There are so many reasons why a brand is a vital ingredient in a successful blog. Learning how to create your own brand is therefore key for your blog’s long-term success
Learning How to Create a Successful Brand
Think of a few different companies whose products or services you enjoy. It could be a restaurant chain, a musical instrument company, a sports goods supplier – anything. Now think about the company as a whole, and how you feel about their brand. Who are they? What do they stand for? How do they get their identity across? The same questions apply to your hiking blog – and in today’s guide, we’re going to break down how to create your own brand.
‘But surely my blog is just my blog?’ you might ask. A brand can seem like something that would only fit in the world of corporate marketing, and it’s not always easy to see how this applies to something like a personal website. But it does.
Your brand is the manifestation of exactly who, what, and why your blog is. It’s the ethereal presence your blog occupies in the minds of your readers – it’s what keeps current followers interested, and helps you to gain new followers quickly. It’s an important stage of the blogging process, and there are a few things to think about:
What is a Brand?
When we think of ‘brands’, most of us probably think about something like a corporate brand, such as Ferrari, or Microsoft. We associate those companies with something more than just the products they offer – Ferrari might make us think of elegance, class, power, and luxury, whereas Microsoft might conjure thoughts of innovation and progression. Importantly – it’s not their products that make us think of that, it’s the brand. A brand is made up of several different elements, and these all apply to your blog. These include:
- Tone of voice
Admittedly this is a little bit reductive, and it isn’t as simple as just picking some colours, designing a logo, and choosing to write in a chatty voice – there’s a little more to it than that. Most importantly, a brand is an identity. It’s the beating heart of your blog – it’s the identity you build for your website and the identity that people associate with your writing.
Why Should You Create a Brand?
There are myriad reasons why a brand is a vital ingredient in a successful blog, and when asking yourself how to create your own brand it’s important to remember the benefits it will bring in the long run. What it all boils down to is consistency and recognisability.
A strong brand is something your readers will be able to associate you with instantly. They’ll know that when you publish an article, they’re going to enjoy it even before they’ve opened the site, because you’ve spent time ensuring your blog is consistent. It gives your readers faith in your content and makes it easier for them to convert from casual visitors to loyal fans swiftly.
This means that not only will new followers be more likely to convert to regular and committed visitors, but those who already enjoy your site will continue to come back for more. It also makes your own life a lot easier: if you have a strong brand identity that you use as a framework, deciding what content to put together, and how to do so, becomes a lot more straightforward and focussed.
What do You Need to do?
First things first – you’ll need to work out exactly how best to start building your brand. It goes without saying that this is an ongoing process, and as you gradually build your blog, you’ll gradually strengthen your brand.
When working out how to create your own brand, the first few ingredients you’ll need to get to grips with include deciding on a name, figuring out your tone of voice, determining your overall ‘identity’, and – possibly most importantly – working out how this all ties into the ‘why’. Let us explain:
Finding the ‘Why?’
It’s easy, particularly in the early stages of your blog, When thinking about how to create your own brand, you should start with one very important question: ‘why?’. It’s easy to assume that ‘what’ is the most valuable thing to focus on – surely it’s more important to figure out what it is you’re going to write, how you’re going to put the site together, and how often you’ll publish content?
These are all crucial, but when it comes to building the brand for your blog, the most valuable thing to focus on is why you’re creating the site. When we think broadly of brands like Apple, their ethos of innovative, simple, and progressive technology is what stands out – not just their specific products. (This is why so many people preorder the latest iPhone even before the specifications have been released!)
Figuring out this ‘why’ can be a little tricky, but ask yourself a few questions. Why have you started this blog in the first place? Why have you chosen to write about your specific niche and not something else? Why did you choose to make a blog and not a podcast?
Once you’ve come to terms with the core principles of this, try to figure out how to explain it in as few words as possible. If someone asked you ‘why do you run your blog?’ and you can answer with something as concise as ‘Because I want to show people how easy hiking can be to get into’, it’s extremely easy to ensure everything else you do revolves around this clear, central concept.
How to Create a Brand Name
Names are darn tricky. Whether it’s a blog, a business, or a band, figuring out what you’re going to call yourself can be a bit of a nightmare, and it’s easy to go back and forth between ideas, or settle on something only to decide you don’t like it a few days later.
If you have your ‘why’ figured out, this gets a little easier. As a broad guideline, a name should be short, memorable, and specific. It needs to get across who you are, and it needs to fit in a domain URL easily too!
Try to pick a name that relates in some way to your ‘why’. For instance, take Roaming Spices. We’re a hiking blog, and we like to travel and visit as many new walking destinations as possible. (We also love spices, and they’re a big part of our life together.) If we were to summarise our ‘why’, it would be because we want to share our experiences of hiking around the world, lending readers the advice we learn along the way, with our unique flavour.
Decide what it is your name needs to get across and try creating a few ‘word banks’ – lists of as many words as you can think of related to your central message, and see if you can pair some together. You can try finding popular phrases that match this too (for instance an interior decor blog could call itself ‘when at home’. You could even play around with words themselves, melding things together and creating something original.
Settling on a Tone of Voice
Your tone of voice is another key element in building your brand. A blog is, fundamentally, comprised of written content, and the way you write will have a big impact on how people perceive your brand identity.
As with other elements of branding, the key thing here is consistency, as well as the concept of ‘alignment’. You need to make sure each element of your branding matches up – if you have a deadly serious aesthetic, and tight professional visuals, but a jokey and colloquial tone of voice, something will feel off to your readers.
A good idea is to think of your brand as a character and try to work out how that character would speak. If you’re offering sage advice and tips, you’ll probably want to adopt a slightly more formal tone, with direct, actionable language. If you’re relaying your own personal experiences, however, it’s probably ok to be a little chatty and to write as you would normally speak.
The main thing here is authenticity. Your brand should be built around you as you write, and fundamentally, it’s usually just best to be yourself!
Colours and Visuals
The visual aspects of your brand are also pretty important. It takes time to read a blog post, but only a few seconds to digest a logo, or the way a website looks. Your visuals will be the first impressions your readers get of your site, so it’s important to make sure these tie in with everything else.
There are a few individual elements to your brand visuals:
- Your logo
Your logo, or the image you use at the top of your homepage, works almost like a visual version of your name. It needs to get across who you are, and convey what it is your blog does.
With this said, it can be tricky to find something perfect. Not all of us are graphic designers, and actually coming up with an original logo can be really hard. It’s often a good idea to go with something simple, such as pure text (just pick a font that fits your overall theme) until you can get some advice from someone with a bit more experience.
- Your site theme
The theme you pick for your site will also be an important choice, as it’s the platform your users will navigate to digest all of your juicy content. Pick a consistent colour scheme, and feel free to try a few different themes out before settling on something. It’s a good idea to get some feedback from trusted friends as you try things, as this side of the user experience is important to get right.
- Your photos
The photos you use across your site are one of the most important visual aspects to your brand, and it’s vital you only include things that truly match up with what you’re offering people. If you’re writing about a place you’ve hiked, then offering photos of the views and locations is good – but if you’re writing specifically about your personal experiences, it might be better to include photos of you there (there’s a time and place for everything, even selfies!)
On a basic note, make sure every photo you upload is of high quality, taken on a decent camera (most phone cameras will do), and it’s clear what it is the photo is actually of…
Creating a Strategy
When it comes to figuring out how to create your own brand, one of the trickiest things is measuring how effective your work is. It’s not the same as the site itself – you can go into google analytics after you’ve published an article, and see exactly how many people have read it, how long they’ve spent on the page, and if they’ve then gone on to read other things. If an article performs well, you can break down what it is that’s working, and apply it to other elements of your site.
With your branding, it’s not as easy to quantify the impact your efforts are having. Branding is an inherently subjective things, so rather than trying to measure it, it’s best to come up with a strong strategy and stick to it – that way you’ll at least know exactly the steps you’ve taken, and you’ll know you’ve done what you can to ensure your brand is as tight as it can be.
Set a schedule to work on each element mentioned above, and document your steps. Make lists of ideas, such as names or visuals, and keep a track of everything so you can see the journey you’ve been on with your branding efforts. Put together some notes on your intended tone of voice, your name ideas, and your ‘why?’. These will be good to refer back to in order to make sure you remain focussed.
When it comes down to it, you probably already have a brand – even if you don’t realise it. Everyone has an identity, and your blog is an extension of that, creating your own brand is just taking those individual elements and unifying them around a central direction.
If you can manage this, your blog will become more than a hub of great content for your readers: it’ll take on something completely different in their minds, and they’ll learn to associate you and your writing with the niche in which you’re writing. And what blogger could ask for more?
Love that you are giving tips that are specific to hiking blogs but also tips that everyone writing a blog can use! I have been trying to find my voice…hoping it is actually coming through in my writing 🙂
Gavin Evans says
Hi Dawna, thanks for the kind words. I know just how difficult this blogging lark is! If what I write helps out my fellow hiking bloggers in some small way, then it is a job well done in my book. I have taken the time to read a couple of your latest posts and I really like your style of writing. It’s natural, informative and really helps to build a picture of what you are experiencing. Your supporting photos are also wonderful! Keep up the good work sharing those beautiful parts of the USA. Best wishes and happy hiking, Gavin