It’s the question you secretly dread:
“So, what’s your blog about?”
You should be delighted that someone’s showing an interest in your passion.
But the problem is, you’ve been here before. You know how it ends.
Pushing your doubts aside, you launch into an explanation, all the while waiting for that inevitable moment…
That moment when her eyes glaze over and you can practically read her thoughts.
She’s wishing she’d never asked.
She forces a smile. “I guess it’s nice to have a hobby.”
And a tiny part of your dream dies.
So what’s the problem here – is it you, or your blog?
If you’re struggling to win people over online too, there’s a good chance it’s both.
But fortunately for you, there’s a simple solution…
Why “Positioning” Is Not Just for Big Brands (Bloggers Need It Too!)
If you blog about a popular topic, certainly plenty of others do too. And all of you are competing for the same pool of loyal readers.
But whether you blog about chocolate, freelance writing, or Aurora displays, it’s crucial your readers have a strong reason to choose your blog instead of another in your niche.
You have just a few seconds to seize the attention of new visitors. (According to Statistics Brain, the average person’s attention span is just 8 seconds – that’s less than a goldfish!)
In a crowded blogosphere, correct “positioning” of your blog is key.
But what is positioning?
Positioning is a powerful marketing concept relating to the place a business, product – or your blog – automatically occupies the mind of the target audience.
And we’re all affected by positioning whether we like it or not. Consider the following examples:
- You hear “luxury watch” – you think… Rolex.
- You hear “Italian sports car” – you think…Ferrari.
- You hear “blogging guru” – you think… Jon. Or Seth.
Strong positioning helps you make a powerful first impression by clearly communicating what your blog is about and who it’s for.
3 Simple Signs Your Blog is Not Well Positioned…
Let’s say you started a blog about making chocolate. (Why? Because everyone loves chocolate!)
You work on it day and night, follow best posting practices, and write long, informative posts.
But you’re not getting the attention you deserve.
Could it be that your blog is poorly positioned?
Here are some signs to look out for.
Sign #1: You Struggle to Explain Your Blog to Other People
Your mom throws a surprise birthday party for a family friend. At the food table, she introduces you to an online journalist covering 10 emerging bloggers to watch and proudly mentions that you have a blog (even though she doesn’t really understand what it’s about).
The journalist asks the question. (You know, the one you dread.)
You have seconds to pitch yourself. This could lead to the big break you so desperately need.
What went wrong?
It’s possible you haven’t nailed down exactly what your blog is about. Or you have, but you can’t explain it.
Sign #2: Even You Don’t Know Why People Should Read Your Blog
Coming up with new blog post ideas can be a challenge, and it’s easy to get inspired by reading other blogs in your niche.
While it’s great to keep up with what other blogs are posting, if you take your lead from elsewhere, the result is just another “me too” blog. You’re practically programming your readers to believe your blog isn’t worth their attention if it’s just a poor copy of a bigger blog.
Look at the most successful blogs in your niche and ask, “Why should people read my blog instead of those?”
If you don’t have a convincing answer, poor positioning is probably to blame.
Sign #3: You Can’t Seem to Grow Your Blog Beyond a Few Casual Followers
One of the biggest signs of poor positioning is a lack of loyal followers.
New visitors bounce because they can’t grasp what your blog is about (and why they should care) before their goldfish-like brains get distracted by another link.
Casual readers drift away because they don’t feel strongly connected to you and your topic.
If you have some traffic, but no one hangs around, it can be particularly frustrating. Being ignored is one thing, but when someone pays you some attention and then decides to walk away, it’s even more painful.
Traffic that doesn’t convert to subscribers usually means something you’ve written connects with people, but they don’t understand how it fits into your blog as a whole.
3 Essential Characteristics of an Exquisitely Positioned Blog Topic
Have you ever woken up at 3:00 a.m. with the perfect retort to a question? Infuriating, isn’t it?
Let’s rewind to that dinner-party conversation with the benefit of careful positioning…Now you have an opportunity to raise your authority and widen your audience by becoming an expert interviewee. Not to mention the boasting rights – who doesn’t want to be called a blogger to watch?
What makes this positioning work? Three things.
It’s Specific, Not Abstract
This is not just a blog about chocolate.
It’s about something much more specific: making world-class fair trade chocolate.
The blogger gives details about the type of readers the blog attracts, and the kinds of posts it publishes.
She even shares an exclusive, insider story about an industry expert and some timely advice for people who want to make a certain type of chocolate.
Finally, she explains what’s in it for readers and why the blog exists.
It Targets a Defined Audience, Not “Everyone”
Not everyone will become a follower of a world-class chocolate making blog. Some people aren’t even that into chocolate (are they crazy?)
So this blog doesn’t try to appeal to anyone with a passing interest in chocolate – it’s deliberately aimed at a specific group of people. Those with a passion for making chocolate and a commitment to quality and fairness.
The more tightly you define your audience, the more easily you can bond with them.
It’s Memorable, Not Generic
Many blogs feature expert interviews, but probably no others in this space have these timely tips on the state of African cocoa from a global expert.
Stories make your blog one of a kind. You can use your own stories of course, but interviews are a great way to get an expert to share your post.
Wouldn’t it be great if a recognized chocolate expert shared this blog post with their followers?
The Secret to Positioning Your Blog with Pinpoint Accuracy
A well-positioned blog is easy to explain to anyone, in any medium.
A strong positioning is particularly useful when you do one of the following:
- Tell someone about your blog.
- Write your tag line and About Page copy.
- Plan and create posts.
When your blog is well positioned, people instantly get a clear and accurate impression regardless of context. They can clearly explain what the blog is about to another person and the other person will get it too.
But how do you go from a broad sense of what your blog is about to a consistent and engaging positioning?
The secret to powerful positioning is to create a series of organized statements about your blog called “key messages.”
How to Use “Key Messages” for Perfect Positioning
A key message is a carefully crafted description of some important aspect of a business, product, or in this case, blog.
For example, one key message might explain the topic of your blog. Another, the target audience.
Taken together, a collection of these key messages can clearly and concisely define your blog from every important angle.
Crucially, these are not public-facing messages – they’re communication tools you return to again and again whenever you need to talk about your blog. They enable you to create a clear and consistent impression in your readers’ minds and set the right expectations.
But how do they work?
Key messages systematically organize and present information step by step, moving from general context, to specific details, to a concrete example. They end by giving the reader something to do or think about.
Let’s see how to create them.
The 5 Questions That’ll Help You Get to the Heart of Your Blog
Positioning your blog means that you, the blogger, first need to understand your blog intimately.
Sometimes you already have a clear understanding; you just need a way to communicate it.
Other times, you need to make some decisions about your blog to enable you to position it effectively.
To get clear, you must answer a series of questions designed to elicit the most important details about your blog.
Write down or record your answers because this is the raw material you’ll mine when creating your key messages.
Q1: What is your blog about?
What is the core topic of your blog?
For instance, do you blog about:
making world-class chocolates from fair-trade ingredients?
Notice that defining your blog topic is a balancing act between a description so broad it’s almost meaningless, and one so narrow it’s of interest only to a small few.
Q2: Who is your blog for?
Who is the target audience for your blog?
For instance, is it for:
people who love chocolate
people with a passion for making chocolate who are empathic toward everyone in the industry?
(Not sure how to figure out how to narrow down your readers, or figure out your ideal reader needs? Consider trying out a template like this from HubSpot. Use it to help you think about your readers as people with real needs seeking the kinds of solutions and information you can provide.)
Q3: Why should they care?
Why should this audience care about your blog? In other words, what’s in it for them?
If they read your blog, do they get:
ideas for holiday chocolates
creative inspiration to make delicious chocolates, while supporting the world’s chocolate farmers?
Q4: Why does your blog exist?
Why does the blogosphere need your blog when the topic is almost certainly covered by other blogs? What would be missing if your blog didn’t exist?
Does your blog fill a need for information, provide a new way of looking at your niche, or add much needed down-to-earth advice?
For example, is your blog necessary because:
you’re providing new information that isn’t out there yet
other blogs don’t provide the step-by-step how-to information you do?
Q5: Why you are the best person to blog about this?
If we agree there’s a need for a blog like yours, why are you the best person to fulfill that need?
Use this question to explain a little about yourself, your values, drive, credentials, and experience.
And consider your own motivations. Why do you want to blog in your niche, and what do you have to offer?
For instance, do you:
love writing about the art of making beautiful chocolate
research, live, and breathe the world of high-end chocolate
have a relevant Ph.D. from Oxford, McGill or Harvard?
Once you’ve answered these core questions, it’s time to turn this raw material into clear and concrete key messages.
The Four Essential Ingredients of a Compelling Key Message
So how do you write strong key messages to clearly position your blog in your niche?
You can use a simple four-part structure:
- A general “umbrella” statement
- Three to five backup points adding details, trends, or facts
- A brief story to illustrate your point
- A tip/takeaway for the reader to use or think about
Let’s examine each of the four parts in turn.
#1 The Umbrella Statement… Gives a Basic Overview
An umbrella statement is a high-level description of some aspect of your blog.
We all use umbrella statements in our lives whether we realize it or not. When people ask us what we do for a living, we say things like, “I’m a real estate lawyer,” or, “I’m an entrepreneur,” or, “I’m an online writer.”
It’s a simple and accurate description, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
A strong umbrella statement includes:
- Your niche (in this example, chocolate)
- Your topic in your niche (making high-end chocolates)
- Your industry or audience (people with a passion for making beautiful chocolates)
You don’t know it, but you’ve already written five umbrella statements: your answers to your five questions you asked yourself earlier.
Here’s an example umbrella statement:
#2 The Backup Points… Flesh Out the Detail
Creating three to five backup points provides details to expand your umbrella statement.
Backup points may be details, trends, or facts from reliable sources (go beyond Wikipedia). They help sharpen the context of your blog and differentiate you from the competition.
They can also provide proof of your umbrella statement, using third party statistics, facts, and trends.
Backup points help demonstrate your expertise and greatly clarify your blog’s positioning.
Here are three example Backup Points from the chocolate niche:
- I help people identify where and how to buy fair trade cocoa.
- I get timely industry trends by interviewing global experts.
- I help people understand global opportunities reported in business publications like Forbes.
Doesn’t it suggest that you are a blogger to be listened to since you have access to top experts?
#3 The Story… Brings Your Topic to Life
Stories are memorable, trigger emotion, and can demonstrate your expertise.
They take your blog topic from abstract to concrete and pique people’s interests. Crucially, stories truly differentiate your blog from the crowd.
What kinds of stories should you include in a key message?
- Stories about big names in your niche. Have you ever met someone famous in your industry? You can interview them, or write about the time you met them.
- Stories drawn from your own experiences. The chocolate-making blogger could write about a trip to Africa, sourcing cocoa, or seeing huge lines for luxury chocolate brands in China.
- Stories with personal significance. A special chocolate made for a relative. A holiday cake. Where the passion for making fair trade chocolate came from.
Here’s an example of a personal story you could use in a key message:
If you’re blogging about making world-class chocolates, this story would provide proof you’re worth following.
The best stories are interesting in their own right, but they also demonstrate your unique value and expertise.
#4 The Tip or Takeaway… Gives Them Something to Remember
Providing a useful tip or a takeaway concludes your key message. It actively hands the conversation about your blog back over to the reader and gives them something to do or think about.
Tips are little gifts for readers. Something to help them out right now. Something that immediately demonstrates the value you offer.
Takeaways are something your readers can think about – like how you can help them source the ingredients they are looking for, since you know it’s challenging to do.
When should you use a tip over a takeaway?
Give a tip when you want a reader to do something now or you have timely information to share. Tips should resonate with the key message as a whole.
Use a takeaway when you want a reader to ponder a larger question. For chocolate makers who aren’t into fair trade, you may ask them to consider it and give reasons why. Takeaways, like tips, should also be in tune with the entire key message.
Now, let’s create your first key message.
How to Write Key Messages That Answer the Most Important Questions About Your Blog
Remember the five questions we used to elicit information about your blog?
Those same five questions are also the perfect prompts for five key messages that will create a positioning platform for your blog.
Let’s take them one by one, continuing with the example of the blog for chocolate makers.
Key Message #1 (“What is your blog about?”)
My blog is about making world-class chocolates using fair trade ingredients for people passionate about chocolate.
- I help identify where and how to buy fair trade cocoa, vanilla, and chocolate ingredients
- I get timely industry trends by interviewing global experts.
- I help people understand global opportunities reported in business publications like Forbes.
At my favourite local Mexican restaurant, they have divine vanilla. They told me it comes from the cook’s hometown. I asked to get in on their order. When the vanilla came, I used it to make icing for an amazing chocolate cake. It smelled so good everyone wanted to buy the vanilla from me so I had to hide it.
Due to a world shortage in cocoa, brought on by Chinese demand, hotels should place orders six months in advance.
Choosing fair trade ingredients means luxury chocolate makers can help improve the lives of people around the world.
That’s our first key message for the chocolate blogger. Let’s write four more.
Key Message #2 (“Who is your blog for?”)
My ideal audience is people who are passionate about chocolate and believe in fair trade.
These people include:
- professionals like caterers, retail shops, hotels, etc.
One of my followers is Anne. She’s a caterer who does high-end corporate parties. Her clients are into social responsibility, and she even helps them get positive press coverage. She uses my blog to make buying decisions and gives tips of her own.
My ideal audience loves making beautiful, ethical food.
Key Message #3: (“Why should they care?”)
My audience reads my blog to stay on top of the high-end chocolate industry.
- They don’t have time to research themselves.
- They need an all-in-one source.
- They love learning secrets from top industry professionals.
One of my followers, Janice, gets industry information from my blog that helps her buy chocolates for her high-end retail store. She loves insights from my Who’s Who of global experts. Recently, she used my blog to create a chocolate lovers event that won a hospitality industry award.
My audience gets exclusive access to top industry experts, fresh ideas, and industry knowledge found only on my blog.
Key Message #4 (“Why does my blog exist?”)
My blog empowers people who love making chocolate to become good global citizens.
(Using research stats and trends from reliable sources.)
- global chocolate demand has risen 13% in 5 years (Fair Trade USA)
- millions of acres of land are cleared to grow cocoa beans every year (David Suzuki Foundation)
- 25% of consumers are willing to pay more for fairtrade products (The Guardian)
When I was getting married, I wanted designer chocolates for all my guests, but I couldn’t find local fair trade, high-end chocolate. As a recent graduate of culinary school, I started blogging about the topic. Then, I opened my own chocolaterie.
Chocolate makers can shape the chocolate industry with their buying decisions.
Key Message #5: (“Why are you the best person to blog about this?”)
I’m a chocolatier who loves to make the world’s best chocolates and help others do the same.
(Using your experience or background.)
- I trained at the Culinary Art School
- Worked at three five star restaurants over 10 years
- Started my blog in 2007
As a young child, I often made chocolate with my great grandmother – she had a recipe from the old country, and we’d scour the city buying the best ingredients. When I studied at culinary school, I used her recipe to win first prize in a school competition. Now, I write about people who share her passion for chocolate.
I started writing my blog to remember my grandmother and fell in love with people from around the world who share her passion.
Congratulations! You now have five key messages. Now, it’s time to position your blog by implementing them.
How to Position Your Blog with Precision Using Key Messages
Now that you have your key messages, it’s time to implement them. This means revising key areas of your blog to make sure that every point of contact with a reader is in tune with the careful positioning described by those key messages.
Your key messages should guide the creation of all of the following:
- a powerful tagline
- a focused, compelling About Page
- perfectly-positioned content your target audience will love
Your Tagline: The First Key Message Your Readers Encounter
Your tagline is one of first things a new visitor reads when visiting your blog. It’s also your first opportunity to communicate one of your key messages.
(If you’re wondering what a tagline is, it’s the short description of a blog that often appears alongside the blog’s title. WordPress has a field for the tagline under General Settings, and many blog themes display this text prominently within the design.)
From a communication point of view, your tagline is a description of what your blog is about and what it offers, stripped down to the essence.
The first draft of your tagline should be short, descriptive, and clear. Once you have the concept, you can play with it, adding power words to make it a little slicker, or add more personality.
Reference these key messages:
- Key Message #1 – What is your blog about?
- Key Message #2 – Who is Your blog for?
- Key Message #3 – Why should they care?
For a chocolate making blog, a tagline might start out like this:
Make the luxury chocolates you love with free trade ingredients
Once you have your ideas clear, play with the wording to make it snappy.
Make luxury chocolates the ethical way
Let’s look at some great taglines from popular blogs and bloggers:
- Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing blog tagline is Practical Help for Hungry Writers
- Heidi Cohen’s tagline is Actionable Marketing Guide
- Social Media Examiner’s tagline is Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle
Notice how clear, short and powerful these taglines are. They tell you exactly what to expect from these blogs in just a few words.
Your About Page: Let Your Key Messages Run The Show
Your About Page was made for key messages. Unlike the tagline, which is a boiled down version of several key messages, the About Page can handle umbrella statements, backup points, and one or more stories.
When creating or revising your About Page copy, you should draw from all of your key messages.
How to use Key Message #1 (“What is your blog about?”)
Great About Pages share the blog’s topic right away.
So use your umbrella statement, weave in your backup points, and then share your story.
Kristi Hines’ blog Kikolani covers a wide range of topics related to online marketing. At the top of her About Page, she discusses her knowledge of content marketing, search engine optimization, social media, and web analytics.
Smart Blogger is all about “how to get more readers, build your email list, become an authority in your niche – everything you need to get the attention you deserve.”
When you arrive on these blogs, you know exactly what they’re going to cover – and what they’re not.
How to use Key Message #2 (“Who is your blog for?”)
Tell viewers in detail. What you’re going for is an ideal follower to read your page and think – yes, this is for me.
Who is Smart Blogger for? The About Page doesn’t say it outright, but speaks directly to readers who are frustrated by trying to get their blogs recognized. It’s not for hobby bloggers or people who write for their friends and family. It’s for people looking to, as the name suggests, be smart bloggers but also for people who are struggling with this problem.
How to use Key Message #3: (“Why should they care?”)
When you pour your passion into your blog, it can be difficult to understand why other people wouldn’t care as much as you do.
But when people read your About Page, they’re undecided. So you must give them reasons to care as early as possible, drawn directly from the key message.
Ask yourself: why should readers care about your blog?
How to Use Key Message #4 (“Why does my blog exist?”)
There are plenty of reasons you could give for your blog’s existence. But pick the one that matters most to your readers. “To build my authority in my niche” may be an important reason to you, but it’s unlikely to move your audience.
Jon’s blog exists to help bloggers who are dedicated to their craft grow a following by sharing everything he has learned about building a popular blog.
Carol Tice started her Make a Living Writing blog to help writers escape content mills and earn professional rates.
So, why does your blog exist?
How to use Key Message #5: (“Why are you the best person to blog about this?”)
Introduce yourself to potential followers, and be sure to include details that build credibility?
Ever read Jon’s story? Can anyone else in the world can match it? Unlikely. But a big reason he has so much authority is because he helped build Copyblogger, and this information has been strategically slipped into the Smart Blogger About Page:
Kristi Hines’ About Page mentions her more than 60 online publications, large social media followings on Twitter (55K), and Google+ (29K).
What makes you the blogger others should listen to on this topic? What unique experiences and qualities do you have that set you apart?
Your Content: Reinforcing Your Key Messages One Post at a Time
With your key messages in place, you know with total clarity what you’re writing about. You know precisely who you’re writing for. Now, you can plan the posts that will drive traffic on your topic and resonate with your readers.
If you want to get fancy, create an editorial calendar of post topics. You can plan ahead for the next three weeks or the next year. Microsoft Excel (or Google Sheets) spreadsheets work well, or you can use an existing editorial calendar template, like this one from HubSpot.
When planning out your posts, concentrate on these key messages:
- Key Message #2 – Who is your blog for?
- Key Message #3 – Why should they care?
How can your blog solve problems other people are truly struggling with right now?
Many Smart Blogger readers are struggling to grow their audiences. They may have tried different strategies, but they aren’t seeing results. The articles on this site are all about fixing that situation, step by step.
There are hundreds of ways to do this, and countless post opportunities, but the blog stays focused. It talks about writing, but only from a blogging perspective – it doesn’t try to tackle the problems faced by fiction writers (thought it’s happy to help people learn from a great writer of fiction.)
It also doesn’t cover blogging as a hobby – it’s for serious bloggers only.
So whenever you have a “killer” idea for writing a blog post, make sure it’s compatible with your key messages. If not, put it to one side (or turn it into a guest post) – it doesn’t belong on your precisely positioned blog.
Look at these example posts, all related to serious blogging:
- How to be Smart in a World of Dumb Bloggers
- Blogger Outreach: How to Get Influencers to Promote your Content for Free
- Make Money Blogging: 20 Lessons Going from 0 to $100,000 Per Month
What problems can you start solving with your blog?
Let’s Position Your Blog for the Runaway Success It Deserves
You may feel that positioning is a marketing gimmick, not a valuable blogging tool.
But a poorly positioned blog fails you and your audience.
You don’t get the traffic and recognition you deserve. And your audience doesn’t get the help and insight they deserve.
Unless you answer some important questions about your blog, it’s destined to remain stuck in the quagmire of ill-defined, me-too blogs.
So create a handful of key messages for your blog, and let them fuel everything you write.
Your voice will resonate with your audience, no matter how full the blogosphere grows. You’ll find that more of your visitors start sticking around.
In the real world, when you talk about your blog, people’s eyes will start to light up, rather than glaze over.
And who knows, you may even start to look forward to that question:
“So, what’s your blog about?”