How to Rebrand Your WordPress Blog in Record Time (Free Checklist & Worksheets!)
8 months ago
Blogs go through many changes.
Take my site for example. My blog has changed so much before I arrived at a brand that feels right that I broke down each stage into eras. Seriously, you can check out each era here.
If you’re heading into a DIY blog revamp/rebrand in the near future, I know the project can take a lot longer than expected if you’re not organized. I’m not a web designer by trade, but I have learned a thing or two (or a bazillion) designing blogs for myself through the years.
That’s why I put together a step-by-step checklist of each stage I went through to rebrand this site to help you plan and execute your revamp quickly. (And if you want to start a blog from scratch, make sure to check out my free guide here.)
Without any more blathering from me… let’s crush this checklist!
I. PRELIMINARY STEPS
The stuff you want to take care of before diving into your blog revamp.
1. Write Out Your Blizzy Blog Action Plan
Before designing or choosing a website theme, I encourage you to write out a business plan for your blog. This preliminary step will make establishing your brand and tightening up your content much easier. Everything on your blog should serve one main purpose: furthering your brand message. To build a site that achieves this, you’ll need to know your mission and what you stand for.
Here are some cool resources to help you create a business plan for your blog or creative business:
>> How to Write a Blog Business Plan via ByRegina
>> Designing a Business Plan for Your Creative Business via Amanda Genther
2. Create Your Mood Board
A mood board is a collection of inspiration for a design. This is the fun part to me. You’re going to collect photos of color schemes and looks that make you giddy inside. I use Canva or Pinterest for my vision and mood boards.
On Canva, I upload images I like and add them to a collage. On Pinterest I create a private board and pin a bunch of stuff. I find the home decor section of Pinterest is a good place to hunt for color schemes and pattern ideas to get your brain percolating.
Here are resources for mood boards, all of which you’re probably fairly familiar with:
>> How to Create a Mood Board via Canva
3. Synthesize Your Mood Board into a Brand Board/Style Guide
After you start saving any and every photo for your mood board, you’ll start to see patterns in the colors and looks that speak to you the most. Clean up your mood board with the pattern that’s forming in mind to narrow your focus.
Then start choosing the colors for your website including your main colors, accents, text colors, the style for your social media images, typography etc. There’s some science to choosing colors and typography for your site. Research proves that certain colors mean certain things to the viewer. Same thing with the fonts.
Check out these sites to help you choose the right color scheme and style for your site:
>> Adobe Color CC (Color wheel, color scheme generator) via Color.Adobe.com
>> Choosing a Font That Reflects Your Brand via Little Dot Creative
>> Google Fonts via Google (duh) tons and tons of fonts to choose from
>> DaFont via DaFont (duh again) another place to find tons of font inspiration
>> How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog or Brand via ByRegina
4. Choose Layout Inspiration
Jot down a few sites that you like the general feel of structure-wise. Of course, you shouldn’t copy someone’s layout completely, but you can get inspiration from general elements.
There are a few popular site structures to choose from. First up, the blog homepage option. This is where your front page is your most recent blog posts. This is a good look if your blog posts are the first thing you want a visitor to see.
Another option is a static page. That’s what I’m currently working with; one landing page that stays the same. My blog is on a different page within the site.
The other option that I’m really liking lately is the one-pager. The one-page is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an entire website in one page and the navigation bar jumps you down to different sections of content on the page.
Here’s some examples of each one:
>> FAVORDD – One Pager
>> Embracing Simple – Blog Post Homepage
P.S. If you want to know what WordPress theme your favorite blog uses, check out What WordPress Theme is That.
5. Perform a Content Audit
After creating your blog business plan, you may find there’s a crap ton of content you wrote in the past that’s no longer relevant. Go through each of your blog posts and pages to note content you need to revamp or trash. (And if you need a place to organize your content, pick up the EPIC BLOG: One-Year Editorial Planner by Regina of ByRegina. I use and love this planner to plan out my content and measure the progress of my blog.)
I’ve created a content audit to-do list for you:
II. “BLOG TOOLS, ASSEMBLE!”
The tools to have in your back pocket to get the damn thing done.
6. Buy Your WordPress Theme
I’ve bought themes from Etsy and Theme Forest in the past. I suggest investing in a theme if you’re serious about blogging. By serious, I mean you plan to do it consistently and want to see some reward from it whether it’s financially or simply getting your voice heard.
A blog theme you pay for usually has more capabilities than a free theme. You’ll want to customize the site as much as possible to make it scream “you”. Anyone can buy a free theme, so you run the risk of looking like any average Joe or Jane when you go that route.
Some things to look out for when you buy a theme:
Customer service – Can’t stress this enough. Tech support is a must. You may have questions while working through the design process of your theme.
Cleanliness – A clean theme personalized by you can look equally as professional as one created by a web designer. Keep it simple.
Some places to buy WordPress themes:
>> Theme Forest – Where I bought my current theme. (This is an affiliate link btw, but as you can see from my site I like and use the service.)
>> Genesis Themes – I’ve seen many people rave about this framework.
>> Elegant Themes – Another popular choice.
>> Search WordPress Themes on Easy – Where I bought my last theme for $17.
7. Create Your Production Schedule
Give yourself a launch date after doing the pre-work tasks and choosing a theme. You won’t know for real, for real how long this project will take until you decide which content you need to upgrade. You also need to take a look at the backend of your theme to see what’s necessary to customize it.
I planned to have this here site up within a few weeks of buying a new theme, it ended up taking me over a month longer. First, I had problems uploading the theme. Then I nitpicked everything on theme until it was exactly how I wanted it. Finally, I decided to rework pretty much all of the content and photos on the site.
Are you also doing a major overhaul?
Give yourself a generous amount of time. Problems pop up. And you want to give readers a reliable timeline for your relaunch if you do plan to inform them of the rebranding.
To keep the project organized, you can try a free project management software. Here are a few options:
8. Download a Plugin for Maintenance Mode
One of my gripes with WordPress is unless you have some developer skills, you can’t design a new website while your old one is still live.
So for us with limited skills, the options are work on the site while it’s active and viewers can see every design change you make (very awkward). Or put the site on maintenance mode. Maintenance mode shows a page that says the site is “under construction” while you work. I prefer this method.
Here are some free maintenance mode plugins for WordPress:
P.S. I did find a way to keep my old site live while I worked on this new one. It was a little tricky, so I may do an entire separate post on that.
9. Find an Expert
If you want to make fixes here and there that involve coding a little more advanced than what’s capable with basic knowledge (I’m part of this group), it’s a good idea to bring someone on board to speed up the process. Do a little research beforehand to come up with a few solid peeps you can ask for help before you start spinning your wheels on design elements.
Here’s why: There was a quirk on this site that I mentally couldn’t move forward from until it was removed from my list. I tried to figure out how to do it myself for 5 straight days. I broke down and hired a developer off Fiverr and he fixed it in 5 minutes. Yea. Hella worth it.
III. DESIGN YA’LL
The actual nitty gritty work of putting your new site together.
10. Draw Your MockupA wire frame is a mockup of your website. It puts a visual of what you’re trying to accomplish down
on paper, from photo placement to subscription blocks. This is particularly helpful if you have someone designing the site for you. It organizes the ideas floating around in your head on paper which is mega useful.
You can do a simple wire frame on a piece of paper. I’ve also made one with Google Docs using the various shapes before. Here’s an example of the wireframe for my site.
Check out two resources below for more on wireframing:
>> A Beginner’s Guide to Wireframing via Tuts Plus (if you wanna get real technical wit it)
>> 20 Best Wireframe Tools via CreativeBloq
11. Design Your Homepage
Whether you decide to do a website that has a blog homepage or static homepage, there are a few main things you want to make sure to include on your front page: A bangin’ header (we’ll talk about that in the next point), tagline text that provides a clear understanding of what you’re all about, a subscription bar to catch emails and social media buttons.
Here are some resources on doing all of the above:
>> 5 Essential Homepage Features for Your Website via Nesha Woolery
>> How to Write a Kick Butt Blog Tagline via Design Your Own Blog
>> Magic Action Box Plugin – The plugin I use for a subscription box.
>> MailChimp – What I use to manage my email list.
>> Social Media and Share Icon Plugin – Plugin for social media sharing.
12. Design (or Hire Someone to Design) Your Header + Logo
Header, header, header! I’m including header and logo in the same section because for many blogs the two are one in the same. I decided I wanted the header for this site to be my face since I realized it’s time to infuse more of me into my site. I hired someone on Fiverr again to help me tweak a few things with the photo and to add text overlay.
Here are a resource to help you design your own logo and places you can go to hire someone for logo design affordably:
>> Why a Fancy Logo is a Waste of Time (And What You Need to Do Instead) via Smart Blogger
>> Fiverr – My go to for developer and design help lately.
>> Upwork – Another place where you can hire contractors.
>> 99Designs – A little more expensive, but you get many designs to choose from.
Now, it’s time to get your content in order, boo.
13. Draft, Redraft and Edit Page and Post Content
Remember the content audit we talked about? We’re revisiting it again. I put a priority column on the chart. Use it to number the pages and blog posts from most to least important to revamp before your site launches. Your main pages (homepage, work with me and about) are probably the ones you want to focus on to get your site up fast.
For the blog posts, start with the most popular or impactful first and put others into drafts. You can update these after you launch if you have hundreds of posts and it’ll take you a while. When it’s time to edit, it’s always a good idea to have someone give your pages a second look with fresh eyes.
Here are a few posts on web copy to help freshen up your content. And resources for editing:
>> 6 Simple Steps to Writing Seductive Web Copy via CopyBlogger
>> 20 Killer Web Copywriting Tips via Writtent Blog
>> Grammarly – Awesome grammar checker!
14. Take Photos of Your Handsome Self
It’s always fun to get a new set of professional photos when you relaunch a site. I hired a professional photographer for the first time when I revamped. I found a 30-minute session deal on Living Social that cost me $60 plus $10 per photo edit. Right within my budget.
Here are some other places you may be able to find a professional photographer:
>> Angie’s List
Want to save money taking your own photos? You can take professional looking selfies as well. Here are some cool posts with tips on how to take your own shots with help or solo:
>> Take Your Own Photos via The Sits Girls via The Sits Girls
>> 31 Best Tips for Taking Your Own Blog Head Shots via Amy’s Healthy Baking
15. Collect Some Stock Photos
Besides photos of yourself, you’ll probably need stock photos for accents and your blog content images for social media sharing. Most of the stock photos I use are free. I may invest in stock photos in the future, but for now I get by with the freebies.
Here are two awesome stock photo roundups with killer stock photo sites:
>> 17 Amazing Sites With Breathtaking Free Stock Photos via Bootstrap Bay
>> 18 Places for Free Girly and Styled Stock Photos via Twins Mommy
V. THE OTHER TECHY STUFF
Planning, check. Design, check. Content, check. Moving on to the final annoying techy steps before the launch.
16. Clean Up Broken Links
Broken links on your website are links that lead to places that no longer exist. Clicking on a broken link directs the reader to the dreaded 404 page. It’s a nuisance for website visitors and slows down your site.
If you do a major overhaul deleting posts and pages there’s a good chance you’ll have links that lead to nowhere. Double check each of your links before launching.
Here’s a post all about fixing your broken links, dude:
17. Install a Contact Form
If you want viewers to contact you for job, advertising or sponsorship opportunities, a contact form is the way to do it. You want it to be as easy as possible for someone to shoot you a quick message. Copying and pasting your email into an email box isn’t so easy.
A few plugins for your contact form:
>> Contact Form 7 – This contact form acts a little fishy with GoDaddy, so send yourself a dummy email to test.
>> Ninja Forms – This is the one I’m currently using.
>> 5 Best Contact Form Plugins for WordPress Compared via wpbeginner
18. Double Check Your Email List Freebies
If you created an automation sequence that’s triggered when readers sign up for a certain email list, double check to make sure everything is still set up correctly before you launch.
You want the right emails to be sent out to the right people and the right subscription boxes to be under the right content in posts and landing pages. As mentioned I use and love MailChimp for my email list.
If you want to set up a welcome email or freebie sequence, here’s how you can do so with MailChimp:
>> Create an Automation Workflow via MailChimp
>> Add a File to Welcome or Automation Email via MailChimp
Almost 3,000 words later and you’re on your way to relaunching your WordPress site. Any questions about the process or anything you see on my site you’re curious about? Drop me a line.
Again, I’m not a tech expert, but I may be able to point you to a resource that can help.
Are you planning on rebranding your site? Share the project that you’re working on below!
This post contains some affiliate links. I only promote products that I use and find valuable.
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