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Self Branding – Moving Beyond the Niche to Generate Income as a Blogger

Posted By Darren Rowse 11th of November 2007 Blog Promotion 0 Comments


image by mleak

This guest post on blog branding is by Mark Hayward who blogs over at MyTropicalEscape and Culebra Blog. You can learn more about him in the footer of this post.

Are you currently blogging to generate income, or have you recently thought about monetizing your site?

As I prepare to leave my steady job with a guaranteed paycheck and (hopefully) move on to blogging or working online full time I have looked at and analyzed a tremendous amount of blogs and the top money earners all share one common characteristic.

Without a doubt, all of the major, financially successful sites out there, including ProBlogger, have one similar component and that is their mastery of branding, or more specifically, self-branding.

Branding can be described as the symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a particular product or company.

Effective branding serves to create assumptions, excitement, associations, and expectations that are ingrained in consumers and generated with the mere mention of a company and its goods or services (think GOOGLE, NIKE, Jet Blue).

What is self-branding?

Just like with any company such as, Microsoft, or a product like the IPOD, which attempt to emote certain feelings within the consumer in order to get them to purchase their goods, bloggers need to establish on their site who they are and what they embody. Essentially, every one of your blog readers, (whether it’s a first time visitor or a frequent active comment poster) are your consumers. Therefore “self branding” as it pertains to an individual’s blog should quickly allow readers to know what you stand for, what you are trying to portray, and most importantly, the message you are trying to convey.

How you choose to brand yourself will determine if you will capture loyal readers.

We must try to remember that blog readers are not on any given site because of the ads, or products that are placed there. First time visitors to your site are there to read your content and to hopefully learn something that they might not otherwise know.

I do not know the specific statistics but I believe people decide within the first minute if they are going to return to any given site that they have visited. Therefore, you have a limited amount of time to market yourself and you must keep in mind that you are your brand and the topic that you write about is your niche.

Blog visitors will return if you can create an emotional connection with them particularly if they feel that they have something in common with you.

Additionally, people will continue to visit a blog if they trust you and feel they stand to gain something through your well written site content. However, in order to get them to click on your ads, or purchase your products they have to believe in you and what you are trying to sell. Whatever you are selling, or promoting through your writing, there has to be some sort of fundamental emotional value in it for the end user.

Typically, blogs about making money from blogging recommend that you “need to find a niche” if you want to be successful and actually earning a living via personal publishing.

While I strongly agree that a solid niche is needed I feel that the concept actually goes well beyond just having a niche if you are going to have long-term, sustainable, financial success online. For a blog to be successful in this day and age sites need to have a well-planned three tiered approach, which includes:

  1. a well-defined niche
  2. well written quality content
  3. effective self-branding

Moreover, each of these varying aspects must seamlessly support and feed into the other. Are there exceptions to the tiered approach? Of course there are. However, people who blog can be successful within their niche and can produce good posts but they are missing out on sales, or ad click throughs if they are lacking successful self-branding.

Problogger-Logo-PFor example, let’s take a look at ProBlogger. Recently, Darren has been writing about and helping to promote the Teaching Sells “Step-by-Step Training Courses.” If I had noticed this endorsement on 99.99% of the other blog sites out there I would have given it absolutely no attention at all. However, because Darren has successfully self-branded himself as one who provides practical, useful, and readily applicable tips at ProBlogger, he has an inherent and well-earned trust with his visitors (myself included). So, the end result being that there is a very good chance I will pay for the Teaching Sells course.

This is exactly where self-branding and how your blog readers view you is SO important. Die hard skeptics, myself included, will click through ads, support your promotional items, or even make a direct purchase from you if they believe in you (your brand).

Selfbranding DoshdoshAnother blogger that has mastered self-branding is Maki over at DoshDosh. Personally, I am not a huge fan of anime and before I discovered his blog the Japanese cartoons used to represent (in my mind) typical Saturday morning television for children. However, because Maki makes it a point to include a cartoon with all of his posts the way that I associate and perceive anime, and the feelings it emotes, has completely changed. These days, if I find myself flipping through a magazine, or catch a snippet of anime on television I begin to think of the blog DoshDosh, the niche it represents, and the tagline, “helping you make money online.” The reason for the change is Maki’s successful self-branding.

Of course, you can place all the ads you would like on your site but if people don’t trust you then they will not click to your sponsors or purchase your products and you will lose money. If you are interested in earning money from blogging, or would like to generate more revenue, here are five simple tips that you can use to help you begin your self-branding:

  • Before setting up your income generating blog create a plan and write down how you would like to be perceived by your readers (e.g. practical, humorous, sarcastic, authoritarian, combative, etc).
  • Review the sites that you go back to again and again. Have you purchased anything from them, or clicked on their ads? Analyze specifically what it is about those blogs and the emotions they evoke that have you coming back.
  • Create an effective tagline. Sounds simple but it will set your site’s tone immediately.
  • Know your readers (your consumers).
  • If you expect site visitors to spend money or click on ads then be approachable. If you reply to a readers query about an ad on your site not only will you establish a personal connection with them, additionally, for the skeptics out there it can help to create trust in you.

If you are blogging for money always try to keep in mind that self-branding and how you choose to present yourself and your content will determine if you will capture loyal readers, which in turn can lead to into increased ad revenues.

This is a guest post by Mark Hayward who blogs over at MyTropicalEscape and Culebra Blog. He and his wife recently purchased the Palmetto Guesthouse on the island of Culebra located in the Caribbean. Mark’s fulltime job ends next week so he is looking to blog or work online fulltime. If you would like to discuss business opportunities, or hire him to write for you he can be contacted directly at mark_w_hayward[at]yahoo.com.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I had never really thought of self-branding. I mean I have watched the bigger bloggers like Darren doing it, but it never really clicked that I needed to be doing it myself.

  2. This is quite a timely post for me. Currently my blog is not monetized in anyway but as the readership grows I have found that it takes up quite a bit of my time and many of my readers are urging me to take the plunge a monetize.

    Unlike ProBlogger, my blog is a personal blog – the name of the blog is my name. I don’t have a logo so in some ways branding is a little more difficult as my brand is simply my name, and my picture. However, that also means that there is only one information item to remember – one name, rather than Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, which is two.

    In another comment you made about people “decide within the first minute if they are going to return to any given site”, I think you’re lucky if you get that far. I believe the most first time visitors will evaluate a site within 15 seconds and decide whether or not to keep reading or click away. If they are from StumbleUpon it’s probably even less!

  3. Another very good branding example is JohnCow.

  4. Excellent post, and I especially like the examples of good branding that you brought up. It’s particularly intriguing to see how Maki has been able to use a very untraditional method of branding himself in a very crowded scene.

    As always, creativity goes a long way :)

  5. Self-branding. I’ve heard of it never really understood how to go about it. My plans now will be to review y tagline and ensure my posts relate to my chosen niche which is travel.

    Although Darren has done a total revamp on his bog he still seems to get as many and more visitors and readers. A true sign of excellent self-branding.

  6. This is something I have (and am) struggling with. Branding myself in such a way that will get people in the “door” to begin with.

  7. I read the whole post from top to bottom and here goes what I learned :)

    — Write quality content regularly to one specific niche
    — Interact with your readers
    — Be true to your readers

    In short “Content is the king!”

    you won’t be famous in one day or two. It takes time. Be patient and keep writing regularly the quality content (and remember to publicize your content) and you will be “branded” …. every famous blogger is branded. Right?

    by the way punchline is a must (Mine is “The Genius Inside You Is Still Sleeping”)

  8. Wow, fantastic article. It validates everything I’ve been mulling over lately. Thanks!

    I see this as critically helpful information.

    I’m reminded of certain rock stars / bands who are clearly brands. Most are.

    When you think of U2 what do you think of?
    What about Prince?

    U2 is a great example of branding success AND failure. In the mid-nineties they strayed from their typical brand content. Their albums like “Pop” incorporated more techno-dance grooves. As a result, they alienated lots of fans and their albums weren’t as successful or memorable. (Although their live shows still were because they’d already established their brand as a fantastic live act.)

    But then they went back-to-U2-basics with “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”. That album was the U2 we loved and remembered and as a result it catapulted them back to the status of world’s greatest rock band.

    The moral is: they realized who they are and what their strengths are, and they sell THAT.

  9. This is an awesome post. I particularly liked the three tiered approach – it is so true! I have seen some blogs with pretty good content and are relatively well positioned, yet fare far worse than another site simply because the other had great personality and branding.

    It also reminded me of lessons learned back in school about considering the demographics of your audience and making sure what you have to offer is relevant to their needs and wants. Fantastic reminders in this post.

    Thanks Mark! You have been a great inspiration.

  10. I’d disagree with the length of time, people will initially stay on your site, I have read somewhere it’s 20/30 seconds, so people don’t stick around too long – something we all need to be aware of and reminded of occasionally.
    But, like so many others it’s getting the people to notice the brand that’s an issue.
    Any suggestions on colours and branding?

  11. I am new to the blogging scene but love everything it has to offer. I found this site about a week ago and have found the articles posted to be very useful in helping me to get my site, a blog that offers comic health tips for the day, on a solid foundation. I have a very small following and hope that it continues to grow.

    I really like this article about self branding and agree with the fact that a blogger must focus on finding their niche and content if they want to be successful. I find that they go hand in hand. The hard part is finding those who are interested in both. Thanks again.

  12. Great Post. It is so important to brand yourself and your blog.

    Working to get your name out there should be one on the top of the priority list. You want to become known as an expert so that readers will want to come back to your site – to read what YOU have to say about something.

    5 Ways To Brand Yourself for Success

  13. The Manolo has always thought that branding was the side-effect of two things commonsensical things you should be doing no matter what.

    First, everyday, day out and day in, you should be producing entertaining and informative content that people wish to read.

    Second, each day you must dare to be different from the rest of the one hundred million bloggers out there. Stand out from the herd by whatever means necessary.

    If you do these two things, and are consistent, soon enough you will become the brand.

    Even better, you will not have to spend much time worrying about the meta-process of “branding”, or “self-branding” (which sounds very painful, Ayyyy! Hot Brands!). It will happen automatically as your name and your blog become associated with excellence in the particular area.

    Simple, no?

  14. Thanks for the great post. This is truly what my blog and website are missing. I have to get onto the self-branding immediately. I just want to make sure that the brand is a good one that people will pay attention to. Thanks for the post.

  15. I have come to associate Darren’s logo and valuable content with the problogger brand. It stands out and is considered the go to place for blogging advice.

    I also have a list of websites/blogs that I visit everyday and each one has managed to set themselves apart from the “same thing, nothing new” blogs.

    I can see where “self branding” will naturally come about with top notch content and repeated value each time a consumer visits your site. It’s just a matter of time.

  16. Hmm…Self Blogging? This is something very interesting. I never really thought about it for my blog, but I guess I should now.

    The only thing i’m concerned about is why everyone blogs for money. Blogging should be a leisure thing to entertain people and not just earning advertisement spots or google ads.


  17. This post was helpful, thank you very much. However, it could have been condensed to the last paragraph–we’ve heard the “self-brand” and “find your niche” mantras for so long but we rarely get concrete examples of how to do this. The five bullets at the end were great, they should have been the whole article and I’d like to see more well-defined tips like these.

  18. I especially like how you placed great value in what image or photo used in posts, or those used to identify the author.

    I felt the same way about Maki’s cartoon image initially, but now I understand why he did it. The same is true about Andy Beard, as I see his user image in social networking sites everywhere, and it stands out.

  19. Same thought here, when i flip through manga or watch anime, i always remind myself of doshdosh and when i see a bald man with specs, i tend to remember darren, Something worth remembering indeed.

    I guess most of these blogger have already marked an authority in their blogs and brand themselves with nothing but great information. A no nonsense blog for those who wants valuable information daily and not some personal rumblings on cars and food.

  20. Darren, it may be useful to underscore the importance of being genuine in attempting to self-brand. The “self” comes first, and that builds into our reputations — which is essentially the same as a brand.

    Shakespeare wrote the same advice in Hamlet 400 years ago: “This above all: to thine own self be true,/And it must follow, as the night the day,/Thou cans’t not be false to any man ”

    In other words, we shouldn’t try to blog with a personality that isn’t really our own. We won’t be able to sustain it, and won’t do it as well as another blogger who really has that personality. If we are ourselves, and write with a consistent purpose, then our reputation/brand will follow.

    Will it be a popular, cash-generating brand? There’s no guarantee. But if it’s not the real deal then it’s even less likely. Our best shot is to true to ourselves and our readers.

  21. I’m new to this whole blogging scene. I’m glad I found your blog, I never thought of branding myself in my blog, so I appreciate the fact that I learned something new today.

    tips to brand your business

  22. Thanks Mark.

    I’m battling a bit to understand the difference between self-branding and just having good content, which leads being seen as trustworthy and authoritative, which leads to people coming back, and so buying the products you advertise and recommend.

    Is the extra element a distinctive design for the blog? Something recognisably me?

  23. i am also struggling with self branding and this article gave some big tips thanks Mark! Now all i have to do is be realllly realllly creative….

  24. I just finished up an article on branding last week and I used your blog as an example for self-branding… thanks for making my point for me :)

    I think this is something that many smaller businesses or consultant type business owners overlooks or doesn’t even think about. There is a need to create and develop your brand name regardless how big or small your operation is, think big.


  25. Greetings ~ thank you for the comments on the post so far!

    If you look at either of my blogs that Darren has linked to you will realize that I myself am not hugely into the monetization of my sites, yet.

    However, because I have a keen interest in marketing and advertising (and will be leaving my fulltime job and regular paycheck soon) I have become an observer of the blogging world and how successful people are generating traffic, subscribers, and income.

    For me, every blog or website that has had an ad that I have clicked on, or a product that I have purchased, was able to gain my trust. Whether we like to admit it, or not, people make purchases based on emotion. In my case, if I like the person behind the blog (or what I perceive them to be) then I will be interested in what they are marketing.

    Blogging absolutely does not have to be about making money, advertising, or selling anything. But, if you choose to monetize your site then make sure you are presenting yourself in the best possible way to your consumers.

  26. Thanks for the mention and kind words, Mark!

    Great post. Creating a brand based on integrity, authenticity and expertise is one of the most powerful ways to increase conversions for lucrative affiliate referrals.

    Also something to keep in mind for those who don’t want to make money from ad revenue but want to generate income through other reputation-centric methods like consulting. :)

  27. I have just begun monetizing my blog, with ads and sponsored posts, and whilst I am not making vast sums of money, I am on track. I have a tone (sarcastic), a niche (retail workers) and I do give back to my readers (free MP3s with every post). Plus I have contests and other things on my blog.

    However, I can never leave my job for blogging, because put simply – my blog is based on my work. The two are intwined.

  28. I just really like manga and try using it to branding my blog…
    Hope I can catch Maki…

  29. Branding is many things and you’re right a blog can be branded. A brand makes the blog unique and not only differentiates this from other blogs, but gives it a character, an appeal that as you say makes your readers identify and eventually trust you.

    Well done.

  30. Another term for self-branding is personal branding.

  31. What happens if you have more than one blog and the topics are not similar? Should you only brand one of them? I know Darren has several blogs and still manages to have his problogger brand.

    It seems to me that you might have a conflict if you try and brand more than one blog.

  32. This is great advice and timely too. I’m currently re-branding my site Writing for Writers. The site is doing well for but I want it to be a more concise product so it’s getting a logo, a bunch of fresh content including regular (weekly) topical columns, and a brand new URL to boot!

    Thanks for this much needed reminder. Many blogs out there have a lot to offer but because they are not properly branded they get lost in the shuffle.

    -Melissa Donovan
    Writing for Writers

  33. @sabrina – I guess this goes with saying but you are always going to be “you.”

    If you want to be perceived differently on each of your sites then I guess you would have to nurture a different personality/tone for each one if they are diametrically opposed (e.g. a religious site and a bikini site).

    However, I would favor building one solid, well know self-brand and using it to promote and support all of my sites.

  34. by the way punchline is a must (Mine is “The Genius Inside You Is Still Sleeping”)

  35. kellon says: 11/23/2007 at 4:46 pm

    it ‘s amazing , i think we need more self branding for satisfying our visistors, any we need to go for our niche, after that we have to plan for self branding

  36. I just started blogging recently and your article really hits the spot. Now, I have a game plan for my blog, thanks to you.

  37. You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people in agreement to this.

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