Creating A Brand Is Vital
With so many blogs out there it's incredibly important to create a place that's instantly recogniseable and differentiated from everyone else. Although it's easy to just replicate what the 'successful bloggers' are doing, creating your own brand and identity is the key to long-term success. When I launched this site I didn't include my name or photo, just the pseudonym that I built my brand upon; this then evolved into a clear London theme and colours which helped me stand out over the years. Now I'm more established I don't need such an obvious visualisation, but my style of writing and topics covered are still very clearly part of my brand. It's really easy to curate a site when you have a clear objective and perimeters within to work - so treating your blog like a brand is the first step on that ladder.
Imagery Is So Important
Five years ago it was the norm to fill your posts with stock images or pictures found from google, getting bloggers into all kinds of trouble from companies such as Getty. As we evolved we all started taking badly lit and unfocused snaps on our smartphones, before gradually the trend of the DLSR hit and we all started to spend a fortune on photography equipment. I was very hesitant to make photography the focus of my site (as I believed my writing should be the important factor,) but since making a significant effort to up the standards of my imagery I haven't looked back. Brightly lit, well composed and aspirational pictures create a great atmosphere and help to illustrate your words perfectly; they're the first hurdle in getting a reader to spend time digesting your words and coming back for more.
Relationships Are Key
At the start of my blogging journey there was no such thing as a relationship with a brand or PR; blogs simply weren't a focus or concern and readerships were teeny tiny. However, as blogs started to take off, more and more brands got in touch with offers of samples and requests for coverage. Although I've been a right diva in my time and probably done some regrettable things, the relationships I've built in the last few years are invaluable. Relationships not only ensure I have content and ideas to share with my readers, but they also ensure I have commercial opportunities that allow me to pay the bills. Working with like-minded people (or even helping to educate those that blogging is still a very new concept for,) is great at moving both the bloggersphere and my individual site forward.
Don't Be Pressured Into Anything
When something is new, it's easy to just go with the flow and agree to anything and everything for the possibility of a free mascara. Back in the day I'd happily participate in blogger competitions, write up posts on new advertising campaigns or feature a pre-written interview with a celebrity - but as times have changed I've learned to say no and identify when something just isn't right for the site. It's important to stand up for yourself, not to be pressured into anything and to decline opportunities. Although there will undoubtedly always be someone else biting off their hand, if you don't feel comfortable then just say no; at the end of the day, you're not losing anything by stepping back but you could lose integrity or respect if you do something that's not suited to your site or readers.
Copying other people never works. They may have reached a successful point by undertaking one tactic or route, but there's no guarantee replicating it will yield the same results. I see hundreds of blogs that all look identical, thousands of instagram accounts that all look like they're by the same person, tonnes of YouTube channels that all offer 'what's in my bag' videos - being unique helps you stand out in a crowd. You may have wanted to blend in while in school, but now it's time to stand up and do something a little bit crazy - it's ok to be an attention seeker!
Listen To Your Readers
Your readers are the heart of your site, so listening to them is key. If they're loving a specific type of post, then give them more. If they start to comment and say you're rubbish and answering questions, start answering them - yep, guilty as charged! For a long time I had the attitude of 'this is my site, my rules, my content,' but it's absolutely essential to work with your readers to ensure you have a site that's really engaging and working for both of you. Blogs are different from other forms of media because the instant conversation they generate; it's vital to embrace that and work it to your advantage.
Do What Feels Right
Our gut instinct is often wiser than our brains, so if you feel something could work for you - do it. I've tried and tested many different features over the years, from brand focus posts and top three round-ups, to 'how you wore it' features and socially sourced content. However, there often becomes a point when it's obvious if something is no longer working (or equally when you have a great idea you know will take off.) Listen to your instincts and remember that the beauty of the internet is that you can change and delete things at the click of a button. Try and test, review and update - never stop trying to innovate, but always do what feels right.
Hard Work Pays Off
It's simple, but it's true. So many bloggers get in contact with me to ask how they can get on press lists or nab some free stuff, but it's so obvious when you're not in it for the right reasons - both to readers and brands. I live and breathe this site (and have done for five years,) so there's so secret to my success other than I've worked my backside off to get where I have. I don't have the biggest site or the biggest readership, but I've slowly carved a niche that works for me - and it pays dividends. Working hard is the simplest piece of advice I could ever give, and it's a piece of advice I regularly reinforce myself when I'm feeling a bit defeated.
Are you a blogger that's seen huge changes in the last few years? What have you learned or identified since your site's inception? I'd love to hear from you...
(If you're a blogger that wants to learn how to market yourself, ensure you have a clear USP and work with brands in the most effective manner, why not come along to my new workshop? Only ten slots are available, with tea and cake provided! There will also be goodie bags and fabulous stationary provided to set up up in the most elegant way. Check out the itinerary and buy tickets here.)