There are a myriad of reasons why people start blogs, and a myriad of ways to get started. Platforms like Blogger and WordPress.com make it possible for the non-technically inclined to have their own website in a matter of minutes. In addition to ease of use, services like these are also desirable because they are cheap – as in free.
So more and more people are blogging, but so many of the blogs look the same. Default templates and addresses containing blogspot abound. While there is nothing wrong with default templates, and blogspot addresses, you may find that you want to differentiate yourself and have your blog develop its own identity. Here are a couple steps to build your blog brand.
Location, Location, Location
Like in real estate, location is key. Your blog needs to be easy to find, and so it needs a good address in a nice neighborhood. If you’ve been on a hosted site, like a blogspot or wordpress site, your best bet is to try and get a domain name that matches. The other nice thing is that you can have an email to match your site. I use GoDaddy to register domains, and the cost is minimal.
As for what constitutes a good domain name, it is really a matter of personal preference. There is probably some search engine advantages to having keywords in your domain, but do it in a natural way. The domain should be relatively concise. It might be a good idea to avoid the full team name. For the Detroit Tigers Weblog, I was feeling very uncreative when I registered the domain. Ever since then I’ve been nervous that the team could probably shut it down.
Now one of the tradeoffs of having to have that blogspot address is that you don’t have to worry at all about hosting, or software, or well anything. Just that the site is up. With your own domain though, you are carving out your space on the web, and you should have a little more control. If this scares you, it shouldn’t. Many webhosts will install your blogging software and get you set-up at sign-up time.
If you really want to make your blog standout, don’t use the default templates. You can certainly start with a predesigned template, and unless you’re a CSS wiz I’d really recommend it. Just play with it and tweak it enough to make it your own.
Now don’t forego developing content as you get lost in template tweaks. Believe me, it’s easy to do. You don’t have to do complete redesigns all at once. It’s okay to make small changes as you go along. (Just make sure you save a back-up of your template each time)
If you just don’t have the time or inclination to pick-up CSS, try developing a banner. A fresh banner on a classic template like Kubrick is often all you need. Of course if you’re Photoshop challenged like me, this could take longer than redesigning your template. Try to find a friend who is good at that sort of thing, or try and teach yourself. There was recently an excellent Photoshop tutorial at Performancing.
Favicon for flavor
You know those little pictures that appear next to web address in the location bar of your browser? Those are called favicons. While these are by no means essential, they are just so easy to implement. And in a tabbed browser environment like Firefox, it really helps to identify each site.
If you’ve got your snazzy new banner, crop out a square-ish shape. Once you’ve got your picture, submit it to a website like this. They’ll create the favico.ico file and tell you how to include it on your site.
The most important branding for your site is the content itself. What is your writing style? How often do you write? What will the reader find when he comes to your site? Your content is where the real differentiation occurs. All of the other steps are just there to help people find your stuff, and keep them around long enough to read those gold nuggets.