Things are changing in the SEO and SEM world in 2015. The days of small, no-name companies ranking on top through the use of keyword optimization, link building and page optimization is no longer achievable. Today, small businesses need to spend more time building their brand in order to get equal playing time as the big guys in the SEM playing field.

How can you build a brand if you’re a small business without an entire marketing department? Here are a few things you can do to build a winning brand that Google will pay attention to and assist you in your rankings.

Build a Logo – Build Your Brand

When you build a logo you build your brand. A logo is the visual shorthand to express your brand’s culture. Logos should be instantly recognizable and integrated into your website, packaging, and promotional materials.  Your company’s logo is the third most important element in developing your brand identity. The first is your name and the second is your message.

Your website should be part of your brand. Almost 48 percent of internet surfers cited website design as the number one factor when judging a site’s credibility. Even more important, 94 percent of viewers said a website’s design was the main reason they mistrusted or rejected a site. These are numbers you can’t ignore.

Tell Your Story

Humans have a compelling desire to feel connected, and brands that can tell their story in a way an audience can relate to are the ones that consumers remember and gravitate toward. Ask yourself, Is My Story Memorable? Are you connecting with your audience on an emotional level?

How do you do this? You want your audience to feel something, whether it’s encouragement, laughter, or tears.

Here’s a really strong statement from John Kearon of BrainJuicer, a market-research firm.  He says, Researchers must “laser in on measuring emotion as almost the single metric” that predicts success. If you can evoke an emotional response from your audience, they will remember how your brand made them feel forever.  Now, that’s pretty powerful information.  Make sure you tell a memorable story otherwise you’re just yesterday’s news.

Participate in Charitable Events or Cause Marketing

It’s a fact.  Given comparable price and quality, most consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause.  Called ‘cause marketing’ a brand’s affiliation with a nonprofit or charity, provides a symbiotic relationship for both parties. It provides funds to the nonprofit and builds positive brand association for the business.  It’s good stuff!

Target is a great example of a company with a successful cause marketing campaign with both their Take Charge of Education fundraising campaign for schools and their 2013 FEED campaign with Feeding America.  But for small companies with a small budget, think about a hosting a local charitable event or participating in one.  It is one of the best ways to build a brand in your local community. Your name and logo will receive plenty of brand exposure and people like to associate themselves with a company that helps others.  You should take the opportunity to give away branded, promotional goods which is our next topic.

Give Away Branded, Promotional Goods

Businesses have been giving away free promotional goods like pens, shirts, and mugs forever and you know why? Because it works! A recent report said that almost 76.1 percent of consumers participating in the study said they would remember the name of a company that gave them a free promotional item in the past year compared to only 53 percent who would remember a TV or print ad from the past month.  Now, that’s a big difference, isn’t it?

A similar found that 57 percent of people felt more favorable toward a company that had given them a free T-shirt. That means that one little T-shirt was enough to sway their opinion toward that company.

So once you’ve designed your logo, get those promotional items out the door and into the hands of a potential customer who will remember you once they’re ready to buy.  That’s all a part of branding.  Getting your name and logo to be recognized by your community all in the efforts to build an audience.

If you want to build your brand, you need to take action. These four tips will help to start building your brand. None of them take a lot of time, money or effort – all things a small business can easily handle.  You need to make sure your company is always visible, and once someone takes notice then it’s time to interact with your new audience. It can take time to build up a brand for a small business, but it’s something that you can’t ignore.