option for the entire logo. Eventually, you can make this logo variation any single color you want, be it your brand colors, black and white or anything your heart desires. You may never use this variation, but that’s exactly what I thought until I found a ton of uses for it. One of my favorite reasons for having this variation, is if you ever hire a designer, or are feeling ultra creative, then manipulating a single color image not only becomes less burdensome, but also frees you up to some pretty cool effects.

- Font Only

As I’ve learned countless times before, you may find tons of applications where you logo’s icon simply doesn’t make sense, or it throws a design into disarray. For this reason, you’ll definitely want to have a font only version of your logo, where you completely omit the icon altogether. To keep your sanity, and prevent you from cluttering your desktop with multiple sliced logo duplicates, do yourself a favor and have a font only based logo on standby. It may come in handy quicker than you realize.

- Favicon

Hey! Do you remember how I told you to make sure the icon of your logo looks good within square dimensions? Good, here’s why. Your favicon is SO important, yet so underappreciated in many people’s eyes. I cringe when I see the favicon go forgotten, and see a generic placeholder of whatever web host the website is using. That’s not gonna be you though, you’re smarter than that. Favicons are tiny images that serve as an identifying symbol within browser tabs.

Most of the time, you’ll see upload requirements for favicons range between 32 - 64 pixels in a square dimension, depending on the platform you’re using. All you’ll need to do to create the perfect favicon for your brand, is to take your trusty icon you’ve created, duplicate it and shrink it down. If your designer can do it for you, great, but if not then it can be done in nearly any photo processing software.

- Store Your Files Safely

It would be a tragedy if you lost all your newly created logos before backing them up properly. I know that sounds unlikely, but things go unnoticed and it happens to the best of us. I’ve lost data before, and I’ve found myself redoing logos quite a few times before I learned my lesson. I’m a big fan of using an external hard drive, or a service like Google Drive or Dropbox, to keep safe versions of your logo. 

6. Responsive Design is Responsible Design

Please, I beg you, do NOT be the person with a non-mobile responsive website. In this day and age, this is unacceptable, yet I see it all the time. Sadly, many times it’s actually quite a successful organization that has an outdated website. Typically, you’ll see it in a lot more B2B than B2C. If I lost you there, I’m referring to business-to-business and business-to-consumer organizations. The B2B group is notorious for having outdated websites, so I almost have to give them a pass when I stumble across one, but there’s no excuse for any website that sells direct to the consumer to be non-responsive.

What makes your website mobile responsive? A little hamburger menu icon in the top corner of your mobile browser, of course! Psh.. I kid. That seems to be the attitude with many people, but having a mobile responsive menu does not mean your website meets the standards of mobile users. You should put your online presence through the paces on mobile devices, especially because the majority of online commerce is completed on mobile devices. You’d be a fool to make this mistake, and it’s an easy problem to solve with the help of a half decent web designer.

7. Search Engine Optimization Can Be Made Simple

Does the term Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, sound like a mountain you don’t want to climb? I agree, experts who are extraordinarily talented with SEO are great at what they do. However, not only are they expensive, but it’s become increasingly more difficult to find the hidden gems buried in tons of pebbles. High value, efficient and Google friendly SEO is built through a website’s organic content.

No matter what you hear, there’s no magic formula for increasing your rank with Google outside of offeringing high value, searchable content. Any individual who tells you otherwise, and promises results, can likely achieve those results for you. Just be prepared for those results to not last very long, and come along with a possible risk of a blacklisted website in search engines. I’m not here to make you an SEO expert by any means. I just want to give you a few rules you and your brand should follow if you want to maintain a healthy relationship with search engines.

- Image Titles

Image titles are important, and I touched on them briefly earlier. The simple fact is that every image on a website should be titled in such a way that describes exactly what the image is. This helps the visually impaired understand what’s being presented to them, and if a computer program is reading off the title of an image for such an individual, the last thing you want to subject them to is hearing “IMG400384.JPG” for every asset on your page.

This holds true with search engines as well. There’s no magical wizard sitting at Google, scrolling through every image, comprehending what the context is and then naming it accordingly. But if anybody at Google is listening… that would be a pretty awesome AI feature. Point is, computers don’t process data in the same way that humans do. Our most commonly shared form of communication is gonna be the Title and metadata. I assume you aren’t going to type out the image in binary, and I’m assuming that Google isn’t going to translate the context of the image into words.

So, this leaves us with typing out descriptions to please both humans and computers. So if you show a picture of a man sitting in a chair eating an apple, then your title should stay along those lines. That way, the next time you google images of an ocean, you don’t randomly see a man sitting in a chair eating an apple. You can explain the image context further in the description & metadata, which works out in your favor with search engines... if done properly.

- Metadata

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, ‘metadata,’ it’s quite simply data that describes and gives information about other data. I see metadata as my friend, and a welcomed additional area to place a well-worded description. You should never keep metadata fields empty, and the majority of web related SaaS companies make it very easy to add information about all assets on your website. To stay in tune with the previous example, if you have an image of a man sitting in a chair eating an apple, then you may opt to further describe what you see. Perhaps it’s an older gentleman, wearing a white suit on an antique chair eating a green apple. And perhaps he’s even listening to Budgetpreneur’s podcast series in the background. Who knows? The metadata does! And what the metadata knows, the search engines know.

- Backlinks

Backlinks are another term you should become very familiar with in the realm of online branding. If your website produces organic content (which it should), and you don’t use backlinks, then you’re not reaching your full potential with search engines. Google regularly scrubs the web looking for pages to index so they can deliver the best possible search results to their users. They have one goal, and one goal only… to deliver the best and most relevant results for what you’re searching for. That’s it.

How do they know what to deliver? Well, the higher your Domain Authority and Page Authority is, the higher up in the search results you appear. There’s more to it than that, and I’m not gonna do a deep dive into DA & PA right now, but they are two of the major factors when considering search rankings. One of the ways Google knows how much authority a page or domain has, is through backlinks. This is how many websites view another website to have enough authority to warrant referencing it themselves. It’s quite a simple concept, yet an important one.

Regardless of the industry you’re in, we all have both colleagues and competition. In addition to that, there’s common knowledge and third party, unbiased sources for nearly any industry you can imagine. Start making a list of websites, articles and even products you can reference while producing content. As you continue to create a list of niche specific backlinks relevant to your audience, you’ll see search engines reward you over time.

- Copy

Copy can easily become your best friend or your worst enemy. There are countless things to consider when drafting copy for any branding application, so I can’t get into much of that here. I want to focus on copy that helps with SEO.

You may have heard the term ‘keywords’ passed around endlessly when you look into online marketing and Search Engine Optimization. There’s a horrible practice called keyword stuffing, which is partly the reason for my lack of passion for SEO agencies, and it does nothing but hurt your website in the long run. You can easily be more effective at achieving higher search rankings without having to stuff your website with countless semi-relevant or clickbait keywords. It only takes a few steps to set this up, and once you have it set you’ll be off to the races.

First, you can employ my favorite tactic and create a list of the top 10 keywords and phrases that you’d like to appear in the top results for. Then, simply Google the 10 keywords and phrases one by one. Take the top 10 results from each of those 10 searches, and you’ll now have about 100 pages, all in your niche, to reference for backlinks and inspiration. Don’t go through everything at once, but let’s get back to the reason for doing this in the first place.

Those 10 keywords and phrases you’d like to rank for, should now be the lifeblood for your content. When you write an article, speak on a video or type anything relevant on your website, you should always try to use those keywords and phrases. For instance, my goal is to rank for “build a brand on a budget,” so you’ll see this freckled all over my online presence.

- The Fishbowl Effect

I absolutely love this concept, and many people don’t fully appreciate the importance of it. Perhaps it’s due to a poor choice of words that I’ve coined when describing this, but it really is a fishbowl effect. When you offer valuable content on a consistent basis, people will start to make you a habit. In doing so, they may find themselves referencing your content and website far more often than necessary, simply out of curiosity or a hunger for something fresh.

When they’re on your website, consider them swimming in your fishbowl. If a fish had only a clear glass bowl to swim around in, then that’d just be boring for everybody. I challenge anybody, even with a 3 second attention span, to find that semi-entertaining on an ongoing basis. I’ve created my fair share of empty online brands, and they tend to die out just as quickly as they begin.

However, if you begin adding cool things like gravel and a castle, or perhaps even some underwater plants, then you’ll start to increase the value for both the observer and the fish. Now, the idea of having a fish become your customer is probably a little farfetched, but lets assume this is a human customer now. They can leave the fishbowl anytime they want, and walk right on over to any other fishbowl to swim in.

Your goal then shifts into how long you can keep this individual engaged in your fishbowl. The longer they swim around, and the more you offer them, the higher the likelihood they’ll stay with you and show their appreciation financially. Who knows if this is a good example or not, but it’s the one I use and so there ya go.

8. Ensure Your Social Presence Is Squeaky Clean

I can’t tell you how often I scroll through the lifespan of a relatively new online brand, and see branding, images and tone of voice that are in complete disarray. I have almost no idea what the majority of many new brands are about, simply because they have such a random mess of an online presence. This is a notorious trait among new influencers, experts and authors.

First of all, do you own your brand name in all the social platforms you want to be engaged in? It’s never a bad idea to own them with every social platform out there, but we shouldn’t be held hostage to the brand’s account name on every possible public forum. The social media accounts you do own should be audited every year. If you have a brand and style guide that I’m such a big fan of, and go over extensively in our upcoming boot camp, then you should use that to go through your accounts, and clear anything that doesn’t delivery uniform, consistent brand messaging.

If you have bad graphics, old, outdated or irrelevant posts, then delete them. It may be hard for you on an emotional level, but it takes all of 3 seconds to save a digital image for later viewing. I’m not telling you to go on a mass delete rage and go crazy on the computer. No, I’m just saying that you should go through and spot clean everything that doesn’t stay consistent with your brand going forward.

Find any influencer on Youtube that’s been around for over 4-5 years, and go through their videos from the beginning through to the end. You don’t have to watch them at all, I just want you to go through the thumbnails and simply observe how you can visually track most brands’ transformations. I find it quite fascinating, and if the youtube videos are still offering value, they should be kept. Anything offering value, keep. Anything taking up space without being on par with your branding, get rid of it.

On a secondary, but also important note, it’s also not a bad time to audit your own personal social media accounts and take on the same general attitude. You should always assume that 100% of your branding audience will find your personal profile online. If you’re happy with what you’ve posted, then keep it. I say this with a much heavier emphasis to the younger listeners, but it’s never a bad time to review your social media presence, as well as what possibly private information is easily accessible.

9. Avoid A Communication Breakdown

I can’t tell you how much business I lost over the years, simply due to a communication breakdown. Whether it was delays, misinterpretations, lack of correspondence, you name it… I experienced it. Even though I can look back and see the multiple breaks in the chain, I blame every dollar lost on myself. I could have prevented many shortcomings if I knew then what I know now. Don’t do what I did and let communication ruin your revenue.

One of the ways you can massively alleviate communicating with your audience, is to design everything beforehand. Everything from user specific email responses, to autoresponders after an opt-in can have a great influence on how your brand is perceived. When people try to reach out to you, decide what they can contact you over, what you’ll assist with or answer, how they can reach you and when they can reach you.

I started my first agency and attempted to scale it before having these things in place… and let’s just say that I’ll have about 10 episodes and possibly a book dedicated to that story alone. To start the new year off on the right foot, don’t put your foot in your mouth! Instead, begin drafting a tone of voice for your correspondence, a welcome email and an auto response for inquiries. Begin looking at what communication avenues you offer, and what you can automate or solve with a simple article or post.

If you look at Apple or Amazon, you’ll notice that they make it nearly impossible to contact a representative before searching through countless articles that likely solve your problem. No matter what, somebody will still contact support and ask a question that’s published out in open. Every word you type or speak with a client, costs you and your brand money, so make sure your communication isn’t what’s holding your brand back from creating value for the masses.

10. Maintain Brand Consistency & Uniformity

To close out this list of the ten reasons why you should audit your brand in the new year, I’ve saved my favorite for number 10. This is one I’ve struggled with in a way that I feel is pretty relatable for most people. See, when I’ve built brands for others, albeit an individual or an organization, I never experienced the creative block and self-doubt that comes with the buildout of a years long passion project.

Countless times, I’ve gone back to the drawing board, driving myself crazy with adjustments to create something perfect for the people I care about. This gets me absolutely nowhere. To put it in perspective, this is actually episode 6. Each episode is over 5,000 words. I’ve literally trashed all 5 previous episodes. Yes… I’ve written 30,000 words to get to this finale, and it MUST STOP.

Brand consistency is so easy to discuss openly with clients, because I’m not emotionally attached to their project. I may be fiscally responsible and financially interested in the outcome of some of my projects, but the emotional attachment isn’t there like it is with a project such as Budgetpreneur. The reason why the most powerful, influential people in the world are content organizations and creators, is because they have the attention of their targeted mass audience.

Why do they have their attention? Because they’re consistent. Consistency isn’t easy, especially with creative content, but it’s imperative and crucial to growing a brand. Whether it’s a quick video, a blog post or even a social media post, you should never be engaging your audience on less than a weekly basis. Ideally, daily should be your goal, but that’s a mountain to climb and you don’t need to focus on that right now.

Keeping your brand producing consistently, and keeping your messaging and online persona uniform, will ensure a proper foundation to build your dream brand. I want to end this episode thanking every single person who has patiently awaited the return of Budgetpreneur, and then put up with my voice long enough to hear this closing. So I’m so very thankful that you’re joining me on this adventure, and I hope to see you in our upcoming Become A Brand Boot Camp, which you can learn all about on our website. Until next episode, I’m your forever grateful host, Todd Hapgood, and this is the Budgetpreneur Podcast Series.

Todd Hapgood is a digital branding expert, consultant and founder of the Budgetpreneur Podcast Series. He's made a career out of mastering the skills that entrepreneurs need in order to obtain financial success without breaking the bank. Now that he's made his mistakes, learned his lessons and knows what works, he's here to share his knowledge with the world! You can keep up with Todd and the Budgetpreneur™ Podcast Series at Budgetpreneur.com
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