There are three ways to pick a name for your blog:
Personal: Naming Your Blog After Yourself
Seth Godin’s blog does not have a name.
It doesn’t need to.
I mean, he’s Seth Freakin’ Godin.
That’s the name that matters. It’s just Seth’s Blog. Some people are their brand: Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, to name but a few. That’s the path they chose, and it’s working well for them.
That doesn’t mean it will or won’t work well for you, too. It might, it might not. The name of your blog isn’t the most important thing in the world (but it is important). If when Seth had started doing his thing, he had called it Purple Cow Marketing right from the start, who knows what would’ve happened?
If you’re really good at what you’re doing, word of mouth and your reputation will take you far. If you google “marketing,” Seth Godin’s name (and blog) are not on the first page of search results (as of this writing, he is at the bottom of the second page of search results). But see, there’s hardly any possible way you can seriously study marketing now and not run into the name Seth Godin.
Is Seth Godin a brand? Certainly. If you googled “seth godin,” Seth’s blog comes up at number one.
The downside to naming your blog after yourself is that it can eventually become a prison. As soon as you shut your mouth, there is no personal brand. If you stop blogging, you stop existing. Your personal brand is like a shark that has to keep swimming or it drowns. When you’re ready to bow out, you can’t just hire a team of writers, because they’re not you. Me, personally? I don’t want to be that guy.
Also, unless you have quite a unique name, it can be almost impossible to acquire your namesake domain nowadays.
And the weird thing is that even though the blog is named after you, you’re the one writing it, and your readers look up to you…
It’s not about you.
Even when it’s about you, it’s not about you, if you can dig that.
But now I digress…
Keyword: Find Me!
I know how important search is to a business. Nobody will ever come to trust you and give you their money if they can’t even find you, for crying out loud.
But search considerations are secondary to branding. Yes, that’s right, an SEO guy said that (I’m not the only one, by the way, check out the Sugarrae blog). It’s tempting to sacrifice the long-term benefits of a brand in favor of the short-term SEO payoff of using keywords in your name (and thus your domain name).
For example, Tim’s Blog about How to Make Money Online the Easy Way (note: not a real blog, although I’ve seen plenty that are about just as stupid) is not a brand. What it is, is the lowest, cheapest form of domain SEO imaginable. Who the hell would ever want to read a blog with a name like that?
So there’s this problem with keyword blog names: nobody trusts them, because they seem spammy. They seem spammy because they’re often used by spammers (whaddaya know?). Spammers don’t want to take the time to build a brand, so they take all the cheap, automated shortcuts. Don’t be that guy. It’s not that keywords aren’t important, but they’re not so important they should take over your blog name at the expense of common sense.
The exception to this would be where brand-style names for a business are regulated (some might say over-regulated), such as with law firms. Law firms must obey certain restrictive naming laws, which is why most of them are a bone-dry and uninteresting string of partner names. But a string of partner names makes for lousy search engine rankings. In the Blawging Lawyers course I co-created with a former lawyer, we tell attorneys to name their blogs after their location and practice area, because that’s exactly how people will search for them.
Blog Name as Brand
Brands stand out much more than people’s names and keywords. A single person isn’t important. Who’s the person for Starbucks or Nike? No one. Blogs like Treehugger, Boing Boing, and Techcrunch are brands, even though there are some big personalities behind them.
Take the naming of your blog as seriously as any business takes the naming of itself. Create a brand. If you’re creating an online business, your blog pretty much is your business. Naming your blog is naming your business. Go for the brand.
I see three subcategories of branding, here:
- Unrelated word branding
- Related word branding
- Related keyword branding
Unrelated Word Branding
In unrelated word branding, your brand name is unrelated to what your blog is about. If I created a blog about all the wonderful ways to cook, prepare, and consume tomatoes, and called it Shuffazik, that would be unrelated name branding (it would also hopefully not be a dirty word in a foreign language). We see this in sites like Drupal, Joomla, Zappos, Zillow, and Amazon. Amazon may have metaphorical significance, which is cool, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not related to any products sold on the site.
In some cases, this approach can be very successful, such as with Zappos. But generally, the more of a disconnect there is between the name of a blog and what the blog’s about, the greater the chance the blog will not succeed.
Related Word Branding
Related word branding is what I call it when a blog’s name uses words related to the blog’s subject, but which are not specific search keywords. Examples are WordPress, TypePad, YouTube, Treehugger, and Techcrunch. Even if you never have heard of these sites or seen them before, you could at least come up with a hint about their content based only on their names. The name itself is not solely responsible for their success, but consider that YouTube is a related word brand name, while Vimeo isn’t. Viddler just barely gets by with a pass as a related word brand (not related enough, if you ask me). Google Video is a keyword-correct but boring and uninspired name. And out of these, we all know which one is the top dog.
Related Keyword Branding
Here’s the thing about creating a brand: you can include keywords as part of it. It’s just not all about the keywords, that’ s all. Think about brands where the brand is the thing itself: Mr. Coffee. Coca-Cola. ProBlogger. Copyblogger. Yours truly. Don’t forget Blogger. Another way to put this: the name says what it does. Yet another way to put this: think verbs, not nouns.
The most inspired example of this in action is the “Dummies” series of books. What a brilliant formula! Take any subject and stick “for Dummies” on the end and you have instant keyword SEO power, plus a brand.
I think this is the most powerful way to name your blog, because you win in search and you win for branding. To me, this is the best kind of branding you can achieve.
Just in case you’re not exactly clear on why this is so good for SEO, please allow me to explain: if the only way someone can create a link to your site in a way that makes sense is to use the most important keyword you want to rank for… you are poised (in part) to win the SEO game.
Tips on Choosing a Domain Name
How does this translate into getting a domain? Well, by going for a brand instead of the cheap shot keyword approach, you’ve got a greater chance of grabbing the name you create as a domain.
- As you’re brainstorming names, do simultaneous domain name searches.
- You want a .com domain. Period. Everything else is second class. If it ain’t dot-com, it’s dot-bomb.
- A domain name unbroken by any punctuation is preferred. People don’t remember to type hyphens and underscores. Don’t be sending visitors to the wrong site over this–just suck it up and get a different domain.
- Go for memorable: can people remember it and type it correctly after hearing it only once?
- Does the name say what the site is or does? If not, reconsider.
- Domain names (and blog names) can a lot like headlines: does the name make a promise? If so, what? Is that the promise you want to make? If not, how can you change it so it is?
- If you’re going after local customers, consider working your location somehow into the name.
It’s Not Too Late for You
Just because you’ve already named your blog, that doesn’t mean that if you regret the name now, you’re stuck with it. You’re not stuck with it. Change it. It takes some planning, but it will be worth it.
Rebranding as Remarkablogger was one of the smartest moves I ever made. Not quite so smart, though, because at that time, I also should have moved my domain from michaelmartine.com to remarkablogger.com. I didn’t. In fact, I only just did that about a week ago. But now it’s done and I’m glad. The fallout has been nearly zero (a screwed up email account is about the only issue).
You may be a personal brand now, and you want to become a related keyword brand, or perhaps the reverse is true: maybe your branded name hasn’t taken off and you feel that if it was you as a person as the brand, it would. Be careful… I think the former is more often true than the latter.
A rename/rebrand/redesign (on Headway, of course) and relaunch can jump your blog up to the next level.