When we dove in, Kita asked me about the shift my blog took a couple of years ago, from posting any type of recipe (full of sugar, full fat or not) to focusing on healthy recipes , with a smattering of running posts.
She got me thinking…what does it take to shift your focus in branding, and how do you do it without shocking the heck out of your readers?
When I re-branded, I didn’t actually change the name of my blog, so I won’t offer up advice on that aspect of re-branding. However, this article and this article are very helpful if you’re considering a name and URL switch.
#1: Cherry pick your niche
For me, shifting the focus of my blog to healthy eating and healthy living was natural, as I was living that change. In the process of losing 30 pounds, I ate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein. If I was making it and eating it, I was blogging about it. Quite honestly, I had neither the time nor the inclination to make two separate dishes, one to eat and one to blog. It all happened naturally.
On top of the healthy eating, I increased my running mileage while training for a half-marathon and then ultimately a full marathon. Running is a family thing, so it was easy to write about tips and tricks we picked up along the way.
So, what’s your passion? Maybe you adore making desserts, putting together new outfits for your friends or taking photographs of your friends’ kids. If you love it, then I say you should write about it. Readers will feel your passion for the subject if it’s something you love to do and talk about in everyday life.
#2: Introductory post
If you suddenly change your posts from healthy cooking to desserts and more desserts, or from fashion to entertaining, you’re likely to confuse the heck out of your readers. Give them a little heads-up about what’s on the horizon. Tell them the story about what brought you to the decision to change the focus of your blog. More than likely, they’ll appreciate your honesty and will stick around. For me, that post was My Healthy and Weight Loss Journey: Before and After Photos. The support, inspiration and interest I received from that post wiped away any of my worries about shifting the focus of my blog.
#3: Change social media descriptions
Some of your new readers will find you via Google. However, considering that you will likely be lower in Google search to start because of your new focus, it’s more likely that new readers will find you through your social media accounts. The description on each social media account is your opportunity to hook those readers. Let them know what you’re about and the kind of content that they’ll see when they visit your blog. Your social media descriptions should be concise, with a focus on your niche. In 140 characters or less, what should your readers know about you?
Be sure to include the URL of your blog in your social media description so that readers know where to find you. If they have to search for that information, they’ll probably pass right over your account and move to the next blog.
Here are some great tips on How to Rebrand Your Social Media Accounts.
#4: Add useful features
People are busy and don’t always have time to hop around the web, in search of the information they need. Think about what your readers might be looking for and do your best to give it to them.
For my blog, that meant including nutritional information (including Weight Watchers points) with each recipe. In addition, I made specific widgets for frequently searched categories that fit with the focus of my blog, such as Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free and Running Posts, and placed them in the sidebar.
Listen to your readers’ requests, sift through your analytics and think deeply about what you want to provide to your readers. If you feel that certain features will be useful to your readers, ultimately keeping them on your site longer and coming back often to reference that material, dive in and add them!
#5: Supplement with basic posts
One of the easiest ways to establish yourself as an authority on your chosen topic is by writing some “basics” posts. Give your readers the skinny on incorporating healthy habits into their lives, properly measuring baking ingredients or using the basic functions on your camera. While it certainly helps to be a certified pastry chef, a dietitian or a professional photographer, it’s not absolutely necessary if your goal is to share what works for you. (Note: Just be careful not to provide advice that is best left to an expert. If you don’t know the answer, don’t make it up. Refer your readers to reliable sources.)
#6: Comment and share in the same niche
Now that you have your social media descriptions in place and you’ve added some useful tools to your blog, it’s time to start reaching out to other bloggers in your niche. Leave meaningful comments on their blogs regularly, which will not only alert those bloggers to the presence of your blog, but may also attract the attention of some of their readers. What did you like about their post? What was the most helpful you thing you got out of it? Do you have a helpful tip to add?
Share generously. Retweet other bloggers’ posts on Twitter, pin their content to Pinterest, share it on Facebook. As I mentioned in my Top 10 Tips for Bloggers, a little blogging karma goes a long way. Not only are you providing your social media followers with links to other content they might enjoy, you’re doing something that those bloggers will appreciate.
Whether you’re sharing your own links or links from other blogs, consider using hashtags to put your social media posts in front of new readers. This simple step has helped me tremendously on Twitter and Instagram.
Something to avoid: Don’t be spammy in your comments. This happens to be a personal pet peeve and you may read other posts that give differing advice. Most blog comment forms give you the opportunity to leave your name (I always use my blog name…branding!) and blog URL above the comment box, which allows readers to click on your name to be directed to your URL. So, there’s really no need to leave your blog URL or link to a specific post or giveaway in the comment itself, unless the blog author has specifically asked for links. I always see gratuitous links as spammy. No one wants to be that person!
#7: Sharing sites
In the food blogging world, there are a multitude of recipe sharing sites, such as Foodgawker and Tastespotting. When I first starting posting healthy recipes, I searched on Google and asked fellow bloggers for recommendations about sharing sites that were specific to healthier fare. It turns out there are a few of them, such as Healthy Aperture, WholeYum and Finding Vegan. Sharing my recipe links to these sites helps to put my recipes in front of more sets of eyes. Also, sites such a Buzzfeed and Huffington Post often look through sharing sites for recipes to include in round-ups. Traffic bonus!
#8: Host an event
At the beginning of this year, I paired up with my friend Liz of The Lemon Bowl to host a 6-week #HealthyNewYear challenge. We built a wonderful, engaged community who supported each other throughout the challenge, both through comments on our blogs, as well on a dedicated challenge Facebook page. Hosting the challenge not only gave us the opportunity to share what we considered to be important with our own readers, but also allowed us to introduce our readers (and brand contacts) to each others’ blogs.
As I learned when I teamed up with 10 other food bloggers for our Red Faced Runners 5k Challenge, people want to be a part of something bigger. Droves of readers, some of whom hadn’t exercised for years, followed along with our training plan and ran 5k races in their hometowns, all on the same weekend. It was exhilarating and rewarding to see so many people inspiring and encouraging each other to do something that they may not have done on their own.
What sort of event would fit with the message of your blog? It could be a completely online endeavor, or you could host an in-person event in your city, sharing the experience with your readers through your blog and social media.
#9: It’s okay to branch out
You’re building your post repertoire, gathering new followers on your social media accounts and becoming a “go to” within your niche. And now you’re completely freaked out at the thought of posting about something outside your niche. I get it. I felt the same way when I first started blogging about my healthier lifestyle. That meant I should blog healthy recipe after healthy recipe after running post and nothing else, right? Well, sort of.
Yes, for the most part, you want to give your readers what they expect. If you’re a fashion blogger and you post a week’s worth of kids’ crafts or birthday party ideas, you run the risk of confusing your readers (and potentially losing them). However, a post here and there is liberating and will even give your readers welcome insight into another side of your personality and some of your other interests. If you post about healthy foods, but really want to tell your readers about a great dessert tasting that you attended, go for it! After all, it is YOUR blog.
#10: Be okay with reader shifts
What if you lose readers? Is this re-branding really worth it? In my opinion, if you’re shifting to something you’re really passionate about, it is definitely worth it! Yes, you are going to lose readers, but you’ll learn to be okay with that. Why? Because the old readers that enjoy your photos and writing, and like YOU will keep coming back. And because the new readers will start streaming in as you fill your blog with quality content that interests them.
Did I keep all of my readers from the early years? I highly doubt it. But that’s okay because I’m not only content with, but excited about my new niche. And it turns out that there are plenty of readers out there that are just as excited as I am!
If you have re-branded your blog, I’d love to hear any tips and experiences you want to share.