Branding Your Website: What You Need to Know

Branding Iron

Branding can make or break your web presence. It is one of the most important considerations when designing your website.

If you do not brand your website, then people will not know what the message of your site is. Or worse, end up with a negative image.

This is not lonely true for large corporate websites, but also for small business, for non-profits like churches, and even for your personal home page.

Branding is not just something that big business use to sell you stuff. You can use it to tell your visitors who you are, and what you stand for.

A report by NewsCred found that 69% of visitors to your website base their opinion of you on your brand.

So What Exactly is Branding

Wikipedea defines Brand as “a name, term, design, or other feature that distinguishes one seller’s product from those of others”.

I would go further to say that a Brand is the image you intentionally portray of your company or yourself in order to convey a certain image.

Branding is nothing new. It dates back to antiquity when rulers would give themselves titles – John the Baptist, Peter the Great. Etc.

Cattle farmers brand their livestock, musicians brand their identities (think Jimmy Buffet, or Madonna). And large corporations brand their logos (think of Apple and their logo of and apple with a bite taken out of it referencing Adam taking a bite out of the fruit of Knowledge).

Do you recognize these brands?

MichelinNikeWorld Wildlife Federation


Brands could also be identified by people.

Do you know what companies these people represent:

Richard BransonColonel SandersSteve Jobs

What Are The Essential Elements of Your Brand

Your brand needs to convey your Unique Selling Proposition (or USP).  Your USP is what differentiates you, your company, your service, or your product from others.

Here are a few examples of USP that help differentiate these companies from their competitors

  • Avis’ “We’re only number two. We try harder”
  • Domino’s “30 minutes or it’s free”
  • Southwest’s “The lowest-priced airline”
  • New York Times “All the news that’s fit to print”
  • Bounty “The quicker picker-upper”

If you can create an image for yourself, then you can create a brand for yourself. And by putting effort into defining your brand then people will know what to expect from you.

For example, Walmart is where you go to buy stuff without spending a lot of money. You would not go there if you were in the market for a Rolex, but you would if you want cheap laundry detergent. Just as you would not go to Saks Fifth Avenue to buy discount goods.

Your brand conveys a message about what to expect from you. And once your brand is successful in doing that, then people automatically think of you when they have a particular need or problem to solve.

How to Define and Brand Your Website

It is worthwhile exercise to think about the basics of your brand. Think about your customers, and if you were in their shoes, what would you expect.

  1. What is your Unique Selling Proposition – what differentiates you from your competitors
  2. What do you want your visitors to remember about you – Are you expensive, cheap, fun, serious
  3. how do you want your visitors to recognize you – a memorable logo or catchy phrase

First time visitors to your website forum and opinion of your website  in two tenths of a  second according to researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. That is how much time you have to make an impression and brand your image in the mind of your visitor.

Again, this does not just apply to large companies. If your site is a mess, it does not matter if you are the guy selling chips out of your food truck, people are going to associate that mess with you.

Consistency trumps all.

With a bit of planning you can create brand your website.

  1. Create a simple style guide – what colors are important to you. Try to limit yourself to one basic color, and one secondary color. Unless you are intentionally trying to be artistic, simple is better. And you can never go wrong with white space.
  2. Choose what fonts you are going to use. More than two may be too much – one for your headlines, and one for the body of your text should be enough
  3. If you do not already have a logo, get one. Cheap and easy places to get a logo include Fiverr (get a logo for $5), and 99designs (a bit more upscale).
  4. Tone of voice. If you are building a website for a funeral home, slang and jokes might not be what your visitors are going to respond well to.
  5. Message – whatever your message is, try to promote it across your entire website
  6. Reinforce your brand – You want to give the impression that your brand is valued. Testimonials are good for this.

Putting it all together

Your brand is an extension of you, your business, your service and your product. Your website is just one medium for you to promote your brand.

If you have business cards, make sure that you use the same style guide for your website as you do for your business cards, your printed material. If you post to social media sites, make sure that you use the same branded images there too.

Remember, consistency is what makes your brand stick. You want to bombard anything and everything with the same message.



Branding has been used since antiquity and is one of the most important elements of human communication. Whether we do it consciously or not, it is always better that we define our brand, or someone else will do it for us.

Your website is an extension, and very public display of your brand. You have learned a few simple basics how to define your brand . Make sure to jot down some simple notes and take a look as your website to make sure it conveys the message you want it to.

Now it is your turn:

Do you believe that branding is important?

Share your answer on or .

Images: Derek

How a 35 Dollar Book Changed My Life (and could change yours)


I built my first website way back in 1996. I guess you could say it was my lucky break. I was finished university, and I had no idea what I was going to do for a living (you often don’t when you graduate with a degree in Fine Arts).

A friend and I, Eddy (also a recent Fine Arts graduate) would hang out at the local coffee shop in the morning and talk about what we might do with our highly-unmarketable Fine Arts degrees.

On one particular morning the discussion got around to this ‘Internet thing’ that was the latest buzz at the time (remember, we’re talking early 1996 here).

I was flat broke, so much so that I was two months behind in my rent and getting eviction notices posted on my door that would greet me when I came home.

We both thought that perhaps there might be an oportunity with this Internt thing. But neither of us knew anything about it.

When you invest in yourself, the return on investment is guaranteed.

I decided to invest $35 on a book on how to write HTML to make websites – that was a big investment for me at the time, both financially and psychologically.

I took the leap

Within two years of that decision I was Executive Web Producer for Scholastic Canada – the largest children’s book publisher in the world.

I guess you could say that $35 book on how to make a website was a good investment for me…

The decision to buy that book taught me how to write HTML to make websites, but more importantly it taught me a number of life lessons:

  1. There are opportunities around us all the time – we just have to be able to see them.
  2. Opportunities are lost if we do not take action on them. And taking action requires we conquer our fear of not only failure, but of succeeding.
  3. When you stop being willing to learn something new, you stop living.
  4. With very few exceptions, anyone is capable of anything – this is something I truly believe. We are the only ones who stand in the way of ourselves.

I went on to be head of the HTML team that developed Deutsche BankNew York LifeCIBC, and more. As well as being involved with a number of small Internet startups.


How did I apply this to my life? Well, I learned a few things about websites and digital marketing – mostly that there is always something new to learn. And I am still learning.


Simple, but important questions about your website.


1) Who is your website for? That is, who is your audience?

2) What is the goal of your website? Are you trying to sell something, advertise something?

3) Who are your competitors, what are they doing, and what can you learn from them.

4) How much time do you have – you can do anything, but remember that everything takes time…

5) How much experience do you have, and what are you realistically capable of – focus on your competences. If you are not interested in writing or graphic design, let someone else do that part.


First Steps to Building a Web Presence


Get a tool to build a website.

Unlike when I started out, you do not have to learn HTML. There are a number of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) tools avaible that make building a website easy, including our SiteSpinner website design software tools.

Get a reputable Web Host.

Again, there are many options avabile. In my opinion you are better off hosting your website than using a web (browser based) tool to design your website. If you keep your website and your host seperate, then you can always move your website if you want or need to. We use Bluehost as they reliable, and support just about every web technology out there.

Opportunity is out there


I started out with a degree in Music Composition, but within a few short years I was head of web development for some of the largest websites in the world. If I had thought that I could not do it, then I would not have been able to.

If you want to build a website (or ride a unicycle, or tie a knot behind your back…) then you have to believe that you can do it, because if you don’t believe it, you will never be able to.

I hope you found this post helpful. Thanks for reading!

Images: TessssNick

5 Ways to Make Money from Your Website


How to monetize your website

There are as many reasons to have a website as there are websites.

Perhaps you have a website to chronicle your child’s soccer team. Perhaps you have a website to promote your restaurant. Perhaps you have a website to announce your church’s services.

Whatever the purpose of your website, just the fact that you have a website gives you the opportunity to generate revenue – if you want to…

And what you generate the revenue for is just a varied as why you have a website in the first place.

Perhaps you just want to make enough money to pay for the cost of the website, or perhaps you want to use the money to support a team, for donations, or for your church kitty.

Then again perhaps you want to use the website as a means to supplement your income. Or even as a means to generate your main income.

However you choose to spend the money you generate from your website, the bottom line is that there are a number of ways you can us it to earn income.

What are some of the ways you can earn income from your website?

  1. Advertising
  2. Affiliate & Referral Marketing
  3. Selling Products
  4. Selling Your Services / Training / Membership
  5. Donations


1) Advertising

Advertising is probably the simplest way to generate income from your website. And the easiest way to add advertising by far is to use Google Adsense on your page.

Google Adsense

The nice thing about Google Adsense is that Google already knows what your website is about, and therefore they can automatically place ads on it that complement your website.

For example, if you have a website about movie reviews, Google will figure out that people who visit your site are probably into movies and may display ads for local cinemas, or trailers for movies.

If you already have a Google account, such as a gmail account or a Google+ account, then you are half way to having a Google Adsense account. Select the Business tools from your Google account and you will see a link to sign up for Adsense.

To include Adsense on your web page you just add the code to the page where you want the ads to appear (if you are using WebDwarf, SiteSpinner or SiteSpinner Pro, you can find out how to add code to your pages in the Tutorials here).

There are a number of other services including Yahoo/Bing, SiteScout to name a few. Each use a different method. Some place ads in locations you choose on your site. Some put banner adds up, and some create links from words or phrases in your text.

Some websites make a lot of money off advertising. However, you have to have a lot of traffic, and it has to be targeted traffic. That is. if you have a website about zombie movies, and your website generates hundreds of thousands of visitors a month (and that is a lot), then there is a pretty good chance that ads for zombie paraphernalia will generate considerable income for you.

For websites with a smaller amount of traffic don’t expect to earn a fortune with ads.


2) Affiliate & Referral Marketing

With Affiliate Marketing you make a commission on a sale of a product or service that is referred from our website.

Unlike Ads where you are trying to get people to simply click a link or an image, with Affiliate marketing you are trying to make a sale of another company’s product or service.

If you manage to sell the other company’s product, then the company gives you a commission on the sale.

Affiliate Marketing works best when the product you are promoting is a good fit with the topic of your website.

For example, we develop and sell website design software. We do not offer web hosting as that is not our expertise and so it makes sense for us to partner with a web hosting company, as anyone who uses our products will need to host their website somewhere.

Keep in mind that if you are going to promote a product by another company you need to do your due diligence and ensure that the company is reputable, because if people are not happy with them, then they will also not be happy with you.

We chose Bluehost as our partner because they have such a great track record and we feel good about promoting them. On top of that, they offer a discount to our customers. This works as a win-win for Bluehost, us, and our customers.

Blue Host Website Hosting


Think of a product or  service that would be a good fit for your company then check out their website, or approach them directly to find out if they have and affiliate program.

There are also a number of Affiliate networks you can sign up with and then pick and choose which products or services you want to promote to your website visitors. Some of the more popular you know doubt have heard of are Amazon and eBay.


3) Selling A Product

This might seem a bit obvious, but if you have a product, your website is the place you should be selling it.

SiteSpinner Pro Website Design Software

Our SiteSpinner Pro Website Design Software

That does not mean that if you are an oil company that you should be selling oil on your website.

However, if you have a church, you could be selling raffle tickets. Girl Guide Cookies are a great fit for a Girl Guides website.

When I was Executive Producer for Scholastic, the largest children’s book publisher in the world, the Web was a not fully understood by the higher management. If you did not get a scholastic book through school you could get it through your local book store, and then through Amazon, but Scholastic would not sell books through their website.

Don’t make the mistake of letting someone else make money off one of your products.


4) Selling Your Services / Training / Membership

Do you have valuable content that people cannot get from somewhere else? Then creating a membership section of your website might work for you.

You can create a section of your website that only paying members have access to.

There are a number of different models for this. You could offer free useful content, but then offer more in-depth content behind your pay wall.

You could have a Forum that only paid visitors have access to

You could have an online course that has a set amount of time, or one that is open ended.

Of all the means of generating revenue from your website, having content that produces recurring revenue produces the greatest amount of income.

Having said that, you need to have a track record to make this successful. There are a multitude of Gurus on the web who tout subscriptions as a means of generating revenue from a relatively small amount of work. This might be true if, say you are a Doctor, then perhaps it is not that difficult to set up a subscription service for doctors. But the time to become a doctor is where the work is.

If you are service company then your main goal may be to promote and sell your services via your website. But keep in mind that if you want to set up a subscription service to teach people how to climb Mount Everest, then you had better have climbed Mount Everest yourself.

Are you good at something? Has anyone ever asked you for help with something or advice on something? If you answered yes to any of these, then you can be selling that service on your website.


5) Donations

One of the most direct ways of generating revenue from your website is to ask for donations.

Wikipedia Donation Page

Think of Wikipedia that generates all its revenue through donations.

Whatever it is you are offering, giving your ‘thing’ away and asking for a donation is a valid and common form of generating revenue.

Radio Paradise Donation Page

You don’t have to be a large site. Radio Paradise, a website that streams commercial-free music, supports itself purely from donations.

The easiest way to accept donations from your website is to set up a PayPal account. If the person donating does not have a Paypal account, they can still use a credit card or debit card to make a donation.



Keep in mind that you do not have to use a single method to monetize your website. A novelist may sell products (her books), sell services (how to write books), accept donations, and have Affiliate links in her site to purchase book related paraphernalia, and still include Google Adsense.

Adding every means possible may be a bit over the top for some websites, but mixing and matching ways to generate income is valid and accepted on for many sites. Just be sure to not over do it.



Which of the above ways to monetize your website make the most money?

Share your answer on , , or .

How To Create Better Web Pages For Your Visitors


Create Better Web Pages

Creating Better Web Pages Is Not Rocket Science. But you learn both using the same basic process.

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, it takes roughly 10,000 hours of effort to be one of the top people in any given field.

You might not be thinking of putting quite that many hours into learning how to build your website.

Never the less, you can use the same learning process to create a decent web page that will serve your visitor’s needs, as a person who is striving to be the top in any given field.

There are plenty of free products out there that you can build a web page with (Virtual Mechanics’ WebDwarf Free Web Page Maker is one of them). And there are plenty of online services that will hand over a template free of charge that you can then edit to your heart’s content.

However, if you have little experience creating a web page, then what you produce may not look great or have the intended affect on your audience, regardless of the tool you used to build it with.

Though you may not create the most beautiful or usable website the first time you try, if you follow a basic process for learning, you can create a great website.


The three steps of learning anything well are:

  1. Instruction
  2. Emulation
  3. Practice


1 ) Instruction


I built my first website way back in 1996. I guess you could say it was my lucky break. I had finished university, but I had no idea what I was going to do for a living –  not really that unusual when you graduate with a degree in Fine Arts.

A friend and I – Eddie –  would hang out at the local coffee shop in the morning and talk about what we might do with our highly-unsaleable degrees.

On one particular morning the discussion got around to the latest buzz at the time. You might have heard of it, it was called the World Wide Web – at least that was what the Web was called back in the mid 90s.

I was flat broke, so much so that I was two months behind on my rent and I was getting eviction notices taped to the front door of my apartment.

I told Eddie that perhaps there might be something to this World Wide Web thing. So I decided to invest $35 in a book on making websites coding HTML – that was a big investment for me, both financially and psychologically, and I really agonized over it.

Within a couple of years of that purchase I was Executive Web Producer for Scholastic (Canada), the largest children’s book publisher in the world (you might have heard of this little series they published).


I guess you could say that $35 book on how to make a web page was a good investment for me.

Studying served me well. Look for a good book on web design – there are a lot more available now. It worked for me. Remember, the old saying goes that you should learn all the rules before you break them.


2)  Emulation


When I created my first website in 1996 I realized I had a bit of an eye for layout that I did not know I had.

I had done a double major in music and literature, but I had not done anything related to design.

That is not to say that I created great websites right off the bat, but I was able to tell what a bad looking website looked like.

I believe that we are all capable of doing just about anything. But having said that,  I don’t think I could whip off a symphony before dinner tonight and have it performed at the local concert hall if I have never created one (and I haven’t).

I think it is part of the human condition that it is much easier for us to identify good or bad quality in the works of others than it is for us to be able to judge our own work.

See what others are doing who are focusing on the same audience as you.

It has been shown that once we learn to navigate a certain type of website, we assume that other sites that are about the same thing will have the same look and feel.

CNN, FoxNews, Huffington Post. They all have the same look and feel. Whereas Jetblue, British Airways, and Air Canada have a different look and feel.

Check out what your competition is doing.

If you are selling off-shore drilling services, it is probably not a good idea to emulate one of the above news sites.

Howevre, if every offshore drilling company is using a certain design, then you could do worse than to emulate that (and note that I am explicitly saying ’emulate’ and not copy).

But emulating is key to not only having your visitor’s trust, it is also key to getting you on the road to learning about building websites.


3) Practice


When Virtual Mechanics first started distributing website design software in 1998, people would send us links to the websites they had created for us to post in our Gallery.

Not all of them looked great. And I had to really agonize over whether it would help us sell our software if we posted links to websites that were built with our tools that did not look good.

However, it was clear that the people who worked on their websites became better at designing sites over time

The more you practice, the better you become. Like all things, the more time you put in, the more reward you get out.

A Few Tips:

Include the fundamentals that every website should have.

Grow your pages, and your website. As you pick up knowledge and practice, you can add more to your site. But at first, keep it simple.




By following the same steps that all professionals use to become tops in their fields, you can create better web pages.

That means:

a) Putting a bit of time into studying some basic design and navigation principals.

b) Seeing what others are doing, and emulating them.

c) Practice, Practice, Practice makes Perfect.


Tell me what you think, what are the worst web page design blunders you have seen? Please share your experiences with us on Facebook.