Knowledge base

 

Designing For Maximum Impact
The Value Of Brand Guidelines

A company’s brand is vital. It explains what your company stands for and defines who you are, what you do and how you do it. A brand establishes ownership, creates unity and provides a set of values to rally around. But, behind every good brand is a comprehensive set of brand guidelines.

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Designing For Maximum Impact
Beware SEO Smooth Criminals

As search engine optimisation (SEO) grows in popularity and businesses battle it out to get to the top of the search engine rankings, illegal SEO practices are becoming increasingly more common.

Here our SEO expert gives his views on what he calls ‘SEO crime’, the effect it’s having on the industry and how to avoid falling prey to it...

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Designing For Maximum Impact
The Value Of Brand Guidelines

A company’s brand is vital. It explains what your company stands for and defines who you are, what you do and how you do it. A brand establishes ownership, creates unity and provides a set of values to rally around. But, behind every good brand is a comprehensive set of brand guidelines.

Read more
Designing For Maximum Impact
The Value Of Brand Guidelines

A company’s brand is vital. It explains what your company stands for and defines who you are, what you do and how you do it. A brand establishes ownership, creates unity and provides a set of values to rally around. But, behind every good brand is a comprehensive set of brand guidelines.

Read more


In this article, we outline how specific yet flexible brand guidelines can help create and maintaining an effective brand identity that expresses your culture and your character and, in turn, helps play a leading role in establishing your reputation in the minds of your customers.

 

What’s the point?
Brand guidelines can often seem a little pedantic – pages of detailed company rules about logo specification, colour palettes, typography and tone of voice can, to some, appear trivial. But, there are plenty of reasons for having them and for sticking to them. They create consistency of image in your audience’s mind, build stronger brand value over time, deliver an accurate perception of your identity, improve customer confidence in your business, increase your profile and help enhance your competitive advantage.

So, quite significant really!

 

Keep it consistent
To grow and maintain a great brand, consistency is by far the most important factor. This ensures that your image is immediately recognisable wherever it is and on whichever medium it’s found.

A logo creates a visual credibility and a perceived quality to your organisation. A logo alone, however, is only part of the story. A logo’s implementation is equally as important, as an effective logo badly applied amounts to a wasted opportunity.

Take some of the most globally recognisable brands, such as Google, Nike, or Coca Cola. The topic of what makes a good brand is a discussion for another day, but what has helped to establish these logos as undeniably iconic symbols is the fact that they have remained consistent on print, clothing, packaging, TV and on the Internet.

Therefore, comprehensive brand guidelines are vital to allow your brand to achieve optimum performance.

 

Rules not restrictions
From a designer’s point of view, we like following rules. We can’t get enough of them. Grids, colour palettes, point sizes, ‘x’ heights, margins – we love them. What we hate is being restricted. It is important to give designers enough room for interpretation, that’s why brand guidelines should be just that – a guide, not a creative straight jacket.
Guidelines need to be specific enough to uphold the brand values, yet flexible enough not to stifle creative opportunity.

 

Guidelines mean efficiency
Brand guidelines also play an important role in a designer’s efficiency. In the current climate, where everyone has their eye on time and money, a well-managed visual identity can equal greater creative output. All the hard work has already been done, so it’s just a case of implementation. Therefore, you spend less time worrying about the how it looks and can focus your efforts on generating outstanding ideas.

RA-360 has recently created a brand identity for a client, which has been a great success and has received very strong initial feedback. The original brief for the job was to create a logo and several items of printed material; however, it was essential that we also created some brand guidelines that are integral to the client’s overall brand personality. This ensures that, when the client’s planned online activity begins; it all integrates with the offline presence we have lovingly created for them.


The bottom line
In terms of the bottom line, your brand makes money for your business. A great brand is an assurance of quality on the supply side as well as a revenue source on the demand side, so your brand needs to be fully understood if you are to maximize its value to your business.

On a basic level, comprehensive yet flexible guidelines provide a framework of instruction on how to apply your brand across any material or media. But, they will also help create and maintain a clearly defined brand identity and will contribute to an understanding of your business, motivating both customers and employees to share in your company’s vision and ethos.

If your company has brand guidelines, use them. If not then give us a call. You can’t afford to be without them.

For more information on brand guidelines, give us a call on +91 99201 13402

Beware SEO Smooth Criminals

 

As search engine optimisation (SEO) grows in popularity and businesses battle it out to get to the top of the search engine rankings, illegal SEO practices are becoming increasingly more common.

Here our SEO expert gives his views on what he calls ‘SEO crime’, the effect it’s having on the industry and how to avoid falling prey to it...


SEO crime

The SEO industry is still fairly new and many marketers and businesses still don’t fully understand how SEO works or how it’s done.  They just want a website that ranks well in the search engines and are aware that that’s what SEO specialists do.  Sadly though, this urgent desire - combined with a lack of SEO knowledge - means many businesses are targeted by unscrupulous SEO consultants who use unethical techniques to achieve high rankings quickly. But the truth is that these ‘rogue traders’ will inevitably do long-lasting damage to a website’s reputation - something I refer to as SEO crime.

This is because unethical SEO techniques go against search engine rules and regulations meaning websites that have been ‘illegally’ optimised will eventually be removed from the search engine listings. This will have a massive detrimental effect on a company, especially if it relies heavily on having a strong web presence.  And once a site has been removed, the process of being re-listed and gaining a robust search engine ranking have to begin all over again, which is both time consuming and costly.

This is bad enough, but it can be even worse. If the use of underhand tactics is really prolific, websites may actually be blacklisted altogether by search engines and banned from being listed again. In some respect you could say that SEO specialists who use underhand techniques are trying to hide from the search engines, just like a criminal might hide from the police. They may be able to get away with it for a while, but they will eventually get caught.

And where does that leave the general marketing industry?

Because, like it or not, if you hire an SEO specialist and they use ‘illegal’ SEO techniques to optimise your website, the search engines will hold you personally responsible. Google actually states: “If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or 'throwaway' domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google's index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it's best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to 'help' you.”

So, how do you ensure you don’t end up hiring a rogue SEO expert who will optimise your site whilst simultaneously putting it at risk of being removed or blacklisted by the search engines?

Luckily, there are lots of steps businesses can take to ensure they don’t end up hiring unscrupulous SEO firms and practitioners. And that’s a good thing for the SEO industry too, because the quicker people realise the damaging effects that illegal SEO techniques can have on their websites, the quicker SEO companies using underhand tactics will have to clean up their act. This will stop them destroying the reputation of genuine SEO experts who produce highly effective and long-lasting results using above board SEO techniques.

 

How to avoid SEO crime
Firstly, check out Google’s online tutorials about SEO, which give a simple overview on how to avoid being ripped off by unscrupulous SEO firms. It’s a good place to start and because it’s short and easy to understand even the busiest marketers looking to employ an SEO professional to optimise their website should have time to check it out.

Secondly, be aware of what SEO can and can’t achieve. SEO is a highly effective technique, but it does take time to see results. It also creates very high search engine rankings for websites when done well, but any genuine SEO specialist knows that no one who’s genuine can guarantee the top spot – that’s just not how SEO works. So, if an SEO professional comes along promising that they’ll get you to the top of the search engines within a short time period, then be on your guard. They are likely to do so using ‘illegal’ SEO practices that may work in the very short time, but will actually be detrimental to your website and company’s reputation in the longer term.

I’d also advise businesses looking to employ an SEO specialist to thoroughly research a selection of SEO companies, short list at least three to speak to in detail and then ask to see examples of their work. A good  SEO expert should happily spend time discussing the tactics they will employ to effectively optimise your site and should be willing to show you examples of the previous work they have done for other clients – if they have nothing to show then I’d advise you not to hire them and look for someone who does.

Another way to make sure you don’t end up hiring an unscrupulous SEO expert to optimize your company’s website is to be aware of the most common ‘illegal’ SEO techniques currently being used. If you hear any of the following phrases when speaking to potential SEO professionals then alarm bells should start ringing:

 

Doorway pages
Doorway pages are web pages built specifically to increase traffic to a website and are created to do well for particular phrases. In essence, a doorway page is no more than a one-page click-through advertisement for a website, which you have to click through before landing on the actual website itself. Although doorway pages may get lots of visitors, most will be put off by what is effectively a blank page and hit the back button rather than progress through to the site.

 

Hidden text
This technique involves adding lots of keyword rich text to your pages that is invisible to users, but readable by the search engines and therefore helps to increase a websites search engine ranking. There are many hidden text techniques, but search engines are becoming increasing capable of detecting such methods and will heavily penalise websites using them.

 

Keyword stuffing
This technique increases the appearance of keywords by inserting them anywhere possible. Normal keyword density should be from three to seven per cent, so anything above this looks like keyword stuffing and is likely to attract special attention from the search engine spam filters.

 

Cloaking
Cloaking is a technique in which the content presented to the search engine spider is different from that presented to the user’s browser. It’s used to trick search engines, but they really hate this technique and have developed sophisticated ways of finding and penalising sites using it.  

 

Duplicate Content
Content is becoming increasingly more important to all search engines, which has led some people to create duplicate copies of keyword rich pages to try and manipulate the search engines and increase their website’s ranking. However, search engines are cracking down on duplicate content and have developed highly intelligent duplicate content filters, meaning it’s now harder than ever to do and much easier to get caught out.

 

Other "tricks"
There are plenty more other ‘deceiving’ SEO techniques being used out there too, such as shadow domains, link farms and spamdexing. Like the other tactics I’ve mentioned, these also work by manipulating the search engines and in the process degrade the search experience for everyone.

 

The future
Search engines are working harder than ever to eradicate SEO crime and as the competition within the SEO industry gets fiercer, legitimate SEO experts are also beginning to clamp down on competitors employing illegal techniques and are increasingly reporting them to the search engines. In fact, there are now links direct to search engine monitoring departments, so reporting legalities is easier than ever – meaning it’s now a case of ‘if you don’t get caught by the search engines, you’ll get caught by your competition’.

But, as with everything, new tricks will always pop up as old ones are forced out. This means SEO professionals need to constantly be on guard to identify and then quickly eradicate new generations of SEO crime before they threaten to damage the industry’s reputation.

Designing For Maximum Impact

 

Email marketing is becoming more prolific, not just because it’s a highly effective and sharply focused way to reach your target audiences, but also because it’s inherent cost efficiencies are proving very appealing in the current financial climate.

So, with the prospect of so many people piling on to the e-bandwagon, how do you ensure that your email campaign stands out from the crowd, gains good open rates and doesn’t just find itself the victim of the delete key?

In this article we give our Online Designer’s tips on how to design email campaigns that create maximum impact.

People are becoming increasingly savvy to email marketing and won’t open just any email that lands in their inbox. According to recent research, the typical email recipient receives an average of 34 emails per day and has a limited attention span. Standing out from the crowd is therefore crucial and high impact design can achieve this by instantly connecting with the user.

This means marketers need to be increasingly clever about the design and messages in their emails to ensure that, firstly, they are opened and, secondly, that they engage the recipient enough for those to respond to the emails call to action, whether that is calling a phone number or clicking through to find out more.

 

What to do

 

A strong subject line
One of the most crucial parts of an effective email campaign is the subject line, as it is the first thing the recipients see and so can be the difference between whether or not your campaign is opened in the first place. The subject line must be compelling but not cryptic, to give the recipient an initial idea of the email’s content that entices them to open it.

RA-360 carries out regular research in this area to establish trends and best practices for creating proven and effective subject lines.


Positioning of key elements

A large majority of recipients read emails via the preview pane, which just displays the top section of the email. It’s therefore essential that the user can easily grasp the meaning of the campaign just by viewing this section of the design. So, when we’re structuring the design we ensure that all the crucial elements are within this area and that it contains a strong call to action. This increases the chances of engaging the user and encourages them to open and read.

 

A strong call to action
Once the recipient has opened the email, the call to action is vital in persuading them to take the next step in the chain of events leading to an eventual sale, download, registration or ad impression. For example, if the action is calling a phone number, the call to that action needs to be prominent and visually strong to entice the user to do so.

 

The personal touch
Personalisation used to mean adding ‘Dear (first name)’ at the top of your message, but as technology progresses and users are more sophisticated, this message is now the bare minimum you can do to personalise your messages.

Response rates for your campaigns can be greatly improved with personalisation, as it immediately achieves a one to one relationship with each recipient.

 

What NOT to do
It’s also important to be aware of potential pitfalls when designing an email campaign and consideration must be given to ensuring every email recipient can open the email, regardless of the email programme or operating system that they use.

 

Formatting within different email programmes
Every email programme will display email designs differently depending on how it has been coded. It’s therefore imperative to ensure consistency of design across all email programmes and our design team knows the boundaries of what can and cannot be done. This knowledge eliminates any nasty surprises further down the line, avoiding messy emails that cannot be properly viewed or opened, which could potentially have a negative impact on your brand reputation.

 

Blocked images
Whilst designs need to be visually attractive, they also need to work effectively for the medium of email, which means including HTML text. This is particularly important for when images are blocked by firewalls, as it gives the user an understanding of the content without having to right-click to view the imagery. Ensuring any campaign can be viewed in a web browser is key to avoiding this.

Taking all these key features into consideration can considerably increase your chances of success.
Design is fundamental to creating an enticing email campaign which draws the user in and encourages them to open and click through. RA-360 has an outstanding track record in this area.

For more information on designing impactful email marketing, contact us on +91 99201 13402.

Tel: +91 (0) 99201 13402
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