What makes a great fashion blog is difficult to pin point. After all – great fashion blogs are all different. However, there are certain things that move a blog from ‘OK‘ to ‘GREAT,’ it’s just a question of asking yourself whether or not you’re ready and willing to step up and make it happen…
On a side note: If you are blogging purely for enjoyment, then you probably aren’t going to be too concerned with what’s in this post, but if you have other goals then you may want to take notes (or bookmark this post).
My goal is to share what has worked for me, and what I know to be important to building a great fashion blog. After all, I’m not just a fashion blogger and my experience lies in web design and marketing (both, very relevant to blogging). So here it is: 48 things to do to take your fashion blog to the next level.
Be Crystal Clear About Your Point of Difference & Target Audience
Popular blogs tend to have a particular ‘direction’, ‘focus’ or style. You could probably fit their blog in a capsule with a good idea of what does, and what doesn’t, go inside of it. The real secret to a successful fashion blog is creating your own capsule; something that speaks to your readers, builds an expectation in them, and keeps them returning for more.
- Choose a focus, and be crystal clear about it This could be any number of things, from beautiful photographs to a unique sense of style. What are you interested in other than fashion? What is it about fashion that you are particularly interested in? Write your choices down. As a general note: Whatever you choose, you should be genuinely interested in it enough to consistently write on it.
- Be crystal clear about who your readers are, and why they will be interested in your blog. Identifying this fact will help you to understand what content should go on your blog (things that will be interesting and useful to your readers), and what shouldn’t.
- Shape your blog by creating a mind map that illustrates the core focus of your blog, and how categories and posts work together to create a cohesive whole. I recommend using this mind mapping template.
- State your focus on your about page, even in the side-bar, or your blogs tag-line – and don’t forget to refer to it regularly as you write.
- Learn about your audience, pay attention to what posts they like and what posts they don’t like. I’m not saying you should follow this blindly, but let their reactions and interactions be a guide as to what content works and what doesn’t. Look back on your 10 most commented, most tweeted/shared or most viewed posts and think about what made them that way.
Cohesive Branding and Design
Design does matter, blogs are frequently judged by their cover. Great design can immediately put your blog in the best possible position (and increase the likelihood that a visitor will stick around and subscribe).
- Get your own domain name and stick to it. Even if you’re not ready to make the jump from Blogspot, secure your own domain name. Domain names are easier to remember, and .com’s are the easiest. It will also making switching to self-hosting much easier.
- Place a custom banner at the top of your blog that clearly positions you and your blog. Your readers are likely to respond well to something that is visually appealing, so go all out if you can.
- Consider a matching Favicon (the icon that appears in the address bar of a users Web browser). They look very professional.
- Get rid of clutter, white space is your friend. Your goal is to maximize readability, so ensure that your design and layout is configured for this. Colour and font choices should support readability as best as possible, so get rid of anything that is difficult to read or hard on the eyes.
- Ensure consistency with colour and fonts. Pick a few of each (colours and fonts) and stick to them throughout your site. This helps create a cohesive browsing experience.
- Ensure that your ‘About’ page is up to scratch and portrays an image of you that speaks to your readers. Interested readers will visit this page, so make sure there is something interesting on it! Consider adding a picture, stating your point of difference, and if you’re confident enough, list a few of your achievements.
- Consider moving to Wordpress. Yes, I’m incredibly biased but WordPress gives you so many options than free blog platforms such as BlogSpot do. You are given full control over your layout and functionality, which can be a real blessing.
Pay Attention to Usability
Creating a user friendly experience means people are less likely to get fed up, leave and never come back. Make the site as easy to use as possible. Consider the following:
- Make the site as easy to use as possible. Place everything of use within 1 – 2 clicks, remember: Every click is a chance to click away and leave.
- Audit your commenting system. Ensure there are as few hoops as possible to jump through. If you absolutely must have a CAPTCHA, then make sure there isn’t anything else preventing people from commenting as easily as possible.
- Cut down on bloat, get rid of things that dramatically increase loading time without adding any value. Everything should have a purpose and be useful to your readers. Carefully consider the merit of any add-ons and widgets you’ve placed on your side bar.
- Check out (and fix) any broken links. They’re bad for both users and search engines! On that note, keep your blog roll up to date and consider removing sites that haven’t updated for 6+ months.
- When linking from your blog, ensure all links have a target=”_blank” attribute attached to them. This will ensure that the link opens up in a new window or tab, rather than let the user leave the page entirely, or even worse – your blog!
- Create a place for your most popular posts, and list them. Weather this is a ‘Popular Posts’ page, or a ‘Recommended Reading’ widget on the sidebar, just do it! Pick 10 – 15 of your favourite posts and list them. New readers who like what they see are likely to be looking for more.
- Add a contact form. This is about making it easier for people to get in touch with you. I think people are divided on which they prefer, some people prefer to send an email directly and others use the contact form, but it’s good to provide readers and visitors with both options.
Write Killer Content
Posting good, quality content is the best way to keep your readers engaged and get them coming back for more. This can be in whatever format you please, from incredible outfit photos, to unique ways of presenting wish lists or collages. Unfortunately, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds and it gets hard to keep churning out good stuff.
- Be consistently generating ideas for posts. Carry a notebook with you and write down even the smaller and more ridiculous of ideas (they might grow into something, you never know).
- Draft 10 ideas for really killer posts, the kind that you know people will enjoy reading or find useful. These are the kinds of posts that you would list on a ‘Popular Posts’ page. Think from your users perspective: What do they want to know about?
- Get onto a regular writing schedule. Tell yourself you are going to blog X times a week, or do X feature on X day – and stick to it. An editorial calendar can help here – just print out a calendar of the month ahead and write in what you are going to post on what day. Not only will this let your readers know what to expect, it’ll also get you in the habit of posting frequently and consistently.
- If the above sounds daunting, then write and schedule posts in advance. Sometimes, just starting a post in advance can take the weight off of your shoulders.
- Don’t be afraid to take time to research your posts. You don’t have to be an expert on something to write about it, and sometimes a new-learners experience is the one that is the most likely to relate to your readers. Don’t be afraid to read what others have written on the same topic either, instead use it as a way to identify what they’ve left out or determine a new perspective you could bring to the table.
- If a post just isn’t happening for you, leave it and come back to it. If it still isn’t working, scrap it and go in another direction. Even Rumi Neely of Fashion Toast said that not every photo shoot works out for her, and when she isn’t feeling it she lets it go.
- Proof read and edit your posts. Treat your writing like you would a writing assignment. Check it for spelling and grammatical errors. Think of better and more concise ways of saying things – this is the internet, people want information fast.
- Improve readability by breaking up your posts using sub headers, paragraphs and bullet points. These 3 features can make a post much easier to digest, and deliver information rapidly to an information hungry audience.
- Pay attention to your titles, a good title will make people want to read the post instantly. Here are some tips for improving your post titles.
- Ensure that you are not making any of these writing mistakes.
Take Original Photos, Or Use Beautiful Images
We blog on a subject that is very visually driven, think of why people read fashion magazines or invest so much time in Tumblr. We love (and want to see) beautiful images, and those that are boring, out-of-focus or just plain bad quality can seriously hurt your blog. Even if you don’t want to take photos of yourself for your blog there are still ways you can incorporate photographs and other visual imagery.
- I am not going to lie to you, having a DSLR (digital single lens reflect) camera can be your secret weapon. However, I understand they are not in everyone’s price range. Still, look at investing in one that’s second hand, or if possible imported. Even if you buy at the lower end of the DSLR price range, the quality is still going to beat a point-and-shoot. That said, there are plenty of great blogs that don’t use a DSLR camera and still take great photos. DSLR’s simply make it a lot easier.
- Learn how to use your camera beyond auto mode. I recommend subscribing to Digital Photography School because there are loads of pointers on using both point-and-shoots and DSLR cameras. I won’t go into detail here, but learn about aperture, shutter speed, ISO and the rule of thirds.
- Get out of the house from time to time and shoot outside so that you can benefit from natural lighting (although you’ll want to avoid full sunlight). Readers also tend to love interesting backdrops and even your back-yard can be a refreshing change of scenery.
- Don’t use the flash, as tempting as it may be…
- Learn post production tips and tricks. Regardless of the editing software you have access to, there are plenty of ways you can spice up your photos without going overboard. Start away from effects that have long been deemed too cheesy. Again, Digital Photography School is a good start.
- Use your photos, or photos you’ve sourced from elsewhere on the net to break up blocks of text. Photos help to inspire readers to keep on reading, and to read your post in the first place. Always, always ALWAYS post with an image. Hopefully one of some relevance. There is a logical reason for this too, people find it easier to learn when they receive messages in multiple formats. Providing a photo with text helps them to process the overall message easier. Good places to find photos: Pinterest, Vi.Sualize.Us and We Heart It.
Learn About Search Engine Optimization
Your blog design and layout must be well configured for search engine optimization. I recommend using an SEO plug-in to give you full control over this. That said, don’t go over board and write for search engines. Your goal is to help search engines find your content, not to feed the search engine.
- Ensure each page has title, description and keyword meta-tags. You can automatically generate these from your posts, or even use an SEO plug-in to give you more control over these tags for individual posts.
- Place keywords in your title tag, at least on your home page. These should relate to the topic of your blog, for example having ‘Fashion Blog’ in the header can help you index for terms relating to fashion blogs.
- Ensure that your post title is contained within H1 tags, this will ensure it is given more importance than the body text.
- Construct your URLs with dashes rather than underscores. Google interprets words separated by dashes as two words, whereas those separated by underscores are viewed as one word. The more flexible you are, the easier it is for Google to return your site to a users query.
- Give your images alt=”” and title=”” tags. Search engines can’t ‘read’ images, so give them some information about what the image is.
- Build internal linking by referring back to other posts in your newer posts. Bonus points for using descriptive anchor text (rather than just ‘click here’). This lets search engines know what’s behind the link, and they love that.
- Here’s something you might not know: Google views http://yoursite.com and http://www.yoursite.com as different sites, and if it is indexing both of them then they’ll be competing against each other in its search engine. To resolve this, sign up for Google Webmaster Tools and tell Google which URL you prefer. Then, ensure you create a permanent 301 redirect from the other URL to the preferred one (for example, www.yoursite.com redirects to yoursite.com).
- Use Google Webmaster Tools to submit an XML sitemap to Google, this helps to ensure that Google knows to visit all of the pages on your site.
Promote and Get Your Name Out There
If you build it, will they come? Not likely. You are going to have to do a bit of work to get your name out there initially.
- Place Twitter and Facebook sharing buttons next to your posts to enable people to share the content as easily as possible.
- Make your subscribe options very visible. Whether you want people to subscribe via RSS, Friend Connect or Facebook, ensure that your ‘call to action’ is prominent. More than often people don’t need to be convinced to subscribe to your blog, they just need to be shown the button.
- Publicise your blog using your own channels. Put your blog URL on your Twitter profile, and any other outlets you may use. You never know who might be interested in having a browse.
- Comment on other blogs, but not in a spammy way. Leave meaningful comments, comments that you would like to receive. Other fashion bloggers can tell a non-meaningful comments a mile away and I’m pretty sure they aren’t their favourite type of comment!
- Take ‘social networking’ seriously, and by that I mean actually network. Follow other fashion bloggers and introduce yourself. Join IFB and get involved on the forums. You might even want to drop an email to a few of your favourite blogs and let them know that you admire them. Get out of your comfort zone and meet your fellow bloggers. However, as a word of warning: Keep it about the connection, not about you. Don’t shamelessly promote yourself and your blog here!
- I am yet to do this, but guest-posting can be a great way to build relationships with other bloggers, and allow readers to discover you and your blog. Guest blogging works best when you guest blog on a blog with an audience you know would be interested in your content. Try pitching an article idea to the author via email and find out whether they’re interested.
- Not all promotion happens externally, as they say ‘it costs 6 – 8 times more to obtain a new customer than to retain an old one.’ Treat your existing readers well. Respond to comments, whether its on your blog or by a visit to their blog. You may lose the ability to do this all the time in the future, but give it your best effort. It is alway appreciated. You can also reward your commenter by installing the CommentLuv plugin which automatically links to a readers last post.
Perhaps you’ve read this and agreed with some points and disagreed with others. That’s fine. There are many popular blogs that don’t do all of these and they’re doing just fine. It’s always going to be up to you to choose the tools and strategies you think will work well for you.
More Tips Are On The Way!
I am going to be sharing a lot more on the topic of blogging in the future, including more in-depth guides to some of the points I’ve made in this post. I have so much I want to share with you and I hope you’ll stick along for the ride. Don’t forget to subscribe!
If you found this useful, then please share this post! I have enjoyed compiling and writing this guide for you guys, and It would be awesome if you could help me spread the word. The links are below, so hop to it!
Any comments or questions? Leave them below. Extra for experts: What is your biggest tip for taking your blog to the next level?