So you want to create an affiliate website with the goal of developing it into a serious brand that stands for something and solves problems for people? This is a good long-term business plan for an affiliate site that you want to consistently earn money from and one which has the potential to evolve into something greater.
A lot of affiliates started to go down this route when they realised that it wasn’t enough to get one-off sales from visitors. It’s a no-brainer really; the difference between a single purchase from a visitor who never comes back or multiple purchases from a customer who you’ve formed a proper connection with, solving their problems and creating a long-term bond with them.
This actually means you need to change your mindset and instead of seeing your visitors as £££, see them as friends or people. It’s called empathy and visitors will respond positively to this helpful and honest approach. It will also assist with the equally important goal of eventually being proud of what you’ve achieved.
When talking about branding, we tend to think that what makes a brand is the logo. This is actually a misconception. If you’re not a trained designer it will help to understand and learn what a brand really is.
But in short, a brand is quite a vague concept: it’s basically how other people perceive what you do. A longer way of looking at it is like this: a brand is a box with your name on it and everything your visitor experiences is contained in that box.
Each time that visitor sees your product or your name, they will pull out that box and instantly have a good or bad thing to say or feel about it. And that box also contains some other things – usually the things people say about you when you’re not in the same room with them! So a brand is other people’s perception of who you are and what you do.
So when someone suggests creating a brand for you, you need to stop them and ask them exactly what they mean. No one can create your brand; you can only influence it. You can develop a product that influences your brand, but that product is not a brand.
Let’s get back to the logo. There is no way a logo can represent or illustrate everything about your brand. A logo is just a really small part of your visual brand identity, which in turn is a small part of the brand. And the brand doesn’t really have any limits. So in short, logo, colours, typography etc. are just brand assets which are used as shortcuts to the brand box, or rather emotional triggers that connect to it.
Below is a visual example of what this relationship looks like and how it connects. Notice that the ‘Your brand’ colour is blurred – that’s why it stretches out even more and doesn’t have a definite end.
The process of influencing a brand is long one and there are various elements to consider. These include:
- Positioning of your company or product in the market
- Planning a brand strategy
- Creating a suitable name (verbal identity)
- Designing your visual identity or product identity
- Writing brand messaging or brand attitude (what the tone will be for verbal and written communication)
- Setting brand standards (keeping things consistent across all channels and mediums)
Put all of these together and you’ll achieve something amazing.
The following examples will give you a clearer idea of what branding means:
- Nike doesn’t really sell trainers; it sells confidence.
- Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee; it sells a community or a place to relax.
- Apple doesn’t sell mobile phones or laptops; it sells creativity, freethinking, innovation and experience.
Once you understand this process and what really happens when a visitor is connected to your brand, you’ll have much more success creating the various components of your brand, be it content or anything else.
Building a brand is not a short-term task; it’s a long-term project, but the end result will be a solid foundation that can carry anything. Even if the website goes down or gets hacked, the community of your brand will stay.
So start being friends with your visitors, solve their problems, help them out and be honest.
START WITH A VISUAL IDENTITY
Having a visual identity is one of the basic elements to start with when building your brand.
To get started, at the very least you’ll need to create a visual identity. You can begin with a simple design and then bring in more assets as you grow. But the secret here is to be consistent. As I mentioned before, if a logo is the main trigger of emotions towards a brand, changing it could have a negative effect.
Imagine using the same logo for five years. People will be used to it and changing it totally will produce mixed feelings and maybe even confusion. Take, for example, Mcdonald’s. They have invested heavily in their brand awareness and if they changed their name or even their logo, they would go right back to the beginning. But as the company changes, it does introduce new assets or have refreshes of its visual identity. The trick is to make small, gradual changes to give people the chance to get comfortable with new ideas and changes.
These are the basic brand assets you’ll need to get started:
Keep it simple – a vector and one or two colours. It should have the company name and, if needed, a symbol and a slogan.
Choose a colour palette that connects with what you do. If you have a natural product, go green. If you’re a serious business or a tech company, go blue.
Use the palette on your website for buttons, accents, titles etc. Also use it on any promotional material, social profile posts or images, as it’s a strong asset for brand recognition.
Different colours convey different moods or feels. Here are some examples using the https://coolors.co app which you can use to generate your own colour combinations.
Use one or two fonts only and maybe another alternative for quotes if needed. Find a good font combination that works well for titles and body copy. However, you may just want to settle for one font.
These three elements are the minimum components for any visual identity. Use the assets together on whatever communication materials you create, whether it’s print or digital, and make sure they’re used consistently across the different media channels.
Google Fonts has a wide choice of nice fonts that are also optimised for web. You can choose different styles and weights, sans serif or serif and even handwriting categories.
One of the most popular ones is Open Sans which works well for tech-related sites.
If you scroll further down on the above page, you can see a section called ‘Popular Pairings’ which are some basic font combinations people use for heading/body text. It makes it easier to find some good pairings. For some other interesting combinations look at http://fonts.greatsimple.io which I think is a great resource.
Font combinations will help to give a specific look and feel to your brand in the same way as colours do. The overall effect will be to have an identity that effectively conveys your brand values and niche.
Now I wouldn’t suggest you design these yourself if you don’t have any design experience. Make an investment and hire a professional – this will bring you better results and save you time so you can focus on the things that you do best.
However, if you don’t want to pay for a professional design service, but still want to have a mini identity, there is a service called Logojoy where you can design your logo, and it’s pretty cheap. The quality isn’t the best though, but you can get some interesting results like the one below.
It also provides some style guides, brand guidelines, font names and an email signature. So pretty OK for people who are absolute beginners and are just starting out.
WHAT A NICE VISUAL IDENTITY DOES FOR YOUR BRAND
It does a lot. Having a recognisable identity that stands out can increase your ad or post clicks on your social media pages. In a wall of posts on Facebook, for example, if yours stands out from the rest, it makes it much easier to interact with.
Gradually the user will start to recognise it and even if they’re scrolling quickly and don’t read the headline, they’ll know who the post belongs to because of the visual cues a solid identity has.
If you’re promoting baby products, a soft pastel-coloured palette and some handwritten fonts would do nicely for a visual identity in this particular niche. Whereas really heavy or sharp fonts and dark colours wouldn’t work at all – they would send the wrong message and be off-putting for your baby market, perhaps driving people off your page. They’d work well for a metal band though!
I hope I’ve been able to give you some basic insight into developing a visual identity (although this article really just skims the surface). Again, this is perhaps something that you thought you could do by yourself, but really should probably be left to professionals. However, it’s always good to understand the basics of how these things work.
There are great gains to be made if you approach this in the right way. You could easily leave your competition behind as many affiliate websites are poorly designed and built, so those of you who invest here will win.
Let me show you a nice example of what a great identity does. Take a look at the Copyblogger site then and now. What a difference!
Left is the old Copyblogger site and on the right is how his site looks today. His brand, being one of the best at what he does, is still there, but the look and feel is totally different. Left is a hardworking one-man band providing great content and insights, and right is a solid and hugely successful company with many employees and one of the best in its field.
If these were two different service providers you were looking to hire for consulting, just based on their website, which one would be more trustworthy or provide better quality services? Which one, in your opinion, would be cheaper? Yes, the left one, but I bet you’d rather stay with the pricier one as you feel it’s going to provide a better service.
All these feelings can be triggered by having a solid visual identity. Now which one would convert better if you see both? I think the one on the right, even if we didn’t read anything about each.
Homework and conclusion
You should now really understand the power of a visual identity. Feelings and emotions are always going to be stronger than any conversion tricks. Try and do the same ‘then and now’ comparison with your competitors; you could also try looking at non-affiliate sites too.
Then try finding some big brands. For example, if you’re promoting running shoes, look at Nike. What feelings do you get from viewing your site and what do you feel with Nike’s? They’ll be worlds apart but this is a long-term game plan.
If you slowly make small changes and improvements, your brand will gradually become stronger and in a few years’ time you’ll have developed a brand to be proud of with a large following of people who can really relate to your product.
You need to be critical and open-minded towards your work – that is the first step. Then you’ll start to see improvements and get better and better until you’re at the top!