A lot of new bloggers believe that you have to personally brand your blog. That is, you have to use your name and face in order to gain trust and popularity. This advice comes from a lot of marketing experts, but it’s actually not the right approach for every blog.
What’s personal branding?
What we are talking about here is basically the difference between Amy Lynn Andrews branding herself as AmyLynnAndrews.com and me branding myself (on one of my other sites) as MixThatDrink.com. Here’s a screenshot of Amy’s website:
Amy has done it right. Her personally branded domain name tells us nothing about what she does or why we should be on her website. So a friendly intro tells you all you need to know, and a friendly headshot may make you feel like you can trust her. Also, you get the impression she’s a freelancer, not a corporation.
Conversely, if you go to the front page of MixThatDrink, you get the clue who is behind that site. The domain name – hopefully – gives you the idea that it’s a site about mixed drinks. And immediately you see articles about mixed drinks. It could be a single blogger or, as many people assume, it could be a small company.
When personally branding your blog works
Amy’s personal branding made sense for her at the beginning because she was selling her services as a consultant. Now that she’s no longer taking on new clients, the personal branding is less useful, but she still making it work. She’s selling herself as an expert on blogging.
When personally branding your blog doesn’t work
When I started blogging, I knew I wanted to post about several connected topics. And who knew what other topics I’d want to write about in the future? I didn’t want to brand myself as anything. I also wanted the freedom to screw up.
Think of it this way. Imagine you visit this site and see my name and face on it. Then you visit the site about motorcycle repair and there I am again. Next you go to a book review site – and it’s me again. Then you visit a site about politics and – yep, me again. I don’t know about you but these visits would give me the impression of someone who’s a “jack of all trades and master of none”… and my political opinions, whatever they were, just turned off roughly half the US audience.
Unlike Amy, I had no desire to focus on one thing like a grown-up. But I did originally have a really good reason for this: back in 2004 when I got started, the absolute only way to get traffic to your site was Google. And they would sometimes ban or penalize really good sites just because they thought the site was selling paid links or something Google had decreed a no-no. I didn’t feel safe putting all my eggs into one blog, so to speak. Thanks to social media, this is less of an issue now.
So I think of and brand every one of my blogs like it’s a separate business. And because I don’t put my name on them, I can:
- Compete with huge brands. Because my sites look like they might belong to companies, I get opportunities small personal bloggers don’t.
- Sell a site, if I ever want to. There are limits to what a new owner can do with a personally branded blog, but someone could buy one of my sites and just continue building it.
- Start a new site without worrying what fans of my existing sites will think of it.
- Take long breaks without anyone noticing, while the passive income keeps rolling in.
Why do marketers recommend personal branding?
My guess is that they believe the personal approach better enables you to sell their products to a trusting audience. And that could work for you if you want to write sponsored posts for the rest of your life. I prefer passive income.
What should you do?
My advice to a new blogger is: make it about a topic and treat it like a business. Unless you’re selling yourself as an expert in something, the cons of personal branding are going to outweigh the pros.