How about this blast from the past?! This is my original logo!! The blonde in the red dress is the first version, which we had to change up when I died my hair brown that same year. I love where we started (she is the cutest thing ever). And while it doesn’t make sense for my brand now, it made all the sense in the world then given I started out playful and not really knowing where I wanted to end up. With my new brand she’s evolved into a more sophisticated version of herself. But rebranding my blog doesn’t just stop at a new look and logo. There are specific elements of the site itself that require my attention, new blogging behaviors I need to implement and even an update to my email marketing to attend to. Read on for Part 2 of this ‘Rebranding My Blog’ series.
If you read my previous post launching my new brand, you saw that Bivins Brothers completed the whole nine yards in terms of a full branding package – even business cards and stationery (which you best believe I’ll be THROWING those cards at anyone I meet. Oh, and does anyone want to be pen pals so I can write you letters on the amazing letterhead?!). After providing me with the asset files and parameters, it was then my job to plug it all in and make the new site come alive.
I use Squarespace, which I have liked for the most part but definitely has limitations in terms of the extent to which you can customize your blog without some semi-decent knowledge of CSS. Most bloggers use WordPress.org, and if I had to do it over again, I would go with WP, would buy a beautiful theme and logo, would pay to get it customized and installed and up and running, and would move on into the wide-world of WP-friendly blogging. Squarespace is great for a business, and difficult for blogging. BUT, I’ve been able to find and purchase the hacks, workarounds and plug-ins I need to make my Squarespace site look like most WP sites. Again, I don’t recommend Squarespace to new bloggers, but at this juncture it is not the best use of my time and effort to transfer my content to WP given that for the most part, I’ve got the site functioning as if it were WP.
So, what are some of the things that I’ve changed and customized on this site? Pretty much EVERYTHING. I use the Avenue template on Squarespace which in its original form looks nothing like what you see here: the purple read more buttons, the borders around my sidebar, the newsletter subscription block, the purple pinterest button, the purple hover on the Navigation, light gray page lines, the archives, the instagram features, the hyperlinks, the fonts, the excerpt summaries, and the list goes on. Every blogger makes choices about each of these items and if they aren’t easy fixes, she has to find the code to inject into the site to make it do the things she wants it to do. In other words, none of this is plug and play! I’ve studied a bazillion bloggers out there, carefully analyzing what I did and didn’t like about their sites, and then picked and chose various things from each that I wanted to incorporate into mine. Here’s an example below of the code I had to inject to make a border around my sidebar. For any of you coders out there, this ain’t no thang. But for me, to successfully locate this and have it work when I added it was a huge victory to achieving my look!
Something interesting I learned along the way is that you don’t want to venture too far from the norm when it comes to blog layouts. In life, I’ve always liked to be slightly different than what is normal, so I applied the same philosophy to my blog and tried to come up with some elaborate creative layout. As it turns out, readers and brands alike are looking for familiar signifiers – like sidebars, custom colors, a cute and sassy logo – to indicate that they’ve landed on a blog. I ultimately returned to a standard blog format because my readers and collaborators didn’t understand what they were seeing and where to go when they landed on my site. If you are a new blogger – this is one area where I would caution you not to waste your time. Go with what works – text on the left, sidebar on the right – and use your voice and your content to establish what makes you different.
Part of rebranding my blog has been to make sure that each of my posts has all the things it needs to engage my readers, and that I’m posting on a schedule that they can keep up with and that doesn’t leave them in the lurch without content when they expect it. I often find myself forgetting something each time and needing to go back and fix the content. Or find myself unable to post consistently some months and others am on fire and can’t be stopped! It’s a balance that I struggle to maintain and am constantly working on everyday. Something that has been helpful is establishing a schedule a few weeks in advance of what I’ll post. Then I have a general roadmap of what I need to photograph and write on any given day. I’m trying to align to the changing seasons, upcoming holidays and any other topics I think might be relevant to my readers that month based on questions I’ve received (e.g. What is your daily makeup routine? How do you feel about off the shoulder tops for fall? What is your favorite cocktail?). Here’s a behind the scenes glimpse at some of my blogging organization I’ve recently established – straight from the desk and messy handwriting of Belle Meets World. If you look really closely through the careful blogger-blur, you’ll see a list of at least 17 boxes to check in order to call a blog post complete, an ideal posting schedule of Monday-Wednesday-Friday, a to-do list for what I plan to shoot and publish next week, and myriad notebooks that each capture a different category of OCD-ness for this blog.
I also try to comment on OTHER people’s blog posts everyday. It’s important to share the love and to lift each other up by giving to others what you too would like to receive and by validating the hard work we ALL pour into our blogs. Comments help to drive positive SEO results for bloggers, so we all love them. When you comment on other bloggers’ sites, they may start coming to yours and leaving encouraging notes there for you, too. OR, someone else who reads the comments may see yours and click on your site. It’s a great way for people to discover you. For example, here’s a comment I left yesterday on Style Charade, one of the best Chicago blogs around. Jenn Lake is very good at responding to your comments, which I try to do too to show appreciation for those who read. It encourages more comments from the same people, as well. In other words, commenting on a blogger’s post is the ultimate compliment and one of the best ways to help her be successful. Thank you to all of you who have commented in the past and who will in the future!
Email marketing is something I haven’t cracked yet. I’d still like to grow my list of subscribers, and I’ve started by creating a simple yet beautiful RSS campaign through Mailchimp (thanks to this tutorial from Blogging4Keeps for getting it looking good). Updating my template with my new logo and fonts yesterday and doing so with ease was a really fun moment and accomplishment! If you want to be notified of new posts and receive them in your inbox, you can sign up in the “Subscribe” area of my sidebar on the right of the site. And soon I’ll be creating a newsletter with additional content you don’t get on the blog, so throw your email in that blank box to get your hands on it!
RECYCLING PAST CONTENT:
Finally, I will explore how to recycle some of my old content from my blog. I have a lot of great posts from months or even years ago that are deeply buried and haven’t been accessed by my new readers. There is a way to do this gracefully, and I see a lot of established bloggers do it, so I’ll be looking into that soon. It may require refreshed photos or updating some of the writing to include my recent experiences – we shall see what works best. In fact, you won’t believe this, but one of my top performing posts is this “Stylish Winter Outerwear” post from before I got my DSLR camera. Living in the midwest means you live in a winter coat for SIX MONTHS of the year. You best believe that women are searching this phrase all the time in Google, and my blog post consistently pops up year round. It would be in my best interest to update this post with new (significantly better) photos given that women won’t stop needing advice on this topic anytime soon! P.s. keeping my fingers crossed I won’t need these items in Atlanta but seriously, these rain boots are my fave, and I may wear them anyway.
SO – is this a lot more than you ever imagined went into a blog? Probably, but at the end of the day I LOVE this creative outlet of mine. And even if I never reach the level that those who have come before me have, I want to know that I did everything I possibly could to get as far as I can and reach as many women as I can, so that’s why I’m studying it all so intently and investing in a new brand.
Thanks for reading Part 2! I thought this was only going to be 3 parts but it will be 4. Next up is social media, followed by my my favorite bloggers, why I like them, and how they’ve inspired this whole journey. I hope you’ll keep reading this special series!