In this post, Lorna walks the reader through a ten step road map to launching a green brand online, in which she gives practical advice geared towards helping small green businesses and other enterprises develop a successful online marketing strategy. The advice is organized in a step by step manner so that it also provides the green entrepreneur, business owner or director with an idea of what needs to be tackled first and so forth, in order to promote their organization, service or product in the online universe.
by Lorna Li, Founder & Editor in Chief of Green Marketing TV, a news blog dedicated to empowering green and social entrepreneurs. Follow Lorna on Twitter @lornali. Connect with Lorna on Linkedin. Connect with Lorna on Facebook.
Never has there been a better time to launch a green business. With more and more people becoming aware of climate change, consumers are increasingly seeking out more environmentally sustainable products. If your products or services have been designed to be low impact or environmentally sustainable, it’s important to communicate these benefits to your target audience. Establishing a memorable green brand will help you stand out in the crowd. Here is a road map to help you with your green branding process from concept to finished website.
1. Keyword research. A really good starting for the branding process is doing some keyword research using a free tool like Keyword Discovery or the Google Adwords Keyword Research tool. This will help you understand what your customers are looking for when they are researching your product in search engines. It will also help you understand how many searches a month are performed for your products or services, which will help inform your branding and messaging.
2. Brand name and tag line. Brainstorming a name for your company or product is fun and creative, but one fatal mistake that many business entrepreneurs make is the failure to include a search keyword in their brand name. For example, if you are an organic chocolate company, consider including “organic chocolates” in your brand name or tag line. This way your customer will make the association between your unique brand name and the product you sell. Bear in mind that once you’ve established your brand, its a pain to turn back re-brand, so be sure to do your keyword research in the beginning.
3. Domain name. At times it’s not possible to include your search keyword in your brand name or tag line. Maybe it’s too awkward or long. If so, that’s OK, but definitely do your best to make sure that your keyword is in your domain name. Having your keyword in your domain name will help with search engine optimization (SEO), as it indicates to search engine spiders that your website is about that keyword.
4. Messaging. You will need a mission statement and a clear laundry list of what makes your product, service, and or company more green. What makes you unique? What products do you offer? What makes them better? Why buy from you rather than from the generic product manufacturer. Once you’ve fine tuned your messaging, be able to distill the essence of your company’s unique value proposition into a 30 second elevator pitch
5. Website architecture. Now that you’ve got your company & product messaging nailed down, you will now need to think about how this will map out onto a website. Of course you will need your utility pages, like the About page, Contact us page. Most importantly, you will need to think about how to organize your product pages and what keywords you need to optimize those pages for. For example:
The more organized your product pages are in terms of semantic themes and hierarchy, the better this will be for SEO. Try mapping out your web pages in Excel.
6. Web platform. As a small business entrepreneur, you are busy growing your business. The last thing you want is to get bogged down by the minutiae of website maintenance, or have to pay someone each time you want to update your site. Therefore it’s critical you choose a platform that is the least amount of work to manage and maintain, such as a content management system that allows you to edit your content in an easy to use interface, rather than in html. You can easily set up a free website on a number of platforms like Blogger, Weebly, and WordPress.com. However, for more control and flexibility in appearance and functionality, getting a self-hosted WordPress.org site is great option.
Many inexpensive web hosts do one click installs of WordPress software onto your server. From there, you can install a myriad of beautiful, free, WordPress themes. You can select a website theme, or a blog theme, or a theme that incorporates both. For example, the free Green Stimulus theme for green business enables you to select whether you want a website option, a website plus blog, and it will even allow you to publish your blog posts to the home page. Watch this video demo of a San Francisco multimedia agency installing Green Stimulus.
While most people know WordPress as a blogging platform, it can be used just as easily to power your small business website. All this involves is choosing the right WordPress theme for your business.
7. Website copy. Now that you’ve selected a web platform and your website architecture has been established, you are going to need SEO-friendly copy written for the pages. Use excel to map out your page urls and target keywords. Then, write the copy yourself or if you are too busy, as most entrepreneurs are, outsource the web copywriting through oDesk, Elance, or Textbroker. Another good reason to choose WordPress is that many writers and bloggers already know how to use it, so you can hire someone to write the web copy AND post it publish it directly to WordPress, so you are not stuck with the cut & paste & formatting job.
8. Logo, identity, and website design. While you’re web copy is getting written, now’s a great time to get your logo and website designed. The great news is, you can get great, professional design done very inexpensively these days through design contest websites like Crowdspring and 99Designs. You launch a design contest, and a specified cash prize amount on these sites, and dozens of talented designers from all over the join your contest. This gives you the abilility to evaluate different styles and concepts. The more clear you are in your project specifications and in your feedback, the better the design will be.
9. Web development. Let’s say you decided to go with a custom website design rather than use a free theme. At this point you will need to turn your design PSD from your design contest into code. This may be the most complicated part of your website launch process, especially if you are not tech savvy. The great news is, you can find web developers to help you with this process on outsourcing sites like ODesk, Elance, and vWorker.com (formerly Rent a Coder). You can also find a number of services to convert your design to html or even into a WordPress theme. Try XHTMLChop or ShopHTML. You will still need a web developer to take these files and integrate them, but this will shave off some hours off his / her consulting time.
The “right” way to lauch build a website is to build it first on a test server, QA everything to make it works, before migrating it over to its proper address – your business domain name. That way, you don’t have visitors coming to your site and witnesssing it in an awkward stage. In the very least, slap up a site maintenance page while work is being done.
10. Launch & promote. Once you’ve ensured everything is working you are ready to launch and promote your site. Announce the launch of your business website to your community, and get it listed in various directories, especially local directories if you are a brick and mortar business. Be sure to claim your local listing on Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, and get listed on Yelp, BOTW Local, Citysearch, etc. To submit to several directories at once, use GetListed.org.
There you have it, the complete road map for establishing your green brand online, from scratch. Happy launching.
© 2011, Lorna Li. All rights reserved. Do not republish.