Tag Archives: Strategy & Planning

One (Surprising) Blogging Resolution You Should Make for 2019

The post One (Surprising) Blogging Resolution You Should Make for 2019 appeared first on ProBlogger.

2019 Blogging Resolution

It’s the start of a brand new year (give or take a week or so), and chances are that at some point you made some New Year’s resolutions.

As a blogger, you may have set yourself some goals (something I recommend) such as:

  • “I want to double my traffic.”
  • “I want to create an ebook to sell on my blog.”
  • “I want to write five posts a week (and publish three) so I can get ahead.”
  • “I want to grow my email list.”
  • “I want to redesign my blog.”

These are all great goals that will help you achieve in some area, or perhaps eliminate a problem or bad habit. But they all focus on what you want to achieve as a blogger. There’s another key element you may want to include in at least some of your goals.

Your readers.

Instead of thinking about what you want to achieve in 2019, try thinking about what you’d like your readers to achieve. What resolution would you like to set for them?

Setting a Goal or Resolution for Your Readers

One approach you can take to come up with a possible goal for your readers is to think about removing negatives. Ask yourself questions like:

  • “What kind of pain could I help eliminate from their lives?”
  • “What bad habit could I help them get rid of?”
  • “What mistake do you want them to stop making?”
  • “What obstacle could I help them overcome?”

You can also can look at it from a more positive angle with questions like:

  • “What can I help them achieve in the year ahead?”
  • “What good habit can I help them develop?”
  • “What positive change could I help them bring about in their lives?”
  • “What goal can I help them reach?”

Think about your readers. You might want to go back to your reader avatars, or even think about the individuals who commented on your blog or emailed you about your posts.

Who are your readers? What are their pains, obstacles and problems? And what are their hopes and dreams?

Identify one thing you can help your readers work on in the year ahead.

Why Helping Your Readers Helps You Too

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with setting your own goals for more traffic, income, comments and reader engagement. But flipping it around and looking at the change you want to see in your readers may also take care of some of your own goals.

Pinpointing how you want to help your readers during 2019 will help you work out:

  • What content to produce: what posts could inspire your readers, for instance?
  • What products to create: what would help your readers move forward?
  • How best to promote your blog and attract new readers.

Write Down a Resolution for Your Readers (and Use It)

What’s your goal for your readers in 2019? Write it down, ideally in a single sentence.

If you’re struggling to come up with a goal for your readers, ask them what they’d to achieve (in relation to your topic). You could ask on Facebook, or even run a survey.

Once you’ve written down that resolution, put it somewhere you look every day. For example, you could put it next to your computer so whenever you sit down to write it reminds you of what you’re trying to help your readers achieve.

That resolution might be the starting point for:

  • A weekly post that hones in on the problem or goal you’re trying to help your readers achieve
  • An extended blog post series
  • Discussions you have with your readers on social media
  • Launching a Facebook group to help your readers achieve that particular goal
  • A course, an ebook, or even a membership site.

You might want to announce the goal you’ll be helping readers work towards, especially if they helped you choose it.

For instance, you could say, “Since sending out that survey, I’ve thought a lot about what I want to achieve with this blog in 2019. And I’ve decided I want to help you…” and then state whatever it is you’ll be helping them achieve.

I’d love to hear what goals you come up with for your readers in the year ahead. Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Image Credit: Marten Bjork

The post One (Surprising) Blogging Resolution You Should Make for 2019 appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Top Tips for a Clean and Healthy Blog Email List

The post Top Tips for a Clean and Healthy Blog Email List appeared first on ProBlogger.

Top tips for a clean and healthy blog email list

At ProBlogger, we talk a lot about the value and importance of using an email strategy to drive traffic to, and make money from, your blog. But if you don’t keep your email subscriber list clean, it can negatively affect your blogging business.

By a clean list, I mean making sure your subscriber database is legal, accurate and engaged. Otherwise you may find yourself:

  • fined for breaking international laws
  • blacklisted by email service providers
  • suffering from poor sender reputation and struggling with low open rates
  • paying for inactive or non-existent subscribers
  • passing up golden opportunities to connect with and market to your readers.

Here are some fundamental tips for maintaining a clean and valuable email list.

Don’t Spam

In 2003 the United States passed the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM Act) into law. Most other jurisdictions across the world followed suit, and implemented these regulations that guide the behavior of email marketers, including bloggers. Check out the useful Compliance Guide from the US Federal Trade Commission to make sure you’re doing the right thing.

The basics of not spamming are to:

  • be clear and transparent in your email marketing
  • make it very obvious how subscribers may opt out of your emails.

Most email service providers ensure you don’t spam with the checks they have set up in their systems.

Beware the European Union’s GDPR

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) came into effect in May 2018. If you have subscribers within the European Union, then these rules apply to you.

And the penalties are heavy.

We’re not lawyers, and these regulations are quite complex and far-reaching, so we won’t be offering any advice on this. But you can check out these handy tips we’ve followed from our email service provider, Drip.

Build and Maintain Your Sender Reputation

Your email sender reputation is scored like a credit score. Businesses such as email providers use this data to determine whether to receive or reject your email. Email engagement rates such as opens, clicks (good) and spam complaints (bad) will affect your sender reputation. So the better your email engagement, the better your sender reputation, and the better your email deliverability will be.

Use a Double-Opt-in

While a double-opt-in process may seem like an obstacle to gaining subscribers, getting people to confirm their subscription is a good idea. Firstly, you know their email address is correct. (You’d be amazed how many potential subscribers misspell their own email.) Secondly, you’ll know these subscribers are real people and not bots. Thirdly, it shows they’re committed enough to go through this process to receive your emails.

It also lets you include extra messaging such as GDPR compliance in your confirmation prompt.

Pay Attention to Bounces and Undeliverable Email

Get in the practice of looking at the reports after every email you send to investigate bounces and undeliverables. (We suggest checking a week later.) You don’t want to carry dead weight in your list, so identify email addresses that have problems, and set up a system to manage and either fix or remove these email addresses.

Keep Your Subscribers Engaged

Given your primary purpose of emailing your readers is to open up a line of communication with them, having them open your emails and click on the links is essential to this strategy. (Here’s an article on the benefits of email engagement.)

Google also uses email engagement (along with your sender reputation) as part of its algorithm to filter emails into subscribers’ different Gmail folders – Primary, Updates, Promotions and Spam. And at last count around half the email addresses in the ProBlogger database were Gmail addresses. How many do you have?

Certain keywords in the subject line or the email itself may send it straight to Promotions. But the more email opens and clicks you have, the better your chance of hitting your subscribers’ Primary inboxes. So building your email engagement carries momentum for further email engagement.

Remember Re-Activation

If you dig into your email stats (assuming can get these reports from your email service provider), you may well see some subscribers slowly drifting away, engaging less and less with your emails. Decide on what level of activity triggers a warning signal for losing these subscribers (e.g. one month of not opening your emails) and try to reactivate them. You can do this automatically with more sophisticated email programs such Drip or Convertkit by sending these subscribers a survey or offer to re-engage them.

Prune Your List

Over time, people’s interests change and subscribers move on. So there comes a time when you need to prune the ‘dead wood’ of inactive subscribers from your list. If your email service supports it, you can do this automatically after efforts at subscriber re-activation have failed.

If it doesn’t, them you should check the health of your list at least every six months to make sure you’re not paying for zombie emails that add to your email bill and provide nothing in return.

Decide Whether You’re With the Right Email Service

At ProBlogger HQ we’ve been conducting a list health check on Darren Rowse’s other (and much larger) Digital Photography School blog, which currently uses AWeber as an email service. We’ve been assessing all aspects of our subscriber list in terms of its ability to drive traffic and make money, as well as how clean it is.

If while trying to clean up your list you run into limitations based on your email service, or after some analysis decide it might be time to upgrade, our comparison of email service providers for bloggers may assist you.

This article was prompted by us weighing up the decision to move the Digital Photography School list from AWeber to Drip. We’ve been using Drip at ProBlogger for more than a year  now, and we love it. Our analysis revealed a lot of insights about the business, and how we can improve our email strategy. (If you’re interested in hearing more about this, let us know in comments, as it’s a work in progress that might make a good case study.)

Hopefully you’ve gained some takeaways to improve the health of your email list, or been spurred into action to ‘clean house’. Let us know your top tip or takeaway for list hygiene in the comments below.

Nik MacMillan

The post Top Tips for a Clean and Healthy Blog Email List appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

216: How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog (and Why You Should)

How and Why You Should Create Style Guides for Your Blog

In today’s episode, I talk about style guides for blogs – why they’re important, and what elements you should include in yours.

Links and Resources for How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog

Further Reading and Listening for How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog

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Hi there. Welcome to Episode 216 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com – a blog, podcast, event, job board, and a series of ebooks all designed to help you as a blogger to start a great blog, to grow your audience, and to build some profit around that blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger over at problogger.com.

Now I’m just back from Dallas. I’ve had a few weeks off from the podcast and it’s been great to get some feedback from some of you that you missed the podcast over the last few weeks. I’m sorry for the break, but I hope you had a little bit of fun digging around in our archives.

As I’ve said, just back from Dallas and we had an amazing time in Dallas. I was at the FinCon Conference where I did the opening keynote and had an absolute ball. I think there was around 1800 financial bloggers, real estate bloggers there. Really great conference, very good community.

And before FinCon, of course, we ran the Success Incubator, a little event that we had as well. We had about 80 or so ProBlogger listeners and some attendees from the previous digital collab events and it was fantastic. We had this full day of training, we started about 8:30, 9:00 in the morning  and went through to about 9:30 at night. It was a big day and that was packed with teaching. We had Pat Flynn, Kim Garst, Andrea Vahl, we had Rachel Miller, Kelly Snyder, a variety of other bloggers as well.

The feedback we had on that day of teaching was fantastic. People loved how intense it was, the fact that we packed in so much information. That was great. And then we had half a day of masterminding the next day, which I always love – that opportunity to sit around the table with bloggers and online entrepreneurs and brainstorm.

You can still pick up virtual tickets for that event, if you go to problogger.com/success. I think they’re US$127 and that gets you the first day, that first full day of teaching. I think it’s about eight hours of teaching and you get the slides as well.

That price will go up. It’s not an early bird one because it’s now after the event, but it will go up in the coming days as well. You get some teachings there on live video creation from Kim Garst, Pat Fynn’s teaching on creating an editorial calendar, promotional calendar for your business, you get some training on Facebook advertising, using challenges to grow your blog, how to sell courses, Steve Chu did an amazing session which I picked up so much information on how he promotes his courses using webinars and Facebook advertising. It’s really practical teaching, and again you can check out the agenda there at problogger.com/success.

On to today’s episode. Today I want to talk about style guides – how to create them for your blog, and why you should create them for you blog as well. Style guides in my opinion are one way that you can really lift a good blog to a great blog by building more consistency across your content, across from one blog post to another.

You can grab today’s show notes with the full transcription of this episode at problogger.com/podcast/216.

Lastly, I should say on our events, stay tuned for news of future events both in Australia and hopefully in the US. We’ll hopefully have some news for you on that in the coming weeks and even months as we begin to plan 2018. Thanks for listening and let’s get onto today’s show.

Today we’re talking about style guides. I want to talk about why you need them, and also how to create one. I want to give you some practical things that you can include in your style guide for your blog.

Now, what is a style guide? Really, as I’ve talked to different bloggers, they mean different things to different people. Some people, a style guide is purely about the writing on your blog. It could be the writing style guide. Other bloggers include a lot more, they will include things like how to use graphics and how the blog should look in terms of colors and the brand. Really, I guess it could be whatever it is for you. But the main reason you want a style guide for your blog is to build consistency in your blog.

Most blogs, if you dig around in them, you begin to see inconsistencies, and this naturally happens. I look back on the early days of ProBlogger and I look at the first posts I wrote and they were all text, there was no images in them at all. That’s a big change that’s happened in blogging. I started blogging in 2002, 2004 for ProBlogger, of course things have changed. The style of my writing has probably matured in that time.

There’s going to be some inconsistencies through your archives, but bloggers run into trouble when one blog post that you write today is different in style and in how it looks to tomorrow’s blog post. That’s the kind of inconsistencies that many blogs have without even knowing it, and a style guide can really help a lot. Something that really can help your readers to feel like they’re reading a unified publication. If you open a magazine, the magazine is designed in way the reader feels even though there is different articles, that they belong next to each other. That’s the type of thing that you want to be doing in your blog post as well.

To state it most simply, a style guide is where you put into writing the guidelines for how you want your blog to be written and presented. And the reason you want to do it is to bring this consistency. This is the type of thing that you’ve probably already got without even knowing it. You’ve probably got a style guide in your mind. Most bloggers have one in their mind, and it’s just because most blogs start out being written by one person.

This is why many of us don’t actually feel like we need a style guide in the early days because we think that we’re consistent. We think that if I’m the only one writing this blog, then it’s going to be consistent from blog post to the next blog post.

But the reality is if you dig around in your archives, and I challenge you to do this, you’ll begin to spot inconsistencies. I think it’s really important to bed down the style that you want into writing, to actually bed it down because you’ll begin to see these inconsistencies in your own writing. Particularly if you want to add new writers into your blog, whether they’re just one-off guest posters of whether you want to bring on a regular writer, this is where a style guide really becomes even more useful as well.

The trouble I see with many blogs is you look through the archives and you can see these inconsistencies. The inconsistencies that you want to be looking for on your blog as you look through your archives are the voice of your writing. What style do you use? There’s a natural exploration of different voices that will happen on many blogs, but generally over time you want to become a bit more consistent with the voice that you use. Are you writing in the first person? Are you conversational when you’re writing? Are you writing for beginners, or are you writing for a more advanced audience? As I say, some variation in this is fine and is natural. But as your blog progresses, you’ll probably want to stick to one voice more and more.

Other areas of inconsistency, capitalization of words in headlines, for example, and I see this all the time. You see one blog post that all the main words are capitalized and then you look at the next blogpost and it’s just the first letter of the headline is capitalized and the rest of it is in lowercase. That may not really irk you, but I bet there are some of you readers who are wondering what’s going on there and they notice that type of thing even if you don’t.

Grammatical rules. For example, when I write ProBlogger, I capitalize P and B, ProBlogger. Even though I present it as one word. As long as that’s consistent, that’s fine. That becomes part of your brand. You might have those type of things as well. On Digital Photography School, we call that blog dPS, the D is generally lowercase and the P and the S are capitals and that becomes part of the brand. But we want to be consistent in that way. It sort of sets us apart I guess in some ways from other people who have used dPS and those other sites out there who do.

Another word that we use a lot both on ProBLogger and on Digital Photography School is ‘ebook’. Ebook is presented in all kinds of different ways on the web. Some people do a little lowercase e and then uppercase B and then present as one word. Other people hyphenate and have it lowercase. Other people just do it lowercase the whole word. Having consistency in that way is important. I see some bloggers who use that word ebook and they will capitalize it differently even within the one article. Again, it doesn’t really annoy me that much, but I know there would be other people who would be having conniptions about that.

Use of images and graphics is another one. This is something I know I’m guilty of from time to time – having consistency in the way you use images. If you put typeface on your words, words on your images, do you have consistency in the fonts you use, the colors that you use, the way you use headlines, the way you use lists and blockquotes, and the way you spell words as well. Do you use a US spelling, American spelling, or do you use a British spelling? This really comes into play when you’ve got more than one author as well.

All of these things can present inconsistencies. Whilst you might look at them all individually and just say they’re small things, they add up. And generally over time they can really become a big thing.

Most single author blogs, you’ll find that most of you will probably have a certain amount of consistency because you write the way you write. You will generally, from post to post, have some consistency. But even single author blogs do change over time. It really does come into play when you have more than one author on your blog.

For example, on Digital Photography School we have a lot of writers. We have about 40 writers, we publish 14 articles a week. There’s a lot of opportunity there for inconsistency because our writers come from across the world, even just on the spelling front. We’ve got writers who come from America, we’ve got writers who come from England, writers who come from Australia, and there’s different spelling of words. Then we’ve got readers who come from all of those places as well. To make a decision upfront that we are going to use the American spelling because that’s where most of our readers come from and most of our authors as well, brings some consistency to that.

Whilst it’s not going to suit all of our readers, at least our readers will see that we’re consistent in that. When you’ve got 14 posts a week from 14 different authors, there’s incredible potential for a very messy looking blog, in terms of the writing but also how things are presented. Style guides do become more important as you add more people into your blog but I think they’re still important even if you’re a single writer, single author blogger, because you’ll find naturally over time that you’ll change some of your style as well.

So how do you create this simple style guide for your blog? What should you include? How detailed should it be? As I mentioned earlier, it’s going to vary a lot from blog to blog. I know some bloggers for instance who have a style guide and they keep it purely to writing – how the writing on the blog should appear. Whilst other bloggers include more broader guidelines like what brand colors should be used.

Some people have two style guides for the two different things. I have a brand style guide and a writing style guide. I think it’s okay to merge those things a little bit together. And so what I want to present to you today is a simplified one.

I want to give you four or five different areas that you want to make some decisions about and create a little document. And I’m thinking here that you could create a document that’s maybe one to two pages long. You don’t need anything more detailed than that to start with. You will find though over time that you can evolve this document.

And I think it should be a living document because you will find over time that there will be more opportunity to add new things in, partly because you might start using different technologies or you might add in different types of content. You might add in some video over time, or there’ll be new opportunities to add in new authors who will bring up different things for you. This is a living document but what I want to give you are some things to include at the beginning of the creation of this.

Four or so things to include. The first one is a short description of your audience. I think who is reading your blog really should be the basis for most of the decisions you are making regarding content and what is in this style guide. Ideally, what you want to create is some kind of avatar or persona or reader profile for your blog. I talked about this in Episode 33 where I actually talked through how to create an avatar for your blog and we actually did an article on ProBlogger recently that gave you a template for creating an avatar for new blogs. I think that’s a useful exercise to do.

You may not want to include that full avatar in your writing style guide, but at least referring to it and including a sentence or two about who you are writing for, because ultimately that should be informing all the decisions that you make. Include a sentence or two about who is reading your blog, and maybe refer to the avatar if you’ve done that exercise. That’s point number one.

Number two is to, again, just in a few sentences, describe the voice that you want your content to be written in, or the tone. How do you want your content to sound or come across to your readers. Even if you just brainstorm a few words that would describe the type of content that you want to create. For example, do you want your content to be conversational? Or do you want it to be authoritative? or do you want it to be humorous? Do you want it to be sophisticated, educational, friendly, irreverent, comprehensive? These words will begin to help you and any other writers you may bring on to understand the tone that you want, the voice that you want in your content.

Over time, you’re probably going to say, “I want all of those types of content in my blog.” And that’s totally fine on a blog. But generally you’ll want to keep some consistency on it, and over time you’ll want more and more of your content to fit into a certain style. That’s going to help your readers to engage with you and to build a relationship with you, and to learn from you more as well.

So a few sentences there on your voice.

If you want to learn a little bit more about developing your voice, you might want to go back and listen to episode 166 of the ProBlogger podcast where I give you 15 types of voices that you can write in. But even just doing that brainstorm of a few words that will describe the voice that you want to write in can be useful as well. There’s no reason why you can’t change that later. This is a starting point for you.

Number one was to describe your audience. Number two is to describe the voice – the tone of your writing. Number three we want to get a little bit more into the nitty gritty of things and to talk about spelling and grammar, which I know some of you are squirming about and I’m one of those people. It doesn’t come naturally to me (I’m not a details person), but I think it’s important to address this.

Most larger publications, most media would adopt the spelling and grammatical guidelines of an external style guide. There actually are… whole style guides have been written. One very common one is the AP Stylebook. I’ll link to this in the show notes today. There’s another one called the Chicago Manual Of Style. Again, I’ll link to that today.

Both of these you can buy. I think the AP Stylebook for example is pretty affordable. I think it’s US$22.95 for the print edition, and I think there’s an online version of it as well which is about $25. It may be that you want to get that.

And basically, as you look through them, they’re very extensive outlines of all the rules of grammar and spelling that you might come across. Many media will just say we adopt the AP Stylebook or we adopt the Chicago Manual Of Style and they give all their writers access to these books so that if there’s ever a question of what they should be including or how they should be spelling a word or how they should be using grammar, they can just refer to that.

This may be overkill if you are just a single author blog. Or you may actually want to do that if that’s something for you. If it’s overkill for you, all you really need in this section is to address some of these types of things. Firstly, spelling. Do you adopt American or British spelling, and this will probably be determined by who you are and who you author and who your readers are as well. I’m an Australian, so if I was writing for an Australian readership, I’ll probably adopt the British spelling because that’s the way Aussies tend to go. But I have predominantly US readers and so I have adopted the American spelling, even though it doesn’t come naturally for me. It’s something that I do need to edit myself on.

Other things that you might want to include in the spelling and grammar section of your style guide are things around punctuation and capitalization. For example, the use of commas. I’m not going to go into the debates around the use of commas. This is perhaps a discussion for another day. There are people who get very fired up about commas and I don’t really want to get into that today. But as long as you’ve got a consistent use of commas, that’s important.

The use of capitalization in headlines. The use of exclamation marks. I know some bloggers hate exclamation marks and they don’t allow them on their blogs. You may choose to do something else. Anything around punctuation, capitalization should be included.

The use of numbers. Will you use numerals or will you spell them out? That may be something that you want to include in this section.

Particularly pay attention to any regularly used troublesome words. Words like ebook, for example, where there can be a lot of inconsistencies. If you’re using the word ebook or if you have a brand name like ProBlogger where you capitalize the P and the B, you want to include that type of thing in this section as well.

You might also want to include guidelines around the use of acronyms, particularly if you’re in a niche or a topic where acronyms are used a lot. How are you going to introduce an acronym in an article? For example, you may choose to explain the acronym when you first use it in an article. If it was AOL, I know it’s a bit of an old-fashioned one, the first time you use that acronym in the article you may want to have in brackets what that means and actually spell out the words, and then from then on just use the acronym.

These are the types of things that you can include into your spelling and grammar section of your style guide.

The fourth section that I’ll include you to think about is more about how you want your content to look, and some other factors as well. And this I’ve just kind of lumped into an other style guidelines section.

Let’s talk about images in your article. How many should your article have? For example, on ProBlogger we always want an image. On Digital Photography School we always want an image. That is part of our style guide – we have to have an image. And so anyone writing for us has to help us find that image. Should there be an image? How many images are okay? You might want to have a limit on how many images. It’s up to you.

How should those images be captioned? Do you want captions on every image? Only where the image requires a caption? And also how do you want to attribute the photographers of those images? Do you want to do that in the caption, or do you want to do it somewhere else in the article? These are the types of things that you might want to include into your style guide.

How big should the images be? How many pixels? How they should be aligned? Do you want them to be full width? Do you want them to be aligned left, to be aligned right? Where can people source them? You may even want to include which stock library you use, and give details there for people.

Also, the use of typeface in images. If you’re doing graphic overlays, what fonts should be used? What colors should be used? These are things that can really be mixed up a lot, and you can end up with a very messy looking blog because you’ve got lots of inconsistencies there. Do you want your logo to be included in those text overlays?

These are the type of things that will really have a big impact upon the visualization of your content and how people see your content, and what they feel about it as a result.

You might want to also include in there that you want very dark images or you want very light, washed out kind of images. Those types of stylistic considerations may come into play there as well.

Other things that you might want to include are around your headlines or titles. For example, how long do you want them to be? Do you have rules around the length of them? Some people do that for SEO considerations – they don’t want long headlines. Do you want headlines that are more keyword rich, more descriptive, or do you want more curiosity, clickbaity-type headlines? These are the types of things you might want to include.

The length of paragraphs might be something? Do you want short paragraphs. Are you okay with longer paragraphs? I know a couple of bloggers who actually have word limits or how many lines the paragraph should take up because they don’t want their paragraphs to be too long.

The use of lists. Do you require numbers or bullets, or are you okay with either?

The use of headings or subheadings. Which H tags should you use? This is really useful for anyone who’s coming onto your blog. Most people know how to use a H tag, but you may have some rules around what order they should be in or how many H2 tags or how many H3 tags you might want to have.

It’s getting a little bit technical here. But these are the types of questions that some of your authors will have over time.

You might want to include things around how to use bold or italics or underline or strikethrough. I personally don’t like strikethrough in my text on my blog. Underlining is something I don’t generally do. But bold and italics we allow for some emphasis. But within reason – we don’t want every third word being bold or in italics.

The use of block quotes. How to cite sources. Do you want to use quotes? Do you want to put all quotes in block quotes?

Also guidelines around linking as well. Do you want to have nofollow tags on your links, or only when they’re paid, sponsorship type things?

All of these questions it’s important to include in there so that as a writer is creating content, they can be having their questions answered without having to keep coming back to you all the time. It’s going to cut down the work that you have to do in editing the content, but also it’s going to speed up their writing process as well.

You might want to include word count limits if you want all articles to be over 500 words. Or maybe you want all articles to be over 2000 words. Again, it’s going to help to bring some consistency to your content.

Embeddable content. Do you allow people to embed content – YouTube videos or Vimeo videos or even social media? Do you require that type of thing? I know some bloggers that every post they have, they want to have some embeddable content. Again, all of these things can be factors for you.

You may look at this list that I’ve created (and you’ll be able to see it all in the show notes today) and you may say, “This is overkill. I don’t need to go into this detail”. But over time you probably will find that you will include most of these things, particularly if you’re adding new authors because you’ll find authors will bring their own style and some of it will clash with what you just assume everyone will want to do as well.

Other things that you might want to include in your style guide are things that you want your authors to do after they’ve written their post. For example, if you have a plugin like Yoast (the SEO plugin), if you’ve got that you’ll be familiar with some of the additional fields that are in the backend of your WordPress.

For example, you have the ability to write a particular title and description just for Facebook or just for Twitter. You may want to do that yourself, or you might want to ask your authors to do that as well. If there’s anything in there like click-to-tweet plugins, you might want to include those. Do you want the author to do that? In your style guide you might want to include a little checklist of other things that you want people to do as well.

You might also want to get your authors to find further reading from your archives and link to those. You might want to have some guidelines around choosing categories or tags, or anything else that you might want to do around SEO. Do you want them to use certain keywords in a certain number of times? And also some guidelines around author bios as well.

All of these are factors that you might want to include in your style guide. The thing I would say to you is if you’re listening to this and think this is just overkill, that’s okay. You can start with a very simple one. You might just want to have in yours your audience, who they are, the voice that you’ve got, the spelling that you use, and that may be enough for the early days and then you can begin to add in extra things as you think of them, as you come up with potential inconsistencies in your blog.

A really simple exercise that you might want to try is just to go back through your archives and dig back to this time last year if you’ve been blogging for a while, and look at some of the article’s that you’ve got in your archives and just look for those inconsistencies. Maybe randomly choose ten of your posts and look back through them.

Pay attention to the images, the way you’ve used images. Pay attention to headlines. Pay attention to the introductions or the conclusions of your articles. You’ll begin to see over time that things in your archives grate on you, things in your archives you’ll cringe at a little bit, And they will be signals to you that they’re things that you might want to put into your style guide that you don’t want people to do as they write for your blog.

Create this style guide and put it in a place which you can easily refer back to yourself and as you bring on authors. Build it into your orientation for new authors as well. On Digital Photography School, we’ve now got a fairly comprehensive style guide, but it also includes other things that we want our authors to know. We created almost like a guidebook that we give to any new author who comes on, and it answers things like style guides but also shows them how to submit posts to be edited, and how to log in and how to set up their author bio, these types of things as well. We’ve actually created a little orientation system that our editors are able to walk a new writer through.

You want your style guide to be easy to refer to, easy to edit. As I said it right upfront, you want it to be a living document.

Involve your writers. If you do have a team, involve them in the creation of the style guide as well, and make note of any question they ask you. As a new author that comes on, any question they ask you is probably a question that someone else is going to ask you later on. So include the answers in your style guide in that orientation book as well.

It does take a little bit of work to setup a style guide. But it’s the type of thing that is going to improve your content over time. It’s going to reduce the tension and the clashes that your readers have with your content as well over time. There are certain segments of your readership who will notice this type of thing, and if you can remove these little barriers for them engaging with your content, it’s going to have a massive impact over time. And it’s going to help you to come across as a much more professional publication as well.

So work hard on setting it up, and then I guess the other part of it is work hard on being consistent and actually adopting the style that you set down as well.

Thanks for listening, I’ve got today’s show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/216, and I’ve also included today in the show notes some further reading and some further listening. I actually did a podcast with Beth Dunn a little while ago on how to write in a more human-like way, how to sound more human in your writing. We talked a little bit in that episode about style guides. Go and listen to that one as well.

Also, there’s three articles there that have been written by the team at Canva, another one by the team at Buffer, and another by the team at HubSpot which really do give you some really good ideas for how to create a style guide and some of them even have templates that you can fill in as well.

Check out the podcast show notes today at probloger.com/podcast/216 for that further reading, and for a summary of what I’ve talked about today.

Thanks so much for listening, I’d love to hear what you think about today’s episode. You can leave a comment on the show notes or check us out on Facebook, the ProBlogger Community Group and there’ll be a link there where you can share your comments on today’s episode as well if you’ve got any questions or other suggestions to add. Thanks for listening and I look forward to chatting with you next week in Episode 217 of the ProBlogger podcast.

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216: How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog (and Why You Should)

How and Why You Should Create Style Guides for Your Blog

In today’s episode, I talk about style guides for blogs – why they’re important, and what elements you should include in yours.

Links and Resources for How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog

Further Reading and Listening for How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view

Hi there. Welcome to Episode 216 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com – a blog, podcast, event, job board, and a series of ebooks all designed to help you as a blogger to start a great blog, to grow your audience, and to build some profit around that blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger over at problogger.com.

Now I’m just back from Dallas. I’ve had a few weeks off from the podcast and it’s been great to get some feedback from some of you that you missed the podcast over the last few weeks. I’m sorry for the break, but I hope you had a little bit of fun digging around in our archives.

As I’ve said, just back from Dallas and we had an amazing time in Dallas. I was at the FinCon Conference where I did the opening keynote and had an absolute ball. I think there was around 1800 financial bloggers, real estate bloggers there. Really great conference, very good community.

And before FinCon, of course, we ran the Success Incubator, a little event that we had as well. We had about 80 or so ProBlogger listeners and some attendees from the previous digital collab events and it was fantastic. We had this full day of training, we started about 8:30, 9:00 in the morning  and went through to about 9:30 at night. It was a big day and that was packed with teaching. We had Pat Flynn, Kim Garst, Andrea Vahl, we had Rachel Miller, Kelly Snyder, a variety of other bloggers as well.

The feedback we had on that day of teaching was fantastic. People loved how intense it was, the fact that we packed in so much information. That was great. And then we had half a day of masterminding the next day, which I always love – that opportunity to sit around the table with bloggers and online entrepreneurs and brainstorm.

You can still pick up virtual tickets for that event, if you go to problogger.com/success. I think they’re US$127 and that gets you the first day, that first full day of teaching. I think it’s about eight hours of teaching and you get the slides as well.

That price will go up. It’s not an early bird one because it’s now after the event, but it will go up in the coming days as well. You get some teachings there on live video creation from Kim Garst, Pat Fynn’s teaching on creating an editorial calendar, promotional calendar for your business, you get some training on Facebook advertising, using challenges to grow your blog, how to sell courses, Steve Chu did an amazing session which I picked up so much information on how he promotes his courses using webinars and Facebook advertising. It’s really practical teaching, and again you can check out the agenda there at problogger.com/success.

On to today’s episode. Today I want to talk about style guides – how to create them for your blog, and why you should create them for you blog as well. Style guides in my opinion are one way that you can really lift a good blog to a great blog by building more consistency across your content, across from one blog post to another.

You can grab today’s show notes with the full transcription of this episode at problogger.com/podcast/216.

Lastly, I should say on our events, stay tuned for news of future events both in Australia and hopefully in the US. We’ll hopefully have some news for you on that in the coming weeks and even months as we begin to plan 2018. Thanks for listening and let’s get onto today’s show.

Today we’re talking about style guides. I want to talk about why you need them, and also how to create one. I want to give you some practical things that you can include in your style guide for your blog.

Now, what is a style guide? Really, as I’ve talked to different bloggers, they mean different things to different people. Some people, a style guide is purely about the writing on your blog. It could be the writing style guide. Other bloggers include a lot more, they will include things like how to use graphics and how the blog should look in terms of colors and the brand. Really, I guess it could be whatever it is for you. But the main reason you want a style guide for your blog is to build consistency in your blog.

Most blogs, if you dig around in them, you begin to see inconsistencies, and this naturally happens. I look back on the early days of ProBlogger and I look at the first posts I wrote and they were all text, there was no images in them at all. That’s a big change that’s happened in blogging. I started blogging in 2002, 2004 for ProBlogger, of course things have changed. The style of my writing has probably matured in that time.

There’s going to be some inconsistencies through your archives, but bloggers run into trouble when one blog post that you write today is different in style and in how it looks to tomorrow’s blog post. That’s the kind of inconsistencies that many blogs have without even knowing it, and a style guide can really help a lot. Something that really can help your readers to feel like they’re reading a unified publication. If you open a magazine, the magazine is designed in way the reader feels even though there is different articles, that they belong next to each other. That’s the type of thing that you want to be doing in your blog post as well.

To state it most simply, a style guide is where you put into writing the guidelines for how you want your blog to be written and presented. And the reason you want to do it is to bring this consistency. This is the type of thing that you’ve probably already got without even knowing it. You’ve probably got a style guide in your mind. Most bloggers have one in their mind, and it’s just because most blogs start out being written by one person.

This is why many of us don’t actually feel like we need a style guide in the early days because we think that we’re consistent. We think that if I’m the only one writing this blog, then it’s going to be consistent from blog post to the next blog post.

But the reality is if you dig around in your archives, and I challenge you to do this, you’ll begin to spot inconsistencies. I think it’s really important to bed down the style that you want into writing, to actually bed it down because you’ll begin to see these inconsistencies in your own writing. Particularly if you want to add new writers into your blog, whether they’re just one-off guest posters of whether you want to bring on a regular writer, this is where a style guide really becomes even more useful as well.

The trouble I see with many blogs is you look through the archives and you can see these inconsistencies. The inconsistencies that you want to be looking for on your blog as you look through your archives are the voice of your writing. What style do you use? There’s a natural exploration of different voices that will happen on many blogs, but generally over time you want to become a bit more consistent with the voice that you use. Are you writing in the first person? Are you conversational when you’re writing? Are you writing for beginners, or are you writing for a more advanced audience? As I say, some variation in this is fine and is natural. But as your blog progresses, you’ll probably want to stick to one voice more and more.

Other areas of inconsistency, capitalization of words in headlines, for example, and I see this all the time. You see one blog post that all the main words are capitalized and then you look at the next blogpost and it’s just the first letter of the headline is capitalized and the rest of it is in lowercase. That may not really irk you, but I bet there are some of you readers who are wondering what’s going on there and they notice that type of thing even if you don’t.

Grammatical rules. For example, when I write ProBlogger, I capitalize P and B, ProBlogger. Even though I present it as one word. As long as that’s consistent, that’s fine. That becomes part of your brand. You might have those type of things as well. On Digital Photography School, we call that blog dPS, the D is generally lowercase and the P and the S are capitals and that becomes part of the brand. But we want to be consistent in that way. It sort of sets us apart I guess in some ways from other people who have used dPS and those other sites out there who do.

Another word that we use a lot both on ProBLogger and on Digital Photography School is ‘ebook’. Ebook is presented in all kinds of different ways on the web. Some people do a little lowercase e and then uppercase B and then present as one word. Other people hyphenate and have it lowercase. Other people just do it lowercase the whole word. Having consistency in that way is important. I see some bloggers who use that word ebook and they will capitalize it differently even within the one article. Again, it doesn’t really annoy me that much, but I know there would be other people who would be having conniptions about that.

Use of images and graphics is another one. This is something I know I’m guilty of from time to time – having consistency in the way you use images. If you put typeface on your words, words on your images, do you have consistency in the fonts you use, the colors that you use, the way you use headlines, the way you use lists and blockquotes, and the way you spell words as well. Do you use a US spelling, American spelling, or do you use a British spelling? This really comes into play when you’ve got more than one author as well.

All of these things can present inconsistencies. Whilst you might look at them all individually and just say they’re small things, they add up. And generally over time they can really become a big thing.

Most single author blogs, you’ll find that most of you will probably have a certain amount of consistency because you write the way you write. You will generally, from post to post, have some consistency. But even single author blogs do change over time. It really does come into play when you have more than one author on your blog.

For example, on Digital Photography School we have a lot of writers. We have about 40 writers, we publish 14 articles a week. There’s a lot of opportunity there for inconsistency because our writers come from across the world, even just on the spelling front. We’ve got writers who come from America, we’ve got writers who come from England, writers who come from Australia, and there’s different spelling of words. Then we’ve got readers who come from all of those places as well. To make a decision upfront that we are going to use the American spelling because that’s where most of our readers come from and most of our authors as well, brings some consistency to that.

Whilst it’s not going to suit all of our readers, at least our readers will see that we’re consistent in that. When you’ve got 14 posts a week from 14 different authors, there’s incredible potential for a very messy looking blog, in terms of the writing but also how things are presented. Style guides do become more important as you add more people into your blog but I think they’re still important even if you’re a single writer, single author blogger, because you’ll find naturally over time that you’ll change some of your style as well.

So how do you create this simple style guide for your blog? What should you include? How detailed should it be? As I mentioned earlier, it’s going to vary a lot from blog to blog. I know some bloggers for instance who have a style guide and they keep it purely to writing – how the writing on the blog should appear. Whilst other bloggers include more broader guidelines like what brand colors should be used.

Some people have two style guides for the two different things. I have a brand style guide and a writing style guide. I think it’s okay to merge those things a little bit together. And so what I want to present to you today is a simplified one.

I want to give you four or five different areas that you want to make some decisions about and create a little document. And I’m thinking here that you could create a document that’s maybe one to two pages long. You don’t need anything more detailed than that to start with. You will find though over time that you can evolve this document.

And I think it should be a living document because you will find over time that there will be more opportunity to add new things in, partly because you might start using different technologies or you might add in different types of content. You might add in some video over time, or there’ll be new opportunities to add in new authors who will bring up different things for you. This is a living document but what I want to give you are some things to include at the beginning of the creation of this.

Four or so things to include. The first one is a short description of your audience. I think who is reading your blog really should be the basis for most of the decisions you are making regarding content and what is in this style guide. Ideally, what you want to create is some kind of avatar or persona or reader profile for your blog. I talked about this in Episode 33 where I actually talked through how to create an avatar for your blog and we actually did an article on ProBlogger recently that gave you a template for creating an avatar for new blogs. I think that’s a useful exercise to do.

You may not want to include that full avatar in your writing style guide, but at least referring to it and including a sentence or two about who you are writing for, because ultimately that should be informing all the decisions that you make. Include a sentence or two about who is reading your blog, and maybe refer to the avatar if you’ve done that exercise. That’s point number one.

Number two is to, again, just in a few sentences, describe the voice that you want your content to be written in, or the tone. How do you want your content to sound or come across to your readers. Even if you just brainstorm a few words that would describe the type of content that you want to create. For example, do you want your content to be conversational? Or do you want it to be authoritative? or do you want it to be humorous? Do you want it to be sophisticated, educational, friendly, irreverent, comprehensive? These words will begin to help you and any other writers you may bring on to understand the tone that you want, the voice that you want in your content.

Over time, you’re probably going to say, “I want all of those types of content in my blog.” And that’s totally fine on a blog. But generally you’ll want to keep some consistency on it, and over time you’ll want more and more of your content to fit into a certain style. That’s going to help your readers to engage with you and to build a relationship with you, and to learn from you more as well.

So a few sentences there on your voice.

If you want to learn a little bit more about developing your voice, you might want to go back and listen to episode 166 of the ProBlogger podcast where I give you 15 types of voices that you can write in. But even just doing that brainstorm of a few words that will describe the voice that you want to write in can be useful as well. There’s no reason why you can’t change that later. This is a starting point for you.

Number one was to describe your audience. Number two is to describe the voice – the tone of your writing. Number three we want to get a little bit more into the nitty gritty of things and to talk about spelling and grammar, which I know some of you are squirming about and I’m one of those people. It doesn’t come naturally to me (I’m not a details person), but I think it’s important to address this.

Most larger publications, most media would adopt the spelling and grammatical guidelines of an external style guide. There actually are… whole style guides have been written. One very common one is the AP Stylebook. I’ll link to this in the show notes today. There’s another one called the Chicago Manual Of Style. Again, I’ll link to that today.

Both of these you can buy. I think the AP Stylebook for example is pretty affordable. I think it’s US$22.95 for the print edition, and I think there’s an online version of it as well which is about $25. It may be that you want to get that.

And basically, as you look through them, they’re very extensive outlines of all the rules of grammar and spelling that you might come across. Many media will just say we adopt the AP Stylebook or we adopt the Chicago Manual Of Style and they give all their writers access to these books so that if there’s ever a question of what they should be including or how they should be spelling a word or how they should be using grammar, they can just refer to that.

This may be overkill if you are just a single author blog. Or you may actually want to do that if that’s something for you. If it’s overkill for you, all you really need in this section is to address some of these types of things. Firstly, spelling. Do you adopt American or British spelling, and this will probably be determined by who you are and who you author and who your readers are as well. I’m an Australian, so if I was writing for an Australian readership, I’ll probably adopt the British spelling because that’s the way Aussies tend to go. But I have predominantly US readers and so I have adopted the American spelling, even though it doesn’t come naturally for me. It’s something that I do need to edit myself on.

Other things that you might want to include in the spelling and grammar section of your style guide are things around punctuation and capitalization. For example, the use of commas. I’m not going to go into the debates around the use of commas. This is perhaps a discussion for another day. There are people who get very fired up about commas and I don’t really want to get into that today. But as long as you’ve got a consistent use of commas, that’s important.

The use of capitalization in headlines. The use of exclamation marks. I know some bloggers hate exclamation marks and they don’t allow them on their blogs. You may choose to do something else. Anything around punctuation, capitalization should be included.

The use of numbers. Will you use numerals or will you spell them out? That may be something that you want to include in this section.

Particularly pay attention to any regularly used troublesome words. Words like ebook, for example, where there can be a lot of inconsistencies. If you’re using the word ebook or if you have a brand name like ProBlogger where you capitalize the P and the B, you want to include that type of thing in this section as well.

You might also want to include guidelines around the use of acronyms, particularly if you’re in a niche or a topic where acronyms are used a lot. How are you going to introduce an acronym in an article? For example, you may choose to explain the acronym when you first use it in an article. If it was AOL, I know it’s a bit of an old-fashioned one, the first time you use that acronym in the article you may want to have in brackets what that means and actually spell out the words, and then from then on just use the acronym.

These are the types of things that you can include into your spelling and grammar section of your style guide.

The fourth section that I’ll include you to think about is more about how you want your content to look, and some other factors as well. And this I’ve just kind of lumped into an other style guidelines section.

Let’s talk about images in your article. How many should your article have? For example, on ProBlogger we always want an image. On Digital Photography School we always want an image. That is part of our style guide – we have to have an image. And so anyone writing for us has to help us find that image. Should there be an image? How many images are okay? You might want to have a limit on how many images. It’s up to you.

How should those images be captioned? Do you want captions on every image? Only where the image requires a caption? And also how do you want to attribute the photographers of those images? Do you want to do that in the caption, or do you want to do it somewhere else in the article? These are the types of things that you might want to include into your style guide.

How big should the images be? How many pixels? How they should be aligned? Do you want them to be full width? Do you want them to be aligned left, to be aligned right? Where can people source them? You may even want to include which stock library you use, and give details there for people.

Also, the use of typeface in images. If you’re doing graphic overlays, what fonts should be used? What colors should be used? These are things that can really be mixed up a lot, and you can end up with a very messy looking blog because you’ve got lots of inconsistencies there. Do you want your logo to be included in those text overlays?

These are the type of things that will really have a big impact upon the visualization of your content and how people see your content, and what they feel about it as a result.

You might want to also include in there that you want very dark images or you want very light, washed out kind of images. Those types of stylistic considerations may come into play there as well.

Other things that you might want to include are around your headlines or titles. For example, how long do you want them to be? Do you have rules around the length of them? Some people do that for SEO considerations – they don’t want long headlines. Do you want headlines that are more keyword rich, more descriptive, or do you want more curiosity, clickbaity-type headlines? These are the types of things you might want to include.

The length of paragraphs might be something? Do you want short paragraphs. Are you okay with longer paragraphs? I know a couple of bloggers who actually have word limits or how many lines the paragraph should take up because they don’t want their paragraphs to be too long.

The use of lists. Do you require numbers or bullets, or are you okay with either?

The use of headings or subheadings. Which H tags should you use? This is really useful for anyone who’s coming onto your blog. Most people know how to use a H tag, but you may have some rules around what order they should be in or how many H2 tags or how many H3 tags you might want to have.

It’s getting a little bit technical here. But these are the types of questions that some of your authors will have over time.

You might want to include things around how to use bold or italics or underline or strikethrough. I personally don’t like strikethrough in my text on my blog. Underlining is something I don’t generally do. But bold and italics we allow for some emphasis. But within reason – we don’t want every third word being bold or in italics.

The use of block quotes. How to cite sources. Do you want to use quotes? Do you want to put all quotes in block quotes?

Also guidelines around linking as well. Do you want to have nofollow tags on your links, or only when they’re paid, sponsorship type things?

All of these questions it’s important to include in there so that as a writer is creating content, they can be having their questions answered without having to keep coming back to you all the time. It’s going to cut down the work that you have to do in editing the content, but also it’s going to speed up their writing process as well.

You might want to include word count limits if you want all articles to be over 500 words. Or maybe you want all articles to be over 2000 words. Again, it’s going to help to bring some consistency to your content.

Embeddable content. Do you allow people to embed content – YouTube videos or Vimeo videos or even social media? Do you require that type of thing? I know some bloggers that every post they have, they want to have some embeddable content. Again, all of these things can be factors for you.

You may look at this list that I’ve created (and you’ll be able to see it all in the show notes today) and you may say, “This is overkill. I don’t need to go into this detail”. But over time you probably will find that you will include most of these things, particularly if you’re adding new authors because you’ll find authors will bring their own style and some of it will clash with what you just assume everyone will want to do as well.

Other things that you might want to include in your style guide are things that you want your authors to do after they’ve written their post. For example, if you have a plugin like Yoast (the SEO plugin), if you’ve got that you’ll be familiar with some of the additional fields that are in the backend of your WordPress.

For example, you have the ability to write a particular title and description just for Facebook or just for Twitter. You may want to do that yourself, or you might want to ask your authors to do that as well. If there’s anything in there like click-to-tweet plugins, you might want to include those. Do you want the author to do that? In your style guide you might want to include a little checklist of other things that you want people to do as well.

You might also want to get your authors to find further reading from your archives and link to those. You might want to have some guidelines around choosing categories or tags, or anything else that you might want to do around SEO. Do you want them to use certain keywords in a certain number of times? And also some guidelines around author bios as well.

All of these are factors that you might want to include in your style guide. The thing I would say to you is if you’re listening to this and think this is just overkill, that’s okay. You can start with a very simple one. You might just want to have in yours your audience, who they are, the voice that you’ve got, the spelling that you use, and that may be enough for the early days and then you can begin to add in extra things as you think of them, as you come up with potential inconsistencies in your blog.

A really simple exercise that you might want to try is just to go back through your archives and dig back to this time last year if you’ve been blogging for a while, and look at some of the article’s that you’ve got in your archives and just look for those inconsistencies. Maybe randomly choose ten of your posts and look back through them.

Pay attention to the images, the way you’ve used images. Pay attention to headlines. Pay attention to the introductions or the conclusions of your articles. You’ll begin to see over time that things in your archives grate on you, things in your archives you’ll cringe at a little bit, And they will be signals to you that they’re things that you might want to put into your style guide that you don’t want people to do as they write for your blog.

Create this style guide and put it in a place which you can easily refer back to yourself and as you bring on authors. Build it into your orientation for new authors as well. On Digital Photography School, we’ve now got a fairly comprehensive style guide, but it also includes other things that we want our authors to know. We created almost like a guidebook that we give to any new author who comes on, and it answers things like style guides but also shows them how to submit posts to be edited, and how to log in and how to set up their author bio, these types of things as well. We’ve actually created a little orientation system that our editors are able to walk a new writer through.

You want your style guide to be easy to refer to, easy to edit. As I said it right upfront, you want it to be a living document.

Involve your writers. If you do have a team, involve them in the creation of the style guide as well, and make note of any question they ask you. As a new author that comes on, any question they ask you is probably a question that someone else is going to ask you later on. So include the answers in your style guide in that orientation book as well.

It does take a little bit of work to setup a style guide. But it’s the type of thing that is going to improve your content over time. It’s going to reduce the tension and the clashes that your readers have with your content as well over time. There are certain segments of your readership who will notice this type of thing, and if you can remove these little barriers for them engaging with your content, it’s going to have a massive impact over time. And it’s going to help you to come across as a much more professional publication as well.

So work hard on setting it up, and then I guess the other part of it is work hard on being consistent and actually adopting the style that you set down as well.

Thanks for listening, I’ve got today’s show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/216, and I’ve also included today in the show notes some further reading and some further listening. I actually did a podcast with Beth Dunn a little while ago on how to write in a more human-like way, how to sound more human in your writing. We talked a little bit in that episode about style guides. Go and listen to that one as well.

Also, there’s three articles there that have been written by the team at Canva, another one by the team at Buffer, and another by the team at HubSpot which really do give you some really good ideas for how to create a style guide and some of them even have templates that you can fill in as well.

Check out the podcast show notes today at probloger.com/podcast/216 for that further reading, and for a summary of what I’ve talked about today.

Thanks so much for listening, I’d love to hear what you think about today’s episode. You can leave a comment on the show notes or check us out on Facebook, the ProBlogger Community Group and there’ll be a link there where you can share your comments on today’s episode as well if you’ve got any questions or other suggestions to add. Thanks for listening and I look forward to chatting with you next week in Episode 217 of the ProBlogger podcast.

How did you go with today’s episode?

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The post 216: How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog (and Why You Should) appeared first on ProBlogger.

Professional Development for Bloggers: How to Learn on a Budget

bloggers-professional-development.jpg

I have a confession to make: I was a bit of a geek at school. I was the kid who asked questions all the time. What can I say? I loved learning.

And I still do. Every part of the process is exciting for me – learning new things, meeting new people, and being inspired. So imagine how excited I was when I left school and discovered my employers would actually pay me to learn. ‘Professional Development’ quickly became my two favourite words.

Unfortunately, being paid to attend conferences and stay in nice hotels so I could learn and network ended when I left the corporate world. And who pays for your professional development when you’re a blogger? That’s right – you.

Working for yourself means there’s no training and development are who’ll pay to keep your skills up to date. But because I value it so much, I’ve kept investing in my own professional development since going solo. And in this blog post I’m going to share some of the learning opportunities the ProBlogger team and I recommend.

Further Education

When I realised my traditional sales and marketing skills were in danger of being superseded in a digital world, I enrolled in a Diploma in Digital Marketing. It wasn’t strictly blogging related, but it covered content marketing, social media, advertising, PR, acquisition/conversion/retention strategies and much more.

Do those skills sound familiar? They should – I use them pretty much every day to manage the ProBlogger and Digital Photography School blogs. I studied online for a year to get my Diploma in Digital Marketing through the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing in the UK. It’s fairly intensive, requires two assessments, and you even need to physically sit two exams despite being an online course. (My writing hand was almost dead after writing with pen and paper for six hours.)

Would I do it again? Yes. Sure, it was expensive. But being taught industry best practice by qualified professionals and getting a formal certification at a Bachelor Degree level was definitely worth it.

Conferences

When you have to pay for your ticket, airfares, transport, accommodation and room service, you become very picky about the conferences you go to. Which is why ‘looking local’ is your best first option.

I was lucky. One of the first blogging events I went to (a ProBlogger event, where I met Darren for the first time) was right here in Melbourne, Australia. Of course, there have been other great local events, but I’m proud to say I’ve been involved with the ProBlogger Events here in Australia for the past five years. (Here’s where you can read about our most recent event and sign up for alerts about our next one.)

Unfortunately I won’t be attending the next one in Dallas, Texas. But Darren will be there, co-hosting with Digital Collab of the Success Incubator on the 24th of October. It will also feature amazing speakers including  Pat Flynn, Kim Garst and Andrea Vahl. It’s a fantastic opportunity, and tickets are still available if you can make it. (It will be Darren’s last international trip for the year.)

If there isn’t much happening in your local area, you may need to look further abroad. My first international blogging conference was BlogHer in New York in 2012. It was quite an experience for me. I got to meet a lot of bloggers, and be exposed to new ideas and new ways of doing things. I also learned about sponsored content trends (which was new to me at the time) that would soon be heading to Australia.

One I wish I could get to more often is Mike Stelzner’s Social Media Marketing World in San Diego. I was there in 2015, and appreciated the focus on social media, which was becoming more and more a part of a blogger’s online environment. In recent years the agenda has expanded to include more content marketing and a dedicated stream for ‘creators’ such as bloggers and podcasters. You’ll usually find Darren speaking at this event – it’s one his favourites, too.

There’s another one that isn’t strictly blogging, but can give you insights about the kinds of marketing skills you can consider – Hubspot’s Inbound in Boston. It’s the one where I flew to the other side of the world only to get locked out of Seth Godin’s keynote. (Oops!)

If you’re looking for conferences, Social Media Examiner has a list of events being held around the world. There’s also a comprehensive directory of 400+ worldwide digital marketing events at marketingterms.com.

Blogging Courses and Resources

Of course, a big part of what we do here at ProBlogger is provide access to free and affordable content to help you with your blogging. ProBlogger has more than 8,000 free blog posts and a library of six eBooks. (We’ll also be adding some courses soon, so watch this space.)

One of our most popular books is the best-selling 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. It’s a great resource you can use whenever your blogging needs a bit of focus and revitalisation. There’s also Blogwise – our collection of productivity tips that’s currently being offered as part of the Ultimate Bundles Blogger’s Genius Toolkit.

The Blogger’s Genius Toolkit

One of the reasons we’ve endured with eBooks is they’re so affordable. We’ve contributed to (and been an affiliate for) the Ultimate Bundles Blogger’s Genius Toolkit for the second year in a row because it represents such amazing value.

The team at Ultimate Bundles has put together the best resources on all the topics that matter to bloggers – mastering social media, monetization, creating and selling products, time management and productivity, growing an email list, and so much more.

All-up there are 91 resources in the toolkit. The eBooks, eCourses, templates and workbooks alone are worth more than $5,800. And on top of that you get $1,193 worth of free bonus offers, and ten tools and services to help you run your blog better.

But the best part (and one of the main reasons we take part each year) is that you can get the lot for just $97. That’s about the same as a course or a few eBooks. And a lot less than a flight from Melbourne to Boston.

There’s even a full 30-day happiness guarantee, which means you can try it out without any risk.

Here’s where you can learn more and buy the bundle. But be quick – it’s only available until 11:59pm EST on Monday the 9th of October.

Blogger Groups

If you’re looking for more free advice and support, Facebook Groups can be a fantastic resource for new and advanced bloggers alike. While many Facebook groups are set up for paid courses (and therefore restricted), there are still plenty of free ones.

ProBlogger Community is our free closed Facebook Group where Darren, Kat Jarman (our Community Manager) and I hang out with nearly 10,000 bloggers. It’s a great place to ask questions, offer valuable tips, and help each other. It costs nothing to join – you just need to answer three simple questions). And we have guidelines on taking part in the conversation that help stop it from becoming spammy and self-promotional.

It’s also a great place to get direct input from Darren. We direct most enquiries we get via our contact form to the group, so you’re more likely to get his attention this way.

Here are some other places we like to hang out.

The Inspired Bloggers Network Facebook Group is a similar group that also has strict guidelines around self-promotion and profiting from the group. It’s there to encourage and educate bloggers.

You’ll find Darren in Rachel Miller’s Facebook Massive Growth Strategies group since he became a student of her course. There’s a free group you can join, and a different group if you buy the course.

For the Aussies in the house, we also love hanging out over at Aussie Bloggers, where we often help out and join the conversation. We love their two straightforward and very Australian rules – 1. Don’t spam the group. 2. Don’t be a dick. Enough said really!

Hopefully you’ll appreciate the spam and sleaze-free communities in these groups as much as we do.

What are some other ways you’ve progressed your professional development since becoming a blogger?

Jonathan Simcoe

The post Professional Development for Bloggers: How to Learn on a Budget appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

206: Personal Brands vs Business Brands for Blogs

Is There a Right Way to Brand Your Blog?

I’m just back from our Aussie Problogger training events where we ran masterminds with around 40 bloggers per city. In those days speakers spent time with small groups of attendees in round table discussions where attendees could ask us any question they liked.

One of the questions that I got asked repeatedly through both masterminds was around whether it is better to give a blog a personal brand or more of a business brand?

blog brand personal or businessIn one case the questioner was about to start a new blog and was wondering if they should set it up on a domain that was their own name or if they should choose a name that was nothing to do with them.

Another blogger asked what to do when they felt trapped on a blog with a personal domain – but they wanted to introduce other writers onto the blog.

Yet another blogger had the opposite issue – they had set up their blog on a domain and with a brand that was very niche specific but now felt trapped because they wanted to change their focus and evolve the blog beyond what the brand might allow.

I’ve been pondering these questions a lot since our event so wanted to explore it today in this episode.

There is right way to brand your blog – there are extremes where you can go one way or the other and also there are ways of doing both a personal brand and a business brand – and that’s what we’re going to explore today.

 

Examples Mentioned for Personal Brands vs Business Brands for Blogs

Personal Brands

Business Brands

Personal Business Brands

Doing Both Personal and Business

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Hello there. My name is Darren Rowse. I’m the blogger behind ProBlogger, a blog, a podcast, event, job boards, series of ebooks and other resources all designed to help you as a blogger to grow your audience, to produce great content and to make money from your blog. You can learn more about what we do at ProBlogger over at problogger.com.

I’m just back from our Australian ProBlogger event where we ran a couple of masterminds this time around for the first time ever. We did two masterminds, one in Brisbane and one in Melbourne and we have 40 bloggers who have come to each of those sessions.

As part of the day, we had some teaching from our speakers like Pat Flynn and James Schramko and Laney Galligan and then Kelly Exeter. We also spent time, as speakers, circulating through the tables, around tables, around the room. We, each, got to spend about 30 minutes being peppered with questions by these small tables. Something made me a little bit nervous because I’m not the fastest thinker but I love that.

What I found really interesting over the day was that I was asked some questions on almost every table that I went to. That may have been partly because people thought I could answer those questions but also, some of the questions were quite random. One of the questions that I got asked a lot over both cities, multiple times in each day, was around how to brand a blog in terms of whether it should be a personal brand or whether it should be more of a business brand. I’ll get into some examples of both of those types of options later on today. It was a question that I got asked repeatedly in different ways.

One person asked, they were thinking about setting up a new blog, whether they should set it up on a domain that was their own name or whether they should choose a name or domain name that was nothing to do with them personally at all. That was a question I got asked a couple of times.

Another blogger was asking questions around how they felt trapped on a blog with their own personal domain. They’d set up a couple of years ago on their own name and now they wanted to introduce other writers unto their blog, they were questioning, “How do I do that?” I feel like it has to just be me. My readers, every time I introduce another voice, push back. They’re wrestling with it in hindsight wondering what they should have done and wondering about how they should transition that brand.

Another blogger had almost the opposite issue, they’d set up their blog on a domain that was more of a business brand. It was very niche specific. Now they felt trapped on that domain because they wanted to change their focus, they felt that they had personally evolved in what they believed, some of their values and their interests. They wanted to pivot their blog but now they felt trapped on this other domain that was not personal, it was a business brand. They wonder whether they should go to a personal domain.

We got the same question from different angles and I’ve been pondering these questions ever since. Because I heard that same question over and over again, I wanted to do a little more thinking about it both for those people so that they could have some further thinking on it but also because I know many others of you probably would be thinking the same thing.

There is no right way to brand your blog and there are extremes. You can personally brand it to the extreme, you could put your face all around it, you can call it your name or you can go the other extreme and not have your name on it at all and purely make it a business brand or a niche specific brand. They’re the two main options but there are other options in between.

Episode 206 is an opportunity to explore some of the different options, to talk about the pros and cons and ask the question, “Which one is better for you?” That’s what we’re gonna do. I hope you find it valuable.

You can find today’s show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/206. You’ll also be able to find the link to where you can comment on that show notes to our Facebook group as well. Thanks for listening and let’s get into some exploration of this topic, Personal Brands Versus Business Brands.

Personal brands or business brands, which one is better? That’s the question I get asked a lot. Of course, there is no right answer to this particular question. The answer will depend upon you, your goals, your personality, and I guess ultimately, the way that you’re gonna blog and the type of mediums that you want to use as well. All of these things can come into finding the right answer for you. Of course, as I hinted in the introduction, there are two extremes but there are plenty of other things between those two extremes that we could do as well and you can transition through that process as well.

To explore today’s topic, I thought I’d be interesting to start off by looking at some of the pros and cons of each different approach. The pros and cons of a personal brand versus the pros and cons of a business brand and then we’ll get into some of those other options between the extremes as well.

Let’s start off by talking about personal brands. These are brands at the extreme where everything is about you. You would go to these blogs and you’ve seen them, they’re usually on the person’s domain, the domain is their name. It might be darrenrowse.com if I was to set one up and it would probably be a very personal blog in terms of my face on it, branding might be my head which I kinda do on Prologger as well. But ProBlogger, I would say, is somewhere between the two extremes. It’s very personal.

There are some definite benefits of a personal brand, let me run through some of them. Firstly, it can bring some flexibility to what you offer. If you want to start out offering advice on bird photography and then your interests changed and then suddenly you wanna give parenting advice, a personal brand may be one way to do that. We, as human beings, evolve in what we’re interested in, what we think, what we believe, and the way that we live our lives.

Having a more personal brand can offer you some flexibility in that as opposed to a brand like ProBlogger where you start talking about probloggerish type of things, blogging type advice. Most of the business brands don’t give you that type of flexibilities. If you’re the type of person who thinks that you’ve got lots of interests that you might wanna pivot in what you focus upon, a more personal brand might be one option for you.

Another benefit of a personal brand is that they are great if you have a goal of selling yourself in some ways. If you have the goal of becoming a speaker, a writer, an author selling books, an artist, a consultant, a coach, or some kind of freelancer, a personal brand could be one way to do that because people in each of those cases are buying you. If they come to your blog and they see you, they see the brand of you, that’s gonna speed up the process of them making that leap to hiring you, to buying you in some capacity. That’s not to say that you can’t sell personal services on a more business related brand but I think it could speed up the process a little bit.

They’re also great if you want to be seen as an expert or an authority or a thought leader in an industry, if you want people to see you personally as the authority, having it on your own domain, your own name domain and having your face there and branding it as you and your ideas is certainly going to help with that. Personal brands are certainly great if you personally want to be involved in serving your audience, in making personal connections with your readers and customers. They are great if you really enjoy that personal communication, if you want to use mediums that are very personal as well. Live video, podcasting, these are mediums that probably lend themselves to it, or they’ll have a more personal aspect to them.

Again, it’s not to say that you can’t explore those mediums and you can’t be personally engaging with your audience on a business brand but it certainly lends itself to that type of thing. I guess it builds the expectation that you, personally, are going to be the one who’s going to be producing that content and you, personally, are the one who’s going to be engaging with your readers. If you’re the type of person who likes to get your hands dirty, you like to do the engaging, you are a very personal kind of person, then a more personal brand might work for you.

Personal brands are also great for helping your readers feel more connected to your brand. People do business with those that they know, like, and trust. My suspicion is that people are more likely to go through that process of know, like, trust if there’s a human being on the other side rather than a logo. It’s certainly possible to know, like, and trust a business but I think it probably is going to be sped up if it’s a more personal brand, if you yourself are very present in your brand as well.

You can probably think of examples of brands that are not personal that you feel very invested into that you know, like, and trust. Apple is a brand that many people are raving fans of but even that, has over the years, used personality and people to help grow that brand as well. That’s probably an example of a more gray area in some ways. If you want to build a blog that is about community, is about people feeling like they belong, then a personal brand might be one way to speed that process up.

Personal brands are also really great if you have lots of interests that you think might evolve over time as I mentioned early on today. If you look at someone like Gary Vaynerchuk, he started out using his Gary V social media accounts to talk about wine and today he talks about entrepreneurship. He’s been able to pivot using that more personal brand. If he’d set himself up purely using the Wine Library TV, I think that’s the brand, if he purely gone with that and that had been all his social media accounts, then that pivot would’ve been much harder. But right from day one, he used Gary Vaynerchuk and Gary V as his personal brand to promote his businesses, it enabled him to pivot in some ways as well.

They’re some of the pros of using that more personal domain, that personal brand. On the flipside of that, there are some negatives of going that more personal brand route as well. For example, your brand, if you use darrenrowse.com, doesn’t say anything about what you do. This can have an impact upon the early days of building your brand. People are going to take longer to start associating your name with the industry or topic or field of expertise that you’re talking about.

If I started darrenrowse.com instead of problogger.com, it would’ve taken longer for people to arrive on darrenrowse.com and to work out, “Oh, he’s talking about blogging.” It wouldn’t be immediately apparent to people that this is a site about blogging whereas if people arrive on ProBlogger, right from the first moment that they’re there, they see the hints, they’re seeing the name itself, this is about blogging. If you do have more of a niche that you’re interested in, an industry that you wanna talk about, a personal brand can sometimes slow that down, the building of that brand.

It’s not to say that you can’t achieve becoming a thought leader in a particular topic using a personal brand but it may take longer. It can also have an impact upon your search engine optimization, certainly having keywords in your business name, in your domain, can help. It’s harder for darrenrowse.com to rank for photography tips than Digital Photography School having that brand with photography in it. Photography school helped us to rank very highly for that particular term. I don’t think I ever would’ve been able to rank as highly for photography school using darrenrowse.com. Again, another impact, another negative of going with that personal brand.

It’s also potentially harder to sell your business down the track if you’re a personal brand. If I set up darrenrowse.com instead of ProBlogger, I don’t think I could’ve ever have sold that particular domain to people. I can think about a handful of examples of personal brands that have sold themselves down the track and you probably can think of some too but it’s much harder to do that. If you have an exit strategy in mind, then perhaps you want to go more for a business brand.

It can also bring some challenges to have a personal brand to scale your business. It can be done but customers and readers will come to your site if it’s a personal brand with the expectation that they want to connect with you, that they want to hear your thoughts, they want to have access to you. That can be a challenge. If you are on darrenrowse.com, people are gonna wanna show up expecting to hear from Darren Rowse. If you wanna bring in other authors, there can be some tension there, there can be some pushback from your readers around that as well.

If you want to scale what you do, if you wanna step back from what you do, either to sell or to allow others to take on aspects of that business, it can be a little bit tricky if you are stuck on a personal domain. You may be able to bring in team members to do aspects of your business but certainly with the content, with the community, with the engagement, people are going to expect you.

The last thing I would say as a negative of a personal brand is that it can bring a lot of scrutiny upon you, it puts you in the spotlight. You need to be on, you need to be able to respond to things that go wrong. If you mess up, you will be held personally accountable. If your business brand screws up, you, personally, are going to have less of the spotlight upon you and it enables your business to respond.

Some people really like being in the spotlight, some people really like being on all the time, that’s just their personality, they’re a charismatic kind of person. Other people, I met a few of these at our event last week, really don’t want to be in the spotlight at all. It would be pretty obvious that they probably wouldn’t wanna set up their domain that is their name. Many bloggers don’t even like to use their real name on their site at all and like that anonymity. Again, there’s another factor to consider, do you want to be in the spotlight, do you not wanna be in the spotlight? That will help you make that decision.

Let me give you a few examples of personal brands, particularly in this blogging online entrepreneurship space, the most obvious one to me is Seth Godin, sethgodin.com. Seth’s site is all about Seth. He is known as an authority in marketing but his brand is all about him, it’s his ideas, it’s his books, it’s his courses, it’s his speaking. He has used sethgodin.com to launch some of the business brands that he has launched and he has launched a number of those over time. But essentially, if you go to his site, it’s all about him and he’s used it to build his authority in the marketing space. Seth is a great example.

Amy Porterfield, many of you know Amy Porterfield. She is on amyporterfield.com. If you go there, you’ll see that she uses the tagline Amy Porterfield-Online Marketing Expert. She’s a great example of someone who uses her name, her face, her personality, her voice with her podcast, her face in her live videos to build a business. She has evolved her focus over time, this is a really good example of someone who has changed, they have pivoted over time and have been able to do that because it’s been a personal brand.

Amy started out very much focusing upon Facebook. She was the Facebook person, she would train you how to use Facebook. But over the last few years, she has really broadened what she has done to teach about webinars, email lists, courses, and much more. She has been able to evolve and has been able to evolve much more than if she registered the Facebook Expert. She would never been able to talk in this much depth about the things that she now talks about today. She’s not hampered by the brand itself, she’s got freedom to explore what she wants to teach.

She also uses personal mediums like podcasts, video, and events, live events to teach as well and it’s a really highly engaged audience, people really respond to her. If you see her speaking at an event, you normally will see her speaking to a packed, highly engaged audience as well. I think that’s because people really feel connected to Amy, that flows from that personal brand.

Similar to Amy would be Michael Hyatt, michaelhyatt.com. He’s been able to use his personal brand very effectively over the years. He, too, has evolved his focus over time as trends changed and as his passions and interests changed, he has changed the focus of what he does on michaelhyatt.com and has been able to evolve the mediums he uses and the income streams he monetizes as well. I think just having that very flexible brand has enabled him to do lots of things over time.

Also, in both Amy, Seth, and Michael’s cases, these highly engaged audiences, they come to the site to connect with those people rather than because they’re just talking about a topic. There’s some real advantages, I think, you can see them in those examples of having that more personal brand. But it does take a certain type of person. Again, you need to be comfortable being in the spotlight and you need to be comfortable using some of these more personal mediums and putting yourself out there. Although interestingly, Seth doesn’t put himself out there a lot in terms of engaging in comments or social media. You don’t have to take that route as well.

Personal brands, they are some of the pros and cons. That’s one extreme. On the other end, we’ve got business brands. In business brands, there’s a definite pros and cons as well. You might be thinking, “I’ve gotta do a personal brand.” Wait, there’s a few things that you need to consider for personal brands as well. A business brand can be much easier to scale. Again, you can scale personal brands, Amy has done it, she’s got a team working with her now.

Michael’s done it, he’s got a team working there but those brands really do rely upon Amy and Michael and Seth. If went away, if they wanna take a year off, it’s gonna be tougher for them to continue. It also does bring some tension around scaling, there is an expectation with the personal brand that you show up all the time. In the business, there is an expectation that a business is run by more than one person.

One of the advantages of having a brand that is not personal is that people probably are going to be expecting that there’s gonna be different voices and different team members who are prominent within that brand. There’s less of an expectation that you have to do everything. This means that you can build a true business that doesn’t rely upon you, it can be built upon the team, the systems, and I guess the products that you have as well.

The best example I can give you of this is Digital Photography School. I started out Digital Photography School by doing everything, I did it all but I didn’t promote the fact that I was doing it all. I used my name in the posts that I was writing but that’s about all, there was no photo, there was no expectation that it was about me. It enabled me to add authors, it enabled me to an editor, it enabled me to use community managers, it enabled me to get setup a customer service person. There is no expectation amongst our readers that I show up on that blog at all.

There are periods, depending upon where we’re at with our team, where I do almost nothing on that site. It is run, many times, many weeks without me at all, occasionally adding in my advice or my ideas but that’s all. If you want to scale and step away from your business in some way then a business brand is definitely one way to go.

They’re also much easy to sell. This is not something I’ve had personal experience with because I’ve never sold any of my businesses or any of my blogs to this point. If you wanna make me an offer, feel free. Down the track, I think, Digital Photography School is a great example of a business that I could sell because it’s not reliant upon me at all.

On the flipside, if I setup darrenrowse.com, it would’ve been impossible for me to sell that down the track, very few exceptions to that. If you do want to extract yourself from your business down the track, you want to set it up so that other people can run it for you or you wanna sell it, then definitely, a business brand is a better way to go.

A business brand can also tell your customers, potential readers what your business is about and who it serves very well. Digital Photography School, ProBlogger, they immediately communicate something to those who show up or to those who even hear about it in conversation, it immediately becomes apparent. Of course it has the advantage of helping with search engine optimization as well.

A business brand also takes some of the pressure off you in terms of the day to day running of the site as well, we’ve kind of touched on this already. But for me, on Digital Photography School in the early days or ProBlogger, it enabled me to take time off and there was less expectation that I had to show up as well. That certainly helps in sustainability of the business as well.

I’ve talked to a number of people who are on personal brands recently, one of the things that they do feel that is really tough for them is that when they wanna take an extended break, it’s very apparent that they’re not there on the site and they’re not doing live videos. Having a business brand, you can have one of your team do the live videos, you can have one of your teams send the emails, you can have one of the team write the blog post. In terms of looking after yourself, it can take its toll on a personal brand unless you can spread that load on a business brand.

Some of the negatives of having more of a business brand, they may not be as flexible if your interests change, you may find it tough to pivot. This is one of the things that I heard from a number of people at our masterminds these year is that they had started out their brands too narrow. In one case the industry evolved and the niche that they had chosen was less relevant than it used to be. In another case they had evolved as a person, as a blogger, and they wanted to talk about other things and they were not able to do that because of their very narrow business brand choices that they had made in the early days.

Again, it may not be as flexible if you have a business brand. If my interests change and I don’t wanna talk about blogging anymore but I wanna talk about Instagram or I wanna talk about live video, I can do that a little bit on ProBlogger but I couldn’t pivot ProBlogger to be just a live video blog. Having something that is a little broader and less focused as a brand may be a better choice. That’s one of the negatives of a business brand.

Another one is that business brands will generally need to work harder to get people to feel a personal connection with the business. This is the flipside of the advantage that I talked about earlier of a personal brand being one that people are much more ready and able to connect with.

When a reader comes to Digital Photography School for the first time, they don’t immediately imagine that there’s a person on the other side of that brand. People come to Digital Photography School and imagine that we’ve got a school somewhere. We get emails saying, “Where is your school? Where is the facility?” That is what they imagine, they don’t imagine a person, a teacher. A more personal brand will speed that up.

Of course there’s a gray area here, ProBlogger is a good example of one that sits in the middle. ProBlogger is a business brand, it signals that it’s about blogging. Because it’s the word ProBlogger, you imagine there’s a pro blogger there as well. Because I brand it personally, it’s got a bit of both, I’ll talk a little bit more about that in the moment. But if you go to business brand, you may need to work a bit harder to personalize that brand in some way. It can definitely be done, you can show your team, you can show yourself or you can tell your stories, all of these things help to personalize that business brand but you might need to work a little bit harder.

Let me give you a few examples of business brand blogs. I’ve already mentioned Digital Photography School, my main site. I wrote a lot of that content in the early days but I was very careful not to personally brand it because I, from day one, knew that it was something that I wanted to extract myself from partly because I didn’t see myself writing on that topic for the long term, I enjoy photography but it’s not something that I could see as a lifelong thing that I wanna write about. It’s not my vocation, it’s not my calling by any means. I also knew that my expertise would take me to only to a certain point, I needed to get other people in to teach at a higher level. I, from the early days, worked really hard to keep my brand out of that, to keep my face out of it. It allowed me, as I said before, to really pull back, to set my team up and maybe, down the track, one day sell it.

Another example would be a blog called Nerd Fitness whose founder is Steve Kamb started quite some time ago. Steve, if you go and look at the site, you’ll see that he is a big part of it. It’s not a purely business branded blog but he’s not the face of it. His face is on it, there’s photos there with him on it, there’s content that he has written but he has other authors. He has got a team of ten people working full time on his blog now, he runs events and the team is running the events. Steve has personally branded it to an extent but it’s not reliant upon him. I can imagine that Nerd Fitness is the type of brand that he could get setup and running with a team down the track or that he could sell at some point.

There’s plenty of other examples, blogs from my early days of blogging like Mashable, GoKa, TechCrunch and Gadget, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, even SEO Moz, Smashing Magazine, these all started in a more personal way than they are today. For example, Mashable was started by Pete Cashmore and he wrote a lot of the content in the early days. TechCrunch was started by a guy called Michael Arrington, SEO Moz was started by Rand Fishkin. But because they were not setup on their domains as their names, they were set up as sort of a business brands, they were able to grow, they were able to scale, they were able be setup as businesses with teams of people running them and writing them.

In each of those cases, they have enabled the founders to step back. In some cases, they’ve enabled the founders to sell the business. I think TechCrunch, Michael Arrington sold that. They’ve enabled the founders to step back out of the business in different ways like Rand with Moz, still involved in the business, still there adding content but now being run by other people as well. Some good examples there of more business brands as well.

The last one that I wanna talk about, last option that I wanna talk about is where you do a bit of both. I think most blogs probably fit more into the middle category. These two extremes, personal, all on domain, all personally branded, and then there’s the business where the author really isn’t there or the founder really isn’t there at all like Digital Photography School. But between them, there are many personal business brands, that’s what I would say.

Most bloggers I come across have a blog that is not called their name but where they are present and where their readers feel a connection to them. This is where most bloggers fit, this is how I would describe ProBlogger. It’s got a name that is more about the topic of blogging than anything else. But if you land on ProBlogger, you’ll see my face straight away, you’ll see my name, you hear my voice, you see videos with me as well. It’s very intentional from day one to be a better topic but also to include my story and to build a personal connection with me. This is a bit of both.

There are some pros and cons of this model as well. In some ways, on the positive side, it brings you some of the best of both worlds. It means that I can make that first impression with people, I can communicate what the site is about very quickly, it’s got the personal connection but it also communicates what the site is about, it’s good for SEO but it’s also good for connection. I get a bit of both on that. Someone landing on my site sees very quickly what it’s about but also hears my voice. Again, both of those things.

It’s also enabled me to bring some other voices in. ProBlogger, there is an expectation that I am present. If I withdraw for too long from ProBloggers, readers say, “Where’s Darren?” But it also enabled me to bring other voices unto the blog. We have many posts that are written by other people and there’s no pushback on that as long as the quality of the content is good, that’s fine. I’ve even given this podcast over for a few episodes, purely to other people. I introduce them, here’s Kelly to talk about blog design. We had an episode on that. It enabled me to bring in other voices without that tension. If I was on darrenrowse.com, I would have to work harder to introduce those voices. It could still be done but it is certainly easier on that more personal business brand.

On the negative side, though, it does sometimes feel like I’m a bit trapped in terms of topics. I can, from time to time on ProBlogger, talk about other topics of interest. I’ve talked about broader topics of entrepreneurship, I have done a podcast on luck, I’ve done a podcast on health, but I’ve always had to work hard to tie those things back into blogging. If I go off topic for too long, my readers would push back. I can’t go too far off topic for too long.

I think the advantage is that I can go a little off topic because my readers forgive me if I go off and explore a topic of passion. If I had a purely business blog, it’s harder to go off topic. Again, it’s a bit of an advantage but it does sometimes mean I feel a little bit trapped by having ProBlogger. There is some tension there in terms of bringing other authors on as well. Whilst I can bring some other voices on, if I bring too many other voices on, there’s a pushback. It’s a fine line to walk, it’s an advantage but also a disadvantage.

Sometimes I wish I started ProBlogger not personally branded at all. There’s other blogging tip sites out there that are not personally branded and I look at them sometimes and I go, “I wish I could do that because I wouldn’t need to be there, I could take six months off.” That’s a negative, I’ve personally branded to some extent. It’s a fine line that I try to walk.

It also means that I, on Problogger, need to be part of everything that I do. I couldn’t get a team member to this podcast 100% of the time, I couldn’t stop writing on the site 100% of the time, I couldn’t not show up at my events, I couldn’t let someone really moderate all my comments and do all my social media, I need to be there at least to some extent. Again, you can see that there’s some advantages of this middle ground but still there’s some tension, there is no perfect model here.

Some other examples of people who I think have done a good job of building a business brand that is personal, the most obvious one to me is Pat Flynn, I just spent two weeks with Pat at our event Smart Passive Income. It’s setup as a topic, you look at Smart Passive Income and you think, “I know what that’s about.” But then you go to that site and you’ll see Pat Flynn all over. You hear his voice, you see his videos.

Another good example from a recent podcast is Nikki Parkinson from Styling You, Aussie blogger, fashion blogger. Styling you, it’s very much a business brand but again you see Nikki all through that site. It kinda spans both of those options.

I don’t want people to come away from this podcast thinking I have to have purely a personal brand or I have to have purely a business brand. There is some gray are in between.

The last theory that I wanna talk about is where you do both, where you actually, actively build a business brand but you actively also build your personal brand, you do both. You use that personal brand to build the business brand. This might sound like it’s double the work, in some ways it can be, you might need to get your personal social media accounts and maintain your business ones as well, that can add to the work. It can also add a bit of confusion from your readers on where should I be following this person.

A few good examples of people who do this, Chris Ducker would be one. Many of you will be familiar with Chris Ducker, he’s on chrisducker.com. If you go and look at his site, you’ll see that he’s all over it, it’s very personal, his face is there, his videos are there but he uses it to promote his businesses that he started over the years. His businesses have changed, his topics of interest have changed. He has had a couple of different types of events, Tropical Think Tank, In Days Gone By, and now he’s got Youpreneur which is an online community for people who wanna have a personal brand but he’s also doing events with that.

It’s allowed him over time to evolve what he is known for. In the early days he was known very much for giving advice on outsourcing, on virtual assistants. These days he is more known for talking about personal branding. By having chrisducker.com, he’s able to change his focus and they launched different businesses offered back of that. In some ways, it’s similar to the way Seth Godin has done it. Seth has set up this personal brand but he used it to launch different businesses over time.

Another good example of this would be Gary Vaynerchuk who has used his personal profile brilliantly. He’s got a personal blog and he uses it to launch his businesses. In the early days, he used his personal profile to launch his wine business or build his wine business. More recently, he uses it to promote VaynerMedia which he has as well.

Richard Branson would be another example, very high profile example. He does do some blogging, he uses Richard Branson to promote Virgin. He’s actually building both of those brands simultaneously, or his team is.

Syed Balkhi is another good example. Syed speaks at events regularly. He’s building his personal profile as he speaks but he’s using that personal profile to promote his businesses. He owns WPBeginner, a WordPress site, OptinMonster, a tool for bloggers to collect email addresses. He uses that personal brand to build his businesses.

Lastly, Neil Patel is another person who does this very well. He writes prolifically, he has got his own blog on neilpatel.com but he uses his personal profile to build the businesses that he owns. Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics and other businesses as well.

You can do that as well, you could have a personal business brand like Nikki Parkinson or Pat Flynn or you could have both. You could build that personal brand, be in the spotlight but use that spotlight, use that profile to build the different businesses that you have. That’s particularly useful if you do think that you’re going to evolve your interests. If you’re that type of person, a little bit like me who does have lots of different passions that you think over time, your interests are gonna change, that might be one good way to go.

Just to wrap it up, a few things to consider. Firstly, are you comfortable being in the spotlight? Are you comfortable being the face of your business through the good times where you’ll get praised and through the tough times where you’ll get critiqued, or do you prefer anonymity and being behind the scenes? That’s probably the first question you wanna ask. Are you comfortable being a personal brand? If you can’t answer that in the affirmative, don’t set yourself up as a personal brand.

Do you wanna be locked into the day to day running of your business long term or do you see yourself stepping back out of it to allow it to run itself or to sell it down the track? Another good question to ask, in the early days of your blog, if you don’t see yourself for the next 20 or 30 years being hands on in that business, you probably wanna choose more of a business brand rather than a personal one, particularly if you wanna sell it down the track.

Do you enjoy getting involved in the nitty, gritty of engaging with readers and being involved with meeting them and building community? Do you wanna be the person who’s gonna create all of the content? If not, you will probably wanna bring some element of a business brand in it as well because it will enable you to step back a little bit but also introduce other voices as well.

Another question, are you the type of person who has lots of interests and might wanna evolve your business over time? Again, that was a hint to you that you maybe you want more of a personal brand or at least building that simultaneously as you build your business as well.

Last question is what kind of a business model do you wanna grow? Is it based around services that you yourself will offer? Freelancing, speaking, writing, particularly speaking and writing, you can’t really outsource those things easily. If your business model is built around you selling yourself, again, it could be an advantage to have more of a personal brand. Or is the business model that you’ve got, will it need to scale? Maybe your goal is to run events but not show up at those events, maybe you wanna have events running around the world, in lots of different places. That kind of business model is gonna give you a hint that you probably need more of a business brand.

These are some of the questions, I’m gonna summarize those five or six questions for you on today’s show notes. I would love to hear a little bit about your brand. If you’re an established blogger, what have you done? Have you got a personal brand? Do you have a business brand, or do you do both or have a personal business brand? They’re the four options that I talked about today.

Tell us what you’ve done over on the show notes at problogger.com/podcast/206 or head over into the Facebook group and tell us a little bit about your brand there as well. We’ll have a discussion setup for you where you can do that. The Facebook group is at problogger.com/group. Love to hear what you’ve done. I’ll learn from you and hear about some of the frustrations of the choices that you made, some of the advantages of the decisions you’ve made as well.

Thanks for listening today, I look forward to chatting with you next week in episode 207 of the ProBlogger podcast.

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206: Personal Brands vs Business Brands for Blogs

Is There a Right Way to Brand Your Blog?

I’m just back from our Aussie Problogger training events where we ran masterminds with around 40 bloggers per city. In those days speakers spent time with small groups of attendees in round table discussions where attendees could ask us any question they liked.

One of the questions that I got asked repeatedly through both masterminds was around whether it is better to give a blog a personal brand or more of a business brand?

blog brand personal or businessIn one case the questioner was about to start a new blog and was wondering if they should set it up on a domain that was their own name or if they should choose a name that was nothing to do with them.

Another blogger asked what to do when they felt trapped on a blog with a personal domain – but they wanted to introduce other writers onto the blog.

Yet another blogger had the opposite issue – they had set up their blog on a domain and with a brand that was very niche specific but now felt trapped because they wanted to change their focus and evolve the blog beyond what the brand might allow.

I’ve been pondering these questions a lot since our event so wanted to explore it today in this episode.

There is right way to brand your blog – there are extremes where you can go one way or the other and also there are ways of doing both a personal brand and a business brand – and that’s what we’re going to explore today.

 

Examples Mentioned for Personal Brands vs Business Brands for Blogs

Personal Brands

Business Brands

Personal Business Brands

Doing Both Personal and Business

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Hello there. My name is Darren Rowse. I’m the blogger behind ProBlogger, a blog, a podcast, event, job boards, series of ebooks and other resources all designed to help you as a blogger to grow your audience, to produce great content and to make money from your blog. You can learn more about what we do at ProBlogger over at problogger.com.

I’m just back from our Australian ProBlogger event where we ran a couple of masterminds this time around for the first time ever. We did two masterminds, one in Brisbane and one in Melbourne and we have 40 bloggers who have come to each of those sessions.

As part of the day, we had some teaching from our speakers like Pat Flynn and James Schramko and Laney Galligan and then Kelly Exeter. We also spent time, as speakers, circulating through the tables, around tables, around the room. We, each, got to spend about 30 minutes being peppered with questions by these small tables. Something made me a little bit nervous because I’m not the fastest thinker but I love that.

What I found really interesting over the day was that I was asked some questions on almost every table that I went to. That may have been partly because people thought I could answer those questions but also, some of the questions were quite random. One of the questions that I got asked a lot over both cities, multiple times in each day, was around how to brand a blog in terms of whether it should be a personal brand or whether it should be more of a business brand. I’ll get into some examples of both of those types of options later on today. It was a question that I got asked repeatedly in different ways.

One person asked, they were thinking about setting up a new blog, whether they should set it up on a domain that was their own name or whether they should choose a name or domain name that was nothing to do with them personally at all. That was a question I got asked a couple of times.

Another blogger was asking questions around how they felt trapped on a blog with their own personal domain. They’d set up a couple of years ago on their own name and now they wanted to introduce other writers unto their blog, they were questioning, “How do I do that?” I feel like it has to just be me. My readers, every time I introduce another voice, push back. They’re wrestling with it in hindsight wondering what they should have done and wondering about how they should transition that brand.

Another blogger had almost the opposite issue, they’d set up their blog on a domain that was more of a business brand. It was very niche specific. Now they felt trapped on that domain because they wanted to change their focus, they felt that they had personally evolved in what they believed, some of their values and their interests. They wanted to pivot their blog but now they felt trapped on this other domain that was not personal, it was a business brand. They wonder whether they should go to a personal domain.

We got the same question from different angles and I’ve been pondering these questions ever since. Because I heard that same question over and over again, I wanted to do a little more thinking about it both for those people so that they could have some further thinking on it but also because I know many others of you probably would be thinking the same thing.

There is no right way to brand your blog and there are extremes. You can personally brand it to the extreme, you could put your face all around it, you can call it your name or you can go the other extreme and not have your name on it at all and purely make it a business brand or a niche specific brand. They’re the two main options but there are other options in between.

Episode 206 is an opportunity to explore some of the different options, to talk about the pros and cons and ask the question, “Which one is better for you?” That’s what we’re gonna do. I hope you find it valuable.

You can find today’s show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/206. You’ll also be able to find the link to where you can comment on that show notes to our Facebook group as well. Thanks for listening and let’s get into some exploration of this topic, Personal Brands Versus Business Brands.

Personal brands or business brands, which one is better? That’s the question I get asked a lot. Of course, there is no right answer to this particular question. The answer will depend upon you, your goals, your personality, and I guess ultimately, the way that you’re gonna blog and the type of mediums that you want to use as well. All of these things can come into finding the right answer for you. Of course, as I hinted in the introduction, there are two extremes but there are plenty of other things between those two extremes that we could do as well and you can transition through that process as well.

To explore today’s topic, I thought I’d be interesting to start off by looking at some of the pros and cons of each different approach. The pros and cons of a personal brand versus the pros and cons of a business brand and then we’ll get into some of those other options between the extremes as well.

Let’s start off by talking about personal brands. These are brands at the extreme where everything is about you. You would go to these blogs and you’ve seen them, they’re usually on the person’s domain, the domain is their name. It might be darrenrowse.com if I was to set one up and it would probably be a very personal blog in terms of my face on it, branding might be my head which I kinda do on Prologger as well. But ProBlogger, I would say, is somewhere between the two extremes. It’s very personal.

There are some definite benefits of a personal brand, let me run through some of them. Firstly, it can bring some flexibility to what you offer. If you want to start out offering advice on bird photography and then your interests changed and then suddenly you wanna give parenting advice, a personal brand may be one way to do that. We, as human beings, evolve in what we’re interested in, what we think, what we believe, and the way that we live our lives.

Having a more personal brand can offer you some flexibility in that as opposed to a brand like ProBlogger where you start talking about probloggerish type of things, blogging type advice. Most of the business brands don’t give you that type of flexibilities. If you’re the type of person who thinks that you’ve got lots of interests that you might wanna pivot in what you focus upon, a more personal brand might be one option for you.

Another benefit of a personal brand is that they are great if you have a goal of selling yourself in some ways. If you have the goal of becoming a speaker, a writer, an author selling books, an artist, a consultant, a coach, or some kind of freelancer, a personal brand could be one way to do that because people in each of those cases are buying you. If they come to your blog and they see you, they see the brand of you, that’s gonna speed up the process of them making that leap to hiring you, to buying you in some capacity. That’s not to say that you can’t sell personal services on a more business related brand but I think it could speed up the process a little bit.

They’re also great if you want to be seen as an expert or an authority or a thought leader in an industry, if you want people to see you personally as the authority, having it on your own domain, your own name domain and having your face there and branding it as you and your ideas is certainly going to help with that. Personal brands are certainly great if you personally want to be involved in serving your audience, in making personal connections with your readers and customers. They are great if you really enjoy that personal communication, if you want to use mediums that are very personal as well. Live video, podcasting, these are mediums that probably lend themselves to it, or they’ll have a more personal aspect to them.

Again, it’s not to say that you can’t explore those mediums and you can’t be personally engaging with your audience on a business brand but it certainly lends itself to that type of thing. I guess it builds the expectation that you, personally, are going to be the one who’s going to be producing that content and you, personally, are the one who’s going to be engaging with your readers. If you’re the type of person who likes to get your hands dirty, you like to do the engaging, you are a very personal kind of person, then a more personal brand might work for you.

Personal brands are also great for helping your readers feel more connected to your brand. People do business with those that they know, like, and trust. My suspicion is that people are more likely to go through that process of know, like, trust if there’s a human being on the other side rather than a logo. It’s certainly possible to know, like, and trust a business but I think it probably is going to be sped up if it’s a more personal brand, if you yourself are very present in your brand as well.

You can probably think of examples of brands that are not personal that you feel very invested into that you know, like, and trust. Apple is a brand that many people are raving fans of but even that, has over the years, used personality and people to help grow that brand as well. That’s probably an example of a more gray area in some ways. If you want to build a blog that is about community, is about people feeling like they belong, then a personal brand might be one way to speed that process up.

Personal brands are also really great if you have lots of interests that you think might evolve over time as I mentioned early on today. If you look at someone like Gary Vaynerchuk, he started out using his Gary V social media accounts to talk about wine and today he talks about entrepreneurship. He’s been able to pivot using that more personal brand. If he’d set himself up purely using the Wine Library TV, I think that’s the brand, if he purely gone with that and that had been all his social media accounts, then that pivot would’ve been much harder. But right from day one, he used Gary Vaynerchuk and Gary V as his personal brand to promote his businesses, it enabled him to pivot in some ways as well.

They’re some of the pros of using that more personal domain, that personal brand. On the flipside of that, there are some negatives of going that more personal brand route as well. For example, your brand, if you use darrenrowse.com, doesn’t say anything about what you do. This can have an impact upon the early days of building your brand. People are going to take longer to start associating your name with the industry or topic or field of expertise that you’re talking about.

If I started darrenrowse.com instead of problogger.com, it would’ve taken longer for people to arrive on darrenrowse.com and to work out, “Oh, he’s talking about blogging.” It wouldn’t be immediately apparent to people that this is a site about blogging whereas if people arrive on ProBlogger, right from the first moment that they’re there, they see the hints, they’re seeing the name itself, this is about blogging. If you do have more of a niche that you’re interested in, an industry that you wanna talk about, a personal brand can sometimes slow that down, the building of that brand.

It’s not to say that you can’t achieve becoming a thought leader in a particular topic using a personal brand but it may take longer. It can also have an impact upon your search engine optimization, certainly having keywords in your business name, in your domain, can help. It’s harder for darrenrowse.com to rank for photography tips than Digital Photography School having that brand with photography in it. Photography school helped us to rank very highly for that particular term. I don’t think I ever would’ve been able to rank as highly for photography school using darrenrowse.com. Again, another impact, another negative of going with that personal brand.

It’s also potentially harder to sell your business down the track if you’re a personal brand. If I set up darrenrowse.com instead of ProBlogger, I don’t think I could’ve ever have sold that particular domain to people. I can think about a handful of examples of personal brands that have sold themselves down the track and you probably can think of some too but it’s much harder to do that. If you have an exit strategy in mind, then perhaps you want to go more for a business brand.

It can also bring some challenges to have a personal brand to scale your business. It can be done but customers and readers will come to your site if it’s a personal brand with the expectation that they want to connect with you, that they want to hear your thoughts, they want to have access to you. That can be a challenge. If you are on darrenrowse.com, people are gonna wanna show up expecting to hear from Darren Rowse. If you wanna bring in other authors, there can be some tension there, there can be some pushback from your readers around that as well.

If you want to scale what you do, if you wanna step back from what you do, either to sell or to allow others to take on aspects of that business, it can be a little bit tricky if you are stuck on a personal domain. You may be able to bring in team members to do aspects of your business but certainly with the content, with the community, with the engagement, people are going to expect you.

The last thing I would say as a negative of a personal brand is that it can bring a lot of scrutiny upon you, it puts you in the spotlight. You need to be on, you need to be able to respond to things that go wrong. If you mess up, you will be held personally accountable. If your business brand screws up, you, personally, are going to have less of the spotlight upon you and it enables your business to respond.

Some people really like being in the spotlight, some people really like being on all the time, that’s just their personality, they’re a charismatic kind of person. Other people, I met a few of these at our event last week, really don’t want to be in the spotlight at all. It would be pretty obvious that they probably wouldn’t wanna set up their domain that is their name. Many bloggers don’t even like to use their real name on their site at all and like that anonymity. Again, there’s another factor to consider, do you want to be in the spotlight, do you not wanna be in the spotlight? That will help you make that decision.

Let me give you a few examples of personal brands, particularly in this blogging online entrepreneurship space, the most obvious one to me is Seth Godin, sethgodin.com. Seth’s site is all about Seth. He is known as an authority in marketing but his brand is all about him, it’s his ideas, it’s his books, it’s his courses, it’s his speaking. He has used sethgodin.com to launch some of the business brands that he has launched and he has launched a number of those over time. But essentially, if you go to his site, it’s all about him and he’s used it to build his authority in the marketing space. Seth is a great example.

Amy Porterfield, many of you know Amy Porterfield. She is on amyporterfield.com. If you go there, you’ll see that she uses the tagline Amy Porterfield-Online Marketing Expert. She’s a great example of someone who uses her name, her face, her personality, her voice with her podcast, her face in her live videos to build a business. She has evolved her focus over time, this is a really good example of someone who has changed, they have pivoted over time and have been able to do that because it’s been a personal brand.

Amy started out very much focusing upon Facebook. She was the Facebook person, she would train you how to use Facebook. But over the last few years, she has really broadened what she has done to teach about webinars, email lists, courses, and much more. She has been able to evolve and has been able to evolve much more than if she registered the Facebook Expert. She would never been able to talk in this much depth about the things that she now talks about today. She’s not hampered by the brand itself, she’s got freedom to explore what she wants to teach.

She also uses personal mediums like podcasts, video, and events, live events to teach as well and it’s a really highly engaged audience, people really respond to her. If you see her speaking at an event, you normally will see her speaking to a packed, highly engaged audience as well. I think that’s because people really feel connected to Amy, that flows from that personal brand.

Similar to Amy would be Michael Hyatt, michaelhyatt.com. He’s been able to use his personal brand very effectively over the years. He, too, has evolved his focus over time as trends changed and as his passions and interests changed, he has changed the focus of what he does on michaelhyatt.com and has been able to evolve the mediums he uses and the income streams he monetizes as well. I think just having that very flexible brand has enabled him to do lots of things over time.

Also, in both Amy, Seth, and Michael’s cases, these highly engaged audiences, they come to the site to connect with those people rather than because they’re just talking about a topic. There’s some real advantages, I think, you can see them in those examples of having that more personal brand. But it does take a certain type of person. Again, you need to be comfortable being in the spotlight and you need to be comfortable using some of these more personal mediums and putting yourself out there. Although interestingly, Seth doesn’t put himself out there a lot in terms of engaging in comments or social media. You don’t have to take that route as well.

Personal brands, they are some of the pros and cons. That’s one extreme. On the other end, we’ve got business brands. In business brands, there’s a definite pros and cons as well. You might be thinking, “I’ve gotta do a personal brand.” Wait, there’s a few things that you need to consider for personal brands as well. A business brand can be much easier to scale. Again, you can scale personal brands, Amy has done it, she’s got a team working with her now.

Michael’s done it, he’s got a team working there but those brands really do rely upon Amy and Michael and Seth. If went away, if they wanna take a year off, it’s gonna be tougher for them to continue. It also does bring some tension around scaling, there is an expectation with the personal brand that you show up all the time. In the business, there is an expectation that a business is run by more than one person.

One of the advantages of having a brand that is not personal is that people probably are going to be expecting that there’s gonna be different voices and different team members who are prominent within that brand. There’s less of an expectation that you have to do everything. This means that you can build a true business that doesn’t rely upon you, it can be built upon the team, the systems, and I guess the products that you have as well.

The best example I can give you of this is Digital Photography School. I started out Digital Photography School by doing everything, I did it all but I didn’t promote the fact that I was doing it all. I used my name in the posts that I was writing but that’s about all, there was no photo, there was no expectation that it was about me. It enabled me to add authors, it enabled me to an editor, it enabled me to use community managers, it enabled me to get setup a customer service person. There is no expectation amongst our readers that I show up on that blog at all.

There are periods, depending upon where we’re at with our team, where I do almost nothing on that site. It is run, many times, many weeks without me at all, occasionally adding in my advice or my ideas but that’s all. If you want to scale and step away from your business in some way then a business brand is definitely one way to go.

They’re also much easy to sell. This is not something I’ve had personal experience with because I’ve never sold any of my businesses or any of my blogs to this point. If you wanna make me an offer, feel free. Down the track, I think, Digital Photography School is a great example of a business that I could sell because it’s not reliant upon me at all.

On the flipside, if I setup darrenrowse.com, it would’ve been impossible for me to sell that down the track, very few exceptions to that. If you do want to extract yourself from your business down the track, you want to set it up so that other people can run it for you or you wanna sell it, then definitely, a business brand is a better way to go.

A business brand can also tell your customers, potential readers what your business is about and who it serves very well. Digital Photography School, ProBlogger, they immediately communicate something to those who show up or to those who even hear about it in conversation, it immediately becomes apparent. Of course it has the advantage of helping with search engine optimization as well.

A business brand also takes some of the pressure off you in terms of the day to day running of the site as well, we’ve kind of touched on this already. But for me, on Digital Photography School in the early days or ProBlogger, it enabled me to take time off and there was less expectation that I had to show up as well. That certainly helps in sustainability of the business as well.

I’ve talked to a number of people who are on personal brands recently, one of the things that they do feel that is really tough for them is that when they wanna take an extended break, it’s very apparent that they’re not there on the site and they’re not doing live videos. Having a business brand, you can have one of your team do the live videos, you can have one of your teams send the emails, you can have one of the team write the blog post. In terms of looking after yourself, it can take its toll on a personal brand unless you can spread that load on a business brand.

Some of the negatives of having more of a business brand, they may not be as flexible if your interests change, you may find it tough to pivot. This is one of the things that I heard from a number of people at our masterminds these year is that they had started out their brands too narrow. In one case the industry evolved and the niche that they had chosen was less relevant than it used to be. In another case they had evolved as a person, as a blogger, and they wanted to talk about other things and they were not able to do that because of their very narrow business brand choices that they had made in the early days.

Again, it may not be as flexible if you have a business brand. If my interests change and I don’t wanna talk about blogging anymore but I wanna talk about Instagram or I wanna talk about live video, I can do that a little bit on ProBlogger but I couldn’t pivot ProBlogger to be just a live video blog. Having something that is a little broader and less focused as a brand may be a better choice. That’s one of the negatives of a business brand.

Another one is that business brands will generally need to work harder to get people to feel a personal connection with the business. This is the flipside of the advantage that I talked about earlier of a personal brand being one that people are much more ready and able to connect with.

When a reader comes to Digital Photography School for the first time, they don’t immediately imagine that there’s a person on the other side of that brand. People come to Digital Photography School and imagine that we’ve got a school somewhere. We get emails saying, “Where is your school? Where is the facility?” That is what they imagine, they don’t imagine a person, a teacher. A more personal brand will speed that up.

Of course there’s a gray area here, ProBlogger is a good example of one that sits in the middle. ProBlogger is a business brand, it signals that it’s about blogging. Because it’s the word ProBlogger, you imagine there’s a pro blogger there as well. Because I brand it personally, it’s got a bit of both, I’ll talk a little bit more about that in the moment. But if you go to business brand, you may need to work a bit harder to personalize that brand in some way. It can definitely be done, you can show your team, you can show yourself or you can tell your stories, all of these things help to personalize that business brand but you might need to work a little bit harder.

Let me give you a few examples of business brand blogs. I’ve already mentioned Digital Photography School, my main site. I wrote a lot of that content in the early days but I was very careful not to personally brand it because I, from day one, knew that it was something that I wanted to extract myself from partly because I didn’t see myself writing on that topic for the long term, I enjoy photography but it’s not something that I could see as a lifelong thing that I wanna write about. It’s not my vocation, it’s not my calling by any means. I also knew that my expertise would take me to only to a certain point, I needed to get other people in to teach at a higher level. I, from the early days, worked really hard to keep my brand out of that, to keep my face out of it. It allowed me, as I said before, to really pull back, to set my team up and maybe, down the track, one day sell it.

Another example would be a blog called Nerd Fitness whose founder is Steve Kamb started quite some time ago. Steve, if you go and look at the site, you’ll see that he is a big part of it. It’s not a purely business branded blog but he’s not the face of it. His face is on it, there’s photos there with him on it, there’s content that he has written but he has other authors. He has got a team of ten people working full time on his blog now, he runs events and the team is running the events. Steve has personally branded it to an extent but it’s not reliant upon him. I can imagine that Nerd Fitness is the type of brand that he could get setup and running with a team down the track or that he could sell at some point.

There’s plenty of other examples, blogs from my early days of blogging like Mashable, GoKa, TechCrunch and Gadget, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, even SEO Moz, Smashing Magazine, these all started in a more personal way than they are today. For example, Mashable was started by Pete Cashmore and he wrote a lot of the content in the early days. TechCrunch was started by a guy called Michael Arrington, SEO Moz was started by Rand Fishkin. But because they were not setup on their domains as their names, they were set up as sort of a business brands, they were able to grow, they were able to scale, they were able be setup as businesses with teams of people running them and writing them.

In each of those cases, they have enabled the founders to step back. In some cases, they’ve enabled the founders to sell the business. I think TechCrunch, Michael Arrington sold that. They’ve enabled the founders to step back out of the business in different ways like Rand with Moz, still involved in the business, still there adding content but now being run by other people as well. Some good examples there of more business brands as well.

The last one that I wanna talk about, last option that I wanna talk about is where you do a bit of both. I think most blogs probably fit more into the middle category. These two extremes, personal, all on domain, all personally branded, and then there’s the business where the author really isn’t there or the founder really isn’t there at all like Digital Photography School. But between them, there are many personal business brands, that’s what I would say.

Most bloggers I come across have a blog that is not called their name but where they are present and where their readers feel a connection to them. This is where most bloggers fit, this is how I would describe ProBlogger. It’s got a name that is more about the topic of blogging than anything else. But if you land on ProBlogger, you’ll see my face straight away, you’ll see my name, you hear my voice, you see videos with me as well. It’s very intentional from day one to be a better topic but also to include my story and to build a personal connection with me. This is a bit of both.

There are some pros and cons of this model as well. In some ways, on the positive side, it brings you some of the best of both worlds. It means that I can make that first impression with people, I can communicate what the site is about very quickly, it’s got the personal connection but it also communicates what the site is about, it’s good for SEO but it’s also good for connection. I get a bit of both on that. Someone landing on my site sees very quickly what it’s about but also hears my voice. Again, both of those things.

It’s also enabled me to bring some other voices in. ProBlogger, there is an expectation that I am present. If I withdraw for too long from ProBloggers, readers say, “Where’s Darren?” But it also enabled me to bring other voices unto the blog. We have many posts that are written by other people and there’s no pushback on that as long as the quality of the content is good, that’s fine. I’ve even given this podcast over for a few episodes, purely to other people. I introduce them, here’s Kelly to talk about blog design. We had an episode on that. It enabled me to bring in other voices without that tension. If I was on darrenrowse.com, I would have to work harder to introduce those voices. It could still be done but it is certainly easier on that more personal business brand.

On the negative side, though, it does sometimes feel like I’m a bit trapped in terms of topics. I can, from time to time on ProBlogger, talk about other topics of interest. I’ve talked about broader topics of entrepreneurship, I have done a podcast on luck, I’ve done a podcast on health, but I’ve always had to work hard to tie those things back into blogging. If I go off topic for too long, my readers would push back. I can’t go too far off topic for too long.

I think the advantage is that I can go a little off topic because my readers forgive me if I go off and explore a topic of passion. If I had a purely business blog, it’s harder to go off topic. Again, it’s a bit of an advantage but it does sometimes mean I feel a little bit trapped by having ProBlogger. There is some tension there in terms of bringing other authors on as well. Whilst I can bring some other voices on, if I bring too many other voices on, there’s a pushback. It’s a fine line to walk, it’s an advantage but also a disadvantage.

Sometimes I wish I started ProBlogger not personally branded at all. There’s other blogging tip sites out there that are not personally branded and I look at them sometimes and I go, “I wish I could do that because I wouldn’t need to be there, I could take six months off.” That’s a negative, I’ve personally branded to some extent. It’s a fine line that I try to walk.

It also means that I, on Problogger, need to be part of everything that I do. I couldn’t get a team member to this podcast 100% of the time, I couldn’t stop writing on the site 100% of the time, I couldn’t not show up at my events, I couldn’t let someone really moderate all my comments and do all my social media, I need to be there at least to some extent. Again, you can see that there’s some advantages of this middle ground but still there’s some tension, there is no perfect model here.

Some other examples of people who I think have done a good job of building a business brand that is personal, the most obvious one to me is Pat Flynn, I just spent two weeks with Pat at our event Smart Passive Income. It’s setup as a topic, you look at Smart Passive Income and you think, “I know what that’s about.” But then you go to that site and you’ll see Pat Flynn all over. You hear his voice, you see his videos.

Another good example from a recent podcast is Nikki Parkinson from Styling You, Aussie blogger, fashion blogger. Styling you, it’s very much a business brand but again you see Nikki all through that site. It kinda spans both of those options.

I don’t want people to come away from this podcast thinking I have to have purely a personal brand or I have to have purely a business brand. There is some gray are in between.

The last theory that I wanna talk about is where you do both, where you actually, actively build a business brand but you actively also build your personal brand, you do both. You use that personal brand to build the business brand. This might sound like it’s double the work, in some ways it can be, you might need to get your personal social media accounts and maintain your business ones as well, that can add to the work. It can also add a bit of confusion from your readers on where should I be following this person.

A few good examples of people who do this, Chris Ducker would be one. Many of you will be familiar with Chris Ducker, he’s on chrisducker.com. If you go and look at his site, you’ll see that he’s all over it, it’s very personal, his face is there, his videos are there but he uses it to promote his businesses that he started over the years. His businesses have changed, his topics of interest have changed. He has had a couple of different types of events, Tropical Think Tank, In Days Gone By, and now he’s got Youpreneur which is an online community for people who wanna have a personal brand but he’s also doing events with that.

It’s allowed him over time to evolve what he is known for. In the early days he was known very much for giving advice on outsourcing, on virtual assistants. These days he is more known for talking about personal branding. By having chrisducker.com, he’s able to change his focus and they launched different businesses offered back of that. In some ways, it’s similar to the way Seth Godin has done it. Seth has set up this personal brand but he used it to launch different businesses over time.

Another good example of this would be Gary Vaynerchuk who has used his personal profile brilliantly. He’s got a personal blog and he uses it to launch his businesses. In the early days, he used his personal profile to launch his wine business or build his wine business. More recently, he uses it to promote VaynerMedia which he has as well.

Richard Branson would be another example, very high profile example. He does do some blogging, he uses Richard Branson to promote Virgin. He’s actually building both of those brands simultaneously, or his team is.

Syed Balkhi is another good example. Syed speaks at events regularly. He’s building his personal profile as he speaks but he’s using that personal profile to promote his businesses. He owns WPBeginner, a WordPress site, OptinMonster, a tool for bloggers to collect email addresses. He uses that personal brand to build his businesses.

Lastly, Neil Patel is another person who does this very well. He writes prolifically, he has got his own blog on neilpatel.com but he uses his personal profile to build the businesses that he owns. Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics and other businesses as well.

You can do that as well, you could have a personal business brand like Nikki Parkinson or Pat Flynn or you could have both. You could build that personal brand, be in the spotlight but use that spotlight, use that profile to build the different businesses that you have. That’s particularly useful if you do think that you’re going to evolve your interests. If you’re that type of person, a little bit like me who does have lots of different passions that you think over time, your interests are gonna change, that might be one good way to go.

Just to wrap it up, a few things to consider. Firstly, are you comfortable being in the spotlight? Are you comfortable being the face of your business through the good times where you’ll get praised and through the tough times where you’ll get critiqued, or do you prefer anonymity and being behind the scenes? That’s probably the first question you wanna ask. Are you comfortable being a personal brand? If you can’t answer that in the affirmative, don’t set yourself up as a personal brand.

Do you wanna be locked into the day to day running of your business long term or do you see yourself stepping back out of it to allow it to run itself or to sell it down the track? Another good question to ask, in the early days of your blog, if you don’t see yourself for the next 20 or 30 years being hands on in that business, you probably wanna choose more of a business brand rather than a personal one, particularly if you wanna sell it down the track.

Do you enjoy getting involved in the nitty, gritty of engaging with readers and being involved with meeting them and building community? Do you wanna be the person who’s gonna create all of the content? If not, you will probably wanna bring some element of a business brand in it as well because it will enable you to step back a little bit but also introduce other voices as well.

Another question, are you the type of person who has lots of interests and might wanna evolve your business over time? Again, that was a hint to you that you maybe you want more of a personal brand or at least building that simultaneously as you build your business as well.

Last question is what kind of a business model do you wanna grow? Is it based around services that you yourself will offer? Freelancing, speaking, writing, particularly speaking and writing, you can’t really outsource those things easily. If your business model is built around you selling yourself, again, it could be an advantage to have more of a personal brand. Or is the business model that you’ve got, will it need to scale? Maybe your goal is to run events but not show up at those events, maybe you wanna have events running around the world, in lots of different places. That kind of business model is gonna give you a hint that you probably need more of a business brand.

These are some of the questions, I’m gonna summarize those five or six questions for you on today’s show notes. I would love to hear a little bit about your brand. If you’re an established blogger, what have you done? Have you got a personal brand? Do you have a business brand, or do you do both or have a personal business brand? They’re the four options that I talked about today.

Tell us what you’ve done over on the show notes at problogger.com/podcast/206 or head over into the Facebook group and tell us a little bit about your brand there as well. We’ll have a discussion setup for you where you can do that. The Facebook group is at problogger.com/group. Love to hear what you’ve done. I’ll learn from you and hear about some of the frustrations of the choices that you made, some of the advantages of the decisions you’ve made as well.

Thanks for listening today, I look forward to chatting with you next week in episode 207 of the ProBlogger podcast.

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