The importance of branding your book blog

The BookDepository

When I started blogging I didn’t give branding a moments thought. I assumed that you only needed to worry about that sort of thing if you were a business, trying to sell a product. It is only in the past few weeks that I have realised how important it is to create a brand for your blog.

I subscribe to 200+ blogs and browse through many more over the course of a month, but if you asked me to name all the ones I subscribe to I think I’d get to about 30 before I started to struggle. The problem is that so many blogs have similar names and so I start to confuse them. This problem was highlighted recently when I wanted to thank a blogger for recommending a book. I went to Jackie’s Bookshelf  instead of Jackie’s Book Blog (blog names have been invented to protect the people concerned, but illustrate the point) and only realised my mistake when I couldn’t find the post I was looking for. I hadn’t even noticed there were two different blogs – I had combined them in my mind.

The importance was further illustrated when someone on Twitter wanted a recommendation for a blog about horror books. I immediately thought of It’s Dark in the Dark, despite the fact that I have only been to the blog once or twice. I think that the majority of book blogs take about 20+ visits for me to get a feel for them and remember their name, whereas this one did it instantly.

Another great example of branding in the book blogging world is Fizzy Thoughts. Her site is so well designed and I remembered it from the very first visit. She also uses the same images consistently across all platforms (twitter, blogger, gravatar etc) ensuring that anything she writes is instantly recognisable as her.

I have realised that I am not doing a very good job of branding my blog. Although I am lucky in that I chose a fairly different name to other book bloggers I need to work on using the same image everywhere, as I think every picture is different at the moment. If anyone knows a great, simple drawing of a farm lane – let me know!

I don’t think it matters that we aren’t trying to sell things. If you want people to remember they’ve visited your blog, and therefore come back, you need to think about branding.

There are lots of great posts on the Internet to help. Some of the best I’ve found are: 

10 Step Beginners Guide to Blogging Your Personal Brand

How to Shape Your Blogs Brand

A Blogger’s Guide to Branding with Social Media

10 Personal Branding Predictions for 2010

Have you thought about branding your blog?

Who do you think does a great job of branding their book blog?

Are there any other things that you should think about when branding?


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75 Comments

  1. Verity says:

    This is another really interesting and thought provoking post. You’re right that a lot of book blogs look the same and the ones that I visit most are those that stand out from the others – although I suppose the branding is more topical than visual. I think your name is recognisable and is more meaningful than Jackie’s books. Mind you I never really think about the name of my blog at all!

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, I think you are right about some blogs being branded by their topic. I always remember ‘In the Spring its Dawn’ because it focuses on Japanese books, but if I only read Japanese book blogs I think I would quickly become confused again.

  2. Beth F says:

    I absolutely believe in branding and I too use the same image (avatar) everywhere, including my blog’s business cards.

    On the other hand, I think it’s fine to have Jackie’s Books as a blog title if you have a unique look and recognizable avatar and template. An overly cutesy name, picked just to be different, can be a turnoff too.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, You are great at branding – so you are right about it being OK to have a name in the title of your blog. I recognise your little picture instantly. I am very impressed that you have business cards for your blog! I can’t think of a time when I’ve needed one.

  3. Interesting post! I think your post is branded well and you are consistent when it comes to commenting under your blog name (I forget and especially on the comments I frequent regularly post as Claire as opposed to Paperback Reader – I’ve just changed it here). I think universal avatars are important for identification and I do that. I only use one social networking site to publicly promote my blog whereas the other one is personal and private (although I import my blog for friends).

    I think I have a memorable enough blog name and am working on branding myself (with a hot-iron brand of a book).

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, You have a very recognisable gravatar too, but I do admit to sometimes becoming confused between you and Claire from Kiss a Cloud in my comments section. Adding Paperback_Reader to your name instantly solves that problem. Good luck with the branding!

  4. Amanda says:

    I”m not sure how well i brand myself, but at least there shouldn’t be any other blogs with my blog name. (please ignore the typoes, the kitteh is sitting on my lap and insists on batting at my fingers.)

    1. Jackie says:

      Amanda, You have a great blog name, but I think you could benefit from a universal gravatar – one with a leaf on? I love the thought of your kitten playing as you type!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Actually Verity, Branding is more Visual than topical. Take J. Kaye’s blog as an example. She has a very distinct Avatar and no matter where you are, Twitter, Get Glue, Ning, Facebook, etc. if you see that avatar, you know it is J. Kaye and you instantly think about her blog. Your visual branding should tie into your topic so that they are easy to recognize like Jackie’s example of In the Dark it’s Dark. That is a perfect name for the type of books that blog has.

    Jackie, I love to see more bloggers thinking about more professional subjects. Although I keep hearing a lot of book bloggers talking about doing it just for fun and not being professionals, I also hear complaints about not being taken seriously. As you have figured out, you can’t have it both ways. You have hit the virtual nail on the head. you MUST brand your blog if you want to stand out in the crowd.

    Examples: Bingo’s blog. With all her flashing lights and blinking stuff and plaid, no one can forget her blog. I can’t go to her blog since I have migraines and all the blinking seems to kick them off just like strobe lights do, but it is very memorable. A Novel Menagerie stands out as memorable as does The Burton Review. But frankly, I don’t go to blogs very often. I do all my reading from Google reader, so I don’t see the actual blog. This means the content has to be really good to get me to the blog to comment and see what it looks like. There are only a few that I actually go to and comment out of the 130 that I read. (Skim actually)

    1. Jackie says:

      Anonymous, Thank you for your thoughtful post! I thought it was interesting that you didn’t want us to know who was providing all the useful information!

      I blog for fun, but I also love learning about new things. I take the attitude that “if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well” It does take a lot of time and effort, so can be a slow process, but I do try to improve wherever I can.

      I am only coming to realise how important visual branding is and aim to create a new avatar soon.

      I also take your point about everything being in Google reader. Do you think that means some of the branding should be in each post?

      1. Rebecca Cox says:

        Actually Jackie, I didn’t mean to be Annonymous. I hit the button too soon and forgot to put my name and email at the top first. I just came back to see if you had replied! too funny lol…..

      2. Rebecca Cox says:

        Jackie, it would be a great device to get that avatar or something into each post so that it is recognizable on google reader. most folks I think use readers and only come to your blogs to comment. The only other time I come to blogs is when I am surfing to find new blogs.

        1. Jackie says:

          Rebecca, Thank you for de-lurking! I thought it was strange to leave such a thoughtful comment anonymously!

          I’ll try to find a way of adding an avatar to each post (assuming I manage to invent one soon!) and see if it looks OK.

  6. Simon S says:

    I have never really thought about whether I brand my blog or not which is interesting as I work for a magazine that is all about the brand. Maybe thats why I havent considered it for the blog as it so much involved in my day to day work and the blog is just for fun. Food for thought!

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, If you work all day in marketing you should find it easy to brand your blog! You have a great blog name – you just need to find an avatar that stands out. I’m really struggling to find something – I wish I was more arty sometimes!

  7. “Examples: Bingo’s blog. With all her flashing lights and blinking stuff and plaid, no one can forget her blog. I can’t go to her blog since I have migraines and all the blinking seems to kick them off just like strobe lights do, but it is very memorable.”

    If it makes you want to leave then it has failed at branding. The whole point of a strong brand is to make you stay and then keep coming back.

    I use Google Reader so what a blogs visual style is doesn’t matter, unless you go to the blog. I skim read some blog entries which has more to do with I’m not interested in the book their reviewing or the topic doesn’t interest.

    I try to have a visual brand with the same logo, same name, same theme etc. I’ve never really paid much attention to it. They also say you should use your own name and have a picture. I like to have my anonymity to be honest…does it matter that you can’t see me? in fact I’ve never really talked about personal stuff…

    hmmm, food for thought

    1. Jackie says:

      DamnedConjuror, I think that you have a great logo. I think that using the same one every where is very important, so you deserve a pat on the back!

      I’m pleased to have given more than one person food for thought! LOL!

    2. Rebecca Cox says:

      DamnedConjuror,
      I actually prefer to see an Avatar and not a picture of the person. I prefer to let my imagination make up the person. That way they can be anything and fit the personality of the blog. I especially don’t like to see pictures of authors. Just a personal thing. I don’t watch music videos either. Can you tell I am an artist? I have a strong imagination and I would rather use it.

      1. Jackie says:

        Rebecca, I think you’re right about using an image rather than a picture of the person. A quick look at twitter is enough to see which avatars stand out – all images or letters – not photos of the owner.

  8. heh…Simon S closed with food for thought too

    what a strange and wonderful happenstance

  9. Gale Laure says:

    Hello,
    I found out about this article on twitter. This is a great idea. I had not thought of this myself. Thank you for the insight.

    GL

    1. Jackie says:

      Gale, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I’m pleased that you found it useful.

  10. I thought about branding from day one. I chose the name Maw Books simply because I couldn’t think of a single person who would even come close to using that name. Not very creative, but you can’t mistake it. I use the same avatar everywhere and I use the exact same color scheme everywhere. This includes my blog, Twitter, Ning, YouTube, etc.

    It helps me a lot when I have a visual to go with the blog.

    1. Jackie says:

      Natasha, Congratulations on thinking about it from day one! I’m a bit slower than you – it has taken me over a year to think about it.

      I love the way I recognise your avator wherever you are – you clearly have your branding sorted. I hope I can say the same next month.

  11. Melanie says:

    I’m currently attempting to get my branding all sorted out. This is a great post to remind me to get a move on it! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Melanie, Good luck with the branding!

  12. Tami says:

    Thanks for the insight. You’ve really got me thinking now. Being brand-new at blogging, this was a concept I hadn’t even considered.

    1. Jackie says:

      Tami, Neither had I when I started. Being able to think about it from the start must be a great benefit. Good luck!

  13. Fyrefly says:

    Since I do probably 80-90% of my blog browsing within Google Reader, consistency “inside” a post is a lot more important to me than the site design or “branding” proper. There are some people whose layout or writing style are instantly recognizeable, and I can go, “Oh, that’s one of ________’s reviews” without even glancing at the title.

    My design, avatar, organization, etc., have all stayed pretty consistent since day 1, but I don’t think I ever would have thought to call it “branding.”

    1. Jackie says:

      Fyrefly, That is a very interesting point. I’m not sure how many posts I’d be able to recognise without knowing who they belonged to. I’ll have a good look at my google reader later and see what lessons I can learn.

  14. Aarti says:

    Great post, Jackie! I never thought about branding when I started my blog, mainly because I never thought anyone would actually read it ;-) I also always write any comments as Aarti. However, my name isn’t that common in book blogging, so it’s ok, I feel :-) Also, Aarti is part of my blog WEBSITE, even if it’s not part of the blog TITLE.

    I like my blog header and I have, after reading this post, now made that same header into my Twitter avatar. I get a lot of compliments on it, too, so that’s nice! But I don’t know if I really “brand” my blog. I think the blogs I follow more closely are ones that focus on the types of books I like to read. I don’t think I’ll ever have hundreds or thousands of followers because I don’t ever read popular fiction or bestsellers or chick lit, and those are generally the most popular genres and those blogs tend to have the most giveaways and the like. It’s really important to me that my blog is ME and independent. So I get nervous to host giveaways of books I would never read, or to do author interviews that might “promote” one book, when I don’t do it for the others. I don’t know if that is branding, exactly, but I hope it keeps my blog on the route I like for it.

    I also really think you do well with the branding here on Farm Lane- really glad I came across your blog. Don’t remember how I did, but it must have been fate ;-)

    1. Jackie says:

      Aarti, I agree that it is OK to use Aarti – I don’t think I’ve seen any others!

      You do have a very recognisable header, so I think it would make a great avatar.

      I agree that my primary reason for following blogs is the type of book they read, and branding doesn’t matter for my favourite blogs. It is the 150+ blogs which aren’t in my favourite folder that need to work on their branding so that I remember them.

    2. Rebecca Cox says:

      Aarti,
      I am personally glad you don’t do what everyone else does. That is how I found Jackie. I get very bored seeing the same book a thousand times. And there are a lot of us that read a lot of other books besides best sellers and chick lit.
      Rebecca aka ccqdesigns

  15. Annabel says:

    Jackie – you’re really making us think recently which is fantastic – I think you have a great brand which is getting stronger all the time. Great post.

    I wish I had more time to work on making my blog look brilliant, (a holiday project perhaps). I do use the same avatar – everywhere except my blog ironically, that’s where I hide! But I hope my name is recognisable – even if it’s just my surname and initial the other way around, but I should be more consistent with it too! Some good tips from you and the other commenters.

    I don’t use a Reader, so I am influenced by blog design – I like a clean look without too much clutter, and good use of the sidebars! However, it’s the content that’s important and the personality of the blogger, but a combination of the two will make me come back more often…

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, Thank you for the kind words! I didn’t realise that it was your surname – that is such a great idea! You are already doing a better job than me in using a consistent avatar, but good luck with any blog improvement you decide to undertake – it always seems to take so long!

  16. Thanks for the great post! I just started my book blog last week, so this is good to think about. I mean, I’m doing it for fun, but I also want to be part of the book blogging community. If the community can’t really remember who I am, then it will be hard to develop those online shared-interest friendships that can be so enjoyable.

    I’ll see if I can work on my avatar this weekend – perhaps a bookmark in a book, considering my blog name.

    1. Jackie says:

      Christy, Welcome to the blogging world! You have a fantastic blog and I’ve just added you to my reader! Good luck with the branding – you are at a big advantage by thinking of these things at the beginning.

    2. Rebecca Cox says:

      Christy,
      I would love to subscribe to your blog after looking at it, but I don’t see where I can do that and when I go to the usual Bookmarks/Subscribe it won’t let me subscribe in a reader. What’s up? I am not a blogger so can be no technical help. Maybe someone can help me.

      1. Jackie says:

        Rebecca, Which reader do you use to view blogs? I had no problem copying Christy’s address into google reader and my subscription to her blog is working fine.

        Christy, It would be great if you could add a ‘subscribe now’ button to your blog to make it easier for people to view your posts in their reader. I’ll send an email to you.

        1. Rebecca Cox says:

          I use google reader. I go to Bookmarks, then Subscribe then it usually shows subscribe using RSS feed or subscribe using ATOM. It shows neither on this site. I have never tried copy/paste method. Where would I paste it in my reader? I usually just use the Subscribe in RSS on the blog, but Christy doesn’t have one.

        2. Rebecca Cox says:

          So Proud of myself! I went and checked it out and figure out how to do it in a second! Why had I never noticed that? That is easier than using the subscribe button. It’s copy paste from now on for me.

          1. Yay! I’m glad that worked – I hope you enjoy reading my blog!

      2. Rebecca,

        That’s strange that you can’t subscribe to my blog in a reader. I’m pretty new at this so I’m not sure what to suggest. I tested it out on Google Reader which is what I use and was able to subscribe to my own blog through that reader. Hopefully, someone else may be able to tell what the problem might be. Sorry!

        - Christy

  17. I started out the same way that you did. I didn’t give branding (or longevity for that matter) a thought. I’m glad that my husband came up with my name for me. Otherwise, my original 52 Books or Bust would not be memorable at all. I’m even happier now that I’ve had my blog designed so I can use the same graphic over and over again. I know that there are bloggers who do this much better than I ever will. That’s okay, because we’re all doing this for different reasons and have different lives and time constraints.

    It is true that we’re not selling anything, but it can be difficult to remember who everyone is and who said what when we don’t know each other personally. Great topic, Jackie!

    Your name is memorable

    1. Jackie says:

      Literate Housewife, You have a great blog name – would your husband like to design my avatar too?!

      Did you pay for your blog design? I think it is great, but I don’t want to be paying someone to brand my blog – I’ll find a way to do it for free! The amount of hours I spend doing it would probably be worth the investment, but I like the sense of achievement!

  18. mee says:

    I never thought about branding much at all, but it really makes sense. I have been thinking about consistency of design, avatar, etc, but it just lacks priority so far. Probably about time to pay more attention to it. One that I’m not quite so happy about is my blog title (I didn’t put much thought into it when I started). But I don’t know if it’s too late for me to change or if it’s worth to do it. What do you think? :)

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, It is so difficult to fit everything in. Only you can make the desicion about whether it is worth the effort of chaniging your name. It is unique, so you don’t need to worry about that, but I do think you could think of something catchier/more memorable. Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

  19. Rebecca Cox says:

    Jackie,
    I can’t find how to contact you on this blog, so email me and I will send you something you might like as an avatar. I am a photographer and have been playing around with a graphic in photoshop. Please feel under no obligation to use it. Just an idea.

    1. Jackie says:

      Rebecca, I haven’t got my email address on my blog, but if you use my contact form then messages come through to my email address. I’ll send you an email though – thank you for the kind offer!

  20. She says:

    This is really true. I’ve never really thought of a blog as a business, but you do have to try to sell your reviews, your topics, your name. I’ve never really thought much about putting a ‘name’ to my blog, if you will, but maybe now’s the time! Thanks for posting this– you have definitely brought up a good point!

    1. Jackie says:

      She, I’m pleased that I bought something new to your attention – good luck with making changes!

  21. Your name is pretty memorable (I seriously picture a little farm with a red barn on a dirt lane in the English countryside…do you guys paint your barns red? is that universal?).

    There are so many blogs that start with “biblio” if I were starting out now, I might not go with Bibliofreak.

    I also find that sometimes I remember people from their comments on twitter or blogs and then can’t remember which blog is theirs.

    BTW, I *am* going to e-mail you back soon…

    1. Jackie says:

      J.T. I’m afraid that red barns are a very American thing – our barns tend to be very boring wood, or corrugated metal things. It is great to hear what sort of things other people picture though. I have an image of a dirt road, with a few trees and fields of cows/sheep!

      I also have problems working out who some people on twitter are. It really helps if they have the same twitter name as their blog.

      I look forward to the email!

  22. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for sharing this information and your thoughts. I haven’t given nearly enough time to the design or name of my blog. I’d like to focus on making my blog better in 2010…its a resolution!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, Good luck with the resolution!

  23. Sandy says:

    Sigh. This sort of makes me tired, and I want to go into denial. Yes I actually did think of themes and branding when I first set up my blog, but didn’t really do anything about it. I am not a creative person, and had no earthly clue what my branding or theme should be. I would love to have someone who knows what they’re doing help me. I love what Sherri has done on A Novel Menagerie. I love Jennifer’s (Literate Housewife) avatar. This is good discussion Jackie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Sorry! I din’t want to make you feel tired! I am not a very creative person either – I am really struggling to come up with an avatar. I don’t think it is as important for you, as you aren’t on Twitter – I think that is where much of my confusion comes from. Are either of your children creative? Perhaps you could set them to work!? Don’t worry about it – you have a recognisable blog name and a loyal following. I’m not going to forget who you are!!

  24. Stephanie says:

    Very good points Jackie! I have purposely made my twitter name and my librarything username the same as that of my blog to try to cut back on confusion.

    There are certain blogs that I definitely remember though because of the way they’re designed and marketed. Fizzy Thoughts is a great example!

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, I think using the same name everywhere really helps. I’m pleased that you think Fizzy Thoughts is a great example too!

  25. Tracie Yule says:

    I thought about branding from day one, but I kept thinking that meant being impersonal. After awhile, I realized that it was no fun that way so I tried to incorporate both into my blog. I use the same image all over the place (picture of a sunflower) because I didn’t really want to use my own photo because everyone else was.

    I’m thinking about starting more blogs, but I’m wondering how to brand it, so that people know it is still me, just a different topic.

    Great post. I don’t think a lot of people think about branding or how it is used.

    1. Jackie says:

      Tracie, I think it is important to maintain the personal aspect of your blog too. It is hard to find the right balance, but it sounds as though you are doing a great job!

  26. Heather says:

    What a great post. I’ve never considered this question with regards to my blog but I suppose there are certain things I could do to ‘brand’ it. Thanks for bringing this topic up.

    1. Jackie says:

      Heather, Good luck with the branding!

  27. Lisa says:

    I’ve thought a lot about it. I have the same avatar here, on twitter, on blogger, on wordpress. I didn’t initially, but when I started to think about my Etsy shop and my sewing blog and how was I going to get people on the sewing blogs to realize I was the same Lisa as Books Lists Life I realized I had to be consistent. I now use part of the graphic from my shop everywhere since I was definitely going to be use that out in public. It’s not a lot like anyone else’s and it all ties together.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lisa, It must be even harder for you having two differnet identities to maintain. It looks as though you’ve worked out a great way to combine the two – congratulations!

  28. This is such a good post Jackie! It’s a Blog Improvement Project topic I kept meaning to do, but then never quite got together. I didn’t realize how important branding was initially either. I love the name of my blog, but soon realized it’s not especially descriptive. So then I added the subheadline, and now I’ve been trying to be more consistent with the new cartoon image and blue color scheme. It’s hard though, especially when you want to redesign your blog and have to worry about changing things!

    One blogger I think does a great job being consistent is Kay from Kay’s Bookshelf. She draws really cute comics, then uses those comics around the site and as a regular feature. It’s very distinctive!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kim, I love your new blue scheme and cartoon – I think it looks so professional and I love Kay’s comics too!

  29. softdrink says:

    Oh wow, thanks for the mention! I’ve changed my look so many times I’m lucky people still recognize me. :-)

    I like the idea of cows and sheep. I always picture you in a peaceful country setting. And you installed a favicon, didn’t you?

    1. Jackie says:

      softdrink, It is great that you keep updating your image/design, but it is the fact that it is always bubbly that means it is so easily recognisable. Congratulations on the fantastic branding!

  30. Kim says:

    Having two close friends in marketing helped, I knew branding was important from the beginning. I don’t change my picture and I don’t change the top of the my blog. Thank goodness I like them and I chose to have my picture taken right after I had my hair cut and still had “hairdresser” hair, I certainly couldn’t repeat it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kim, LOL! I love the mention of hairdresser hair – I know exactly what you mean :-) It is great to know that marketing is important from the start – that is a big advantage for you

  31. vlabla says:

    Thought provoking blog, have to say. Although aware of many things you mentioned I am not sure I am doing it to the letter on FB, Tw, Gravatar and the original site. Would appreciate comments from book blogging community how to improve our branding either on our forum or here. Thanks.

    1. Jackie says:

      vlaba, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I notive that you have a different image on your gravatar and on twitter, neither of which are on your site. I think making them all the same would be a great start – good luck and feel free to contact me if you’d like more help.

      1. Ta da — My new Gravatar in line with twitter, site and FB. On top of that – hair cut independent!

        1. Jackie says:

          Congratulations Curious Book Fan! That is a big improvement!

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