Build a Great Brand
Some people will superficially equate a site's "brand" to its appearance, especially its name, logo, and perhaps design themes. But a brand is more than just a logo. A site's brand is really the whole of what the site is, and the impression it makes in visitors' minds.
Use strong brand elements
Have a good name and domain
Make these easy to say, succinct, memorable, and appealing. "Jimmy Smith's Home on the Web" may work for your needs, but isn't likely to travel far as a memorable brand.
Make a good logo
Your logo is one thing that people will remember from your site and associate with it. Make it good. Get a pro if you really want to do it right.
People will spread your logo, too: when writing about or linking to your site, other writers may include it in their articles.
Use a good tagline
Tagline, slogan, mission statement... Make them meaningful, memorable, and visible.
Better yet, unify them into one item.
The Drupal connection: Set a slogan and mission at admin/settings/site-information. Head to your Theme's settings to set whether or not these display. They'll display with the position and appearance determined by your Theme.
Make a good design
Good design may even get you featured in design galleries or portals, bringing traffic from those (especially great if your site is about design!).
Use a Favicon
A favicon is the small (16x16 pixel) icon that appears in the browser's address bar. It's a tiny thing, but completes the look of the site.
Most bookmark lists will also use a site's favicon, so having one makes your site stand out there too.
Have a unique voice
Another frequent piece of advice from the pros: Have a fresh, unique outlook. Offer a new slant that stands out from conventional thinking. Stand for something. Be opinionated, even controversial.
Add something else outstanding
"Outstanding" doesn't have to mean "no one else is doing it"; it just needs to be something that's noteworthy. Many, many items discussed elsewhere – great site design, unique voice, great content, etc. – fall here. But this is a good catch-all place to note a few other possible "differentiators", to spur thinking:
- Regular posts. Even in this day of RSS feeds to announce new content, people appreciate a regular schedule.
- Frequent posts. (That's not the same as regular posts; you can be regular or frequent or both.) "Frequent" is your call; say, three posts per day? (Maybe even many more, if the site has many contributors.)
- Outrageous viewpoints. (That's easier claimed than demonstrated; if I had a florint for every mundane writer who calls himself a one-of-a-kind, straight-shootin' revolutionary, I'd buy Budapest.)
Consistency is a huge element of branding, and a big topic. For now, a few broad items to strive for:
- Have a consistent writing style
- Be consistent with your tagline or slogan.
- Use color, graphics, and other design elements consistently throughout the site. A simple example: be sure your logo is on all pages, preferably in the same location.
Become an authority
Establish a reputation as an expert
One great way to establish your brand and attract followers is to become an expert on a topic, with your site as the outlet for that expertise. Successful bloggers and online enterpreneurs, from Seth Godin to Tim Ferriss, sing the technique's praises.
First, become truly knowledgeable about a topic, and the related questions/problems that others have. (Yes, it's almost comic to say "First, become an expert". But there it is.)
Then go about establishing yourself as a voice on the topic:
- Establish your site as a place to find answers. FAQs and forums are good tools, but simply soliciting questions via comment or email – and then answering them – is enough to start with.
- Going deeper into the above: Create detailed resources (such as e-books) for site visitors.
- Frequent other sites and forums related to your topic, and answer questions there.
- Write authoritative articles on the topic, for submission to other sites.
- Offer knowledge on "expert sites" such as Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn Answers. In addition to helping people out, this builds authority, gets you associated with keywords, and brings in traffic.
Many items mentioned elsewhere, such as contributing to Wikipedia, leaving helpful comments on others' blogs, etc., fall under this goal. Lots of things fall under this broad umbrella. The real point here is simply this: make a conscious effort to establish yourself as an expert, in all you do. You'll discover many ways to do so.
Be a leader
Related to, but not quite the same as, the above: People online want to be connected to each other and led toward a goal. That's the thesis of Seth Godin, who's making the leading of "tribes" an increasingly major theme in his writings on online success. He speaks eloquently on the topic, so I'll turn it over to him with a couple of links to get you started. From there, subscribe to his blog for lots more on the power of leading a group of like-minded people.
It's one of the most important parts of branding: be all over. A brand is all in the mind, and repeated exposure to its elements is what places it here. Some ideas:
- As mentioned elsewhere, include site name, domain, etc. in all external communications: email or forum signatures, newsletters, printed materials, etc.
- Use your site's name as a handle any time you create an account on a social network.