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.
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.
- 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.
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