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Random Thoughts: Blog Identity

RT

…Name

When deciding to become a book blogger one of the first ways to establish its identity is to create a name. If you want to tell the world, “Hey, this is my blog and I plan on talking about books!” a name like Rachel’s Book Corner or Rachel’s Reading Retreat would do just that. By adding your name to its title you’re making it personal, you’re making it yours.

Which is great… most of the time. But it’s not necessarily forward-thinking. If you know yourself to be someone who doesn’t play well with others then there is likely nothing to worry about. But if you decide that blogging solo is too much work and you want to add a partner, then a name change might be in order. Which can muddy your brand. If you use your last name as part of the title and that changes due to marriage or divorce, then once again you’ll likely want to make a change.

Blog name changes, especially if they require a new design and new domain can become costly and challenging. It can also cause some confusion to readers who aren’t frequent visitors. So unless you’re as close to 100% certain as you can be that you’ll never change your blog’s name, you might want to stick with something more neutral.

And the same is true if you’re starting your blog with a partner. Calling it by both your names (Rachel and Nic’s Reviews), or pluralizing it (The Book Ladies), could have the same results if one of you decides to quit blogging.

Design…

But it’s not just a blog’s name that gives it its identity. The blog’s design will do that. Perhaps even more so than its name. (Unless, of course, you add an identifier to your name, such as: Rachel’s Romance Reviews or Rachel’s Paranormal Paradise.)

Your blog’s design is the first thing your visitors will see, before they’ve read even one word on your blog. Your design will give them their first impression of who you are as a blogger. The look of your blog may determine whether someone decides to stop back again, or even whether they decide to read a single word of what you have to say. It might even determine what types of books you receive for review.

Scary, isn’t it?

While you might want to be labeled or typecast, you might not. If the latter, when choosing a look for your blog, think about what types of readers you want, what types of books you’re planning on reviewing, what statement you want your blog to make. Having a very specific design could brand you in a way you don’t want to be.

…Content

And of course there’s the content. Without content your blog is just a name and pretty design. What you write about and how you write will determine who visits. If you like to post about a variety of things you may get an eclectic group of visitors. If you have more specific interests, you’ll likely develop a niche following.

But you expect content to determine your audience whereas you might not have factored in your blog’s name or design when thinking about who you want to reach.

What I’ve Learned…

When choosing my blog’s name I never thought to identify it with myself. I always wanted something more generic. But I did want it to be a bit quirky, as I’m a bit quirky. That’s where the personalization came in for me. Of course I never thought about how difficult it might be to spell. And I never thought about the fact that there might be some who didn’t realize it was a play on the word “fiction.”

Lesson learned: Don’t make your blog name too complicated. People need to find it, be able to spread the word about it. Which means nothing too confusing. Nothing with a lot of symbols or leetspeak. While it may be unique, there is such a thing as being too unique for its own good.

When I first chose a design for Fiktshun, back before it was a book blog, I choose something clean and contemporary. When I started it as a book blog I went with something darker, grittier. It was fall and I was in my “darker” phase at the time.

But I’d always wanted something fairly generic so as not to limit myself in terms of content. I wasn’t sure when I started blogging as to what types of books I planned on reading, so I didn’t want my design to be too specific.

As I hadn’t even thought about things like audience when I first started out – I didn’t even know there was one to be had – I didn’t design my blog with readers in mind. But when I developed an audience I started to worry about changing my design. I didn’t want to exclude anyone or turn them off because of a design change. So when I did make a change, it was fairly minor.

Over the years, with each change I got a bit bolder. But then I started feeling typecast. And as I do not like to be pigeon-holed or labeled, I decided to make a radical change. I call it neutral, some may see it as more of a contemporary design.

I haven’t yet determined whether the change has affected my readership. But I think it has opened doors in terms of types of books received for review.

Lessons learned: Choose a design you’ll want to stick with for awhile. Design change-ups, especially radical ones, can be confusing for your readers. If you’re a new blog, especially, and you haven’t yet built up an audience, consistency is key. And that includes its design.

What you love isn’t always the best option. Not if you want to reach the widest audience or you want your content to encompass a broad range of books and subjects. Whimsical may be fun but it can be limiting. A dark and sexy blog may be what you like to look at, but if all you read are contemporary stories, you could be sending out a mixed message.

You will be labeled, so be sure the design you have will give you a label you can live with. If you’re okay with being branded the “paranormal book blogger” or the “contemps blogger” or the “sci-fi blogger” then go for a look that fits those stereotypes. But if you want to avoid such specific labels, then choose something more middle-of-the-road. By no means does that mean generic or boring – personality is important.

One thing I have been fairly consistent with is content. At least I think I have. While I have posted about a variety of different things, I’ve always kept it in the bookish realm. And while my blog is mostly YA, it’s not exclusively so.

But I’ve always tried to ensure that what I post on my blog meets my standards of “worthiness.” I always include my personal opinions and thoughts in every single post. I never post something I’m uncomfortable with posting.

So while my blog’s identity may change somewhat in the types of books I read and the things I discuss, its core identity has been pretty much the same since its inception.

But the choices I’ve made haven’t always been the right ones for me and my blog. I have learned a few lessons along the way.

Lessons learned: Don’t be too rigid. Being rigid will get you into a rut. Blogging will become boring. Your readers might become bored. You’ll find yourself dissatisfied as the years pass if you aren’t flexible. Mix things up a bit. Add some variety into what you post.

Don’t be too much of a perfectionist. Blogging is supposed to be enjoyable. If you’re constantly seeking perfection you will be setting yourself up for failure every single time. And it won’t be fun. You won’t have a good time.

If it doesn’t work, change it. If you find yourself struggling with the reviews you write, the discussion posts you create, the tips and tricks you share, the memes you participate in, don’t feel you have to keep doing them or doing them in the same way. If what you like to read has changed, don’t feel obligated to keep reading those same books just to please your audience.

…Things I’ve Observed

People have had to Google my site to find it because they couldn’t figure out how to spell my blog’s name. Even with a misspell it can still be found. Thankfully.

Visitors to my blog have either loved or hated my blog’s designs at various points in its history. There is no such thing as a universally appealing blog design.

Going for a more neutral blog design has increased the number of approvals I’ve received on non-PNR/UF books. Coincidence?

Reviews tend to be my least trafficked posts. Too long?

Random Thoughts posts tend to be my highest trafficked posts, aside from popular tours. Why do I write reviews again?

Top Tens Lists will almost always draw in a crowd.

Character-related guest posts are always more popular than other guest posts or interviews.

In the blogosphere rants and complaints posts tend to be hugely successful posts. But at what cost?

What Have You Learned or Observed?

In your time as a book blogger have there been any mistakes you’ve made or lessons learned when it comes to your blog’s name, design or content?

What have you done to “fix” things? Has it worked?

Do you think your blog’s identity adequately reflects who you are as a book blogger? Do you think it limits you?

Have you been feeling typecast because of your blog’s design or name? Have readers been surprised when your content contrasts with your blog’s name or appearance?

Have you changed as a book blogger but feel like your blog’s identity hasn’t changed with you? Do you think changing its identity to match who you are now will have an effect on your readership/following?

What do you think of your blog’s identity?

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