Branding is a concept from the marketing world and refers to features that distinctly identify your site from the others. Each blogger projects her brand through everything she does, from the way she writes, the way she presents herself and the way she interacts in the social media. The author is the brand of the site, but there is so much more to branding.
You can look at branding as your visitor’s gut feeling about your site. It’s your reputation. It’s not necessary always what you say, it’s what your visitor’s say about you. This is something you cannot control, but you can influence it in the way that you present yourself. Presenting yourself well helps with how others will value you. These are the important elements to consider when starting a site:
Who is your target audience?
Anyone can publish a post but without an audience it is only text. You need to figure out your target audience. Your site cannot appeal to everyone. You need to identify groups of people that are interested in your topic. Look for something people are already trying to do, then help them do it. Who is your audience? Who are you serving? Where do they spend their time online? What are they looking for? What do they need and want? When do they need you? Why do they need you? How would they interact with your site? What will your site help them with? What are they ready to buy? How can I reach them and persuade them? How can I sell it to them?
Your job as a content creator is to know as much as possible about your audience in order to provide them with the content they want to consume and share. Your job is also to meet the visitor in places where they expect you to be in format that fits those moments.
Answering these questions tells you everything you need to know. It tells you what type of content you need to create. It tells you where you need to have a presence in order for people to come in contact with your site. It tells you what type of product paying customers already want.
What people want
- To learn – People seek other people’s opinions. They like to keep up to date on the topics that they care about. They like to explore the environment they are sounded with. They love to learn something new. The self-help-web is very much alive and thriving with people looking for instructional, informational and educational content that helps them do better.
- To be recognized – People love recognition. They want to earn respect. They want to promote themselves and their views. They want to change opinions. They want to express themselves and share their knowledge.
- To progress – People want to feel progress. They want to make money. They want to make contacts for work.
- To divert – People love to have fun. They love to be entertained. They love to just hang out, or just waste time. They like to be creative and share new experiences.
- Relationship – People love to stay in touch with their family and friends. They love to meet new people. They want to feel like they belong.
Think about your target audience and things people want in order to position yourself and your site. Positioning gives you a heading and a direction towards the future. It acts as the creative filter for everything that you do. It helps you define what content to publish, it decides your tone of voice and your unique selling proposition. If the article or the tweet you’re about to post doesn’t tick off your proposition, you shouldn’t be posting it.
You need to let people know what your site is about, you need to give them a reason to click on your link and not on one of the many other websites and distractions that are trying to get their attention. You do this by being specific and descriptive and letting them know what problems you will solve for them. Think about who you are, what you want to do with your site and why you want to do it.
Why are you special, why are you different and why should people listen to you and not to someone else. What can you say about your site that your competitors cannot claim? You must have your personal point of view, something original. It must be something that your visitors find valuable and credible. It must show why your site should matter to your visitors, what value it contributes with. What makes you the only site? What makes you different in your category?
What is the core purpose of your site? Beyond making money, what’s the reason your site should exist? Imagine you only have few seconds to tell a potential visitor why they should visit your site. Find out what is unique and compelling about you and your idea, and put it into a short sentences. Describe your vision. Make it interesting and short. The vision must be strong enough to be summed up quickly.
Who are your competitors?
Figure out what other bloggers are doing related to your chosen topic. Do not try and copy the other bloggers as that will not lead you anywhere. Figure out what they do well and what their audience responds to. Learn from them, but find spaces in between the competitors and do something different. Greatest thing you can do to stand out is to find your own voice rather than try and copy someone else. You can’t be the leader by following the leader. Knowing the things above leads us to your branding elements:
Your site name
Think of potential names for your site. Many bloggers think of a domain name as the brand name as it is the easiest way to identify the site. A good brand name can be as simple as your full name. Many are fine with branding their sites with their personal names. Some go by a pseudonym. Some have descriptive brand names. Some get creative and think of memorable and unique names. Take your time to decide your name as it will be hard and confusing to change it later on. Here is my 3-step approach to naming your site.
Graphics enhance and define the overall style, look and feel of the site. Your logo and the design of the site are integral part of your branding. Your header is the most prominent visual aspect of your site, make sure it is good. It can be an image, a symbol or you can push personal branding even further and use image of yourself. The header should be able to attract your visitor, it should be easily recognizable and your site name should be prominent in the graphic. This is my full guide to finding the perfect design.
Your tone of voice
Your tone of voice is all about how you say things. Consider how you want to portray yourself. You can be a bit more detailed about it and think about what kind of content format you will be producing and other technical aspects like the length or the way you present the content. Pick a voice that suits you, and keep a consistent voice across your pages, posts and the different social media profiles. I prefer to write in authentic voice, my writing basically mirrors how I speak in a conversation. I find that when the writing feels like people speaking, the visitors are listening more carefully. This voice also helps me get to the point as it is very straightforward and easy to understand.
This might not necessarily be the case for you. What you should be focusing on to achieve your writing voice is not writing in the same way that you speak, but instead writing in a conversational manner. While they may sound basically the same, there’s a huge difference between the two that directly affects your writing.
- Writing like you speak
Again, in theory it sounds perfect. You talk to others all the time and have been doing so since you were little, so theoretically you should be an expert at talking, right? But if you really break down the conversations you think you have with others and what actually goes on when you’re talking, you’ll probably see things differently. When we’re talking with other people we do a couple things without even realizing it.
- We frequently add in filler words such as “like” and “uh” and “um” and a slew of others that don’t sounds quite as professional when you, like, replay the conversation in your, like, head. That alone is good reason not to implement your speaking habits in your writing.
- Having a conversation with someone else usually involves tossing ideas around and building off of things the other person says. This means that the conversation jumps around often and thoughts don’t always come across in a complete manner.
- You’re able to read body language and facial expressions when you’re talking to other people and you tend to tailor what you’re saying to how others are reacting – something that you probably don’t even realize that you’re doing when it’s happening.
- Writing conversationally
On the flip side of that, writing conversationally is an art form that you should embrace. When you write conversationally, you implement many of the same aspects of formal writing in a less formal manner. You want to focus on keeping your grammar, spelling and punctuation professional while making the overall tone light.
- No matter what kind of writing you’re engaging in, you have to think through and plan what you’re going to say to make sure that it comes across in the right way. Unlike talking, you only have one chance to get your point across, so you have to make sure that everything flows and it’s easier to do that if you aren’t improvising on the fly.
- Writing conversationally includes adding in extra details to paint a visual picture for your reader in a straightforward manner. When you speak to others you probably don’t use elaborate words to describe things, so don’t use them in your writing either. There’s no need to have your readers bust out a dictionary to discern what you’re saying.
- Read it out loud. This is one of the best ways to ensure that your writing is fluid and conversational. Hearing what you’ve written clues you in on mistakes you may not have caught otherwise and allows you to interpret what you’re writing in the same manner that your reader will.
Should I stay anonymous?
This depends on how much personal information you are willing to put out in public. Some of the very popular sites are written anonymously for different reasons. You have to consider the job you have. You have to consider your family in case you write about them. You must consider what kind of information you will be posting and how that may affect your life, people around you or even your career.
It’s extremely difficult to be private on the Internet, but following tips should help you be a more anonymous writer in case you do want that. First thing to be aware of when starting is that when you buy a domain name, your personal details are available in the WhoIs database. Data like your name, address, email address and phone number are available for anyone to access with couple of clicks. You should use a free domain or get a domain name with Whois privacy. In the registration process make sure to select: Domain Whois Privacy. There are some other things to keep in mind to keep yourself anonymous:
- Create all the admin usernames and author names in your pen name
- Create everything fresh. Don’t use an existing hosting account, but create a new account for the anonymous project.
- Same with Google Analytics, make sure the analytics code you use is from an account that is new and used for the anonymous authored page only. If you use same analytics account you can be tracked through the other pages you use the same account for.