If you’re a reader of my blog and not a blogger, or not remotely interested in blogging at all, then look away now. This post is not for you. If however, you are a blogger or would like to get into blogging, then grab yourself a cuppa and get comfy, this post is for you.
Let me start by saying that I in no way think of myself as an ‘expert’. I started this blog less than 18 months ago and I realise that I still have a lot to learn. That said, I feel like I have picked up a few useful pieces of knowledge over the last year and a half and I thought, well, why not share them?!
I haven’t followed each of these tips to the letter, they are either things I wish I had done from the start or things that form part of a very long list of things that I’d ideally like to do to improve my blog. So, in many ways, rather than a how-to from me, these are a yard stick by which I am measuring and trying to improve on my own blog.
What are You Trying to Achieve?
I so wish I had given this careful thought at the beginning. I have a ‘bull in a china shop’ mentality and when I think of something I would like to do, I run in head first without proper planning. This is just how I’m made, but there is something to be said for allowing yourself some time to think about key elements, like the look and feel of your blog, and what you’re trying to achieve beforehand.
Who are you blogging for? Why are you blogging? What message do you want to send out? If you ask these questions from the start, then you’re more likely to follow a direct route to where you want to be, rather than following a zigzagging path (as I have), as you work out what you want to be writing about and who you’re writing for.
Choose Your Blog Name Carefully
Ah, if I had a pound for every time I had heard another blogger saying they hate their blog’s name, I’d be, well, marginally better off. So many bloggers, myself included, tire of their blog’s name very quickly and although there is a lot to be said for picking a blog name and url that contain keywords, I personally feel that it is better to choose a name you love and that is relevant to the brand you are trying to create.
If I could give anyone starting out one piece of advice, it would be to think of a blog name that you love now and to think about it for at least a few weeks before taking the plunge and making it yours. You can still create content during this time, ready for launch, but you needn’t commit to a name straight away.
Think about the lifetime of your blog and how you would like it to evolve, and choose a name that has the potential to grow with it. I think there is a lot to be said for choosing a brand name that isn’t too specific, because this allows for your blog to naturally change course as your life changes and your blog develops. For example, and purely hypothetically, naming your blog ‘Mum of one’ would be at great risk of not ‘growing’ with you as your life changes.
You will also need to check that the name you would like to use isn’t already in use elsewhere, and that the URL is available should you want to go self-hosted now or in the future. Keep in mind that if it is available now, unless you buy it now, there is no guarantee that it will be there when you come to want it later.
Give Thought to Your Tagline
Have you spotted the theme here? It’s that thing I seem to struggle with so much; careful consideration and planning. I have changed the tagline to my blog SO frequently. I seem to remember starting out with something totally random and completely meaningless, like ‘cake, kids and tea’. I mean, what does that even mean? Absolutely nothing. It tells my readers nothing, apart from perhaps that my blog is solely about cake, kids and tea and to be honest, despite my love of these things, they feature only rarely.
I can’t remember all of the variations between ‘cake, kids and tea’ and ‘A Lifestyle Blog’, but I am happy with where I am now. When I think about what I want to tell my readers when they arrive on my homepage, it’s that this is a Lifestyle blog, so (for now at least), I am happy that my tagline is sending out the right message and letting people know exactly what my website is.
The design of your blog is obviously a very important element of how you brand it and it’s also quite a subjective topic; one person will be drawn to one design more than another. This is why it can be helpful to think about your audience and what will appeal to them when deciding on the look and feel of your site.
Though it may not be everyone’s choice, I am very much drawn to clean looking websites with a white background. In my opinion, this helps the content to jump from the page and doesn’t confuse or over clutter a website, in a way that a coloured or patterned background can. This is not to say that I do not like any colour at all, there are some great bright and colourful websites out there that I love. I just prefer to see colour used as a tool to direct my attention to a piece of content, rather than something that overwhelms it in the background. Does that make sense?
The design of your blog can help shape your brand because it communicates your style and creates a display for your content. For example, if you are looking to present your blog in a way that conveys creativity to your readers, then one way of doing this would be to use colourful hover text links, bright title fonts and large featured images to show off your well shot and expressive photography.
The tone and content of your blog will convey your personality to your readers and this is one of the reasons why I think it is really important to write about things that genuinely interest you. So, although I do think it is really important to think about your readers want to see, I think it is equally important to ensure that the content you are producing is something you are passionate about.
In the past, I have certainly fallen into the pitfall of writing something that I thought someone else might want to read, rather than what I actually want to write, and I have never been pleased with the end result. Think square peg in a round hole and you kind of get the gist. It is really hard to write about something that you’re not genuinely interested in and more often than not, this will come across in the writing.
The same could be said of forcing humour when you haven’t a funny bone in your body, or quashing your sense of humour in an attempt to conform or to be less controversial. Be yourself, why would you want to be successful at anything else?
Not going to lie, I struggle with this one, despite realising how important it is. There are so many areas in which it helps to be consistent when branding your blog. Firstly, be consistent with the type of content that you post. This doesn’t necessarily mean only blog about one thing. I mean, you could, but you would probably run out of things to say if you blog exclusively about, oh I don’t know, ducks, for example (sorry, nothing else came to mind). However, sticking to a group of similar or complementary categories is advisable.
So, if we’re talking about lifestyle blogs, for example, then writing about style, food, fashion and beauty is likely to be of interest to readers of a blog like this. These examples sit nicely alongside one another, and as such, create a feel for your brand. If however, you were to write about how to fix a car one week and your top 5 summer reads another, then this may confuse your readership and ultimately turn them off.
Another thing to think about when talking about consistency, is using a combination of a consistent writing style, photography and content. Being consistent means that you are easily recognisable, readers know what to expect from you and if they like it, they will return. However, the thing about starting a blog, is that more often than not, it is a process of learning on the job, acquiring new skills, developing a voice, a style and let’s not underestimate the great leaps you’ll likely take in your ability to photograph. Scroll back to the very beginning of my Instagram and I hope you’ll see a marked improvement in my photography, as well as the beginnings of a ‘trademark style’. Sorry if that sounds wanky, but there really isn’t another way of putting it.
Finally, and where I seem to fail most spectacularly is producing content both frequently and consistently. In an ideal world, you would set a schedule and stick to it, so that readers know when to visit your site for fresh content. Having said that, we all have a life to lead and I, for one, would certainly forgive my favourite bloggers for missing a day or even a week here and there. And when this happens, there’s always Instagram, so I can go and friendly stalk them there instead.
Jokes, I don’t stalk any of you. Not really anyway…
*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with Fire Label, a promotional clothing company who can help you to brand everything from clothing to caps and bags.