How-To Build Your Blog’s Brand; An Extensive Guide

by Michael on October 6, 2010

Introduction


I wrote this post originally as a series of posts for another blog that I thought I should start.  I speak of how I failed to properly brand michaelmindes.com, but I do not speak to the importance of staying focused on what is working.  That is why I have decided to stick with michaelmindes.com as my blog, despite some of the problems.

This other blog is just one in a long series of distractions.  Please make sure you are working towards the right things, and continue to work on the places where you are seeing progress.  Without any further commentary, I present to you the inside of my mind…

This post is 4,772 words long, and at average adult reading speeds should take you 19-23 minutes to read.

Oh, and I made this into a .PDF file so you can take it anywhere you want.  Feel free to download it from my free eBooks page.

Section 1 – 5 Blog Branding Mistakes

 

After unsuccessfully branding one blog, michaelmindes.com, I thoroughly contemplated the branding of my next blog. I might be too harsh on myself, michaelmindes.com has success in its own right, because it became a top source of information about the process of publishing board games. Since this was the goal going into starting the blog, I must admit semi-success.

However, there were a number of mistakes that I made… Starting with the mistakes, we’ll explore the branding of a blog in this 5-part series. At the end of the series we will have an action plan for you to implement when branding your blog.

Mistake #1 – The domain name / Title communicates nothing in particular

 

With many of the best domain names being already registered, this can be a difficult area to get right. Ideally you would want the following in a domain name:

  • Short, punchy, and memorable
  • .com domain extension, if unavailable .org or .net would be acceptable for an otherwise PERFECT domain name
  • Communicates what your blog is about and where you have expertise
  • Ties in well with your tagline
  • Is consistent with the story you are trying to tell
  • Hard to misspell

Unless you are a celebrity, where people actually care what you might have to say for some unexplainable reason, then you do not want to have your personal name as the domain name. A notable exception would be if you are trying to become a semi-celebrity within your niche. There are VERY few people that write about their experiences publishing board games, and as a result I have some sort of celebrity status.

Also, having your domain name tied directly to you prevents you from selling a blog and prevents you from hiring writers in the future. Afterall, what is michaelmindes.com if Michael Mindes is not writing it?

Mistake #2 – A Horrible Tagline

 

Continuing the example of michaelmindes.com, the tagline was “Ramblings of a Board Game Publisher”. What does that communicate to you? For me, it says:

  • I don’t take myself seriously, so you should not (although being too serious can also cause problems)
  • Blog posts may or may not be coherent
  • Don’t expect much

It is also important to note what the tagline does not communicate:

  • It doesn’t communicate that the blog will be helpful
  • It says nothing about what reading the blog will do for you
  • It says almost nothing about where I have expertise

A tagline exists to bring together all of the communication. It needs to complete the entire picture. You want it to make the domain name, title, logo, and background story all like tightly together. You want it to tell people exactly what to expect from you, where your passion is, and what you are an authority on (even if you are not seen as such yet).

Mistake #3 – There is no logo

 

Without a logo there is nothing that will visually remind people of the brand. When you are building a brand, you want everything to tie together to a logo or a particular symbol.

That way there is a way for people to IMMEDIATELY recogonize your brand. When they recognize your brand, you want them to immediately associate your brand with your expertise. Ultimately you want them to have good memories and/or trust for your brand.

McDonald’s has clearly mastered branding with one of the most recognizable brands in the world. It is so recognizable, that my 4 year old daughter knows that if she sees the “Golden Arches” that there is ice cream. Thankfully, she doesn’t know about everything else at McDonald’s, because we rarely ever eat there.

After only going one time with her grandfather to get an ice cream treat when she was 3, she permanently associates the “Golden Arches” with ice cream… A powerful association to put into the mind of a young child.

Mistake #4 – The blog design does not correlate to everything else in your branding

 

By no stretch of the imagination am I a graphic designer, artist, or web developer. Despite this, I utilized the thesis theme and customized it slightly to get the results that I desired. The end effect is that there is no consistency in the look of the design, and it certainly does not match the other branding or the message that is being conveyed.

Imagine reading a blog that continually states that advertising gets in the way of building relationships with customers. What is that blog having multiple ads running down the sidebar? How about contextual ads that are found within the body of each article? The visual message would contradict part of the blog’s branding, and people would have a harder time listening.

You want your blog design to:

  • Tie into the colors of your logo so everything looks right
  • Be consistent with your message and themes

A great example of blog design that ties in perfectly to the branding is Zen Habits. The blog is about productivity through simplification, and the design reflects that perfectly. There is a VERY simple header, one column for the posts, a sidebar column with a handful of helpful links, and a footer that has some further information. It is very visually simple which helps to reinforce the entirety of the branding.

Mistake #5 – The blog posts are not 100% consistent with the message/theme

 

If michaelmindes.com was started to tell people about publishing board games, then why did I discuss marketing so much? In my mind, marketing is part of publishing if you want to be successful and sell anything.

However, in the mind of my readers, while they recognized the reason to include marketing information, they want more info about choosing artists, choosing game designs, getting things manufactured, shipping, fulfillment, dealing with retailers and distributors, etc. Yes, marketing is part of it, but that is not what they REALLY want to read about.

If you keep your blog posts consistent with your branding, then your audience will be pleased and react accordingly. However, if you give them something that relates, but is not 100% on topic, then they will not be as pleased.

Conclusion – Learn from mistakes, mine or yours, and improve

 

The most effective way to learn about something is to do it, recognize your mistakes, and redo it again better. The most cost-effective way to learn is to recognize other people’s mistakes and go forward from there.

Bonus Mistake – Excessive narrowing of the scope of your blog with branding

 

Above, I mentioned a blog that I never actually started because I made another branding mistake… I made the topic too narrow.

Over the course of publishing board games and marketing over the Internet, I came to realize the power of marketing via email. So I wrote an eBook (currently over 20,000 words long and 95% complete) about building relationships through email. The plan was to give the book away in exchange for email addresses, and utilize that publicity to launch the blog.

Thankfully, I recognized the problem before I went live with the blog. Through the branding I narrowed my topic to be ONLY email marketing and/or relationship building. The problem is that there are so many more things that I enjoy writing about. Hence the maintenance of michaelmindes.com

Section 2 – Why You Want A Complete And Integrated Blog Brand

 

Branding is a HUGELY important aspect of any business or product. There is a reason why branding experts are so highly paid, especially if they advise companies like McDonald’s, Nike, Apple, Pepsi, or Coca-Cola. All of which have incredible worldwide brand recognition.

Branding is great for the big companies, but why do you need a well thought out and integrated brand for your blog? There are a number of reasons, but here are a few of them:

  • A brand will guide your message and keep you true to your story and goals.
  • A brand will show your audience exactly what they should expect from you.
  • An integrated and consistent brand will lead to more raving fans and a faster growth of that fan base.
  • A brand enables you to charge more money and influence more people.

Staying true to your message

 

Without having a well thought out brand that integrates into everything that you do, it can be very easy to get OFF TOPIC. You will be swayed more often by the opinions of others, not that having an open mind is a problem.

Your brand will act as a guide, bringing you back to what you said you will do. Bringing you back to what your audience or fans expect of you.

One of the biggest problems that results from branding mistakes is that your audience will not know what to expect from you. Which will lead to them caring less about what you say than they would otherwise.

Show your audience what to expect

 

When you tell people what to expect and then deliver on that expectation (or over-deliver), great things will happen. We are used to being told what we want to hear and then not getting what we were told.

If you are different and actually deliver on expectations, you will stand out from the pack and be more easily recognized as a trustworthy person, which in turn will bring additional benefits.

More raving fans and faster accumulation of raving fans

 

I am always wary of talking about people in a way that objectifies them. However, accumulating really is a good word for it.

With a brand, your audience will have something to grab hold of. They will have a way to describe what you do. They will more easily identify how you can help them. The net result is that they will become fans and essentially fall in love with you much faster. Then they will also be prone to tell their friends about you.

Charge more money

 

One of the obvious benefits of a successful brand is that you can charge more money. An iPod is significantly more expensive than MP3 players from other manufacturers. An iPhone is more expensive than most other cell phones. Apple’s brand enabled them to get a portion of AT&T’s service charges. Other cell phone producers do not get that. Apple was in a position to demand it, and they go it… Thanks to awesome branding and a HUGE base of raving fans.

Even with low-cost products, the good brands charge more money. Pepsi and Coca-Cola charge more than RC Cola or generic sodas. In lieu of charging more money, you could certainly sell more product at the same price point. That is if you are uncomfortable with charging more money.

Back in the day, when their brand was more powerful… Why should GAP be able to charge at least 100% more money for a pair of jeans than a generic provider. Of course, the answer is the brand.

Conclusion

 

Now you know the reasons why you want a powerful brand. Make sure you stay tuned for how to decide what your brand should be and build your brand in the upcoming parts of the series.

Section 3 – How To Identify Your Niche And Discover Your Blog’s Brand

 

Without knowing what your niche and target market are, then there is little point in building a brand around it. And without a brand, your blog will float around in the wind without a clearly defined purpose.

A well defined and thought out brand will help you attract an audience that loves your content. Stay true to the brand and your audience will stay true to you.

Where do you have expertise?

 

Being a consistent blogger will bring better results. Optimally, you will be publishing a new blog post 5 days a week, or 260 times in a year. If the average length of a blog post is 800 words,that is 208,000 words in a year. That is a lot to discuss.

To gain and keep people’s attention, you will need a depth of expertise, be passionate for the topic, and effective communication. If you have a topic that is too narrowly focused, then you will not have enough to talk about. On the other hand, if your topic is too broad, then your posts will lack direction and distinction. Either way, it will limit your capability to engage your audience.

So, where is your expertise?

  • What do you have at least 5 years of experience doing?
  • What do you friends consistently come to you for advice on?
  • When speaking with strangers, do they ever tell you that you really know your stuff?
  • What do you have vast amounts of education for? In what areas do you love to study and experiment?

These questions will help you identify both where you have sufficient expertise and where others already recognize you as having expertise. Ultimately, your success will depend on how others view you. Are you an expert? Are you trustworthy? If I tell my friends about you, then will you let me down and be embarrassing?

What areas relate to where you have direct expertise?

 

Everybody has expertise about something. The scope of that expertise might insufficient to support blogging for months and even years. You run the risk of feeling that you have exhaustively discussed everything about a subject (although I doubt you will have been as exhaustive as you think you have been).

If your expertise is in a specific area of marketing, such as email marketing, then related areas include: Internet marketing, direct response marketing, copywriting, general business topics, productivity, and much more. To identify related areas that you might be interested in, do the following to build a topical family tree:

  1. Write your area of expertise in the middle of a sheet of paper.
  2. Write 1-3 parent topics that it falls underneath. For example, the parents of email marketing include marketing, internet marketing, and business.
  3. Write 3-5 children of the parent topics. For example, direct response, relationship building, customer service, and productivity would be children topics of the parents mentioned above.
  4. Write down children of your area of expertise, children of the children topics, and parents of the parents topics.
  5. Continue mapping out different related topics until you can think of no more.
  6. Highlight the topics that you are interested in, even if you do not have expertise in those areas.

Congratulations, you now have a map of what your blog branding should encompass. You will need to judge for yourself, if the scope is too narrow or too broad.

How do I encompass this map into a brand for my blog?

 

Now that you have a list of your areas of expertise and related areas of interest, you are ready to decide what you topic is. To do this, just look at the parent that encompasses all of your highlighted topics. For me this was business, since I have expertise in or like to discuss marketing, sales, product creation, productivity, relationship building, and investing among other things. I just had a couple of problems…

Business is too broad of a topic! In addition, I did not want to limit the scope of my writing with my brand. I already had made that branding mistake.

My parent topic is too broad! How do I direct my writing and give it a consistent voice?

 

With a topic that is too broad, like business, health, or relationships you will have a diluted vision and voice. That dilution will result in a smaller audience then if you had a more focused topic.

There are two ways around this problem that I see:

  1. Eliminate a topic that forces you into the broader category.
  2. Find a specific angle that will guide you in your writing and make you unique.

For me, the second choice is best, as you can see from the tagline “Business improvement through simplified action”, but how do you find that angle that will make you unique? I think the best way to get to that angle is through questions:

  • In your experience is there something that people are doing wrong because they don’t know better?
  • Is there an underlying principle that if people only understood and followed would improve their lives?
  • Why do people fail in your area of expertise?
  • Is there one piece of advice that you consistently give people (in your area of expertise)?
  • Do you often see people making the same mistake? What is that mistake?

For me, I have come to realize that the #1 reason for failure in business (and probably in life) is a lack of action. It is obvious and fundamental, that if you fail to take action, then you fill fail in your endeavor. However, that does not mean that people consistently fail to take action.

Since I have grown very passionate about taking action, then that became the clear way to tie everything together and create a way to tackle such a BROAD topic. As a result, I will naturally attract an audience that has interest in business as a whole, but those that identify with the need to take simplified action will become the die hard fans…

Conclusion – Find your expertise, decide your scope, find an angle…

 

In order to properly drive your branding decisions, you need to identify your expertise, decide the scope of what you want to discuss, and either reduce that scope or find a unique angle.

If you do this, then you will have less difficultly figuring out what you should be writing about. You will not fall into the trap of discussing things without direction. You will attract an audience that more closely agrees and identifies with you, and as a result they will be more likely to share your blog with their friends.

So, if you have been thinking about starting a blog, then take the time to do the actions found within this blog post. Your potential success will be amplified by the steps you take today.

Section 4 – How To Identify Who Can Help You Build Your Blog’s Brand

 

Without other people identifying you as the expert in a particular area, then you will not be seen as an expert. Being seen as THE EXPERT leads to unbelievable success. This principle applies to any business, but for now we will discuss how to identify those people that can help you build your blog’s brand.

You will need the map of what your blog branding should encompass from eariler. If you do not have this map, then go create it now.

The beauty of simplified actions is that they have the ability to build on top of each other, because you have this map, you can do this task with greater clarity and vision.

Start with the areas/topics that you highlighted

 

Since you will actively be discussing the areas that you highlighted, you need to know who the top bloggers in those niches are. Additionally, you will need to know who the upcoming or hardworking bloggers in those niches are. Finding this out is simple, and you will want to keep track of various information in a spreadsheet.

  1. Search in Google, Bing, and Yahoo for “particular area blog” (the search shouldn’t be in quotes).
  2. The top results in each search engine are going to be the biggest authority blogs in that area.
  3. Subscribe to the blogs in your RSS Feed Reader, if you are not using one, then you need to know why you should start.
  4. Scan the archives of these blogs for guest posts.

Between the actual authority blogs and those who are making guest posts on them, you will have a LARGE list of blogs and bloggers that can help you build your authority.

What information should I track?

 

For each blog, you will want to track the title, tagline, URL, topic as you see it, the RSS feed URL, how many RSS readers there are, if there is an email list, how many subscribers the email list has, where and how to contact the author, how many comments does the blog get (how active is the community that reads the blog…), and other notes that will help you approach these bloggers later for various reasons

In addition, if you want to get extremely thorough, then you could track a plethora of information about each blog. However, what I mentioned above will be sufficient to identify your best opportunities.

How do I use this information?

 

Once your blog has been started and appropriately branded, then start contacting blogger to get guest posts, commenting on these blogs, and/or acquiring incoming links. Please, do not beg for links it will just make you look desperate and desperation does not indicate authority or expertise. Here are the action steps to take:

  1. Identify what other blogs will have the best audience response.
  2. Create 3-5 blog headlines that would work well for that blog’s audience. Make these headlines as attractive as possible, since this is what you are trying to get guest posts for.
  3. Contact the blogger to try and get a slot for a future guest post. (I recommend a form email, since you will be doing this often. Just make sure to personalize each one and show them that you are reading their blog). Also, find out about how many links within the body of the post they will allow you to send back to your content.
  4. When you get a response, act upon it quickly and make their life as easy as possible. This will include linking to their content within the blog post, finding them an image for the blog post (if this works well with your brand, even better), and formatting the HTML. The easier it is for them to post your content, the more likely it will happen.
  5. When making the blog post, take into consideration your blog’s branding.

Give the guest post readers a compelling reason to visit your blog. The more you can connect the topic of the guest post back to your blog, or where they can continue on for more detailed information, the better.

You goal with the guest post is to get new readers, but also to impress the other blogger and gain authority through association.

Give them your best content

 

Yes, that is correct. You want to give away your best content to be used as guest posts. If you don’t feel that what you wrote is at LEAST 90% as good as your best material, then you need to rework it. This guest post can be the foundation of a MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL relationship. Much more so than getting additional readers and a couple of inbound links.

So, make sure you give them your best. Imagine impressing THE AUTHORITY in your area so much, that they decide to start reading and following your blog. If that happens, then you have the chance to consistently get incoming links from them and a much easier path to future guest posts.

Conclusion

 

Knowing who can help you build your brand and how they can help you is very valuable information… But only if you ACT upon it. Give them your best content as a guest posts and you will be highly rewarded.

Many successful bloggers have launched the popularity of their blogs through a good brand, and excellent guest posts. So do the research and get moving on building your authority!

Section 5 – 21 Simplified Steps To Build And Spread An Awesome Blog Brand

 

Now that you have gone through the first four sections in this 5-section series about blog branding, lets get into the actions that you need to take. The previous sections:

  • 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Branding Your Blog
  • Why You Want A Complete And Integrated Blog Brand
  • How To Identify Your Niche And Discover Your Blog’s Brand
  • How To Identify Who Can Help You Build Your Blog’s Brand

Read through the posts mentioned above to get additional reference on any particular action step.

The Action Plan

 

  1. Determine your area of expertise
  2. Write your area of expertise in the middle of a sheet of paper.
  3. Write 1-3 parent topics that it falls underneath. For example, the parents of email marketing include marketing, internet marketing, and business.
  4. Write 3-5 children of the parent topics. For example, direct response, relationship building, customer service, and productivity would be children topics of the parents mentioned above.
  5. Write down children of your area of expertise, children of the children topics, and parents of the parents topics.
  6. Continue mapping out different related topics until you can think of no more.
  7. Highlight the topics that you are interested in, even if you do not have expertise in those areas.
  8. EITHER narrow the broad range of topics you now have, or find a unique angle to approach all of your writing.
  9. Search in Google, Bing, and Yahoo for “particular area blog” (the search shouldn’t be in quotes).
  10. The top results in each search engine are going to be the biggest authority blogs in that area.
  11. Subscribe to the blogs in your RSS Feed Reader, if you are not using one, then you need to know why you should start.
  12. Scan the archives of these blogs for guest posts, and get information about the guest bloggers too.
  13. Enter into a spreadsheet the following information: title, tagline, URL, topic as you see it, the RSS feed URL, how many RSS readers there are, if there is an email list, how many subscribers the email list has, where and how to contact the author, how many comments does the blog get (how active is the community that reads the blog…), and other notes that will help you approach these bloggers later for various reasons.
  14. Repeat steps 9-13 for all topical areas that you highlight in step 7
  15. Identify what blog will have the best audience response.
  16. Create 3-5 blog headlines that would work well for that blog’s audience. Make these headlines as attractive as possible, since this is what you are trying to get guest posts for.
  17. Contact the blogger to try and get a slot for a future guest post. (I recommend a form email, since you will be doing this often. Just make sure to personalize each one and show them that you are reading their blog). Also, find out about how many links within the body of the post they will allow you to send back to your content.
  18. When you get a response, act upon it quickly and make their life as easy as possible. This will include linking to their content within the blog post, finding them an image for the blog post (if this works well with your brand, even better), and formatting the HTML. The easier it is for them to post your content, the more likely it will happen.
  19. When making the guest blog post, take into consideration your blog’s branding.
  20. Repeat steps 15-19 as often as possible
  21. Smile and remember, following these steps will improve your blogging business.

Wow, that is a lot of work

 

Yes, it is a lot of work, but when was the last time something that was truly worth it an easy thing to do. Now you have an easy model to leverage and have a virtual assistant do it for you. That is exactly how I plan to implement the labor intensive steps 9-20.

Now, get to work… This will bring you an audience faster than you might imagine.

Related posts:

  1. Top 5 Benefits Of A Superior Online Brand For Your Blog
  2. 5 Reasons To Get Blogs Delivered To You
  3. How To Improve Your Life Or Business Through Elimination
  4. Internalizing The Algorithm
  5. Build Upon Your Success and Foundation

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