So you want to build a successful blog—a well-read, well-respected space on the Internet. Where do you get started?
Many people would suggest having a gorgeous site, cranking out witty posts, or getting noticed on social media. But actually, there’s an even more important step, and one that should come first: Defining your blog’s brand. After all, in order for people to be interested in what you have to say (and to come back to your blog week after week), they need to know what to expect from you—who you are, what you’re doing, and what you have to offer your readers.
Whether you’re starting a new blog or want to take your existing one to the next level, these three steps will help you define your blogging brand.
Know Your Purpose
The first step to blogging is recognizing why you’re doing it. Do you write to advance your career in a specific field? To improve your writing, or to eventually quit your job and blog full-time? To position your company as a leader in its industry? All of the above (and more) are valid reasons for blogging, but if you don’t first understand your own specific purpose, it’ll be hard to define success.
As you start out, it’s okay to blog about an assortment of things—in fact, this may play an important role in helping you define your brand. But take a look at your most recent posts (or the topics you’ve considered posting about)—do you see a common theme? Are you regularly posting about food or your career or your family or education? Though every post may be different, there’s probably a common thread or two (Sarah Peck, for instance, often writes about family, philanthropy, and personal development), and that commonality is a good indication of the reason you put pen to paper (or keyboard to Word doc, as it may be).
Define Your Personal Brand
If you haven’t heard about the importance of defining your personal brand, you may be living under a rock. But I’m going to reiterate it anyway—because it’s especially crucial as you set out to become a successful blogger.
By definition, your personal brand is the identity you present to the world. I don’t mean that it’s fake or in any way unlike the “real” you; rather, it’s the extension of you that you feel comfortable sharing with the public.
As a blogger, you should always be writing authentically and transparently as yourself, and keeping your personal brand in mind as you communicate is often the easiest and best way to do that. When you’re first starting out, it’s relatively easy to write as yourself, but as you start to attract readers and try to build a following, it can become difficult to remain true to your authentic brand. When you feel yourself going off track, come back to the brand you’ve identified—the realistic extension of you—and write with that in mind.
One simple way to begin identifying your personal brand is to pretend that you are a reporter writing a profile on you for a magazine (Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Vogue, whatever—your choice!). What would the intro to that profile say? Those interesting, compelling, and unique tidbits that a reporter would want to know about—those are the essence of your personal brand.
Identify Your Target Audience
After you’ve defined yourself—or, at least, the you you’d like to share with the world—it’s important to define exactly who you’ll be sharing yourself with. Who’s your target audience?Many people (myself included) have thought: “The whole world is my target audience. I want everyone to read what I write!” That’s nice and ambitious and, of course, very humble of you, but the reality is that not everybody will read (or want to read) your blog. You’re far more likely to see success when you target your content to a specific audience.A helpful exercise is to envision your ideal reader (this is called a “character sketch”). How old is she (or he)? What does she look, sound, and act like? Is she married? Where does she live? Where does she work? What does she do for fun?
Keep this person in the back of your head, and when you write, write to her (or him). Don’t try to write content that’s compelling and interesting and relevant to every single person in the world, because that’s impossible. But you can write content that’s perfectly tailored to your ideal reader. Becoming a successful blogger often takes time and a lot of hard work, but there are key steps you can take to ensure you’re on the right path. Next week, I’ll go into further detail about the specifics of successful blog writing and habits, but today spend some time figuring out your blog’s brand. Having this solid foundation as you get started is a good recipe for success.
Jenna Arak is a soulful storyteller. She shows women how to use the written word to share their story: to teach, to connect, to have an impact on the people who need to read about who they are, what they’ve done, and what they do—because through reading one another’s stories, all of our lives will be changed for the better. Jenna’s mission is to encourage women to follow their dreams, build upon their strengths, and bring new, interesting, and innovative ideas into the world through storytelling. She is also a copywriter, an editor, and a denizen of any bookstore’s self-help section. Her writing has been featured on Salon, Thought Catalog, The Everygirl, The Muse, Darling Magazine, Career Contessa, and more. She lives and writes in Pasadena. You can learn more about her work and her writing at jennaarak.com.