“If you build it, they will come.” That might have worked for Kevin Costner in the Field of Dreams, but if you’ve built a good site and are expecting people to just show up, you’ll be waiting a very long time. The days of setting up shop and automatically getting traffic just by being online are over. Today, if you want to have success on the web you need a unique angle and a reputable brand so that visitors have something to remember you by.

Branding distinguishes you from your competition, and having a unique identity is especially important on the Internet, because buying from a competitor’s site instead of yours is just a click away. But despite its importance, surprisingly, most webmasters have either never heard of branding, or just choose to ignore it.

If you have heard of branding, then you’ve probably heard two things: it takes a long time to see results, and it’s expensive. While that is definitely true about traditional branding, Web 2.0 branding is flipping the traditional model on its head. By using offline and online DIY (do it yourself) methods and some guerilla marketing techniques, you can build, announce, and control your brand without having to spend loads of money. The following tips should help you on your way:

Branding in the Blogosphere

Yes, you can use a blog to develop your brand. But there’s a right way and a wrong way.

1. Launch an influential blog to build up your profile.

2. Go niche and dominate. If you’re going to try to leverage a company blog into traffic, links, and reputation development for your primary site, your efforts will be far more successful if you become the authority in a smaller niche, rather than one among many in a broader topic.

3. Don’t waste time reinventing the wheel. Remember that blogging for branding is a tool to get new customers, so it’s only worthwhile if blogging doesn’t take so much time that you can’t concentrate on your central business. So save time by simplifying your blogging by using these 50 blogging resources.

4. Create stars out of your audience. Everyone loves flattery. So if your goal is to develop a reputation as an expert in a particular field, start by doing profiles of the other webmasters and sites in your niche. By giving some positive but fair press to others in your niche, you can quickly develop a reputation as a person in the know. For a couple of good examples, you can check out the BlogNetworkWatch, which covers the blog network industry, and Peter Csathy, CEO of SightSpeed software, and his Digital Media Update. It’s about the industry, not the company.

5. Mix your off-line personality with your online world. Straight-laced professionalism is so passe. Throw some of your personal life/ flair into your blogging to give your site personality and start developing your own brand. But keep in mind that the brand you develop through your blog will carry over to your primary site. So don’t go so informal that you discredit your products or service.

6. Respect yourself, it’s contagious. Treat your work as authoritative if you want others to. That means citing your past articles in your current ones, mentioning work you’ve done on related topics whenever interviewed, etc.

7. Target your audience geographically. Despite the huge numbers that accessing the world community through the internet can bring, targeting your product or service to a particular geography, where applicable, can be a great way to help carve out a particular niche for your blog and brand it as the destination site for people in that region.

8. Concentrate on one domain, not 10. A lot of people think that developing a strong brand means keeping your site extremely narrow in topic scope. As a result, they decide they’ll need 10 sites to cover all their related topics rather than just one. But ‘branding’ means much more than being narrow in focus. So get the full benefit of all your marketing and promotion efforts by focusing on one slightly broader domain rather than breaking your topic into 10 blogs.

9. Host a carnival. Hosting a blog carnival, or to a lesser extent just joining in on one of dozens already in your niche, is a great way to get some exposure and establish your site as a central player in the niche.

10. Guest blog and have others guest author on your site. No one can resist the offer of free quality content. So write other bloggers in your niche and ask to be a guest blogger anytime they go on vacation or just need a couple of days off. In addition, when you have other bloggers write on your blog, they’ll be sure to mention their cameo on their own blog, bringing some new readers to your site.

SEO and Reputation Management

In addition to building your presence on social media sites (next section), there are SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and reputation management tasks you should consistently follow up on to help develop your brand.

11. Choose your company name carefully. Before incorporating, stop by a domain registrar and check that an associated domain name is available. Also ask a wide array of people what the first thing they think of when they hear the name is. Often niche insiders will give a very different answer than people who’ve never heard of your niche before. If you hope to attract both, you will need a name that is attractive to a broad spectrum of users.

12. Secure your brand throughout all top level domains. Your brand should be untouchable, so secure it by purchasing your company domain name across all the major top level domains (TLDs) such as .com, .net, .info, .org, .biz etc. Failing to do so leaves the door open for competitors/ imposters to damage your brand uniformity.

13. Use e-press releases. Press releases are great for branding, as they show up well in search engine searches for your company name. Sometimes even bloggers will republish them, building automatic links to your site. If you’ve never done a press release, consider starting at PR Leap, which receives and publishes online press releases from some 20,000 companies and provides free basic accounts. For a quick primer on press releases, see Taming the Beast. Also read how KFC made their brand visible from space. Some other distribution options are clickpress, prweb, prnewswire, prminds, sourcewire, and marketwire.

14. Clean up your web-history. If you have things in your past that show up bad when someone Googles you, clear those things up (by creating good pages, such as press releases, which then rank). If something is really bad, consider trying to solve the problem with whoever is disgruntled.

15. Interface with bloggers. Communicate with them, nurture them. E.g., Nokia hired a VoIP blogger, Andy Abramson, to manage their successful blogger relations program. By being friends with major bloggers in your industry you can help shape the way your service or product is covered on the web.

16. Avoid placing others’ free articles on your site. Try to avoid using free Adsense-directed ‘niche’ articles written by others and either directly submitted to you or found in article banks. Typically, these are poorly-written pieces written for search engines, not humans. If you have to use free articles instead of writing your own content, be selective.

17. Use article marketing. Write quality articles and give them away at various article directories like EzineArticles. While this can get you some freebie links, your efforts will be even more successful if you can email bloggers directly and ask them to cover the article on their own site.

18. Become part of a community. Find blog, forums and usenet groups and participate. Think long-term when you participate in these communities. That means giving advice that will represent your own expertise and the high standards of your company. Community interaction is extremely powerful, and it can show up in search engines years after the conversation took place. So make sure that whatever you say, it doesn’t represent short-term emotion, but instead stands for long-term quality.

19. Leave valuable comments. Every blogger’s goal is to develop a vibrant community on his blog. So if you leave valuable comments on others’ blogs without overtly marketing your own site or product, you will earn the trust of that blogger as well as some of his/her readers. When you write comments, you should always insert your site’s URL and consider using your site’s name as your username. But beyond that, no extra self-promotion should be done.

20. Use SEM. Craft a quality SEM (Search Engine Marketing) landing page on your site to explain all the wonderful benefits of your product. If you don’t want to shell out the cash for an SEM consultant, at least run your own mini-test, by asking friends and family to create a list of the 10 search terms they would use when searching in your niche. In addition, have each person in your mini survey go to your landing page and write down their activities. You can use this small sample size to predict how your larger audience will behave.

21. Create an affiliate program. See the big picture. Affiliate programs build links for you, expand your presence, and reduce advertising costs. It’s worth giving up a percentage of profits for the ROI later. Consider using intermediates like Clickbank and LinkShare, who bring sellers and affiliates together can help get your affiliate program up and running.

Social Media/ Bookmarking/ Wikis/ E-Profiles

Using Social Media for branding is at the forefront of online branding. There are hundreds of thousands of readers (and webmasters) searching for good content on Bookmarking sites. It’s time to learn how to give bring your content to them.

22. Social Bookmarking–where to start?. Start by building a profile and keeping it active at all the top bookmarking sites. A few sites we recommend are: Del.icio.us, Digg, Netscape, Reddit, and Stumbleupon. Each has a different audience, so some of your content will do better at some sites over others. Because of their differences, it is important to be an active member of all the sites and submit your content at all of them.

23. Play nice: Don’t abuse social bookmarking sites. Don’t submit (seed) every single page on your site. Be selective and only submit your best blog posts or website articles. The social bookmarking sites are getting better at weeding out users who are just self-promoters, so make sure that along with your own submissions, you mix in a healthy share of random articles.

24. Make your social bookmarking username your site URL. If your domain is mywidgets.com, use “mywidgets” as your username when you sign up at social bookmarking/ e-profile sites. Branding is all about incremental gains in visibility and trust. While your username alone won’t add tons of either visibility and trust, it can help incrementally as part of an overall branding plan.

25. Make lots of social bookmarking friends. Each site supports this differently, but under almost every site ‘friends’ is just a proxy for people that will vote for your submissions if you reciprocate. So make sure you vote for most (not all) of your friends submissions, if you want them to help vote your articles to the front page.

26. E-profiles: manage your reputation. If a potential customer types in your name into a search engine, what sort of results will they see in the top 10? It’s key for you to secure the top 10 results in Google, Yahoo and MSN for searches relating directly and indirectly (if possible) to your brand. You need to be the one defining what people see when they search for you, not your competition. Start by building e-profiles on authority domains such as MySpace, Squidoo, AboutUs, WordPress, Blogger/ Blogspot, MSN Spaces, TypePad, Newsvine, LinkedIn, Rollyo, Wikipedia, etc. Don’t let someone else define who you are.

Additional Linkbuilding

Branding and building links back to your site go hand in hand. Here are some tips that focus on how to develop and control your brand through linkbuilding.

27. Submit to select directories. Get listed on the best directories and authority sites in your niche. Some suggestions are; Aviva Directory, Yahoo!, DMOZ, BOTW, GoGuides, Sevenseek, v7n Directory and Skaffe.

28. Get listed on local authority websites. Many cities will have a large, centrally operated online business directory. A link from a local government site (.gov) will boost your visibility and build your search engine rankings. Often that requires no more effort than doing a GoogleSearch for “(your city) business directory” and emailing the webmaster.

29. Use sitemaps. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft recently agreed to follow one standard sitemap format. A well-built sitemap can help your site get indexed regularly and fully, but its primary purpose is to give users an easy way to find a particular piece of content. Remember: by catering to your visitors, you not only create a site brand associated with quality and ease of use for those same visitors, you also increase the possibility that your regular readers will help spread your brand by dropping links to you on their own sites.

30. Be a link leaker. Give lots of link love to everyone in your niche. A lot of new bloggers think that they shouldn’t link out because it waters down their PageRank. That is completely wrong. Link out to everyone, including your competition, and as those webmasters you linked to check their referral pages, you can watch as the links come pouring in.

31. Linkbait. Write fun or helpful “top 10” (or top 99) types of lists – they always work. Make sure that they are easy to read (i.e., each bullet point is brief). Have someone seed the article on one of the social networking sites and hope for the best.

32. Ping blog directories. Most top weblog platforms support pinging to blog directories. Use Pingomatic, Pingoat, Technorati, etc., when you update your blog. Pinging means that the search engine spidey’s will crawl your site quicker and more completely in the future.

33. Use Feedburner. Using Feedburner will allow you to control your brand’s name in the Feedburner URL. And having above the fold feeds available encourage webmasters and experienced web surfers (the people most likely to use feeds) to keep coming back and dropping you links every time you update.

Usability, Accessibility and Design

Your website is your online calling card. Make it usable and accessible by following these steps:

34. Get a unique logo. Your logo is your brand. It should be simple, straightforward, even obvious if you hope it will be remembered. You can get a graphics design student from your local college (just email a professor in the department’it works, we promise) to draw up a top notch logo for under $100. When it comes to a logo design, don’t trust your own judgment. Have a few sketches drawn up and ask people of all different sorts what the first 3 words that come to mind when they see the logo are: if its not your niche, and something like “quality” then try a different logo.

35. Create a tagline. A tagline is central to any brand. But if you don’t want to shell out big $$$ for a marketing company to develop a tagline for you (and who does?), then come up with some options yourself (shorter is better) and do a mini-survey among friends to see which tagline conjures up the brand image you are trying to create.

36. Design with a focus on MDA. Design your blog with a focus on visitor experience that leads the user to your MDA (Most Desired Action). Test various designs before launch by asking friends and family to go to the site and see where they click and when.

37. Define a distinct layout. As an online retailer/marketer you have the built-in disadvantage of a lack of trust from customers. You can help overcome that inherent bias by creating a site layout that creates the impression of organization, ease of use, and trust. Designing Website Usability by Jakob Nielsen should be at the top of your reading list.

38. Use whitespace liberally. There is nothing like a busy confused design to destroy a brand. Keep your design minimal and your logo prominent. Don’t feel the need to fill in every square inch with another advertisement. Less is almost always more.

39. Design for scanners, not readers. I know, you’ve put a lot of time into your content, so you want people to read every little word. But the truth is, people online are scanners, not readers. So if you want to get your message across, you need to tell them your unique selling points in a bullet list or in short crisp sentences.

40. Learn from the best. Compare yourself to established leaders such as Apple, Amazon and Google. How does your site’s user experience compare with those top sites?

41. Contact information. Offer a clear, concise and easy to find contact page, with relevant info, including a Skype username. Provide a toll free number and/or “click to call me” buttons for Skype or SightSpeed. People want to feel like there is a person behind the web page. By providing them with easy contact information, you go a long way to establishing your brand’s credibility.

42. URL structure. Brand with your page URL structure. That does not mean stuffing your URL with all related keywords, but it does mean letting people know what your site is about through the URL. (NOT: www.submit-site-directory-webdirectory-linkbuilding.com. YES: www.AvivaDirectory.com).

43. Page titles. Don’t underestimate the power of the humble little HTML tag to promote your brand in web pages. A good page title will expose searchers to your brand and help search engines to know what your site is all about.

44. Navigation. A clear navigational structure will help develop your brand authority. When people know how to easily navigate a site they feel more comfortable with the site’s legitimacy and trustworthiness.

45. Check your content for typos. What you say on your website speaks volumes for your brand and your company. If you can’t spend the time to eliminate typo’s, why should your customers think that you will spend the time to get their orders correct and send them out on time.

46. Remove inaccurate content. If you no longer offer a product or service, remove its pages and use a 301 redirect to the homepage. Nothing says spam site like having content that is clearly outdated or having links that don’t work.

47. Use consistent style. Use consistent grammar, linking style, etc. Expert Said Rouhani refers to this as “repetition” in his article How to Brand your Website. But whatever you call it, the basic point is that consistency in web design = trust. And trust = a strong brand and more regular visitors.

48. Be specific. Don’t try to be everything under the sun to every type of user. If your site sells blue widgets, you might get away with selling red widgets too. But if you try to start selling something completely different in addition to widgets, you won’t get nearly enough new visitors to offset the visitors you’ll lose by watering down your brand.

49. Get a website facelift. Give your ‘About Us’ and ‘Contact Us’ pages a freshening. Bryan Eisenberg of the ClickZ Network has several suggestions for both of these largely forgotten foot soldiers in the war for internet visitors’ hearts and minds.

50. Block out spam. Use a comment-spam filter to present a more professional blog. But be aware that whatever filter you use, you will still need to make a weekly manual check for spam comments a filter isn’t going to pick up.

51. Compatibility. Your website should be accessible through every web browser. By having parts of your website inaccessible to particular browsers, you necessarily cut out a significant portion of your potential audience. Being compatible isn’t hard, but its surprising how many major sites simply don’t do it.

52. Use valid code. Make the site meet 508 accessibility standards Designing a 508 compliant site doesn’t require a whole lot of extra work, and it can bring you more traffic in two ways. The first is that visitors with impairments are underserved on the net, so if your site is compliant it may be the only one in its niche, and as a result you will by default become the authority for those people. Second, a compliant site will typically be crawled better, because taking basic steps to make your site handicapped accessible, such as including image text for screen readers, also means more text that search engines can actually use as opposed to most graphics.

53. Be proactive: clean up problems before they happen. Remember, you are building your brand for humans and search engines. Your site needs to be solid and fast. So make sure you haven’t accidentally blocked spiders from indexing your pages with your robots.txt, rewrite dynamic URLs to appear static with a .htaccess file, and create a canonical domain name with a 301 redirect. You can also use your robots.txt and .htaccess files to block bad robots from spidering your site, stealing your text and damaging your brand.

54. Use Stock Photos. Make your website look as professional as the big guns’ sites for much less by incorporating stock photos into your site. A silent revolution is currently going on in digital photography, the rise of stock photos now allows people on a limited budget to produce site designs as good as those operating on a much higher budget. Big Stock Photo and iStockphoto are two good sources for stock images.

55. If you need design help, look in all the right places. If you can’t do a good job on the design work yourself, consider hiring an art student. Excellent work can still be had for peanuts. If going the student route isn’t to your liking, take a look at the deviantART website’s designs and interfaces section for some DIY help. And if you do want to hire a professional, you can check out the contact information on that site or try Rentacoder to get bids.

56. Have a web feed. Web-savvy readers are increasingly subscribing to web feeds of their favorite sites. Because developing a trusted brand for your own site depends on getting links, you need to cater to your web-savvy readers, who are the most likely to be webmasters themselves. So make sure to offer a wide array of web feed buttons above the fold on your site.

Personal Communication

Word of mouth has always been infinitely more powerful than any marketing campaign. Here’s how to extend this old school viral branding technique online.

57. Use email sigs. Put your site URL in your email signature, especially if you’re using a freebie account. It will help give your site credibility if your emails look professional and you may pick up a unique visitor once in a while. As a side note, a freebie account is usually associated with crummy companies, simply because your customers reason that you’re only using the freebie because you’re too lazy or broke to setup something more personalized. Nonetheless, if you prefer the freebie accounts, or are just looking for the lazy way out, at least throw in an email signature to give yourself some credibility.

58. Brand your free email accounts. Sign up for free email accounts (Hotmail, Google Mail, Yahoo Mail) using your company name as your user name. That way you there won’t be any dupe email accounts available when your evil competitor or phisher starts to try to impersonate you.

59. Network. Attending local conferences in your niche is a great way to meet people. If there isn’t a conference for people in your niche, consider hosting a meet-and-greet at a local restaurant to accomplish the same thing.

60. Can I give you my card?. Always carry business cards with a visual of the product or your tagline on the back of the card. To save money you can print business cards out on your own printer using card stock. Better yet, get Moo’s Skype cards for a fun and different way to stand out.

61. Mix work and pleasure. Host an alternative after-party to an industry convention. If the group is small enough you can host it in your home or hotel room. Otherwise just have people come to a local bar. You can usually make a deal with the local bar to give everyone a deal on their drinks just for agreeing to throw the party at their bar. That way, it doesn’t cost you a dime but you still look like a hero.

62. Give thanks. Send hand-written thank you notes to your most important customers. If you don’t want to deal with the post office, at least send personal emails. Individualized contact to customers is a great way to establish your brand as the destination site for those repeat customers by letting them know how much they are valued.

63. Support your customers even after the sale. Support post-sale questions for your product or service. The cost is a few minutes of your time, but the benefits are long-lasting customer loyalty and word-of-mouth goodwill.

64. Solicit repeat business. It’s easier to get repeat business than new business. So if you’ve only got enough time/cash to run one advertising campaign, you may want to spend that energy on your repeat buyers. Your marketing efforts to repeat customers don’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. As Chris Philippi mentions in Five Ways to Get Repeat Business, a simple “Thank you” can go a long way.

Going Viral to Develop Your Brand

Viral is in, it’s fun, and requires just a bit of thought.

65. Develop a viral link building strategy. Link building and brand building are inextricably linked. The best way to build links is with a viral strategy whereby sites link to you because of a unique service, an extensive and original article or an interesting product. You can use social networks like Digg, del.icio.us, Fark and Magnolia to get the word out quickly.

66. Go viral with a video. Make and post an interesting/ fun video (or series) on YouTube. Just make sure it’s relevant to your business. Maybe you’ve got your own addition to the Apple vs PC series of TV commercials. Whatever you create, spend a little time and effort to make it good, as a video that goes viral can bring tens of thousands of new readers to your site.

67. Use your webcam. A variation on viral videos: use your webcam to run a small competition. Make your webcam publicly available, then hold up a code or phrase that participants must send in to you. The first person in wins.

68. Go viral, part 2: create valuable e-books. Give them away; white papers are so passe. For ideas on how to create your e-book, check out Copyblogger and Seth Godin. A good ebook will keep bringing in new readers and links for months, and it will help establish your brand as an authority site in your niche.

69. Go viral, part 3: buttons. Create some utility or service on your site for free, then create a graphic buttons that websites can display, linked to your service. Consider Dane Carlson’s Business Opportunities Weblog, which hosts the famed How Much Is My Blog Worth? code.

70. Go viral, part 4: free templates. If you have a flair for design, and know your way around a stylesheet, consider creating free templates for WordPress, MySpace, eBay listings and the like. Why free? By giving them away, each marked with your brand (name, logo and link), you will soon find them all over the internet… and so will everyone else. If you want to get really creative, create free templates specifically designed for competitors’ sites in your particular niche. For example, if you’re an online directory, create Online Directory Templates. That way you can ensure that in addition to picking up some unique incoming links from other people using your template, you’re also creating a strong web footprint within your niche so that the search engines will better recognize you as an authority.

71. Create controversy. If you have the stomach for it, be controversial and create buzz. Just remember, whatever controversy you create will reflect on your site and your brand. So in some instances going too far in creating controversy can backfire. Just walk the line and be careful.

More Unconventional Ideas – Online

You don’t have to go viral to utilize unconventional ideas online. Here are few unconventional ideas that if executed well can yield big results.

72. Hold a contest to develop an opt-in mailing list. Give something away in exchange for building a contestant email list. Artists can raffle off illustrations or paintings, booksellers and writers can offer free copies, et cetera. A opt-in subscription list of email recipients is flat-out invaluable.

73. Free swag for reviews. Nokia loaned out some of their N-series phones to bloggers to try out and review, regardless of their feelings. Try something similar, including a free download for otherwise paid software.

74. Getting reviewed without giving stuff away. The good folks at ReviewMe.com have made it easy to get blogger reviewers of your products. But if you want a freebie review you can simply email other bloggers in your niche and ask them to review your service. By letting other bloggers know that you respect their opinion and are seriously looking for feedback, many bloggers will feel flattered and respond. You will be surprised at how much good feedback and free publicity you get.

75. Buy some good keyword text. Text-Link-Ads is a great way to build reputation through branded anchor links. But you can do the same thing yourself (often for much less) by emailing bloggers in your niche and asking if they’d be willing to take some cash in exchange for a text link.

76. Build a funny 404 page.  For tips and advice on how to do this, check out 404 Error Pages.

77. Do something outrageous. Or at very least unusual, and document the action itself and reactions others had to it. Randy’s Affiliate Marketing Programs Blog discusses a few of the more famous outrageous branding ideas, from Alex Tew’s Million Dollar Homepage (the original dollar-a-pixel site) to John Freyer’s All My Life for Sale (a wildly-successful eBay project).

78. Do something outrageous, part 2. Duplicate marketing zen master Kyle MacDonald’s One Red Paperclip experiment. Kyle is the genius, unintentional or not, who managed a series of trades to turn a single red paper clip into his own home. Now, he owns a house and he’s using all the publicity and web traffic to sell “one red paper clip” gear on his site. And all from a free-hosted Blogspot.com blog. True genius.

79. Do something outrageous, part 3. Announce that you are offering a new service which is either so underpriced or so overpriced that it causes everyone in your niche to wake up and pay attention (and give you some free press). Just be careful that you can meet demand if the price is too low (and offer it for a limited time only).

80. Head over to the Bestest Blog of All Time. Exchange links, or spend a buck or two to become a ‘Premium Blog.’ The site’s ‘Random Blog’ button will teleport visitors to your site, but in addition you’ll pick up a good backlink. The site also awards a daily accolade — the Bestest Blog of the Day — which typically generates respectable traffic numbers to winners’ sites.

Unconventional Ideas – Offline

And of course, you don’t have to be online to use marketing and branding techniques.

    81. Promote Offline. Greg Harnett of BOTW fame once offered a free listing in his directory if you created a banner about a passionate idea and made it into the local media. Try something similar.       

    82. T-shirts. Shoemoney gives away t-shirts emblazoned with his name/ logo and URL. It’s worthwhile for Shoemoney because he knows that the cost of producing the T-shirt is a whole lot less than the amount he will make back in free offline branding. And if you want to combine two forms of promotion in one, you can hold a contest to design a promotional t-shirt , then give the winning shirt away. That way you get the net buzz of a contest, you don’t have to design the shirt yourself, AND you get free offline advertising by having people wear a shirt with your site on it.

    83. Stickers. Everyone loves stickers. Slap’em on your car and give them away to friends.

    84. Flyers. Print out a small-sized promotional flyer, and then leave copies in trendy local stores, bars and restaurants. But ask first.

    85. Bookmarks. Print up some bookmarks (you remember those pieces of card stock used to keep your page in a book) and set up a stack at local coffee houses, bookstores, libraries, and any other place that your audience is likely to be.

    86. Sponsor a local sports team. Why not sponsor a softball team, bowling league or other sporting event. Sponsoring = a lot of eyeballs and surprisingly it doesn’t cost a whole a lot. Often just $100 will get you listed as the sponsor of a team or event.

    87. Payoff a DJ. Approach a DJ with a bit of a following to mix a track with your site name worked in. (Yeah, we know it’s an unconventional idea, that’s the point).

    88. Pull off a publicity stunt. Want to get free coverage in the press, online and off? Pull off a publicity stunt. Come up with an original idea and inform the press that something special will be going down. If you’ve whetted their appetite, the press and public will turn up and bring your message to thousands of new people.

    89. Be visible at local festivals. Get your name about by participating in local festivals where you will have ample opportunity to network, hand out promotional material and even sell your services / product. Just make sure that the event is the type that your service and site want to be associated before jumping in on each and every festival that comes to your city.

    90. Give away a free branded product. Just like Shoemoney’s free t-shirt giveaways, why not give away a free sample of your product? This can be extremely successful, just make sure you have enough stock available in case demand skyrockets. This is ideal for conferences and festivals where the audience has self-selected to be more likely to be interested in your product or service.

    91. Guerilla marketing. Head down to your local library and hunt down books relevant to your topic. Then insert your business card or flyer into the book at the very front. This guerilla marketing can work on an individual level, but the benefits can multiply dramatically if your persistent activity starts to create buzz.

    92. Guerilla marketing, part 2. Change the homepage on publicly available computers. Changing the homepage of local libraries and internet cafes will bring in some new visitors, but more importantly it will create buzz.

    93. Go real-world alternate advertising. Pay people to advertise your logo on their forehead, tattoo it (non-permanent), or trim it into their hair. One guy went to the extreme of hiring homeless people to carry ads for his website. (We don’t like the idea of exploiting the homeless, so we’re not giving a link).

    94. Be a star. Call up your local public cable access channel and ask to be interviewed. They are desperate for content and may go for it.

    95. Talk the good talk. Give a speech or volunteer for a career day at a high school.

    96. Sponsor a highway. At the least, an adopt-a-highway sponsorship will build goodwill. But it also gives you a tax-deductible form of advertising. Gotta love those tax loopholes!

    97. Make’em laugh. Hire a local comedian/ comedienne to do a schtick (with your logo and URL prominently displayed, say on a t-shirt) for a Youtube video. A service like GIGMasters or Entertainment Unlimited may be a good place to look for someone, but you might also luck out and save a lot of money by hanging around the stage doors of local comedy clubs and making a face-to-face deal.

    98. Get physical (templates redux). Templates needn’t be digital. Mirkwood Designs, for instance, has made several box, envelope and card templates available for anyone to freely download. Ms Zaroff accepts donations for her templates, but her company also receives recognition through her customers and other webmasters providing free links: This is what happens when you type ‘Mirkwood Designs’ into Google.

    99. Join up with your local Chamber of Commerce. Almost every city has it’s own Chamber of Commerce (and website), which you should join and become and active member of. Once a member, ask them to list your business on their website. The link won’t bring in much traffic, but it will give you a good quality back link, and for those customers looking to verify your legitimacy, a link from your local Chamber will go a long way.

    Resources + References

    The following sites are great resources for tips on successful blogging, promotion, improving your website’s rank, branding, reputation control, and more. Obviously, we can’t list everyone, but here are a few starters, in alphabetical order.


    1. (About) Marketing.

    2. (About) Retail.

    3. MarketingProfs.

    4. MarketingSherpa.

    5. MarketingStudies.

    6. OneDegree.

    7. SethGodin.

    Professional + Business Blogging

    1. BlogWriteForCEOs.

    2. CopyBlogger.

    3. Problogger.

    4. Successful-Blog.

    SEO + Related

    1. AvivaDirectory’s Successful Blog Launch Tutorial

    2. SEO Book

    3. SEOPedia.

    4. Wolf-Howl

52 Responses to “Little Known Ways to Brand on the Cheap: 99 Tips for Poor Web Startups”

  1. Bobby Griffin Says:

    Thanks so much for featuring my site at #80! This on the day I crack the top 1000 on Technorati! I hope this means I’m going places (also on a free blogspot domain, hehe).

  2. Keith L. Dick Says:

    Very useful info, thanks for sharing and I’m
    going to bookmark this for future reading…

  3. vs Says:

    That’s so true about those “best of” lists. People love them!

  4. Brand on the Cheap: 99 Tips for Poor Web Startups » The Online Industrialist Says:

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  5. Shaun Stevens Says:

    What a useful article and links.
    thank you

  6. Citen Says:

    Don’t hire a college student to design a logo. College students don’t have enough real world experience when it comes to branding solutions. Why do you think they are still in college and not running their own company? If you’re going to be a cheapskate then you’ll get what you paid for.

  7. agreenknight Says:

    Personally, I think hiring the homeless is a good idea. For one thing it is better then having them beg.

  8. Ivan Minic Says:

    Great article all in all, I’ll say.

  9. anon Says:

    “Little Known Ways to Brand on the Cheap”
    Little known? How about #1 “Launch an influential blog”.

    Wow, right off the bat you nailed one no one would have thought of. Way to really knock this article out of the park.

  10. Chris Says:

    One of the best articles I’ve read this year! Right up my alley!

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  12. Praveen Says:

    One of the best reads of this year 🙂

    Excellent Article

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  15. Mario Sanchez Says:

    Thanks for this wonderful, comprehensive article. Great advice here, with links to other useful sources of information. Some of the tips are a little over the top (like changing the default homepage in public library computers ;), but other than that very solid advice. I’m definetely bookmarking this post.

  16. Jason M. Hanley » Blog Archive » 99 Tips to (Cheaply) Brand a Start-up Says:

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  17. Phil Says:

    Great article, very useful bookmarked it for future reference! only wish my link was on it…

  18. Dave G. Says:

    Thanks, I’m trying to build my site’s traffic and these tips will make good reading.

  19. Jim Westergren Says:


    Will study this closely later and it is bookmarked for later linking.

  20. Simon Says:

    Great list – many thanks.

  21. Sujan Patel Says:

    Awesome post. Going to recommend to my friends

  22. Affiliate Profit Center Says:

    Excellent article, lots of great ideas!


  23. jeremy Says:

    Love your blog!! Always interesting. Check out http://thenightlyquill.com/

  24. Dann Says:

    A very extensive of to do list indeed. Thank you.

  25. Sander Says:

    Great tips Jeff, good read! Keep it up.

  26. Global WebLinks Says:

    This is a great article Jeff, and some very usefull tips.
    I have seen several things here, that I didnt know anything about, and I will get right on it. Ty
    Bookmarked ofc 🙂

  27. Amit Patel Says:

    Excellent Article there Jeff …
    Hats off 🙂

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  29. Diana Barnum Says:

    Thanks! Great new list to print out and keep handy!!

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  31. Alex Says:

    up to date website promotion guide. great work.

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  35. Doug Says:

    It’s interesting to see if free alternatives make a dent in the market.

    One example is http://www.adgridwork.com/ I tried using them for a kitchenware company and so far the response has been great.

    One question is will contextual advertising become less effective as web users “wise up” to ads that look like content?

  36. joebaz Says:

    First off, I need to say that this is a great list of ideas and marketing techniques. I hope that readers try out some of the ideas (and not forgot to measure the results!) 😀

    Secondly, this article just skims the surface of “brand management”, a very important aspect for any individual looking to promote a product or service. Brand management covers concepts like visual identity (e.g. Logo and color design), corporate culture development (e.g. Google’s “Do No Evil” motto), customer service or experience (e.g. Starbuck’s high standards for customer service), Apple’s innovative product design (e.g. iMac), and so on and so forth. I encourage readers to continue their discovery of branding – for starters, one can query “brand” at Wikipedia and start from there.

    “Do one thing that scares you everyday” –Anonymous

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    Super great consolidation of amazing yet practical tips! Keep it up!

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  41. Shay Says:

    What a resourceful article. If I were creating a business plan for a small business, I could easily pull 20 of these tips into a checklist for inclusion onto the business website.

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  43. Steven Says:

    Excellent advice, have seen bits and pieces around the web, but this feels concise – many thanks for taking the time to enlighten us.


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  47. john beck Says:

    Definitely worth a perusal, there are a number of interesting items within the article. Although I would prefer the term “Bootstrap” as opposed to “poor”.

  48. Angelique Says:

    Well I must say this site and article was very informative, with tons of great links to keep in touch with technology and business. Thank you. I have so much to say but I found myself kinda speechless. I’m inspired to do so much with no real direction. At the same time it’s overwhelming not knowing where to begin. I guess I’ll stop here and get started. Good luck…You’re Definitely Bookmarked!

  49. Michelle Says:

    Wow! I thought I knew a bunch, but my to-do list just doubled. Cripes! Thanks for sharing all these resources, I’ve learned a lot today and it’s just now 6 AM.


  50. Leo Says:

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  52. john becks amazing profits Says:

    If you want to have success on the web you need a unique angle and a reputable brand so that visitors have something to remember you by.

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