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How to Shape Your Blogs Brand

In this post we continue to look at tips for established blogs wanting to step up to the next level (this is the 6th tip in this series) by taking a look at how to shape the brand your blog.

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One of the things that I’ve noticed happen once a blog begins to grow in readership is that a ‘brand’ emerges. This builds from the day you first start a blog and people see it – however it is in this phase after launch that it really becomes established.

Two Observations about Branding a Blog

By no means do I see myself as a branding expert (I’d love to hear from some of our marketing gurus in comments below) but I do observe two things about a blogs brand:

1. A Brand will Emerge Whether you Want it to or Not.

One of the best definitions of a ‘brand’ that I’ve read is that it is ‘what people say about you when you’re not in the room’ (I’m not sure where I heard this one – if you know who came up with it please let me know). Your blogs brand is the way that it is perceived and described by others.

As a result a brand emerges over time without or without you as people begin to develop perceptions about you and what your blog stands for. As they read your content, as they look at your design, as they interpret what you say, as they gauge your passion, as they observe how you interact with them and other readers – all of this contributes to how they perceive and describe you – your brand.

2. You can Shape Your Brand.

While point #1 above might sound a little fatalistic – don’t lose hope. People will form their own ideas about who you are and what your blog stands for – but you do have some ability to help them come to these conclusions and to shape that brand. It might not be as much control as some would like – but as a blogger if you give some thought to what you want people to perceive your blog as being you can have some influence in this.

How do you Shape Your Blogs Brand?

Again – I’d love to hear some of your experiences on this as I’m still learning – but here are a few thoughts on shaping brands:

1. Identify what You want to be Known For

When I was in my early 20′s I spent a few days at a personal development course and we were given the task of writing our own obituary as we’d like it to read. We were told to to write it for ourselves as 90 year olds who had lived the kind of lives that we wanted to live. The obituary was to say what we wanted others to see us at the end of our lives.

The task was quite illuminating as it forced us to think about the type of things that we wanted to become known for. I realized (as did many of those with me on that course) that I had no idea what I wanted to be known for. I had little idea as to the type of person I wanted to become and as a result was treading water and not really moving towards anything with my life.

The same thing can probably be said about many bloggers who have little idea of where their blog is headed or what they want it to be known for.

So – what do you want people to say about your blog? Write a list of 5 things that you want it to be known for. Once you’d done that – you’re a step closer to having shaped your blogs brand.

2. Be what you want to be known for…… Consistently

The next step is ‘logical’ but at the same time incredibly difficult to achieve. Knowing what you want your brand to be is one thing but getting your blog to get there is another matter.

I asked one blogger ‘what do you want to be known for’ recently and she answered that she wanted to be known as the #1 authority for her topic in her niche. I then asked her to look at her last 10 posts and tell me if she deserved to be known as that. Her last 10 posts were largely her linking to news in her niche or to what other bloggers were writing with very little of her own opinion or ideas.

The reality was that she was displaying very little authority and in fact was probably helping other bloggers to be authoritative by always linking to the great things that they were saying rather than saying anything of value herself.

It was a hard thing for the blogger to realize (and a hard one for me to communicate for that matter) but once she realized what she was doing she completely changed her strategy and instead of posting 10 ‘newsy’/'link’ posts per week – she switched to writing 2 original, opinion and teaching pieces that were much more aligned with the type of brand she wanted to project.

Once you’ve identified the brand you want to project the rubber has to hit the road and you need to begin to work on how to do that at every chance you can including with your:

  • Content
  • Design
  • Logo (update: read about creating logos at this post on the inquisitr)
  • Blog Title and Tagline
  • Interaction with other Bloggers
  • Interaction with readers
  • Business cards
  • Social Media interactions…. etc

Really every time you do anything on your blog (or on anywhere publicly online or offline) attempt to keep the brand that you’re attempting to grow in mind. Every post you write, every email you respond to, every comment you leave, every tweet you make – all of these things either have the potential to to build and shape your brand or conversely to hurt it.

3. Monitor and Participate in Conversations about You

Remember our definition of branding above – it’s what other people are saying about you when you’re not in the room.

So what are other people saying about your blog when you’re not in the room?

We live in an age where we have some amazing tools at our fingertips to tap into some of the conversations and observations that people have about us. While sometimes it’s not easy to hear some of what people think about us – each time we stumble upon one of these conversations it is an opportunity to:

  1. learn how we’re perceived
  2. build a relationship with someone and influence their perceptions
  3. do damage control by correcting errors and giving two sides of the story
  4. grow and improve how we do things

A few tools that are useful in monitoring what others are saying about you include:

  • Google News and Blog Alerts – just type in a keyword (your name or your blogs name) and you’ll be alerted any time a news source or blog uses those terms
  • Technorati Watch Lists – the same principle as Google News Alerts
  • Monitter – same principle on Twitter (there are numerous tools that will do this)

There are many other monitoring tools – feel free to recommend those that you use and recommend in comments below.

The key with this process of monitoring what others are saying about you is to enter into it with a genuine desire to listen and connect. It is very easy to rush into conversations about you with guns blazing to ‘defend’ your brand and ‘fix’ peoples erroneous views about you – however this kind of attitude can actually do your brand more harm than good.

Listen, reflect and take on board what people are saying before you respond and you’ll not only gain the respect of others but hopefully learn a thing or two about yourself and your blog that will help you improve it.

Lastly – don’t get sucked into letting what others say about you determine how you view you. I love the quote of Elizabeth Taylor who when asked whether she reads what the press says about her replied with

‘If you listen to the good things people say about you you might just start believing them. If you listen to the bad things people say about you you might just start believing them.’

The reality is that people will say unbalanced things about you as a blogger to both extremes. Some will build you up so high that if you believed it your head would be so big that you’d have a hard time fitting it in your Twitter avatar while some will say such unfair and negative things about you that if you believed it you’d give up and never blog again. Don’t let what others say about you determine your self worth – but learn to know when to take it on board and learn to know when to let it go and move on.

What are Your Blog Branding Tips?

I’d love to hear your own experiences and tips on branding blogs in comments below. How do you do it? What have you learned? What advice would you offer?

Further Reading: How to Build Your Personal Brand Through Your Blog and 10 Ways to Brand Your Blog or Website Efficiently

Check out the rest of this series on taking your blog to the next level.

Learn How to Rank Highly in Search Engines – SEO Secrets

seo-secrets-glenn.gifWant to learn how to make your blog rank well in Google? SEO Secrets is a resource worth considering.

Last year at an SEO conference I met a fellow Aussie by the name of Glenn Murray (pictured right). He introduced himself to me as an SEO copywriter and he made quite an impression. In fact he’s pretty much the only person that I met that day that I remember the name of.

The reason that Glenn was one of the few people that I still remember is that in a quiet and genuine way he stood out from the crowd. Many of the SEO types that I met that day were boastful and proud – Glenn was confident but far from cocky. He knew what he was talking about but didn’t seem to feel the need to let everyone know how good he was over and over again.

Glenn and I have kept in touch since that day – mainly via Twitter – and so when he emailed me recently to quietly tell me about his new SEO training ebook I was keen to check it out.

seo-secrets.jpgThe ebook is called SEO Secrets and you can read about it and a little of Glenn’s story here.

Typically Glenn’s sales page for this great e-book makes no outrageous claims. There are no promises to make you rank #1 for highly competitive terms or screenshots of hundred thousand dollar earnings on clickbank – just Glenn’s story and a description of what you get when you buy this resource (as well as a sample chapter and Table of Contents) – that’s the kind of guy Glenn is.

The book (currently in it’s second version) is 213 pages (including bibliography, index and glossary) of SEO wisdom. It has a section on WordPress 2.7, sections on link building (including a good section on linkbaiting), choosing keywords, optimizing web content as well as a fairly extensive bibliography for further reading (it is refreshing to see someone citing sources and providing this).

The teaching in this ebook is good – very good – particularly for those at a beginner to intermediate level who are looking for a comprehensive and all in the one place introduction to SEO. Those who have spent many many hours doing extensive research on the topic on their own will probably not find a lot of new things in this guide – but for those starting out it is well worth considering as a practical investment in your education.

Glenn has a gift at explaining concepts that can at times be quite complex – if you’re like me and not wired with the brain of a technical genius you’ll appreciate the way he talks you through the many areas of SEO covered in this book.

If you’re interested in discovering more about SEO check out the sample chapter and table of contents of SEO Secrets for yourself.

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Blog Carnivals Are Great, Hosting Them is Better

The Writer blogs about money and writing at The Writer’s Coin. His goal is to become the Michael Lewis of the personal-finance world—always writing something interesting and entertaining. That’s his goal, anyway.

top-image Image by meagen

You can’t read a post or a blog about “being a better blogger” without some mention of carnivals. They’re a great way of getting your stuff out into the world and creating links that point back to your site.

It’s a win-win and it takes virtually no time or energy to submit to them.

But what about hosting a carnival? Can it also deliver a lot of bang for very little buck?

Not quite.

Hosting a carnival is a LOT of work. You have to read ALL of the submissions that are sent in by hopeful writers looking to expand their footprint on the web. You’ll also have to sift through some junk in order to weed out the good from the bad. And the ugly…

The Good

the-good Image by x-eyedblone

We’ve all seen carnival posts before, it’s usually a long list of articles that all rally around one central premise or theme. From “Saving Money” to “Blogging About Monkeys,” it seems like there’s a topic out there for everyone.

Notice I said “long list of articles.” When you host a carnival, every single one of those articles should hypothetically be promoted by each blogger that’s featured. So instead of getting one link back to your site (which is what happens when you submit a post to a carnival if it gets picked), you can get as many as you like.

That’s not entirely true—you get as many as you’re willing to weed through and publish on your page. And that can turn out to be a very big number. But that means you’ll have a ton of sites pointing back to yours…which is great.

It’s lots of bang for lots of buck.

The Bad

the-bad Image by daveiam

Let’s not kid ourselves—it’s a lot of work. Making a carnival unique and interesting for your readers takes a lot of time and energy. No one said it would be easy, right?

When I hosted the Money Hacks Carnival (which was my first carnival), I had no idea what I was getting into. I checked to see how many posts there were a couple days before it was to go live and my stomach dropped. Wow. I wasn’t sure I had time to read all of them, let alone choose my favorites.

You’ll have to get yourself organized and prepared in order to do it right. That means gradually making your way through the submitted posts instead of leaving it all for the last minute.

And coming up with a theme or concept that ties all the posts together to make the whole thing an enjoyable read can get pretty complex when you have a lot of articles to post. But the more time you have, the better off you’ll be.

The Ugly

the-ugly Image by Spider.Dog

There’s a lot of bad writing out there. There are a lot of spammers out there. Some people will submit anything, regardless of what your carnival is about. The carnival I started on The Writer’s Coin is called Comics and Cents, and the idea is to write something funny and entertaining about personal finance, but I’ve gotten submissions for really detailed posts about refinancing your home and tips to cut your budget.

Useful? Sure. Funny? Not in the way I was intending. Expect a good amount of the submissions to have absolutely nothing to do with what you asked for.

This is the frustrating part, but hosting a carnival can still pay off big time by driving new readers to your site and getting tons of links back to you. It can also turn into a really useful compilation of info/entertainment for your reader.

Some Tips

  • Be picky: Don’t publish every single thing that’s submitted. It will lessen the quality of the carnival, and no one wants to read a post that has links to 70 different articles (unless you can keep my attention).
  • Promote: Don’t just post it and forget about it because you’re getting your linkbacks and you’ve done a ton of work. Spread the word and drive some traffic. It’s good PR for your site and your carnival.
  • Be creative: Say something about each post you’re accepting. It can just be a line or two, but give your readers an intro and make it clear you’ve read through every one you accepted.
  • Keep your readers in mind: Would they find this informational/entertaining? When picking articles for Comics and Cents, I’m terrified of picking something that will be greeted with “Eh, not funny.” Keep your readers in mind.
  • Be prepared: Give yourself time. Go through the articles bit by bit before the deadline hits. It’ll give you time to do all of the above and make it a great carnival.
  • Start your own: It takes even more time and promotion that just hosting an existing carnival. But if you create something unique that people are into, it’ll be even more valuable for your readers. My Comics and Cents Carnival doesn’t get a lot of traffic right now, but people appreciate that I’m publishing personal finance stories that are funny right now. Blog Carnival is a great place to create your own carnivals.

Hosting a carnival is just another tool at our disposal when it comes to broadening our blog’s audience and giving them some valuable content that they’ll keep coming back for. It also helps with backlinks, traffic, and SEO.

So, yes, it’s a ton of work and there’s a lot you need to keep in mind. But as they say, “Hostin’ ain’t easy.”

Bloggers Without Boundaries: Are the Lines Getting Too Blurred?

In this post Jonathan Fields from the Career Renegade Blog and author of the book Career Renegade talks boundaries.

It’s Sunday morning, you’re up early, the house is still quiet. And, like any self-respecting blogger, you take this time to meditate, set-up your day and plan what you’ll do with the family, today. Not!

That’s what you know you should do. But, instead, you wander over to your computer, check your blog for comments, check your subscriber and traffic stats and maybe crank out a quick post or video. Then, you jump on twitter to check your timeline, follower numbers and reply to any @’s or dm’s.

A few minutes later, the kids wander out and your day really begins. Breakfast, then the day’s activities. It’s all great fun, yet, you still find yourself reveling in those random moments in the rest-room, where you linger a few extra seconds to check your e-mail, IM, twitter and stats once more on your trusty iPhone.

Congrats!

You’ve become a card-carrying member of Bloggers Without Boundaries.

You’ve lost the ability to separate your virtual community from your real-life community. And, in fact, what happens in the ether, for you, may play an equally important and impactful role in your life as what happens in flesh and blood.

Question is…to what end?

No doubt, the line between social media and socializing has become hopelessly blurred for many. I’m sure I am not alone in counting a number of twitter and blogging relationships among my “real” friends. In fact, I speak with certain online friends far more often than I speak with other face-to-face friends.

In the thick of this social media wild west, the rules are literally being made up as we go.

Along with the rapid fire commingling of online business and online friendships comes the near total evaporation of the “time” lines that separate family time and work time.

Add to that the ubiquity of smartphones with apps that give instant access to social media wherever you go. And, many bloggers end up blogging, tweeting, e-mailing and IMing seven-days a week, often sneaking it in with smartphone-driven mircobursts.

All of which makes me wonder…

“What’s the net effect on our humanity and ability to maintain intelligent boundaries between work, play, family and friends?”

Has the expectation now become that bloggers and social media marauders are available 24/7? For people like us, is there such a thing as a fixed workweek or office hours anymore?

Is social media the new Crackberry?

Has the ability to micro-burst a small bit of work by smartphone become an ever-present intrusion on personal and family time? Or, has it allowed those of us who work largely online to take immediate action on something that, a few years ago, would’ve been spinning in our heads for hours until we could find the nearest computer or returned to our offices, and given us the ability to be more genuinely present between the offending digital distractions?

Put another way, is this technologically-driven blurring of the lines between work and play and time spent in each a good thing, a bad thing…or just a thing?

Curious what your thoughts are. Let me know in the comments below…

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Jonathan Fields is the author of the new book, Career Renegade. He also writes Awake@TheWheel and CareerRenegade.com and produces Career Renegade TV and the weekly Renegade Profiles podcast series.

How to Develop a Niche Blog Content Plan

Jonathan Thomas is a blogger and social media marketer that runs several successful niche blogs such as: Anglotopia - The world’s largest Anglophile blog. You can connect with him on Twitter: @jonathanwthomas

The best way to build traffic for a new niche blog is to have lots of content and to post it regularly. Many new bloggers don’t realize this and are often disappointed with their traffic when they start out. They write a post or two a week and the traffic just isn’t increasing. It’s demotivating and makes you question whether or not you should waste your time niche blogging.

To help generate steady traffic and attract loyal readers, you need to have a content schedule. This could mean blogging five or seven days a week or it could mean just posting on the same two days of the week. Your readers want to know when to expect new stuff from you. So, why is it good for your niche blog to have a content plan and how should you develop it?

Why do you need a Content Plan?

Having a content schedule helps build loyal readership. If you write about specific things on specific days, readers will know when to come back. Readers will also take you more seriously if you have a methodical plan behind the blog, that is they know it’s not just the aimless ramblings of a procrastinator. It will help foster community and turn your blog into a favorite amongst your audience. A content plan keeps people coming back for more, especially with Niche Blogs.

Time Management

A content plan also helps you manage your time. When starting a blog, you’re often awash with tons of ideas for posts. So many, that you quickly get burnt out as the drudgery or writing about the same things sets in. If you organize your blog into content categories, you can spend your time focusing on several targeted ideas a week, as opposed to hundreds. This will fill your blog with relevant content to your niche, increasing the likelihood that people will find you via the search engines.

Good Habits

A content plan also helps to create good blogging habits. To maintain a successful niche blog community, you need to regularly update your blog (and not just with blog posts), respond to comments and overall monitor the site. You’ll create a production state of mind – meaning that you’ll get in the habit of writing a post a day, or even writing them all in one day and scheduling them to post. This will make the creation process much easier to begin and end.

Establishes Niche Authority

If you’re regularly writing about particular subjects, the sheer amount of content that this creates will establish your authority in your niche subject. Who are you going to trust more? The blog with a few sparse posts written at odd times, with very little information? Or the blog that is filled with relevant content to the subject your interested in that ‘s updated in a methodical fashion?

Helps with Ideas for posts

Often, as you write in a more regimented, methodical fashion, you’ll come up with even more ideas for relevant posts. Then, you’ll find yourself altering your own content plan to fit in new and interesting ideas.

How to Develop Your Content Plan

The first step in developing your niche blog content plan is to sit and think long and hard about what you want your blog to be. Do you want to be a rockstar in your niche? Or do you want to be part of the scenery? Or do you just want a creative outlet?

If you want your niche blog to take over the world, then you need to post every day (and maybe more than once a day).

If you want to a part of a larger niche community, post 2 to 3 times a week.

If you just want a creative outlet, then post once or twice a week, depending on how the mood moves you but be sure to make sure it’s the same days.

What are Others Doing?

Research is so important when building your blog. Hopefully, you found people blogging about the same things as you. What are they doing? Do they have a schedule? What do they regularly write about? What are they doing wrong? And then ask the most important question a niche blogger faces:

How can you do it better?

Think About your Niche

Think long and hard about what interests you so much about your niche subject. What would you like to read about? Compare to your competition. Find some way to differentiate yourself while still focusing on the subjects that interest you the most. If you lack passion for any of your posts, it will show in your writing and will turn off readers.

Then think about how you can express your interest the most effective way. Think about the types of posts you’d like to write. That can be lists, interviews, reviews, features, videos, etc. Keep those in mind when it comes time to layout your content schedule.

Features and Small Posts

There are two types of posts that are relevant to niche blogs, features and small posts. Features are long posts (like this one) that focus on a subject and develop it fully (essay like, lists, interviews, etc). A small post is much shorter and focused on something that can be digested quickly (a video, photo slideshow, 2-3 paragraph post, etc).

You need to ask yourself what your feature to small post ratio will be. You will probably get burnt out if you post a long feature every day. Similarly, you niche blog may get stale if you only write quick short posts and don’t give your readers something MORE. Features are also more likely to gain attention on social media sites than a short post.

So, how many feature posts can you write for a week? How many short posts? It’s been my experience that one or two features is plenty for the week while 3 to 4 small posts will keep things interesting.

Always be Ahead

The most important aspect of developing a content schedule is to always be ahead of yourself. If your posts aren’t time sensitive, then schedule them out a week or two in advance. This will ensure that if anything comes up, you have a post going out no matter what.

Have a Backup

It’s not a bad idea to have a well full of articles that haven’t been published in your back pocket to use when you have nothing else to write about. It could be a longer feature you’re waiting for the right time to post or an idea your still wrapping your head around. Having these types of posts will help you when you’ve hit Blogging Burnout and can’t bear writing for a couple days.

Choose the days of the week you want to post

When planning your content schedule, keep in mind that there are blogging cycles during the week. There are days when your traffic will be down, such as Monday or Friday. People are getting back into the week on Mondays and people are exiting the week on Fridays. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the best days of the week to have big, content rich posts go out.

On some of my blogs, I use Friday as a link roundup day. I write about cool links that I found that don’t warrant their own post, but are worth sharing. On Monday, I usually put out a video or quick tip. Something light. Save the meat for the middle of the week when more people are paying attention.

Choose themed days

Some people might think it’s lame to picked themed days, but it’s a very effective way for people to remember your niche blog. For example, on Niche Blogger Today I have Theme Tuesday, WordPress Wednesday, Technical Thursday, SEO Sunday, etc. It immediately lets people know what the column is about and gets them interested. I also recommend creating separate categories for each of these themed days, that way someone can find your themed posts all in one place when they are browsing your site. It’s not a bad idea to create category links for your themed days in your blog sidebar.

When should you schedule posts to post?

I’ve already talked about choosing the right days to post but what time of the day is it best to post? A general rule of thumb is to set your scheduled posts to go out mid-morning. People often are looking for something to read after they’ve settled at their desks with their cups of coffee. Also, by posting in the morning you’re more likely to get somewhere on social media sites because your content will be in front of people’s eyeballs for most of the day.

Always Double Check

Many bloggers don’t think of it, but they should be subscribed to their own blog feed. That way they will know if their scheduled post has gone up at the right time as well as making sure it’s formatted correctly. It’s also a great way to spot errors that can be fixed before your post hits critical mass. Also visit your own blog. Make sure the posts display correctly, respond to comments and interact with your readers. Engagement will keep them coming back.

Tweak

If something in your content schedule isn’t working, then by all means don’t be afraid to change your plan. If your regular posts on the mating habits of feral cats are not bringing in the traffic you expected, shift the topic into another category. Your niche blog should be an ever changing, ever growing organism that can change as quickly as it needs to in order to stay relevant.

What Strategies have Worked for You in Developing a Content Plan?