If you take the time to create something, it makes sense to ensure that people know it belongs to you. Even if you are comfortable with nearly all forms of content copying, it is reasonable to ensure that your name is carried with it.
However, identifying yourself and your site goes well beyond just a simple attribution line. Though your name and site URL are important, they are not immediately evident to those who browse the Web.
The problem is that most people who surf the Web often do so very casually and do not read articles or look at images intently. Thus, they often miss basic attribution lines.
However, if you take a moment to brand yourself and your site, you can increase you can make it much easier for even the casual observer to identify your work and it increases your site’s visibility as it is copied, both with and without permission, across the Web.
Fortunately, doing so is very simple and only takes a few moments. Best of all, it is a very creative and, to many, one of the more entertaining parts of building a Web site.
Let’s Get Visual
The first key to branding your site is to have a strong and unique look and feel. To do that, you’re going to have to first ensure that your site does not use any stock themes, or at least has enough customizations to make it stand out among similar sites.
The best way to do that is to do the following:
- Select a distinct name for your site or blog, along with an easy to remember URL
- Get away from default themes and create your own look
- Choose the colors you want to represent your site (ex: Red, Black and White for this site)
- Create a unique logo for your site using those colors
- Maintain your presence for as long as practical
- Make sure that all of your marketing materials are consistent with your theme
If you do those things and use the same look and feel as you grow your audience, people will inevitably begin to associate your site with that look. They will also seek out visual cues to associate an article or other content with your site.
If you maintain your presence long enough and remain distinct enough, even casual Web surfers will recognize your content as it passes across their screen. It is a great way to market your site and build up an audience, but also a way to deter content theft and protect yourself against scrapers and plagiarists alike.
After all, the more familiar you are, the less likely it is that someone can pretend to be you.
The problem, however, is that, while most sites do a decent job of branding their actual home page, they do not take advantage of other opportunities to get their name and image out.
Marketers often refer to these types of interactions as points of contact, places where a potential customer or reader come in contact with your brand.
However, there are many times in which your content is in contact with a reader, but not your brand or your name. Those are missed points of contact and are well worth exploiting in many cases.
To that end, your logo is your most powerful and flexible tool. It is an image that can be carried with almost any content that you put out. It can be shrunk or cropped to fit in places too small for it as even a portion can trigger the same familiarity.
With that in mind, consider the following opportunities:
- If you offer an RSS feed, including a logo in the footer of the feed, similar to what Lorelle VanFossen does on her site (see above screenshot).
- If you offer embedding of images, include a non-intrusve version of the logo as a watermark, similar to iStockphoto.
- If you provide video content, include it in the intro and the closing. Also consider using it as an overlay, similar to GeekBrief.tv.
- Using your logo on any social networking sites you participate in to connect your profile back to your site.
- Likewise, when you claim your site as sites such as Technorati, making your logo your icon.
In short, any time in which a reader might interact with you, your site or your content, it is important to have these easy visual connections for them. It not only breeds familiarity with your site and connects all of the various elements of it together, but can help discourage plagiarists and scrapers.
Discouraging Content Theft
However, by protecting the content by using an image, in addition to a name and link, you go a long way toward making sure that your users recognize where the content came from and do not mistakenly leave comments on or begin to visit other sites at the expense of yours.
It is important to remember, however, that links are still the currency of the Web and, in addition to linking your logo, it is important to include text links back to your site. This will help with the search engine consequences of being scraped or plagiarized and further encourage readers to visit your site.
In short, visually branding your site is not something that replaces your current content theft protection strategy, but something to consider doing in conjunction with it.
As I keep stressing on this site, there is no magic bullet when it comes protecting your site from content theft. No matter what steps you take, there will be cases that you have to deal with, likely through copyright.
However, there are ways to mitigate the damage that scrapers and plagiarists do and keep those situations to a minimum.
Branding your site is just one of those steps and it is a step that is simply good marketing all around.
After all, success on the Web requires that one be very skilled at what they do, but also that they have the marketing and public relations edge to push them above sites that may be competing with them.
As with business in the bricks and mortar world, beating your competition involves more than just providing a better product or service, but in marketing yourself correctly to attract new customers.
Branding can help your site in many different ways, protecting your content is just one of them.