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Change Blog Direction

How to Gracefully Change Directions With Your Blog

If you’ve developed a readership with your blog, changing directions can be a bit scary.

We work and work and work to build up a loyal group of blog readers, and changing directions – even changing design – is difficult. But sometimes, it’s a necessity.

Bloggers typically change directions when

  • They’ve lost interest in the subject matter of their blog.
  • Lifestyle changes require a new schedule, subject, or something similar.
  • A new partner comes on board.
  • They’ve made a change in their career or business that impacts the blog.

When it’s time to change directions, don’t do it suddenly. We as readers (myself included) are so fickle; sometimes our only real loyalty is to our RSS reader. When we see something that interests us, we go check it out. Don’t assume that your readers are eagerly visiting your blog daily, waiting for the next new thing. If you change suddenly, you may never, ever get a visit from that reader again.

Instead, change directions gracefully. The definition of grace, by freedictionary.com, is:

Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion.

1. Seemingly Effortless

bizchickblogs.com recently made a massive, massive change. It was not only a change in subject matter, but it was a major change in design and a major change in authorship, as the blog went from one main blogger to a true magazine concept with editors, contributors, and syndicated content.

The only way to make a change seemingly effortless is to keep the rocking/shifting as far below the surface of the water as possible.

Have you ever taken a cruise? Have you noticed that when you’re on the top floor, the ship appears to be moving along in the water as if it were rolling on wheels? But when you go to the bottom, it’s so rocky that you can’t place a glass of water on a table without it falling over.

Keep changes under cover. That’s where you work out all of the kinks. If you need to change design, set up a sandbox blog (block search engines) and do all of your changes there. The last thing you want to do is create a very unstable experience for your readers leading up to the change, causing you to be full of apologies. Instead, keep the current blog moving along smoothly.

Key notes on setting up the sandbox

  • Block search engines. It doesn’t really matter where you set up your sandbox, but if you are doing it online and not on your local computer, you need to make sure to set the WordPress privacy settings to block search engines.
  • Turn off notifications to other blogs. If you’re going to use existing content to populate the sandbox, and that content has outgoing links, change the setting in “Discussions” that notifies other blogs when you link to them. This will prevent your sandbox from sending trackback notifications.
  • Test everything. This is your chance to work out kinks. So test things. Test links, images, and social sharing features.

2. Charming

Tell your readers that you are changing and warm them up to the idea. Readers have come to know you, trust you, and may even have started to share your work. They need to know. I did this by putting up a leaderboard ad that provided a sneak peek at what the new blog would  look like, along with a view of the categories. That way, readers who were really invested had a chance to get used to the idea of the change.

The critical part of making this charming is that the way in which you communicate the change needs to be attractive. You will need to put on your sales hat and sell people on your move/change – turn unbelievers into believers by communicating the idea that the change is the best thing for your blog and the best thing for them as readers.

Final Thoughts

  • Go slow. It’s not uncommon for people to react negatively to change. You can minimize the potential negative response by preparing people for it.
  • Keep blogging as you prepare for the change. If possible, don’t stop blogging while you’re getting ready for the change. Keep producing content and doing what you’ve always done, all the way up to the day you change over. I set up a massive guest blogging series that brought in around15 guest posts in just a few weeks.
  • Be open to feedback. This is A LOT easier if you’ve prepared people to begin with. After you’ve made a big change, don’t ignore it by acting like nothing happened. Talk openly about it and invite feedback.

Share your thoughts with us.

Tia Peterson is the founder of bizchickblogs.com.

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{ 32 comments… add one }

  • Mike February 19, 2011, 3:53 am

    I’m thinking about changing the theme for my blog and everything is still under the hood now, but thanks to your advice, Tia :)
    Mike recently posted..Rank trackingMy Profile

  • Caleb
    Twitter:
    February 18, 2011, 6:31 pm

    Great advice Tia, I could have used this post several months ago when I changed my blog design and content structure!

    And it seems in your case that having a staff surely helps to get more quality content published faster because your blog definitely has a more magazine feel to it.. keep up the good work :)
    Caleb recently posted..FaceBook’s Effect on MSBMy Profile

  • Mavis Nong
    Twitter:
    February 18, 2011, 9:02 am

    Hi Tia,

    Congratulations on your massive but smooth change over at BizChickBlogs!

    Thanks for sharing these great tips. I can tell you’re writing from your recent experience :)

    The key is to prepare your readers as people tend to react negatively to change.

    All the best,
    Mavis
    Mavis Nong recently posted..Is Your Blog Repelling or Attracting Visitors It’s Time For Reality Check…My Profile

  • Rick LaPoint February 14, 2011, 9:49 pm

    Hi Tia,

    I have been making changes from the beginning, always trying to make things better. Feedback has always been positive.

    The Sandbox is a must. I have several, where I can make the most radical changes simply to experiement.

    For those using WordPress, especially (I use Thesis and Headway themes) I keep all my custome code in .txt files, so if (when, haha) I screw something up so badly I can never dig myself out, I simply copy my .txt and paste back in. It’s MUCH easier to do it that way than try to save all your coding as Backups, and you can be back up in minutes.

    Love your new Look, Feel, & Direction, btw.

    Rick
    Rick LaPoint recently posted..How to Make Your Graphics Load 6 Times FasterMy Profile

  • Chadrack
    Twitter:
    February 14, 2011, 10:31 am

    These are indeed excellent tips on changing directions as a blogger. A few months ago I did something similar. Though I can’t say I’ve a guide like this but what I did was really similar. The changes I undertook included a new domain name, new design and a little shift in the general theme. I must say that if I know any thing about it one of the things I would have done is set up a sandbox as you suggested. But all in all the move was a success as many of the old friend/readers were able to follow along.

  • Val February 11, 2011, 8:27 pm

    Hi Tia,

    Thanks for the excellent roadmap. I’ll make it a rule to introduce any changes to my blog slowly and one at a time.

    New blogs especially can suffer from radical changes. When you start blogging on a new topic and working in that field, you learn so much you want to change everything. Design, domain name, products, posting schedule, you name it. Of course the problem is smaller because you don’t have too many followers at that point, but you may never get them if you are not consistent.

    So for new blogs like mine – shape your style gradually. Think of your road ahead as a smooth curve rather than zigzag.
    Val recently posted..9 Reasons Why I Enabled CommentLuv and DoFollow Comments on My BlogMy Profile

  • Darren Scott Monroe February 11, 2011, 7:07 pm

    Good points Tia! Though I seldom do anything gracefully vs raising HELL! LOL> I do have to add another to your list which was my case years ago.

    “When you transition from a personal to a business blog with a intent to make money”
    That is a major change as well. And I don’t know how “graceful” I was but I will say that it has been quite an interesting road.
    Darren Scott Monroe recently posted..Why Idiots Outsell Einstein and You Can TooMy Profile

  • Alex February 11, 2011, 6:06 pm

    Hello Tia,

    Changes are everywhere around us and they’re mandatory for everyone. Those that don’t change and evolve will remain old, dusted and deserted.

    Like anything else, changing your website can be a shock for anyone. People are used to see the same things , like Microsoft’s logo on their products and they want to see it everytime Microsoft releases a product, if they decide to change it without notice, I am pretty sure many people will be confused and may even reject the new products.

    Changing smoothly having transitional layers and like you said “preparing the viewers” will dampen the shock, and will make people get used with the idea.

    You choose a great subject to write about, Tia. I don’t think I ever read an article about it.
    Alex recently posted..Bile cu blanaMy Profile

  • Fran Aslam From Onlinewriter February 11, 2011, 10:59 am

    Hi Tia:

    Nice to meet you here. Your blog post is awesome. but a little too late for me. I noticed
    a change my readers when i shifted little bit this month. I am feeling bad, that it was not a good move on my part. And now reading your post is confirming my fear. I will keep your post in mind and now I have learned my lesson too. Well results are not too bad. But no one wants to see results going the other way when they are focused.

    Thanks for sharing

    All the best

    Fran A
    Fran Aslam From Onlinewriter recently posted..Web Portfolio for Freelance WritersMy Profile

  • TJ McDowell
    Twitter:
    February 11, 2011, 9:07 am

    Also, if it’s a benefit to readers (which your change was), let the readers know how excited you are as blog owner to see the blog growing to the point that it needed changes. I would think your attitude on the whole matter makes a big difference, don’t you think?
    TJ McDowell recently posted..ProShow Web – Producer ReviewMy Profile

  • Andreas February 11, 2011, 8:20 am

    I think honesty is the best medicine in this kind of scenario. Go out and tell people that you will add some more topics in the future, explain why you are doing it and ask them actively about their opinion.

  • Extreme John February 11, 2011, 8:04 am

    No surprise that you have more great stuff to bring to the table Tia. It wasn’t too long ago that i changed directions with my blog from being more personal to more business and social media.
    Extreme John recently posted..Extreme Spray Tan Opens ALL Sunless Tanning Salon in Largo- FloridaMy Profile

  • Patricia
    Twitter:
    February 11, 2011, 12:22 am

    Hi Tia & Hesham

    I took my blog in a slightly different direction and I was wondering if it would be well received. Only had one person who was disappointed and the rest of my regular readers liked the added variety to the blog.

    Then I wanted to upgrade my site so I got a friend to design it and when it went up it was a surprise to my readers. I wanted it to be a surprise and they all liked it. Phew, that was a risk I took. However, because it looked more professional but still inviting (the words of one of my mentors) I loved it so much; I figured my readers would too :-)

    Patricia Perth Australia
    Patricia recently posted..Collaboration- the new buzz wordMy Profile

  • Robert Dempsey February 10, 2011, 11:13 pm

    Great points Tia. I’ve seen a number of sites setup beta sites for their new designs. Not only do they get great feedback it’s an awesome way to build buzz and get people excited too. Double win!
    Robert Dempsey recently posted..What Does It Take To Be A Full-Time Affiliate MarketerMy Profile

  • Lennart Heleander February 10, 2011, 10:27 pm

    Hi Tia,
    Everything changed slowly all the time, people are aware of this in today society, readers stop following your blog for various reasons – new to come for other reasons. And do they like you will they follow you.

  • Marlee February 10, 2011, 10:08 pm

    Hey Tia!

    This is great advice. You pulled off the transition with bizchickblogs without a hitch, and the community is just blossoming there!

    I think the hardest part of making a shift in your design is when it strongly impacts your brand, and as a result your audience. I’ve noticed that as my content takes more shape my readership has shifted. Thankfully my design closely reflects the brand I seek to establish so I’ll only be getting closer to the place I call home on the web.
    Marlee recently posted..Why Your “Competition” Doesn’t Really Matter- Gary V &amp Wine Library TV vs Bottlenotes – A Case StudyMy Profile

  • Dennis Edell February 10, 2011, 10:07 pm

    I look at it a little more optimistically; a list cleansing. the tail end of 2010 I moved everyone and every thing from one blog to another. The content is 90% the same with much tighter focus.

    If 100 subscribers do not follow you, ask yourself…do you really want them or were they just dead weight in your other blog?

    Just an example, pick any number you wish. ;-)
    Dennis Edell recently posted..The Ultimate Time Management Challenge Coming Soon!My Profile

  • John Soares February 10, 2011, 6:15 pm

    Tia, I had a somewhat different problem. I decided in September to combine 3 blogs into one new one. I notified readers of the upcoming changes and many of them followed me over, though some didn’t.

    I did it because it was important for the new direction of my business, and my physical and mental health.
    John Soares recently posted..How I Improved My Sales Page and Increased Conversion Rates for My E-BookMy Profile

  • Dave Grimes II February 10, 2011, 5:12 pm

    I completely agree that easing your readers into the change is a good idea… but if you’re taking a different direction,you need to accept the inevitable losses… and look forward to the new followers. Always focus on drawing people who find value in your blog, rather than trying to mold your blog to the needs of a certain audience. Just be you, and let the right people find you.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Tia Peterson
      Twitter:
      February 10, 2011, 5:14 pm

      Hey Dave!

      Exactly. Bizchickblogs lost a ton of regular readers, but gained twice as many. And our traffic is up almost 50% for two consecutive months. The change was good, indeed. But it was a little difficult to say a virtual goodbye to people I’d come to hear from on a regular basis.
      Tia Peterson recently posted..5 Little Ways to Screw Up Your Next Networking EventMy Profile

  • Steve
    Twitter:
    February 10, 2011, 4:58 pm

    Great info.

    Having just done a site redesign that did NOT go so well, I can say that your sandbox idea is a great one. (I had mine outsourced. It all looked good in the sandbox, but was totally jacked once it went live)

    I also think a possible way to keep people that like your stuff is to change, but not drastically. I have changed my focus about 2 times now. It has never been drastic, though. It is more about clarifying and focusing the topic.

    As few small changes can add up to large change in focus (from the starting point) but it will never seem as “shocking”
    Steve recently posted..GLP 1 – How to Outsource Ezine Article CreationMy Profile

    • Tia Peterson
      Twitter:
      February 10, 2011, 5:18 pm

      Hiya Steve,

      Part of how I made the change a little more easily was having all the guest posting in December along with that ad promoting the upcoming changes. In addition to working on the new site, what I was doing with the extra time was going out and finding readers for the new site. This ended up accomplishing two things: giving the existing readership what they needed/wanted, and driving visitors who would be more likely to stay after the new design and format, and building their loyalty by letting them know that something was coming which they would really like.

      So, all in all it was a nice transition. Hard work, but paid off.
      Tia Peterson recently posted..What Do You Really WantMy Profile

  • Morgan February 10, 2011, 2:21 pm

    I love that this information is coming directly from someone who’s actually experienced it. I think you really adapted the changes quite well!

    Change is great and with these tips, change can be even easier! :)

    Thanks a bunch for this, Tia!
    Morgan recently posted..Grey’s Anatomy Tweeting In The ORMy Profile

  • Wayne John February 10, 2011, 2:18 pm

    I think my readers are used to me changing designs pretty frequently. I get so bored with designs, and being able to make changes really quickly seems to work well for me.

    This article was appropriate for me since I’m now beginning to change the tone, and articles that I write too. Something new for me, and my readership.

    Both of these points are invaluable if you care about maintaining your readership. I’d also add that making slow, methodical changes in the direction that you want to head over time can bring your readership along well too. Something you mentioned in your final thoughts.
    Wayne John recently posted..How to automate tweets with the Twitter APIMy Profile

  • Usman February 10, 2011, 1:34 pm

    Hi, Peterson!

    I would like to give some review of on me on your write up, thats really true that to get a big change in your site/blog you must be 100% sure that new thing you are going to produce is really good than older, and must try it first and then get it live for every one.

    Other thing is that if anyone have lost interest in his/her blog niche then for sure they need to get a change but I think they don’t need to do this because people are coming to expect something which they are getting already , so don’t make this kind of change, design or any other change could be fine.
    btw thanks for sharing your views.

  • James Johnston
    Twitter:
    February 10, 2011, 1:27 pm

    All great advice. For me, I have changed direction on several blogs. One I put on hold until until I have the time to work on it. As for my current one, I made my changes slowly and now I have great mix of readers and visitors coming to the site.

    As for making design changes, I highly recommend making design / code changes on a test site first as well. Making these changes on a live site is bad news. If something goes wrong, your site might go down or annoy readers as you make changes.
    James Johnston recently posted..Have You Locked Down Your Facebook Browsing Sessions YetMy Profile

    • Tia Peterson
      Twitter:
      February 10, 2011, 5:41 pm

      Hey James!

      Agree completely! lol I made the changes in a sandbox first, although even afterward I was making design changes and tweaks. God bless maintenance mode.
      Tia Peterson recently posted..secretsMy Profile

      • James Johnston
        Twitter:
        February 10, 2011, 5:44 pm

        I love maintenance mode! I only use it for the last step of the process though. Staying in maintenance mode to long, kills traffic and possible returns to a site. But other that, its does what we need it to do.
        James Johnston recently posted..162 Free High Quality Rust TexturesMy Profile

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