One of the biggest mistakes I see new bloggers make is that they don’t see their blog as a brand. To be memorable and a website that people want to visit you need to have coherent content that is useful and unique and it helps to have some kind of theme. Even if that theme is ‘The things I like’.

A big question to ask yourself is are you the face of your blog? In some niches, it will most likely have to be you unless you have contacts that will be models for your photos. For example, beauty bloggers are the face of their blogs as they use themselves when posting makeup looks. Different niches such as books or video games don’t need you to show your face to a camera, so the face of your blog could be an avatar or logo.

Name and URL

Your name and URL are really important for multiple reasons. Firstly, it needs to be memorable for people who read your content. If they don’t remember your name, they may never come back because they can’t find you again. This is also similar for your social media handles, you wan’t people to remember who you are when you try to engage with them.

For your URL you need to think about whether you will purchase your domain or whether you will stick to the free wordpress or blogspot domains. Although you can switch from wordpress/blogger to a self-hosted domain if you plan on making this a long-term project or a business I would always go for self-hosted as soon as possible. This well help with your readers remembering the correct URL and it will also help with your SEO as the longer your website is live it will help increase your DA score.

Speaking of SEO, it’s sometimes helpful to use search engine friendly keywords within your name and URL. For example, a lot of beauty blogs will include keywords such as lipstick, makeup or beauty within their names. This isn’t necessary to build a good blog though, and many bloggers will use their name as their personal brand. It’s also important to try and make your URL easily searchable. If you’re using numbers in your name and URL, you need to stay consistent as to whether you’re using the numerical version (10) or the written version (ten).

Try writing down some ideas for your blog name – find words that suit you or you niche, connect words, create phrases and try to be creative. 

Mission and Vision

A lot of bloggers don’t really think much about their blog before starting. There was no thought into where they wanted their blog to go, or why they’re writing. Most just started writing about what they were interested in and didn’t think too much about the future. And I was one of these people. But if you take some time to sit and think about what you want from your blog, and where you want it to head it gives you some clarity about why you’re blogging.

A mission statement is the what, who and how of your blog. This is where you define the purpose behind your blogs content. Your mission statement will help steer you to the projects and sponsorship’s that are relevant to your brand. This will also help ground you into what your blog is at this time. If your mission statement doesn’t look anything like your blog, you need to work on changing one of the other.

A vision statement defines what you want your blog to become and the impact it will create on the readers. This is going to help you know what direction you want your blog to head in. If your vision statement includes wanting to make a sustainable income, you know that you’re going to have to work on getting sponsored and signing up to affiliate networks. If you wan’t to build up to provide a weekly podcast or newsletter, you know you need to set up YouTube or a mailing list.

Target Audience

Picking your target audience is really important as you want to write your content for the right people. If your content isn’t relevant to people, then they will end up not reading it and not returning. This will increase your bounce rate and also lower your views in the long run.

I would get Google Analytics as soon as possible so you can also keep an eye on who is reading your blog from your marketing efforts. You may need to tailor your posts differently than how you first thought. For example I knew writing about beauty was mainly going to be a female audience and I expected 18-24 as my age range as that’s what I fall under. I basically thought I was writing for people just like me, but actually half of my audience is the 25-34 age range. This shows me that my university posts that I originally wrote as a category on my blog was maybe not as relevant for my audience.

Tone of Voice

Whether you’re the face or not, you’re also going to have to think about the brand persona your blog encompasses and the tone of voice. Your TOV will depend on your mission and vision statements. Why you’re blogging, who your readers are and what you want in the future are all factors into your TOV.

If you’re blogging for professional reasons for colleagues and you want to increase your authority I would go for a more formal and professional TOV. If you’re going for daily lifestyle blogs that are based around yourself, then a less formal and more friendly tone will be good.

You can also think of a celebrity or a character that you want your brand to sound like. For example, if your blog was a really informal one and you wanted to sound a bit kooky or eccentric then you could aim to write like Phoebe from Friends. Staying on the Friends theme, if you blog was more academic then maybe Ross would be a better character to use. But always base this on your previous statements and make sure it fits your content and audience.

Tagline

A tagline is a way to give a quick overview of your blog’s personality and topics. This is where you can explain your brand in a one liner that encourages people to continue reading your website. For example, if I’m looking for fashion blogs to find outfit inspiration and I’m clicking through to multiple different blogs, I’m more likely to stick on the blogs that have fashion or style in their tagline. I probably won’t find much outfit inspiration if I’m on a car blog will I?

You can optimise your SEO by using keywords related to your content. So my tagline is simply books, beauty and lifestyle because I blog about books, beauty and lifestyle. So if people search for book blogger, beauty blogger or lifestyle blogger I have a slightly higher chance of being in those search results. As with your blog name and URL, you may go for a personal brand or a professional brand in that case your tagline could describe yourself. E.g. ‘Marketing and Management student working in PR’.

Aims and Goals

Goals for you blog are targets that you want to reach. For example I set myself social media follower goals for 2018. Goals should usually be SMART goals to make them more accessible when planning how to achieve them. If you haven’t heard of SMART goals before they are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Therefore I want to gain 300 followers on Twitter by the end of 2018 is a SMART goal.

Your blog aims are more long term and your goals should assist you with your aims. You aims should also then assist with your vision statement from before. One of your aims could be that you want to start monetising your blog within a year, or that you want to go into full-time blogging. Aims could also include wanting to work with X brands. They are less specific than your goals, but should also be realistic as you don’t want to demotivate yourself.

Colour Palette and Logo

Your colour palette and logo should be consistent across all platforms in order to make you more recognisable. I would advise stick to pick 3-5 colours that you want in your palette and work with these when designing your websites, header and logo. The reason why I would say limit yourself with colours is because you don’t want your website to look too busy as it may also come across as messy. Poorly designed websites often will have high bounce rates as people are less likely to click on other pages.

If you don’t have the skills to create your own logo I would highly recommend getting one designed for you. Your header will always be the first thing readers see when they click on your site, and if it looks bad, it will give of the vibe that your blog isn’t great and they may leave before they even read anything. They don’t have to be a strain on your bank balance at all. I’m currently offering header designs for £5 and separate logo’s for £3. If you’re interested please email me.

What do you offer?

So you’ve made your mind up and branded up. But what do you really have to offer your readers? Are you writing reviews for products, or are you giving inspirational talks? How is your content going to be useful for these people reading your blog? I would sit down while branding and pick out your niches and topics and also plan out about a months worth of content. Figure out how much you want to post per week and make an editorial calendar. You won’t have to stick with this once you’ve started, but it’s important for you to know what content you will be offering.

Do you have a USP?

So you know a bit about what content you’re going to create and how it’s going to be informative. But is it unique? There will always be some content that is over-saturated in the blogging world (cough – Naked palette releases – cough) but you need to think about what can you bring to the table. Are you bringing a professional background in your topic or just a passion for it? Or are you creating unique imagery for all your posts that aren’t the same as other bloggers? You need to find something that differentiates you from other blogs to try and encourage people to visit yours on a weekly basis rather than once every 3 months.

Stay on Brand

One of the main things about creating a brand is staying on brand. If you’ve set your colour palette to be pastel colours, don’t create assets in your blog posts with bright neon green text. If your TOV is professional, don’t start using emojis and swear words in your posts. The biggest part of being a brand is sticking to the guidelines you’ve set out for yourself!

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Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell. Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers. Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.

Honor Among Thieves (The Honors, #1)

Amazon |
Honor Among Thieves
Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

This was a great re-introduction to Rachel Caine as I read the Morganville series when I was younger. Honor of Thieves has a really interesting and unique premise of there being living and sentient beings that can be used as spaceships. The world building was fantastic, we find out all about how Earth is looking in the future, there’s also a dome on Mars. My favourite part was when we went to a different planet and the foliage and ruins were just beautifully described.

We get two point of views, one is Zara, our main character and the other is Nadim, the Leviathan. We also get some reports and flashback style parts in between these POV’s which I personally didn’t like. They we scripts, or news articles and in my eArc copy, it didn’t work. But I am sure it will look a lot better on the actual books page, and would probably be easier to read.

Zara is you fairly typical tough girl main character, but where the characters really shine is when interacting with others. I loved the female frriendshi between Zara and Beatriz. They were two females stuck together on this ship and they really supported one another, and got everything they needed done. On the other hand, I disliked the relationship between Zara and Nadim. The way it was set up was that they have a bond, and this all felt very much like a romantic sub plot. This just felt really problematic for me because Nadim is the sole thing that is keeping Zara alive when in space. She’s completely dependent on him for every single human need, including water, food, and oxygen. There’s just a very unequal standing between them, and it felt really eerie when I was reading it.

Within the actual plot there are multiple ‘bad guys’ and you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen with them. This was really intriguing and was what kept me reading. Because the actually pacing wasn’t great. About 50% into the book, I still had no idea where we were heading. There wasn’t really a mission or objective for our characters, it was basically a tour of the galaxy kind of storyline. Which isn’t interesting unless something happens.  This book is clearly written as an introductory book to a series, it’s main focus is characters, world building and relationships. I think it has set up the series arc well, but it did fall a little bit flat on it’s own.

Overall I really enjoyed this sci-fi book and will happily be picking up the next book to see what happens.

POSITIVES

+ World building

+ Multiple villains

+ Female friendships

NEGATIVES

– Bond between Zara and Nadim

– An introductory book

I received Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre from the publisher via Edelweiss. This is an unbiased and honest review

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After a long day at work, one of my favourite things to do is remove my make up. This obviously also goes along with removing my bra and changing into PJ’s like the vast majority of females. Although I love wearing make up, after sitting at my desk all day I like my skin to be able to breathe. I’m also really prone to break outs and dry patches so keeping my pores unclogged and happy makes me feel a lot happier in how I look. So of course, I tried out the Take the Day Off Make Up Remover from Clinique as I received it my advent calendar.

Main Ingredients and Their Benefits

Water acts as a solvent and enables multiple other chemicals to work much better than if they were without water. As water is water, it is also suitable for all skin types and won’t be over-drying or make skin oilier.

Isohexadecane is an emollient  which helps soften and soothe the skin. It leaves a non-greast, light and silky feeling to the skin.

Dimethicone is a type of silicon that aids the product to glide onto your skin and also acts as a barrier after application. Dimethicone is used to protect mild skin irritations, dry patches or healing wounds, and is effective at locking in moisture thanks to its larger molecules.

Cyclopentasiloxane is used as a conditioner, delivery agent, lubricant and solvent. It helps the product spread over the skin well as it is a silicone and acts as a protective barrier. It can also help fill in fine lines and wrinkles making the skin look plumper.

How to Use

  • Pour onto cotton ball or pad
  • Sweep across face and then wipe off
  • Rinse face with water

First Thoughts

I am not really a big fan of make-up remover. I often use Garnier’s Micellar Water which seems to remove my make up just as well and never find myself picking anything else up. Previously when I’ve tried make up removers, they’re a bit greasy and it feels a bit heavy on my skin. The fact that Clinique’s remover specifically says you need to rinse off the remover makes me think that this is going to be the case. I have no doubts about it removing all my make up as I know it’s a good quality product as it’s from Clinique.

During Use

Immediately the solution felt horrible on my skin. The product is water based, but it also contains a very oily and greasy part which doesn’t mix well with the water even after shaking. You can really feel this oil just sit on your skin as you wipe the cotton pad across your face. The instructions do say to rinse off, and I really wanted to have a deep clean of my face after using this.

After Use

My skin did feel extremely clean after rinsing and my make up was removed, therefore Clinique’s Take the Day Off does it’s job. It works extremely well for lips, lids and lashes as it removed my make up quickly and without too much rubbing of my face. But it’s definitely not a good choice for your foundation. I felt that it was too heavy on my skin, and it wasn’t a good choice for me.

Would I Purchase Again?

Probably not. I feel like it worked very similar to any other make up removers I’ve used so the higher price point would put me off buying it over them. Also, I still don’t like make up remover for my skin, it just doesn’t feel good and I feel like I can get the same result from cleansing and toning normally.

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Determined to escape her old life,  Hallie packs up her life in England and heads to Paris. She falls in with the eclectic expat community as a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge. Here she meets Gabriela, a bartender who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family. But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris. Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns, as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self.

Paris Adrift

Amazon Waterstones |
Paris Adrift
E.J. Swift

At first Paris Adrift is extremely difficult to understand. We are thrown straight into the time travel element as Leon is sent back in time to fix the timeline so there’s no war. There’s a lot of terminology which I eventually got my head around, but it was quite disorientating as you’re trying to figure everything out. For example time portals are called anomalies.

This books feels like a Parisian romance novel, and then a time travel plot has been shoe horned into it to make it a more marketable book. I personally felt that if the romance was removed or it was a purely platonic relationship, this book would have read a lot better. The romance aspects often slowed the pace right down as we’re shown Hallie being a girlfriend rather than working out what’s happening with the time portal. The actual time travel to the past wasn’t that interesting either. In 2017, it could have been a great coming of age style read as Hallie navigates Paris. But then she goes back in time and it falls apart. The problem with time travel as well is that at one point this book just mentions that Hallie goes to all these different times, and meets the same friend over and over again but we don’t actually see this. I’m at a loss as to why the author would spend time in a time travel book adding a unnecessary romance when she could be time travelling.

The places around France are ‘name-dropped’ a lot, which may be helpful for world building if you’re in Paris, but for someone who’s has limited knowledge, that world building needs to be done through the books text. I also thought that the characters took on the very stereotypical french smoker persona, which I found frustrating. It makes me wonder whether the author has extensive knowledge or limited stereotypical knowledge of the city. The  characters do seem to be one dimensional, so it could just be poor character writing as to why this stereotype is used.

By 70% into the book, I was really hoping it would just end. I was bored, I’m the kind of reader who will just finish a book because I’ve already spent X amount of time on it. Luckily it did pick up in the last 10% but by this point, people who DNF would have dropped it and it just showed the promise that this book had. This then highlighted even more how dull the rest of the book was. As beautiful as the cover is, and I’m sure so many people will cover buy this – it just wasn’t as good as it could have been, which left me feeling disappointed.

POSITIVES

+ Picks up in the last 10%

NEGATIVES

– Stereotypes

– Romance wasn’t needed

– One dimensional characters

I received Paris Adrift by E.J. Swift from the publisher via Netgalley. This is an unbiased and honest review

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Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the bad luck at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)
Amazon | Waterstones |
The Hazel Wood
Melissa Albert

In The Hazel Wood I absolutely loved the Hinterland. The idea of it, the characters that come from it, and the world building once we reach it. Everything about just kept me completely enthralled which was why I was happy I read through the first part of the book. Alice’s mother Ella has ensured she has no knowledge of the Hinterland or her grandmother, which means we spend a lot of time following Alice as she has to learn about them before she tracks The Hazel Wood down.

The Hazel Wood also made me extremely nostalgic for the fairy tales I grew up reading. The characters were quite dark and not the Disney versions of a tale at all, so getting out Grimm’s book may be my next step. I also thought it was a very different approach to including fairy stories into the real world. This isn’t some Once Upon a Time book and you don’t always get the perfect rounded happy ending at the end of a story.

We’re introduced to the Hinterland through Ellery Finch, a classic bookworm character. He’s wonderful, and helps Alice get to the Hazel Wood to find her mother. He uses his usefully unlimited bank account to fund the adventure as well. The best thing about Ellery Finch is that he’s completely set up as a love interest, but there’s no romance at all. They share hotel rooms, have car trips and go through hell together, but for once the two characters keep a platonic and wonderful friendship.

One of the main plot twists was pretty predictable and heavily hinted at throughout the book, so I don’t think it could really be called a plot twist? But it did make me want to continue reading it because of the consequences of the actions taken. The book was also written so well that it pulled you into the story. It was creepy and magical but also funny at times. One of my favourite descriptions by Alice was ‘They looked like Etsy jewelry on steroids’ which comes at a time of crisis for her. She just made the book seem so real.

Overall, I definitely think everyone should pick up this book and hopefully Melissa Albert will be writing some more novels soon.

POSITIVES

+ Hinterland world building

+ Nostalgic for childhood fairy tales

+ No romance

NEGATIVES

– A tad predictable

– Wish it had more set in the Hinterland

I received The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert from the publisher via Netgalley. This is an unbiased and honest review

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