Next month, I’ll be speaking at a blogging and design conference about “Photoshop and Branding for Bloggers.” While creating my workshop, I realized that more than knowing fancy Photoshop tricks, it’s important to really, truly know your blog. By knowing your blog — from the types of phrases it uses to the colors it employs to the audience it serves — you’ll be able to create a site that is consistent, gorgeous, and credible.
This may sound like a simple feat, but often times, I find blogs who have great content, but a very inconsistent overall brand. It’s one way to easily turn readers off. Today, we’re explaining what a style guide is and why you need one for your blog, as well as sharing free worksheets that will likely become your new blogging manifesto — they’re that important!
First of all, what in the bananas is a style guide? A style guide can mean different things to different people, but in general, it’s where you write out the “personality” of your brand, including the colors it uses, the tone it speaks in, and the overall feel it conveys. Without a style guide? It’s easy for your brand to become a little “all over the place,” like a hodge podge of things you like, but that don’t necessarily fit together.
A style guide is a concrete way to hold up everything you do on your blog to a new standard — does this post/image/color choice/tweet fit my brand? Your style guide can answer that.
There are a few main components to any style guide. Let’s explore what you need. (By the way, if you want a four-page worksheet to walk you through this post — or to keep by your desk as a reference while blogging — then scroll down for a free download!)
1. Your audience.
Figuring out who your audience is is one of the most crucial components of successful blogging. Without knowing who you’re writing for, it’s more difficult to tailor your brand to their needs. Not sure who your people are? Or is your audience currently nonexistent? That’s okay! It gives you the chance to create a brand that fits the ideal audience you’d like to reach.
Start with the value you’d like to give people. Here at The Nectar Collective, the value we give comes in the form of blogging, business, and life advice. We also aim to create a community-feel for our readers. What kind of value do you give? Start there and then decide who could benefit from those types of posts. Get specific. Rather than just saying “women,” narrow it down further, like “women between the ages of 20-34 who yearn to start their own creative business.”
2. Your color choices.
Now that you know your audience, it will be easier to design a brand that reaches them. First, start with your colors. Select 2-4 main colors that reflect your brand. Most importantly, stick to them! Your brand will look inconsistent real fast if you try to use a different color for every image or piece of text on your site. In addition to picking 2-4 specific colors, you’ll want to record their Hex Codes so that you can be sure to use the same exact colors in everything you do. This site is helpful for choosing colors. And this one has tons of beautiful color palettes already made!
3. Your fonts.
In your style guide, choose 2-3 fonts to use on your site. Ideally, you’ll want the following:
- A font for headings. This can refer to the font in your logo, your post titles, and perhaps any text that you put on top of your images.
- A font for subheadings. This font should pair well with your heading font and can be used in less important heading areas, such as your widget titles or as a subheading on your images.
- A font for text. This is simple — the font you use for your body text in posts, on pages, and anywhere else that you include multiple lines of text.
In addition to simply picking fonts you like, you’ll want to choose fonts that fit your brand. You may love happy cursive fonts, but they may look a little out of place on a law firm’s website. More than anything, it depends on the tone and personality of your brand. What are you trying to convey to your readers? When they see your site, what words or images do you immediately want them to think of? Choose fonts with a similar feel.
4. Your images.
Your images play a big ol’ role in how your brand is perceived. Will they be dark and moody? Light and bright? Square? Vertical? At TNC, you might notice that we use mainly vertical images with colorful backgrounds that match our branding. We also use the same fonts on all of our images to breed consistency. Write down the types of images you’d like to use — describe what they will look like, draw a picture, or a make a template! Also, write down the types of images you won’t use. While it’s important to know who your brand is, it’s also important to know who your brand isn’t.
5. Your words.
Finally, how does your brand speak? Are you authoritative and serious? Fun and quirky? Unabashed and in yo’ face? Soft and sincere? Write down a list of adjectives that describe the way you speak. Your writing is one of the most vital aspects of your blog and it’s what will really draw your ideal readers in to you. Also, be sure to remain consistent in your writing, no matter where it is. Whether you’re creating an Instagram caption, sending a newsletter, or writing an e-book, you’ll want your readers to be able to read something and think of you. How can you hone your writing to really stand out?
I know this is a LOT of information, but I also believe that creating a style guide for your blog is hugely important for its success and consistency. The more people can see something and think of your brand, the better off you’ll be. To help, I created a set of free worksheets so that you can create your own style guide. Just sign up below and it will be emailed to you right away. 🙂