Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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by Jennifer Brown Banks
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Most savvy writers today recognize the importance of blogging as a promotional tool. There's no disputing that blogs are essential to building a solid "platform," increasing your visibility, and creating additional income opportunities for your writing business.
Successful ones have even launched book deals with major publishers, creating real "rags to riches" stories. Yet, a major obstacle for many is how to "brand" their blog so that it stands out in a sea of many -- to attract potential clients, a loyal fan base, and be worthy of the huge time commitment it entails.
Consider the following statistics:
Here's what I've discovered in a nutshell: You must consider your blog as a "brand" in the truest sense of the word, for a competitive edge. For optimal results, look no further than the process by which the brands you enjoy every day in your home go from a creative concept to a "must-have" item on your weekly grocery list.
But, first let me give you a little "back story" to today's story...
As a frugal freelancer, I pride myself in being an educated consumer. One of the cardinal rules of shopping is never to shop when you're hungry. But, I was. In fact, on this particular day, I had a craving as intense as a woman soon to give birth. A sweet tooth that refused to be ignored. Seduced by the many smells, pretty packaging, and fancy labels, I landed upon an unfamiliar brand that was plain, but economically priced. It was a Double Dutch Apple Pie priced at $2.99 identified as "L'Oven Fresh," sold at my local Aldi's Food Store. I figured I'd give it a try. Famished, I immediately opened it when I got home, not really expecting much. After all, you get what you "pay" for. Right?
Forgive my use of the word, but it was, well... orgasmic. OMG! it was the best apple pie I've had in years; even including the ones I've ordered at fancy restaurants. That simple pie took me back to the type of aromatic, delicious baked goods our moms and grandmothers used to make with love and care for Sunday dinners. So impressed, the next time I went to Aldi's I tried their wheat bread; I had the same joy. To make a long story short... to date, I have purchased many of L'Oven Fresh baked items because of the "reputation" they established by consistently providing quality goods at a great value.
You can create a similar "user experience," expand your "fans," and distinguish your blog through the following timely tips.
THE TASK: To create a great user experience that encourages repeat "visits" and future sales.
THE STRATEGY: Like many other Internet "surfers" I have stumbled upon new sites randomly, while researching certain topics, or by way of blogrolls and links. The ones that I "book mark" and ultimately subscribe to are the ones that give a great first impression and provide an enjoyable user experience. Here's a simple checklist to see if yours would pass the test.
Assess and respond accordingly.
THE TASK: To establish trust.
The Pareto Principle states that 80% of business comes from 20% of your customers. One reason that this probably prevails is that clients and consumers prefer giving repeat business to those whom have established their trust and met their needs.
For blogs, this credibility is often determined by one's Google Page rank, which assigns a value of 1-10 based upon quality links, original content, and valid information being presented on a blog site.
THE STRATEGY: Earn trust by providing well researched, accurate, thorough information. Check sources. Don't accept guest posts by people who create crappy, spam-like content, in exchange for a link. Make sure that your articles are consistent in what the headlines promise. Don't attempt to dispense "expert" advice in areas in which you have little professional experience. The key here is to have your name associated with quality and reliability.
THE TASK: To give readers value for their "investment."
Let's face it. We live in a day and age where everybody is forced to do more with fewer resources. True? It's for this reason that the successful blogger is one that respects other's time, readership and support.
THE STRATEGY: Provide readers with more bang for their buck. This can be established through sharing engaging, unique posts that get to the point, are void of hype, and are substantive in nature. Additionally, as an added bonus, I like to provide related links, recommended resources, interviews, contests, and book reviews at my spot, for a well-rounded site that adds value to the blogosphere. Here's another article that gives great pointers on how to effectively brand your blog: http://heidicohen.com/20-tips-to-brand-your-blog/
THE TASK: To stand out, be distinguished and remembered.
THE STRATEGY: No discussion of branding would be complete without 'packaging."
For bloggers, this would include a tagline that identifies the mission of your blog, a professionally designed logo, and your theme. Each component plays a role in your online image and how you and your business are perceived by readers. For example, my blog for writers has a tagline of : "Know more. Grow more." The logo is a green pen with gold lettering to symbolize growth and prosperity. It has a traditional font style, a conservative style, and a professional appearance. What does yours say about you? Just like manufacturers devote time, creativity, surveys, and money to crafting a cohesive, recognizable, clever brand, you should too.
Here's what a few noted authors advise on branding your blog successfully and overcoming common pitfalls:
The biggest mistake on blogs is not keeping them updated. If I go to a site that hasn't had a post in months, I assume it's defunct. This is never more true than when you change contact information. If you're lucky enough to have a potential client find your blog and want to hire you, make sure your email and phone are up to date!"
---Wendy Burt, "The Query Queen," author of The Writers Digest Guide to Query Letters
"Branding an author blog helps readers know what you write about, who you are, what you stand for, what you generally are "about." That's why I tell writers to consider what other books they will write--series and spin-offs, so they can blog about these as well as the first book. They should create their blogs with an umbrella theme that encompasses all the topics they want to write about now and in the future. They should think about if they are the "XX Coach or Expert." Branding makes them and their site recognizable, like the Nike swoosh. And they can carry this branding out across their social networks and everything they do with logos, colors, etc.
A common mistake is not having the foresight to consider the other books and projects they want to take on, so basically not having a big picture of who they are and what they do. They need to take the time to ask others -- get a different perspective. Don't get locked into just being the "one-book" author. They should also ask for help in designing the site. It should look professional."
--- Nina Amir, award-winning blogger & author of The Author Training Manual, (Writers Digest Books, Feb. 2014)
"It's important for authors and writers to "brand" their blogs because your brand clarifies who you are, what you do and who you serve. Be careful not to be confusing and inconsistent in your message."
--- Marcie Hill, author of 62 Block Posts to Overcome Bloggers' Block
This article is not available for reprint without the author's written permission.
Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, pro blogger, and ghost writer. Her guest posts have been featured at "top-dog" sites such as: Men with Pens, ProBlogger, Daily Blog Tips, and Write to Done. Visit her site at http://Penandprosper.blogspot.com/.