Blogger, Do You Know Who You Are? Cuz We Don’t.

Who are you? Do you know? When people visit your blog, do they know? Lately, I've been doing some things to really learn more about YOU. It started with my quick offer of consulting sessions. So far, I've talked to 3 people. I've got a BUNCH of them scheduled for next week. Also, this last weekend, I ran that weird survey.

Who are you? Do you know?

When people visit your blog, do they know?

Lately, I’ve been doing some things to really learn more about YOU. It started with my quick offer of consulting sessions. So far, I’ve talked to 3 people. I’ve got a BUNCH of them scheduled for next week. Also, this last weekend, I ran that weird survey.

About that…. a quick update:

Before We Begin, A Quick Announcement

Thanks for everybody who filled out the survey for me. I am busy making some awesome stuff for you guys. Now, here’s the thing… what you guys told me you wanted is a lot bigger than what I had in mind. πŸ™‚

You guys are really trying to make me work, aren’t you?! πŸ˜‰

Anyway, I’m a man of my word. What I’m working on is going to be bigger than I thought, but I’m still going to hook you guys up with some meat from it – for free. It may be a lead-in to something bigger, though. Heads up.

Oh, plus we’re working on some seriously AWESOME stuff for Blog Masters Club. We’re prepping to relaunch it soon. You’ll get plenty of warning about it.

OK, onward…

Here’s What I’m Noticing About You

identity_unknown.jpg

You might not know who you really are. As a blogger, I mean.

I’ve checked out a lot of blogs lately. I’ve also talked to people. And one big issue I’m seeing is a sense of confusion on what one represents on their blog. This affects your BRANDING.

Can somebody arrive on your blog for the first time and, in mere seconds, determine exactly what you’re about and what you have to offer them?

If not, your blog is suffering from a sense of identity crisis.

I think some of it might come from a sense of confusion on which direction to go with your blog. Some, quite frankly, are trying to copy other bloggers rather than inventing their own rules. One can read a lot of blogs about blogging (including mine), get some great advice, but ultimately be pulled in so many directions that your blog looks schizophrenic.

Some examples I’ve seen around the web:

  • Witty blog titles which mean something to the blogger, but to hardly anybody else.
  • No blog byline. Or a byline which is so vague (or witty) as to be completely meaningless.
  • Blogs running “make money” affiliate banners, yet have nothing to do with making money. Almost always a result of trying to copy other bloggers and make a buck. But, it splits the message up by putting those kinds of things on unrelated blogs.
  • Trying to be all things to all people. Some consultant’s blogs end up defining themselves way too broadly in a mistaken idea that you attract more people with a wider funnel. It usually works out to the opposite, however.
  • Packing too much on screen. And some of it being fairly useless. I had a blogger once argue with me about this. He told me that his retail background means you put something into their view and hope for the “impulse buy”. This kind of logic brought to a blog is asinine. Your sidebar isn’t an “end cap”. πŸ™‚

Branding And Congruence – Fancy Words For Knowing Who You Are

In real life, most of us are interested in different things. On our blogs, you can’t talk about all of it. That is, unless you’re running a personal hobby blog, in which case do whatever you want but don’t expect to make decent money at it.

For a blog to extend into a money-making venture for you, it needs to have a BRAND. It needs to mean something in the minds of the audience. Visually, what goes on the theme has to fit with the brand and have a purpose for being there.

Let me point out these aspects of my own blog (this one). Mainly because I know it best, plus I don’t want to single anybody out in this post.

  • This blog is attached to my name. I’ve give it a recognizable logo that I use on other things (for congruence). I also did it strategically because I wanted to brand my name as a professional blogger.
  • The byline reads “Confessions of a Six Figure Blogger”. It is clearly visible at the top of the site. In less than a second, it defines the brand. This is especially important when using a name or a made-up word, because it won’t have a brand otherwise.
  • The rotating photos are designed to show me living a lifestyle. The confession for you is that it was done for psychological reasons. The location of each photo is there, too. It shows I’ve done a lot of traveling. In the “make money” niche, it all usually boils down to increased freedom. Hence, the photos.
  • Blueprint report is featured in the header. Backs up the branding. It was intentional to have my report be “Six Figure Blogger Blueprint” and my byline have the words “six figure blogger”.
  • I don’t run ads on this site unless they are for my own product. I want to back up my OWN branding, not somebody else’s. Plus, it is smarter business than selling ads.
  • My photo in the sidebar (under “About Dave”) is used pretty much everywhere else, too. On Twitter, on Facebook, as my gravatar when commenting on other blogs. If I ever change that photo, I will change it everywhere else, too. Again, it is about congruence. I want it to be recognizable regardless of the point of contact with my brand.

On a related note, if you head over to PCMech.com (the tech blog I run), you’ll not find a peep of any of this except in my author bio, where I do link to this blog. Why? Because nothing I talk about on this blog fits the PCMech brand.

Over there, I am a different character. Same me, but I only talk about what backs up the PCMech brand when I’m writing for PCMech.

Defining Yourself For New Readers

So, how do you apply this to your own blog? Well, the first step is to figure out who you are. What do you want to represent in the minds of your readers? It should be a rather singular focus, too. Imagine the confusion that would ensue if I tried to start talking about blogging over on PCMech.

[I know. I tried it once. It went over like a fart in church. That crowd doesn’t care about blogging.]

So, I encourage you to think about the following:

  1. Is the content you produce consistent with a singular brand?
  2. Is your blog’s logo unique and representative of your brand?
  3. Are you using a blog sub-title (or byline) which clearly spells out what you’re about? Remember, you need to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” for your reader. Because that’s what they want to know.
  4. If you’re using any images in your header, do they back up the brand? Do they mean anything at all? Don’t just pack images up there for the sake of doing it. Do it for a reason.
  5. Are you running ads on the blog which are completely off-brand for you?
  6. Are you using brand congruence among all your other online channels? Use same image across all social networks, for instance?
  7. When building your list, does the thing you give away tightly back up your brand? Can you title your giveaway to tightly fit your brand?

An Exercise (If You’re Brave Enough To Hear The Answer…)

Before I wrap up, let me leave you with an interesting exercise that will likely prove to be a very eye-opening experience for you.

Grab somebody who isn’t a reader of your blog and doesn’t know what it is you do online. Have that person visit your blog. Have them start talking out loud to tell you what their immediate impression is. Have them, in their own words, tell you what it is they think you blog about. Watch how they interact with your blog.

The answers may surprise you.

Here’s What I Want You To Do Now…

  • Post a comment below and tell me at least one thing you’ve picked up from this post which you see you need to implement on your own blog. And tell me what you’re going to do.
  • If you found this post helpful to you at all, share it with others using the retweet button to the lower right (or wherever you like hanging out online).
  • Stay tuned, because I’ve got some awesomesauce on the way. πŸ™‚

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Responses

  1. I need to develop a byline for my blog. This will allow me to complete my blog header, which in turn can be used as my Twitter, Facebook, etc headers.

  2. Great concept and a gold-mine of information for my new business blog. I like the idea of congruence and being the ‘face’ of your business in all related aspects yet keeping second business unknown to a potentially uninterested audience

  3. I pretty much hate black and really dark backgrounds for sites because they are much harder for me to read. I will generally click off and not bother. I'm irritated at the moment because one of my themes has a black background for the featured area with white text and I haven't been able to figure out how to change it. I guess it boils down to your readership and want works for them.

  4. I don't have a problem with the whole Disqus thing but then I just am who I am when I'm talking to folks online even when my blog has a different name. I actually prefer to see the person when reading a comment rather than a blog-related icon.

  5. I found it interesting and at first I thought it was a site for a children's writer but now I'm just not all that sure. πŸ™‚ There's some interesting stuff but my quick impressions didn't seem to pan out as I quickly went over some of your pages. I got the feeling it was kids but then after reading I wasn't so sure.

  6. Inspired by Jools and his bravery (and yes, also a little bit because you guys were so kind to him) might I ask you to do me the same favour? Timing is a wonderful thing. I spent much of Friday agonising over my site design. It was repelling some people but have eventually come to conclude that it repels people who are not 'my people' (to borrow a phrase from the lovely Catherine Caine.)

    If you could spare a few minutes of your time, I'd love to hear what first impressions you get about my place. And don't worry, if it repels you, just tell me what it reminds you of. I'm made of thick stuff. I can take it. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks πŸ™‚

  7. Yes – good post. I got the idea of using a a sub title to quickly tell people what my blog is all about. I also I like the idea of posting a picture – not of me, but of something that will be relevant to the blog.
    Thanks

    Ned Hackett

  8. Jools, unless there's some surprise several posts in, the “international train travel” theme is pretty clear. I've subscribed via Google Reader, by the way. Displays fairly well, even on my netbook screen. Back to reading…

  9. I'm going to ask someone here at this coffee shop to look right now at my brand new site to tell me what they think it is about. Great idea. Thanks.

  10. I learned from your blog that I need more clarity of purpose so that I can accurately and clearly convey that with a consistent message through my words, graphics and photos. I want the reader to know immediately exactly how they will benefit from reading my blog.
    What will I do? I plan to send out a survey to all my current clients asking them how they benefit from my services and what do they think of when they think of me. Stuff like that. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the post!

  11. Damn good post brother.

    I was teaching a social media class a few weeks ago and I used my own blog (for the 1st time) to ask the crowd what they 1st thought when they saw my blog. I was doing it for branding example. I got all the stuff I expected…freedom, contemplative, spiritual etc. It was awesome to hear that my proper message was conveyed.

    However on that note I know I've still got a lot of work to go in order to narrow the direction of my blog. Right now it's about 89% personal development and I offer personal coaching but I also offer social media & blog consulting too. (Can we say pc mech meets davidrisly.com?)

    The fact is I've had to create “space” in order for my purpose to make itself present. It's been a process of which I've been down many different rabbit holes. As I've tasted a bunch of different flavors of kool-aid I've begun defining what juices me more.

    Is it personal development or is it social media & blogging?

    I realize I'll require to break off to another blog if I'm going to pursue both of them in a proper niched manner or figure out a way to be one or the other. (Create my own category maybe ala Dan Kennedy?)

    I'm actually very interested to see what you come out with brother.

  12. I see blogging as a tool to achieve an end. People respect people who have done it. And that is why your book title works. What I am interested in is your experiences making it successfully in blogging. I've been around the world twice so travel does not impress me. It may impress others as a sign of success. Your logo while well designed misses the mark. You are being interesting rather than interested. Your web address is the same. It seems popular for people to use their names as their addresses. But it is like you said in the article, What's in it for me? That's why “confessions of a six figure blogger” blogger works. Not because I want to make 6 figures but because it is a measure that you succeeded in blogging and I want to know how.
    The new idea of “BRAND” seems like the old idea of Positioning as laid out by Jack Trout in the book by that name. Well worth the read for those who want true fundamentals rather than a quick fix.
    This article reminded me that I had done surveys when I started. I asked why people wanted their child to do well in school. And the answer was so that they could have a better future. A variation of that will give me what I will say when people arrive at my web site to see what I am all about.
    This was a good post. It got me thinking in the right direction. There are jewels in what you write.

  13. I think I need a distinct logo. In the 1980’s I wrote two books and traveled around the country teaching and lecturing. Then I took about 20 years to go to college and amass graduate degrees and be a professor… I’m trying to go back to my 80’s life and restart that side of me.

  14. Hi Sandy – you rarely see it because of legibility. It is so much easier to read Dark text on a Light background than the other way around. This is why you don't see it too often.

  15. It is hard to decide which to post as. I think it is a problem when using disqus system because it only allows you to have one profile. I think posting comments in your personal name is better but its not my name I am branding on my blog. I have a site that brands my name and site that brands my work. with wordpress at least you can associate a gravitar for an email and use separate emails when posting comments. But disqus you can have several websites but all the same profile Kind of sucks, what do you think?

  16. 'Grab somebody who isn’t a reader of your blog and doesn’t know what it is you do online. Have that person visit your blog. Have them start talking out loud to tell you what their immediate impression is. Have them, in their own words, tell you what it is they think you blog about.'

    The best suggestion. Thanks.

  17. I see a lot of blogs or site (which is quite famous I guess) using theme with white or pale background and black font. Maybe as a blogger we should play with the color of our theme? Is there any particular color that can make the readers into buyer in your experience?

    I notice some small restaurants near my house using orange-yellow paint and they are having a lot of buyers. Then I start to see it in blog/site, a lot of popular site/blogs are using pale background and dark font. I rarely see the dark background and pale font.

  18. Great post! I've got a name that I really like–Imperfect Clarity–and a tagline that I really like: “a continuing state of clearness of thought and style.” And I love my logo. BUT… it's that “branding” that I'm looking for. Currently I don't have the cash to hire a professional to design my blog so I'm tweaking it on my own. I have a couple things I want to do–pulling all the most recent posts from the network of blogs I have and displaying them on the front page is the biggie.

    So, once you have a logo and a title and a tagline… how else can you focus your brand? I have a few varied interests that I want to talk about–how do I brand a small network?

    (Suddenly I want to go and search all your blog posts for “branding” :))

  19. They can certainly go together. If you look at what I do here, my products are on separate sites, but I use this blog to draw traffic to them.

    I checked out your blog and you seem to be staying on topic pretty well. I didn't browse into your archives, but the front page looked fine in terms of content.

  20. Definitely. This is also one of the problems with using popular WP themes. You end up looking like a lot of other people. Best bet is to modify them somewhat.

  21. Well, even if you dont have products, fine tuning a brand is still important. I understand not all bloggers have their own wares.

  22. It's hard to say. It really comes down to what communicates your brand to your readers. I'm assuming the site I clicked into from your name isn't the one you're talking about?

  23. Really enjoyed this post. I am doing somethings right and working towards others. Off to share this with some newbie bloggers who get so much out of it. Thanks!

  24. So in my branding I have the name of my business and then my byline. So should my blog feature my byline, or something else more suited to blogging? If it helps My business name is “Freedom's Realm Studios Family and Event Video” and the byline is “Because your life is not a scrapbook, its the Feature Presentation”. Any help would be appreciated πŸ™‚

  25. Your post clearly hits a raw nerve, many of us don't yet have our own products but do have a following, clearly not on the scale you do yet

    That said your model clearly works and your feedback is valuable

  26. Thought provoking – is it my blog for me or is it to add value to others. That changes the thinking of how I write. Thank you

  27. Thanks David & Jen! Well, this is the problem with using the free wordpress set up, it does limit you in both design and layout, and I agree with you about the urban grunginess, it was best of a bad bunch. I'm upgrading soon to self hosted though, including a train themed domain, I asked for feedback on some my ideas in an earlier post and it was easily my most commented one yet! Trainsonthebrain seemed to go down well.

    I'll take a look at the style sheet thing, do I need proper hardcore html skills for that though?

    Thanks again for taking the trouble to look and comment. I was having one of those 'rock bottom traffic; why do I bother' days, so this has lifted me a little. πŸ™‚

    Jools

  28. The one thing I've picked up, based upon the comparison of this blog with PCMech, is that I need to better differentiate my different blogs. They cover four separate topics (business, music, the Inland Empire, and NTN Buzztime trivia), but they all have exactly the same appearance. This was initially hammered into my brain by a reader of my business blog who stumbled onto my music blog. She thought it was the same blog, and that I was now blogging about music instead of business.

    To-do: differentiate blog appearance!

  29. Hi Dave
    I am confused about brand consistency. I sell sewing patterns (which I design and produce. i.e. 100% my own product). But I blog about sewing and crafting and moms and babies and stuff… because I think just talking about my patterns all the time is too narcissistic. A pro-blogger friend told me she can't tell if my website is “about” my patterns or “about” my blog. I'm confused. Most people in my biz have a blog totally separate from their product website, and that seems wrong to me, for the reasons you stated in your awesome 6 figure blogger blueprint. My question is, you don't really have to decide am I a product website or a blog because, ideally, you should be both, right? Don't they support each other? Either everyone else is wrong or I am. Please advise.

  30. Jools
    I think the theme looks cool, but it looks edgy like you are going to talk about grungy rock bands or something. It doesn't look like its going to be about international train trips – unless they are on really scuzzy trains. You can change you text size easily BTW by editing your style sheet. Edit the “body” font. The old posts is a much bigger fish to fry. Also, the theme is very dark. Kind of emo.
    -jennifer

  31. Yeah, if you have your own products which are related to your topic, you'll do much better giving eyeball space to that than other people's banners.

  32. It definitely pays to show a consistent theme across all the different medium. Visitors will be able to quickly identify. Mine is a new blog, reading through your post makes me feel that i can put a tick against most of the items that you have mentioned. Will keep in mind the other points as i go along… thanks

  33. Yes I've got stuff on my sidebar that is not my own…I've been trying to make a buck as an affiliate…will drag it down as I do have my own products.

    Thanks Dave.

  34. Well the logo is branded and has a by line, how ever I don't have an image of me (who wants to see a beat up old tech?) well I guess I'll put one up and if I haven't scared away any of my readers by next week I'll leave it there…

    Other than that I am doing all of what you already wrote about…

    Now to find someone to read it and watch the reaction, need a non techie though.

    πŸ™‚

  35. Um, good thoughts. I just skimmed it first and found a couple of things in here that I need to go check out on my web site to see if I've accomplished this so thanks. I'm off to check

  36. My kids give me enough solids. πŸ˜‰

    I like your design, but yeah, not very themed to the train thing. Also, I'd recommend you get your own domain rather than wordpress.com. Something with “trains” in URL rather than your name.

  37. This blog? Of course. Altho, I don't feel trapped, because the topics on this blog are what I do all day. πŸ™‚

    But, would I start venting about politics or something on this blog? Never.

  38. Perhaps you've overthinking? I don't know. From my view, it seems like the brand should be natural because its based on you. It doesn't mean every aspect of you has to go into the brand, but if its you, its you. πŸ™‚

    …. if that makes ANY sense at all. πŸ˜‰

  39. That's true, so would you call this a business blog? (I'm guessing yes).

    I just hate being trapped in a niche, perhaps that's why I don't blog anymore.

  40. Just separate things out, dude. Business blog(s) stay consistent. Personal channels, do whatever. I have a Posterous blog for whatever…. altho I haven't used it in awhile. πŸ™‚

  41. Good tips David. Would someone care to do me massive solid (and I don't mean a poo by the way) and visit my blog very quickly and tell me what they think it's about in a nutshell? Unfortunately I have a crappy free wordpress theme which seemed cool at first but doesn't really define what the blog is about designwise, has font that's way too small and is very inflexible in how it displays old posts. I'd be interested in your feedback guys.

    Thanks!

  42. Answering these questions is definitely the hardest part. I'm still working on the whole branding thing. I think I'm finally converging on some answer(s), and hopefully that will be reflected on my blog soon.

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