What comes first: brand design, website design, or SEO?

Have you ever felt confused on what you should be prioritizing as a small business owner when it comes to design?

You know you need a logo, a website, a presence on social media, and a strategy. But do you need a full brand? Do you need to be paying for SEO? Do you need to be on every social media platform? How do you even begin to tackle these things?

If you have been asking these questions in your business, I completely understand how stressful and overwhelming it all can be. The good news is, there is an answer and I can help you navigate what to do and where to go! This isn’t as impossible as the “what came first, the chicken or the egg” conundrum.

Read on to learn what you should be prioritizing in your business design and marketing strategy and how our process reflects that to set your business up for success.

Branding is your business’s foundation

Typemark, stacked typemark, and icon mark for Reyous set on a dark purple cityscape
Logo variations for a vintage clothing brand, Reyous

Branding is always the first part of any design for a business. Your brand is your foundation. It’s the roadmap to your aesthetic and strategy. It’s the anchor to your marketing.

If you find yourself saying “I need a website / brochure / social media ad to grow my business” but also say “no, I don’t have a brand” or “I just have a logo,” you might be getting ahead of yourself.

Imagine walking into a car dealership and asking for tires. They’ll ask you “what kind of vehicle do you have?” and you say “none, I just need tires because I need to go places and tires get me there.” The person at the car dealership will rightfully look at you like you’re crazy, and probably refuse service.

While designing without a brand is maybe not as harsh as this example, the confusion and frustration that you as a business owner and your potential clients can feel from it are very real.

Going back to the car example, a few tires can technically get you somewhere. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, and it won’t be very enjoyable, but, sure, they can take you a few miles. The same applies to design. A website without a brand can land you some business, but it won’t be as effective, efficient, or long-lasting as a website that is built with an already-existing, rock-solid brand strategy.

A brand will outline your target audience, brand personality, logo system, color palette, type hierarchy, and more. It will help instill confidence, trust, and loyalty in your business from your clients.

If you’re constantly confused about what your social media, website, or marketing material should look like and spend hours making up the rules as you go just to end up with inconsistent messaging and visuals, you might be missing this key step for your business.

This is why we always start with the brand, to set your business up for success.

After brand design: marketing collateral

Website design screens tiled in a diagonal pattern
Website design for vintage clothing brand, Reyous

After you have your brand in place, what do you do with it? Well, you get to apply it everywhere! This is the step many want to start with, but, having a brand makes it so much easier and more effective.

After we design your brand, we’ll start designing elements that require shorter timelines and have less moving pieces. This includes collateral such as social media profiles and posts, business cards, brochures, labels, and tags. These give you a great way to start marketing and building a community even before your website launches.

After the smaller-scale items are finished, we dive into getting your website up and running. Websites have a lot of moving parts and information, so we don’t want to hold your business back for 1-2 months while we get it designed, developed, and published. And, in this time period, we offer a temporary landing page so your domain has something to show, and will tell your potential customers that it’s coming soon – all at no extra cost!

All of these items will follow the brand we implemented for you and connect with your target audience. This step really gets your business and brand rolling.

Digital ads and off-site SEO

Google search for Vintage Clothing on a tablet
Google search ads can drive traffic but should be done after your brand and website are in tip-top shape

Digital ads and off-site SEO* (see below for definition) should come after your design investments. These are meant to drive traffic to your website but, if you drive traffic to a messy, inconsistent, not effective site, you’re essentially throwing your money away.

Imagine times are safe again and you are inviting guests over to your house. You wouldn’t invite them into your home with no place to put their shoes or coat, dishes piled high in the sink, a living room that hasn’t been vacuumed in years, or garbage that smells rancid. You would take the time to clean and organize so your space was presentable to them.

Your brand, website, and social media are your house in this case. Making those look presentable, cohesive, and easy to navigate will lead to more conversions from your visitors.

If you were invited into a home that smells rancid and was filthy, would you go back? Probably not. If you loaded up a website that was littered with images, ads, or hard to read colors and fonts, would you immediately click away? I do.

This is why ads and off-site SEO should come after your brand, website, and social media are in pristine condition. They all work together to convert visitors into customers.

While we don’t offer services in these realms, we know some great eco-businesses that do and would be happy to refer you to them after your brand is complete!

*Off-site SEO and on-site SEO are two different aspects of getting traffic to your website. When we design websites, we always optimize for the best on-site SEO we can give you. Off-site SEO involves using links back to your website in other places. Google likes links, so this can help give your website that final push.

Where to go from here

To set your small business up for success, the path we recommend is to start with brand design, move into the smaller collateral design such as social media profiles and business cards, finalize a website, and then start investing in ads and off-site SEO.

If you’re not sure where you are at in the process or if you need to readdress certain aspects of your current brand, we have a freebie just for you! Click here to download our free brand audit workbook.

This workbook will take you through your business’s mission, values, and target audience and help you critically think about if your current brand is hitting those targets.

If you just invested in a brand but find your social media, print materials, and website falling short, we’re happy to help there, too! Send us your project inquiry and we can hop on a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your pain points and solutions.

If you have a solid brand, website, social media presence, and print collateral but still don’t feel like your business is gaining traction, we’d be happy to refer you to some of our trusted colleagues who will give you results.

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